Initiation - painting by Imelda Almqvist
This week the case of Christine Blasey Ford is headlining. She is a university professor from California who has accused supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault that occurred when they were both teenagers (in the 1980's). Dr Blasey Ford has been forced to go into hiding since the story went viral and her life has been turned upside down completely. Yesterday many people close to me were glued to their screens as she gave her opening testimony and explained how the sexual attack has changed her life.
I am acutely aware that her story is upsetting and triggering many other women who have had similar experiences and are now experiencing flash backs or nightmares. (it certain brought up some memories and issues for me personally). These women (as well as some men) may not have found the courage (or place of personal safety/support from loved ones/enough confidence or indeed faith in the public justice system etc.) to speak out. Or they may have spoken out (as I once did) and been hammered into the role of perpetrator for making allegations.
My shamanic teacher colleague Caroline Kenner helpfully shared a link about the concept “DARVO” yesterday:
DARVO refers to a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. DARVO stands for "Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender." The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim -- or the whistle blower -- into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of "falsely accused" and attacks the accuser's credibility and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.
Institutional DARVO occurs when the DARVO is committed by an institution (or with institutional complicity) as when police charge rape victims with lying. Institutional DARVO is a pernicious form of institutional betrayal.
I would like to take a moment of silence and contemplation to acknowledge the experiences of all people (women, children, men) who have lived through sexual abuse of any kind. Tragically this makes up a large percentage of the world population (the #Metoo phenomenon has certainly flushed that fact into our collective awareness, beyond any reasonable doubt).
Many authors have written beautifully and courageously about sexual harassment and sexual abuse. It is not my call to add to their words and testimonies. Instead, by means of this blog, I feel called to explore a more hidden dimension of this phenomenon. What seems to escape our collective awareness is the impact of sexual abuse or harassment that occurs on the energetic or astral (if you prefer) plane.
Now you may say: “What?! You mean sexual abuse that never actually happened?!”
Let’s take a step back and please allow me to explain what I mean.
As a shamanic practitioner (and teacher) I have heard more than my fair share of stories from people (not exclusively women) who woke up in a night sweat to the sensation of someone climbing into bed with them. From people who started to dread falling asleep because the same character would show up night after night tormenting them or interfering with them.
Let’s be very clear: I am speaking about a sexual/emotional/psychological/spiritual interference that does not take physical form, here. By this I mean that the perpetrator is not physically present in the room – but nevertheless there is an undeniable sensation of being touched, intruded on, violated or abused in some other way.
I am aware that victims of sexual abuse may well have flash backs due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Indeed, this could be one explanation for the phenomenon I am trying to describe, as trauma dissolves a person’s sense of time and space, meaning that past events appear to recur in the Here and Now.
I am also aware that many (if not most) people will experience dreams with uncomfortable or unwelcome sexual content from time to time (such as having sexual interaction with a person other than their current partner). Again, that may just explain some of this. After all we cannot really control our dreams the way we control our waking actions and choices.
There may be other explanations as well. It has been said that the human body does not forget and that our body holds the memories that our conscious mind represses or denies. I have certainly found evidence of this in my own body.
Therefore… yes… to all those possibilities. But still, my mind is not at ease.
Let me approach this issue from a different angle. I am aware that in some circles or circumstances (let’s say a group of friends out clubbing) it is considered acceptable to talk freely about other people’s physical attributes. E.g. “I would never consider dating her, she is way too fat!” – While the person thus discussed wouldn’t never even contemplate a date with the speaker. But that side of the story is not being acknowledged. There is the illusion that a physical characteristic allows us to make arrogant and severely imbalanced assumptions about someone: “I wouldn’t dream of dating her - but she would date me if she could!”
Recently I have found myself in a situation where one person keen to find a life partner has been eyeing up every possible “candidate” moving into their line of vision (here I mean walking into a public area), endlessly running a commentary on their physical attributes – while the person thus being commented on was engaged in a different task altogether (doing some gardening and her focus completely on her plants). I could spot absolutely no flicker of reciprocity in response to the obsessive interest and (for lack of a better word) “meat market approach”. This process has, I believe, also been called “undressing with the eyes”.
People commonly masturbate while calling up in their mind’s eye images of people they fancy. Pornography actively invites that – and to my mind there is no problem (and here I am only speaking regarding this specific issue, not other dimensions of the phenomenon) if the actors (or photo models) willingly participated and received a fee for their work. They then agree to, and actively invite that kind of attention. In other words: they are paid to carry the projections or obsessions of others.
I think that we all have understanding and compassion for a lovesick teenage boy or girl obsessing about their “love object”. Having said that, in my opinion there is more of an issue when mature people do this to others (in graphic detail!) without even stopping to meditate on the energetic ramifications of this. During half a century on this planet I have had three stalkers and I know how utterly unpleasant it is to be followed or obsessed about in unwelcome ways.
The suggestion I am posing by means of this blog is that all adults (certainly those with a degree of spiritual and emotional maturity!) need to do some shadow work (read serious soul-searching) on the role we ourselves all play in this larger phenomenon. It is easy and natural to get outraged by cases we follow in the global news – and I am horrified by the fact by some of the responses that Dr Blasey Ford has received for her courage to speak out and potentially protect other women from a man in a position of great power – what else could she have done?!
When I use my imagination and try to place myself in her shoes I sense I would speak out to mainly protect other women, knowing what this man is capable of. I would be acting from a place of knowing that no apologies or amends were ever made – therefore there is no evidence the man has changed.
Holding a position or office of power in society needs to be matched by exercising the muscle of moral integrity.
However, speaking on another level I also believe that an issue has now come to public attention and to my mind it extends well beyond the specifics of the Blasey-Kavanaugh case. All of us have inner work to do on this…None of us, who claim a degree of awareness or “evolved consciousness” can escape doing shadow work on this… To resolve this we need to "own" the fact that we are participants, not observers.
Imelda Almqvist, London UK, 29 September 2018
Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016 and her second book Sacred Art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Art Meets Shamanism) will be published in March 2019. She was a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit in both 2016 and 2017 and is a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently working on her third book Medicine of the Imagination and fourth book "Evolving Gods: The Sacred Marriage of Tradition and Innovation"
(YouTube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)