Lost Imaginations

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Grooming Dion

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What is grooming? It’s about making sure the person or people you are going to abuse come to accept the abuse as normal. If done effectively, it not only affects the victim, but the people surrounding the victim as well. Others begin to see the behavior as normal and acceptable. This can be seen in Raising Dion with the character, Pat. Now, if you have not seen season one of Raising Dion and you do not want spoilers stop reading now.

Now that they’re gone let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Pat, Dion’s godfather and Mark’s best friend was the villain! How did people not see it coming? Well, I kind of did, but mostly because of watching “Unbreakable” and remembering Mr. Glass said that the villain and the hero often begin as friends. Also, Pat’s migraines seemed odd. However, the reason the characters on the show did not notice is not because they did not see one of the few good M. Night Shamalyan’s movies. It’s because Pat was able to groom the individuals around him into accepting his socially awkward and boundary breaking behavior.


For example, when Pat was told not to show up after work, there he would be, at the door, with a pizza. When he was told to go home, he would stay just a little longer. “Pat, don’t investigate this woman. I can handle it on my own.” Against, Nicole’s wishes he did it anyway. He consistently broke the personal boundaries of those around him, and rather than be called out on it, they often let it slide. Not only that, but they called on him to pick Dion up from school, take him to school, take him out for pizza, keep his secret from the hospital, and so much more until he began to be a necessity. Grooming is how abusers retain their power. They pray on the weak to the point where it appears their life is impossible to live without them. They make boundary breaking because it’s “needed” or they “want to help” or “they know best”. Pat knew Nicole did not have many people in her life to help with her son so he knew he that eventually he would find a way to become a necessity in their life. With Pat, he knew Nicole needed help with her son. With other abusers it could be that they know their victim needs money, time, a break, anything that relieves the stress of life, even if it means wavering on well established boundaries. But what happens when hard boundaries are finally drawn? Pat offers an example for this as well.


When Nicole tells Pat that he could not dictate her choices and that he could not be a part of Dion’s life, he became defensive and angry. He told Nicole, “I think you’re taking advantage of me.” He made himself appear to be the victim who is not appreciated for always being there, and always being willing to help. When this does not work he becomes angry. He lashes out, becomes controlling, and obsessive until his true colors as a villain are revealed. Abusers who groom their victims and have to live with established boundaries they attempt to make themselves appear to be the one who has been wrong and taken advantage of. Eventually, they become angry and obsessively controlling.


The goal of survivors is continuing to maintain healthy boundaries, no matter how hard the abuser attempts to weaken the borders. It is the only way to keep the Crooked Man out and save your inner Dion. 

The Superman Facade and Childhood Sexual Abuse (Excerpt from "How to Conquer Your Superman")

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The below excerpt is from my soon to be released guide for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, How To Conquer Your Superman. The guide is still being written and revised. This means, I would very much like feedback to know what I do right, what I do wrong, and how I can improve. More portions of the book will be released over the coming months as How To Conquer Your Superman : A Guide for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse using DC Comics Superman is planned to be released in March of 2020. Thank you for your support and valuable feedback.

The Superman Façade and Childhood Sexual Abuse

When you hear, Superman what image comes to mind?

When you hear “Man of Steel,” do you visualize a large red “S” emblazoned on a background of gold in the center of the superhero’s chest with matching perfectly curled “S” dangling from his jet-black hair?


How do you feel when you hear the phrase, “Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman!?” Are you filled with hope and confidence that the day will be saved?

You may picture bullets bouncing off the chest of the hero as he swoops in, foils the bad guy’s plan for world domination, and flies away with a smile, never asking for a thank you in return. You may be filled with a sense of unwavering optimism in believing, beyond the shadow a doubt, that everything will work out fine, and good will triumph over evil.

It is for this reason that although Superman was the first superhero, and for many, he will remain the best. He does what is right rather than what is easy no matter how difficult the choice may be. He is a savior and a true hero who is always willing to sacrifice himself to save a single human life. He is strong, kind, confident, and unbeatable. In essence, he is perfect! With these qualities, it makes sense why children double knot bath towels around their neck and run through their home with fists in the air pretending to be the Big Blue Boy Scout.


Being Superman feels good. It feels right. Being Superman and possessing his abilities to run faster than a speeding bullet, and leap buildings in a single bound is everything a survivor wishes they could be and do. This is because, rather than feeling strong and confident like Superman, male survivors of child sexual abuse live in a constant state of fear, anxiety, stress, and worry. Ellen Bass explains in 
The Courage to Heal how many male survivors have been sexually abused as children tend to feel:

  • Bad, dirty, or ashamed
  • Different from other people
  • That there’s something wrong deep down inside
  • That if people really knew them they’d leave
  • A pervasive sense of shame
  • Alienated or isolated.

These feelings cause some survivors to:

  • Hate themselves
  • Feel compelled to be perfect.

These emotions and thoughts are the exact opposite of what it means to be Superman, and is why male survivors sometimes cope with the effects of these negative thoughts and feelings by creating a 
Superman façade to fake being confident and in control. 

The Superman façade is born in an attempt to filter the interactions, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors survivors feel about themselves and others through the lens of a savior and what is believed to be right in order to feel safe through predictability. The reason some survivors of childhood sexual abuse may create a Superman façade is because during early development, when consistency and routine are needed to develop confidence in themselves while build positive and secure relationships with caregivers and other adults, children who are sexually abused, or suffer a form of C-PTSD, live in a constant state of unpredictability and fear. These children do not, and often cannot, create secure attachments to adults and other individuals, losing the skills needed to create a positive view of the world. To cope, some latch onto the predictability and safety of superheroes, adopting the behavior of heroes to develop a Superman façade that lives by a 
“hero code” of their own creation.

Male survivors of childhood sexual abuse live in a reality of chaos, filled with fear, shame, guilt from their sexual abuse, and unreliable adults who are unable to provide protection and safety. However, in the world of superheroes and comics, whether on television or on art filled pages, heroes provide the predictability of safety. They follow a code of doing what is right and punishing the bad guys that they wish adults in reality possessed. No matter if a superhero has the ability to fly, move at lightning speed, or materialize objects with the help of a super-charged ring, each hero shares a code to protect the weak and consistency the child survivor needs. This “hero code” is an unwritten code that guides a hero’s actions, separating their behavior from that of a villain, informing the survivor how not to become like their abuser, creating a definition of safety that is not provided by caregivers. The “hero code” defines the core of a superhero’s character, while also dictating the rules need to function under the guise of a Superman façade. Without the “hero code”, both the hero and the survivor would be lost.


The male survivor who develops a Superman façade as a child survivor develops a black-and-white view of the world, filled with absolute beliefs of right-and-wrong. These young males latch on to the rules of their “hero code” for safety and predictability, but mostly because of the benefits associated with helping others while maintaining a sense of control. Seth J. Gillihan, PhD explains in 
Cognitive Behavior Therapy Made Simple how helping others leads to improvements in anxiety and depression symptoms. He states how researchers have found that:

  • Focusing on others can distract from one’s own distress.
  • Helping others provides a sense of meaning and purpose.
  • Prosocial behaviors may cause the release of oxytocin, which is involved in trust and bonding with others.
  • Doing nice things may stimulate the release of dopamine.
  • Reaching out to others may lower activity in the stress response system.

Meaning, the Superman façade is an attempt for the survivor to

  • be liked and accepted by others in an attempt to eliminate feelings isolation,
  • ensure the survivor does not identify with their abuser in an attempt to not become a villain,
  • latch on to predictable and positive examples of caregivers,
  • hides their feelings of shame and guilt with smiles and kindness to eliminate feelings of shame and self-hatred.

To illustrate how the Superman façade can translate into a “hero code” male survivors feel obligated to follow there is no better comic to be used then 
Actions Comics #775.

Killing My Batman (Excerpt from "How to Kill Your Batman")

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**Before reading this blog it is important to know that within the last few weeks my father has apologized. I will update my readers in the coming weeks and discuss “How to Save Your Superboy” in my soon to be released book How to Conquer Your Superman. **

How to kill your Batman is different for every male survivor. For me, it means learning to become a better man, husband, father, teacher, and mentor as a recovering male survivor of childhood sexual abuse. 

When reading Tom King’s, Batman, the need to become a better man seemed to be a recurring theme in numerous issues. Throughout the series there were no perfect fathers, or father figures, but there were those who strived to be better men. For example, there’s a scene in Batman #6 when Alfred, dressed as Batman and driving the Batmobile toward a deranged Gotham. The butler talks to himself, as if to calm his nerves concerning the absurdity of what he is doing, about when he agrees to be Bruce Wayne’s Godfather. He says, before ramming the Batmobile into the former hero, Gotham:

Well, Thomas, allow me to be the first to say what an honor it is to be asked. For you, possibly, to entrust me with the care of Master Bruce. Well, sir, I am humbled. But of course the need for such care will never arise. It is not as if on some dark night you are going to just go walking down Crime Alley with Martha in her best pearls. That would be…absurd. But, if such unlikely circumstances were tragically to come to pass allow me to assure you that it will not be a difficult burden to bear. Bruce is such a good boy, sir, as you well know. Quiet and calm and yet still compassionate and curious. Caring for him will be more a pleasure than a chore, sir. A life of mild days reading books. Tranquil nights playing board games. Perhaps a charity ball now and then.

Afterward, Alfred jumps from the vehicle and confronts Gotham. While his actions are meant to bring a moment of comic relief, at any moment Alfred could be ripped in half, or disintegrated by the hero turned villain. Instead of running or refusing, the butler stood his ground and did something insane for his son, Bruce. His actions gave Batman the needed time to arrive and save the day.

Throughout this series, Alfred was more of a hero than Batman could ever be because the love he had for Bruce conquered his fear. By all intents and purposes, Alfred failed at raising Bruce. Rather than help the boy heal from his childhood trauma, he grew up to fight crime dressed as a giant bat. Although he did not succeed in raising Bruce, he did the very best he could, and continued to do the best he could as Bruce took on the role of Batman. 

The villain, Kite Man, also comes to mind as a flawed, but still doing the best he can, father. During the “War of Jokes and Riddles,” Kite Man loses his son in Batman #27. Charles Brown becomes a pawn for Batman, the Joker, and the Riddler as each try to gain ground in the war. The casualty was Charles’s son, Charlie Brown, killed when Riddler sent a kite to the young boy with a rope laced in poison. The death of his son pushes Charles to become the villain, Kite Man.
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In no way was Charles a perfect father. In fact, he was kind of worthless as a father, but he still tried to be the best he could. In Batman #30, Charles narrates a conversation with his son, as he continues to be pulled from one side of the war to the other, like a kite in the wind. The conversation shows how Charles is viewed by other characters in the comic, but not his son.

Charlie:Daddy, can I tell you something?

Kite Man: 
Sure, Charlie. What’s up?

Charlie:
Mommy was talking on the phone I don’t know to who.

Kite Man: 
Okay.

Charlie:
And she said…well, she was talking about you, and…well, Mommy said you’re a joke.

Kite Man: 
What?

Charlie:
Why did Mommy say you’re a joke?

Kite Man: 
She said that in front of you. That I’m a joke.

Charlie:
Well, it was on the phone. That time. She said it before, too. That was probably
in front of me. She says it lots.


Kite Man: 
Your mother shouldn’t–don’t worry about that, Buddy. That’s not your business.

Charlie:
But, Daddy…are you a joke?

Kite Man: 
Your mother didn’t mean that like it sounded. It’s fine

Charlie:
It sounded like you’re a joke. Is Mommy a liar?

Kite Man: 
I mean, she didn’t — I mean, maybe she’s not a liar. No. Okay. Sometimes I am. I guess. I play with kites too much, and your mom is — she does a lot of stuff for you. So maybe she’s right.

Charlie:
Are you a joke, Daddy?

Kite Man: 
I mean, look, buddy, here’s the thing. I try a lot of things. And I’m not always good at them. And when I fail, people laugh. I get it. It’s funny to watch. Like I’m slipping on a banana. And maybe when they watch and they’re laughing, they say, “He’s a joke.” I’m a joke. And so I guess I am. But what am I supposed to do? You know? I’m supposed to just quit? Just so they stop laughing? Just so they don’t call me a joke? There’s an old story. I ever tell you this? Like a guy is pushing this boulder up the top of this hill. And he’s cursed. So, like, every time he gets it right to the top, it rolls down. That’s the curse he never makes it. But he has to get it up, so he goes back down and gets it and does it over. Pushing it up again. Watching it fall over and over. Forever. That’s a joke, right? It’s funny. Right at the top, he’s happy and…whoops! Ha ha ha. Ha. Ha. And that’s me. That’s all of us. We’re all just pushing a boulder. Whatever we’re trying, we’re going to watch it fall, we’re going to hear them laugh. Right at the top of the hill. All of us. We’re all jokes. But the thing is, right, you got to laugh, too. It’s the only way. I mean, you got to laugh with them. Okay, I’m a joke. I’m a joke and I’m funny! Then you’re laughing with them. And if you’re laughing with them. Then at least your laughing.

Charlie:
Daddy, you know how I don’t like to fly kites ‘cause I can’t get them to fly?

Kite Man: 
Yeah. Y’know I can show you.

Charlie:
You want to go outside and do the kites? Like now?

Kite Man: 
Really? Charlie, you want to go fly them? With me?

Charlie:
I never get it up. It’ll fall, I know. But if it falls, then I’m a joke. And I can laugh. We can laugh, right? Me and you, Daddy. It’ll be funny.

Kite Man: 
Yeah, Charlie. It’ll be hilarious.

While flying the kite, Charles asks his son if he liked the kite. His son’s response was, “hell yeah.” Charles tells Charlie that “hell” is a bad word. The father explains to his son how his mother and grandmother said when he was a child that if he said the word then he might go to that place. Before dying in the hospital, Charlie asks his father if he was going to go to hell because he said the bad word. Before Charles could answer, Charlie dies. So, while it may seem to be a running joke that every time someone says, “Kite Man” the response is, “Hell, yeah,” it is actually in remembrance of his son.
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No, Charles was not the best father, but the love of his son was evident. He tried. Failed. And tried again. When Charlie died, Charles became the villain, Kite Man, only to get close enough to the Riddler to avenge the murder of his son. In the end, when it was all over, Charles was lost. He continues as a villain only because he does not know what else to do. Again, a father doing the best he can with what he has.
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Thomas Wayne telling his son, Bruce, to no longer be Batman so that he can happy. Bruce attempting to protect his sons from Bane’s wrath by telling them to leave Gotham until the trouble has passes. All of them make me wonder why my father, who claims to do (and did) the best he can, will not apologize for telling me to forget the sexual abuse committed by my sister from eight to ten-years-old.

Better Man


A number of years ago I told my father that for two years I had been raped by my sister (his daughter) from eight to ten-years-old. After explaining the details of the sexual assault he told me, “Forget about it. It’s in the past. The best thing you can do is move on.” Rather than cower and continue to harbor the secret I had been carrying for over twenty years, I responded with defiance and honesty. 


I told him that I couldn’t forget. The abuse was something I had to live with every day and that it could not be forgotten. 


He apologized, hung up, and did not speak with me for nine months. It was not until Daniel (my brother) told him that he needed to start talking to me that my father proceeded to text and talk with me as if nothing had happened. The illusion of normalcy was not something I could return to, so I asked my father for a written letter apologizing for abandoning me after I told him about my sexual assault. Rather than reply, he responded back via text. He said:


Okay son. I will respect your request. You are a grown man and able to make your own decisions. I’m glad you are doing better and I’m really sorry to hear about Sarah’s brother. Let me say this…I love my kids the same. You, Daniel, and _____are my life. I don’t love one no more or less than the other one. If I could take your hurt I would. I can’t so I can do only what I am able to do. But remember this. We can only start healing after we forgive. If I could change things I would. I’m sure your sister is hurting. I’m sure she had no intention of hurting you. Then or now. She has to live with the fact of what she did and face everyone who read your book and label her a rapist. This has to be really hard for her. I’m sure this has been really hard on you. I can only imagine how hard it has been. I know my kid and know you are strong. You can and will overcome this. It’s in the blood. No matter what you think, this too will pass. If you need me I will always be there for you. Don’t be a stranger. I don’t want you to one day think I missed out on a lot of my family’s life. She, Daniel, Tina (my mother) and me are your family. Love you unconditionally. Da


In 
Heroes, Villains, and HealingI analyze what this message means, the impact it had on me on me then, and the possible thoughts of my father after writing it. Since my father sent that message, I have yet to receive a letter of apology, but I have spoken with him.
This past August, Daniel (my brother) called to let me know that my father was having serious medical problems and not managing his diabetes. Photos of my father’s legs forced me to call in an attempt to tell him to stop being stubborn and go to the hospital. I lied and said I had already called an ambulance, but he still refused. After making a series of excuses about not having the money and going to VA Hospital, I became angry. Really angry! His pride and stubbornness pushed me over the edge. I began cursing, telling him how he did not prepare me for how hard life could be. Through tears, I told him how my wife and I had almost gone bankrupt attempting to survive paying for daycare and continue to work on the salary of two teachers. How fear of losing our house in Baltimore the same way I had last my home in Peoria made me stubborn, just like him. To survive we sold our home and moved to Ohio to be closer to family. I explained how we were living with my in-laws and attempted to articulate my anxiety, fear, and feelings of being a failure as a father and husband. 

I yelled.


Screamed.


I begged for an answer.


Why would he not apologies for leaving me alone when I needed him the most? His response: “I can’t do something I don’t believe is right.”


My world stopped.


Until that moment, I believed, beyond a doubt, that maybe my father did not understand what I wanted from him to do to begin to repair our broken relationship. I thought that maybe be believed the text message he sent constituted an apology. His response proved that I was being naive.


There were no more tears as I heard him say, “It’s good to hear your voice.”


There was no more emotion as I heard him ask, “How are my grandbabies doing?”


I knew I had lost my father.


Afterward, I told him to take care of himself, and hung up the phone.


In the home of my mother and father-in-law, after selling my home, and ending the career and life I had made with my wife and children, I cried. I mourned the loss of my father. I mourned the loss of my childhood. I mourned the loss of my family of origin.

I have never felt so alone and like such a failure. 

My father has often attempted to justify his actions told me, “I did the best I could.” I know now, this is not true. As a father, I look into the eyes of my daughters and my heartbreaks at the thought of not having them in my life. I love them more than I ever believed I could love another human being. If they needed my life, it would be theirs. My life 
istheirs. This is why I do not understand why my father will not apologize. If he loved me, if he did the best he could, he would do whatever it took to remain a part of my life. Instead, his pride, hypervigilance, and idea of manhood defined by the “boy code” keep him from saying three words; I am sorry.

I’m sorry for not showing up to your high school graduation.


I’m sorry I never paid the mortgage, ran away to Alabama, and you and your mother were homeless for two years.


I’m sorry the fights I had (physical and verbal) with your mother and brother ripped our family apart.


I’m sorry I didn’t protect you from being raped when you were eight-years-old.


I’m sorry I didn’t protect your sister when she was raped by Mr. Miller.


I’m sorry I told you to forget what happened to you.


I’m sorry you were raped.


I’m sorry I wasn’t a better father and husband. I could have done and been better.


These are the words I will never hear from my father. His Batman will live until the day he dies.Each day, my daughters and my wife kill a little more of my Batman. With each kiss, hug, and I love you, my Batman fades from existence. I attempt to conquer my hypervigilance to be a better father, husband, educator, coach, and mentor. Each day I fall short, but each morning I rise to try again. My Batman will never fully die, but I will always attempt to be a model for those striving to be, become, and know a better man.

Martian Manhunter: The Healing Process (Part 1)

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Just after Christmas, my grandmother, Mamaw, told my wife to tell me to come over and look through the comics in her basement, knowing how much I love superheroes. I knew my uncle, Rich used to work at (maybe own) a comic book store, but I had no idea any were left over from his heyday, or the number of comics she had in her basement! On the way over to visit I expected to find maybe a box or two of really bad comics no one had ever heard of or wanted. I was pleasantly surprised to much more. It was like Christmas had come again! In the collection there were some real gems, a handful worth a few bucks, but the one I was super giddy to find and prized above all the others was the Martian Manhunterfour-part mini-series published in 1988, written and drawn by J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Badger.

I was not pleased to have these comics because their monetary worth (which is none) but because when I researching and writing Heroes, Villains, and Healing, I wanted to include a chapter on Martian Manhunter, but could not find a solid source to use as a reference. What I knew about the hero came from the television shows Justice League andJustice League: Unlimited, but not enough to connect to understanding the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.The animated series, and what I had read of the hero in Justice League, Martian Manhunter loneliness and isolation appeared more intense than Superman’s because he was not raised on earth and, while both Clark Kent and J’on J’onzz are both aliens, J’on never felt as connected to the people of earth as Superman. All of this made me want to understand his origins and how he became the sole survivor of Mars. The little information I could find on a Martian Manhunter comic was the before mentioned mini-series, which I could not find. You can imagine my joy at having found all four parts in-tact and in excellent condition.

After reading the comics I knew I was right to want to include Martian Manhunter in Heroes, Villains, and Healing.These comics detail with remarkable precision the stages of the healing process survivors go through when attempting to recover from the trauma of sexual abuse. This makes them excellent material to help male survivors understand the stages of the healing process. Because I did not include them inHeroes, Villains, and Healing  I will discuss and analyze the four comics in the next four blog entries over the next four weeks. However, before beginning, it is first important to know the steps of the healing process, and who the Martian Manhunter is before addressing the steps that will be analyzed in issue #1 of Martian Manhunter.
 
Steps of the Healing Process
In my self-help guides for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Heroes, Villains, and Healingand How to Kill Your BatmanI explain the steps of the healing process. In these guides I explain how the healing process is similar in the stages all survivors must progress through if they wish to heal, but different in how each survivor reacts to those stages. This is because no two individuals are the same, and so, no two sexual abuses are the same. The healing process is also not meant to be a straight line, allowing the survivor to move from start to finish in a set amount of time. J’on J’onzz demonstrates this throughout the four-part series Martian Manhunter as he attempts to deny the trauma of his past while it pushes to be remembered. Although there is no definite beginning, middle, or end to the healing process, research has revealed that thirteen steps are usually associated with the healing process. According to The Courage to Healby Ellen Bass, these steps are:
 

  1. The Decision to Heal
  2. The Emergency Stage
  3. Remembering
  4. Believing It Happened
  5. Breaking the Silence
  6. Understanding It Wasn’t Your Fault
  7. The Child Within
  8. Grieving
  9. Anger
  10. Disclosures and Truth-Telling
  11. Forgiveness
  12. Spirituality
  13. Resolution and Moving On
Although the healing process is believed to have thirteen steps, from my experience, I have found some of these stages can be combined. This is not meant to streamline the healing process, but because many of the above-mentioned stages happen simultaneously, creating seven stages rather than thirteen. These seven stages are:
 
  1. The Emergency Stage and the Decision to Heal
  2. Remembering and Believing it Happened
  3. Grieving and Anger
  4. Understanding It Was Not Your Fault and Forgiveness
  5. The Child Within
  6. Disclosures, Truth-Telling, and Breaking the Silence
  7. Spirituality, Forgiveness, and Post Traumatic Growth
 
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In this blog entry, I will be using Martian Manhunter #1 to explore the Emergency Stage and the Decision to Heal. It is also important to note that throughout all four issues there is a continuance presence of spirituality that is not fully understood until issue #3.

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Martian Manhunter / J’on J’onzz
To understand this blog you must not only know the stages of the healing process, but also who the Martian Manhunter is as a hero of the DC universe.

When the Martian Manhunter appeared on the scene in Detective Comics #225“The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel”, creators Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa made one of the most interesting and powerful characters of the DC universe. During this Silver Age of comics, readers were told that J’on was the last Martian in existence who was pulled across time and space by a machine developed by scientist Dr. Saul Erdel. Unfortunately, the shock of seeing and meeting a Martian killed Dr. Erdel, preventing the hero from returning home. Trapped on Earth, the Martian decides to fight for justice as the Martian Manhunter, adopting the name J’on J’onzz as his alter ego.

J’on’s superpowers includes the ability to shape shift, fly, and telekinetic abilities. He also can become invisible with the ability to move through solid objects. His one weakness is fire. While this weakness may appear to be ridiculous in comparison to so many of his awesome super abilities, why this is his weakness is explained in the four-part mini-series. To tell you anymore would be spoilers, and everyone hates spoilers!
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Martian Manhunter #1 “Fever Dream” (1988)
The Emergency Stage
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The comic begins with Batman. While attempting to catch a criminal, J’onn appears from the shadows, screaming for help and resembling more of a demon than a hero. Batman manages to get J’on to the Batcave. While unconscious J’on says:
 
It’s inside me. I know it. I can almost see it. Touch it. Taste it. Yet I don’t know what it is. How many years has it lain there, twisting, like a child in the womb … turning … kicking…I’m so afraid.
 
If I had to describe the Emergency Stage of the healing process in the form of a comic, this is one of the closest depictions of the sheer terror, confusion, and dissociative episodes a survivor can experience (the other closest example if the “Vermon” series of The Amazing Spider-Man).

The Emergency Stage cannot be put into words. The only and best way to describe it is sheer panic. It is fear that cannot be rationalized or pushed away. I have entered the Emergency Stage twice in my life. The first was during the first week of college. After being homeless for two years, and finding a way to get out of that situation (not to mention the domestic and sexual abuse of childhood) I was finally safe. Unfortunately, the safety of my dorm room meant my mind and body believing the traumas of the past could now be addressed without going insane. This panic and fear caused such gut-wrenching pain in my stomach, making me believe I was going to die.
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The second time I entered the Emergency Stage was after my daughter was born. My wife and I had just purchased our first home and I had a new English position. I was the safest I had been in all of my life, hence why I entered Emergency Stage for a second time after not fully coming to terms with my past trauma years prior. J’on’s feeling of safety and mind and body’s readiness to enter the Emergency Stage is evident when he says to himself:

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I’ve been on this world for…how many years? I can’t say for sure — but long enough to be comfortable here. As comfortable as a Martian could ever be among men. I’ve been on this world, protecting her people, risking my life again and again in the name of justice. And I’ve never known fear (except in sleep). I’ve never run (except in dreams). I’ve never been gripped by terror (except in the moments when that vague, unameable something reared up in my mind). But now, awake, alive, whole — I fear, I run, I’m terrified. Now I tremble like a child by imaginary monsters.
 

Like J’on, you may have built yourself to be strong as an adult man, but inside you feel afraid and weak due the trauma from your childhood. Like J’on, this fear may only visit you when you sleep, making you feel like the boy who was victimized as a child. As a boy maturing into adulthood, the only option you may have had to survive was to push the pain of the trauma away and this is fine. You did what needed to be done to cope. Unfortunately, like J’on there is only so long the past can be pushed away before it rises to the surface, but not until the mind and boy know it is safe enough (consciously or unconsciously) to come to terms with the trauma of the past.

The Decision to Heal
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After entering the Emergency Stage, the survivor must make the Decision to Heal. Here, the survivor can choose to either ignore the past trauma, or begin the process of recovery. Until the survivor makes the decision to heal, they will continue to return to the Emergency Stage. Many male survivors, unsure of what it happening to them and why attempt, to explain away the panic. Unfortunately, this is not only true of male survivors, but doctors and therapist who can make the mistake of misdiagnosing C-PTSD. Both survivors and their caregivers have the potential to treat the wrong symptoms causing more confusion and denial of past trauma. Rather than make the decision to heal, J’on and Batman attempt to explain the pain and the hallucinations away. J’on thinks to himself:
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Of course. I understand now. The spore. The sentient cell! I absorbed it. Took it into myself to stop the plague that was spreading across the earth (from a previous Justice League comic). And it’s alive in my now. Fighting to break free. That’s why my body’s undergoing these distortions! That’s why I’m burning with fever! Then Batman was right. That thing I thought was after me. It was only a creation of my fever.

 
J’on does what many men do when faced with the reality of their past trauma. They attempt to fight the dissociative episodes and flashbacks by attempting to “become stronger”.
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They fight!
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They claim the dissociative episodes in the form of flashbacks are not real and did not happen!
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They become angry!
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They push those they care about away.
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While the survivor says this is to “keep others safe”, it is really to ensure no one sees them distorted, weak, and hurting, when all their friends want to do is help.
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Until the survivors makes the decision to heal, the past will not be silenced.
Spirituality:
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Martian Manhunteris a unique comic to read. It is beautiful, producing hard lines, grit, and muted colors that can only be found in true 80s fashion. There is also an element of spirituality to the depictions of J’on’s dissociative episodes. Many graphics, while being made up of smaller images, come together to create larger pictures that resemble churches and evil demons. All of these objects make the reader feel connected to something they cannot explain, but hope to eventually understand. When entering the healing process as a survivor, it can feel unique, spiritual, and larger that life. The only option is to do as J’on does. Continue to hold on, putting it all together one piece at a time until, eventually, it all makes sense. I wish I could tell you more about the connection to spirituality throughout Martian Manhunter, but – spoilers. More will come into focus in the blog next week.

 
Next week, the blog entry “Burning Bright” will address remembering past trauma while continuing to examine the Emergency Stage and the Decision to Heal.

Martian Manhunter: The Healing Process (Part 2)

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During the Emergency Stage, survivors often wonder, why now?
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Flashes from the past, snippets of memories that make little to no sense, haunt them when they are awake.
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As a male survivor, when I entered the Emergency Stage I tried to think my way out of the situation. Like J’on J’onzz I considered myself an intellectual who was able to piece together clues to find a logical answer to a question. The only problem is, during the Emergency Stage logic is not the driving force; feeling is.
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Dr. Basil Van der Kolk explains in The Body Keeps the Scorethat when immersed in a fight-or-flight circumstance, the brain is operating with responses from the amygdala. This is one of the “ancient” parts of the brain that cannot be reasoned away. He explains that “if the interpretation of threat by the amygdala is too intense, and / or the filtering system from the higher areas of the brain are too weak, as often happens in PTSD, people lose control over automatic emergency responses, like prolonged startle or aggressive outbursts.”
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The feeling of panic does not go away.
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Making you feel like an alien in your own skin.
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We wish for it all to stop, but instead the visions, flashbacks, and memories come one after the other.
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And when the begin to make sense we push them away, afraid of what the visions mean about the truth of our past trauma.
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We fight!
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We deny!
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We run!
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We believe that maybe the best option is to end our life. At least then the pain would come to an end. The visions would stop.
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We hate the images, but they do not hate us. They simply want to be remembered. They want to help. They want you to heal.
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We fight until we can’t fight anymore.
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We fear the truth will hurt those closest to us –
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turning those that were once friends into enemies.
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That is, until we find the one who allows us to be weak to grow strong.
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To be there when we need them the most. To guide down the path of finally making the decision to heal.
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