She is attending her third church in as many years. Caring Christians have her hidden in a "safe house" in the hopes that the satanists won't find her. She has created quite a commotion at the church, with constant accusations that different Christian leaders and local church members are members of the cult. She is often at odds with different people because they fail to appreciate the immense danger and pain that she is in. "So many people can't even comprehend how difficult life is for me. To have the terrifying memories, to be followed by evil forces constantly. They just don't understand. They're just not safe for me. That's why I have to establish a boundary to keep them at a safe distance until they accept my reality without questioning it."24
There's a bit of a problem in all this. Her fantasies aren't true. Extensive police investigations and evidence produced by family and friends conclusively prove her stories are fraudulent. But in today's victim-affirming, witch-hunt atmosphere, Andrea is able to find a large audience that will attend to her every claim without question. Her real issues are actually much less exotic. Andrea's story, repeated in thousands of other regression clients, captures the essence of borderline, paranoid, and narcissistic personality disorders.
Borderline Personality"Andrea's" violent temper, relational extremes, constant fear of abandonment, and self-destructive behaviors are mislabeled as symptoms of MPD, but in reality they're simply the product of a common disorder, borderline personality. The symptoms include instability in relationships, uncertain self-image, efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, alternating between idealizing and then devaluating others, destructive impulses, recurrent suicidal behaviors, inappropriate anger, and stress-related paranoid beliefs.
For a borderline personality like Andrea, repressed traumas are a perfect explanation for why she has these problems. Ths explanation casts the blame for Andrea's behavior on someone else--there is nothing she has to be responsible for. Every lost relationship, every time she cuts herself, every church she leaves in complete chaos is not her fault: It's her murderous, multigenerational satanist daddy's fault. In fact, she is given cart blanche to act out in any way she feels like, because she is a "heroic survivor" and now is her chance to live out the childhood she was denied.
Narcissistic PersonalityThis personality type demonstrates a triad of vanity, exhibitionism, and arrogant ingratitude that involves an overall preoccupation with one's self. The narcissist often has delusions of grandeur in which he or she holds a very special role. Interestingly, when I'm talking with SRA "survivors" they typically declare that they are the next "high priestess" of their satanic cult. By imagining she is a high priestess who is desperately struggling to free herself from the clutches of powerful cult members who want to worship her, Andrea and other narcissists are able to turn a mundane, ordinary world into one of excitement, where they play center stage in a cosmic battle. The voracious appetite of the narcissist is able to find daily sustenance from the therapeutic community that promotes "self" as the ultimate goal. Anyone who fails to attend to the narcissist's endless needs is deemed a threat and leads to an emotional explosion on the narcissist's part. On the other hand, anyone who provides constant positive acceptance and encouragement, even in the face of non-reahty, is seen as "good."
Histrionic Personality DisorderWhen "Alice" walks into a room, everyone notices. She always dresses in a colorful. bright fashion, tends to gush all sorts of emotions, and talks as if people are a bit deaf. It seems like her life is one long series of disappointments and tragedies. Six months ago she started regression therapy and the drama has exploded hundredfold. Now every Thursday night at her church community group she tearfully describes how she is discovering an ever-expanding litany of horrible abuses. "Please pray for me. The truths I'm rediscovering are devastating."25 Alice demonstrates the common traits of the histrionic, which includes excessive emotionalism, attention-seeking, a desire to be the center of attention, shallow expression of feelings, a physical appearance that draws attention, over-dramatic speech and conduct, and being very suggestible.
Notice that this personality trait is closely related to borderline personality, but is not as debilitating. Regression therapy provides the perfect theatrical stage for the histrionic. Egged on by the regressionist and group members, she is able to be the constant center of attention, be sexually explicit with others under the guise of "being honest in therapy," and wildly dramatic-crying, screaming, acting like a little child. Twenty years ago, a therapist would have told her grow up and take responsibility for herself, but today's regressionist will tell her to "get into your inner child and allow complete freedom of expression"--an absolute disaster.
Obsessive-Compulsive PersonalityThis is a workaholic type who is perfectionistic and driven. He tends to be overconscientious, self-sacrificing, and hardworking. In healthy balance, the obsessive-compulsive is a productive and conscientious worker. But in extreme this person becomes incapable of relaxing and is focused on pleasing others and working too much, and he or she has trouble handling emotions. When I'm doing a seminar with accused families I'll often ask, "How many here consider your accusing daughter or son to be a high achiever--she or he had straight As in school, completed college and graduate studies, were perfectionistic?" Consistently, 60 to 70 percent of the families raise their hands and they experience a moment of discovery.
Think about this for a moment. As we've already discussed, sexual abuse and tortures do not enhance a child's academic performance. It actually affects it in a seriously adverse manner. Yet many of the regression believers that I've talked to can point to stellar academic and professional achievements--the exact opposite of what we would expect to find.
The obsessive-compulsive personality type gives us some clues. Common sense tells us that people who are tuned to what those in authority expect are the ones that maintain straight As in school and jump all the hurdles just right. It's a matter of correctly reading expectations and working hard at meeting and pleasing. An obsessive-compulsive does this for years. She gets all the right degrees and promotions--the perfect student and employee. These are the same personality characteristics she carries into therapy, where a person in authority reveals to her the "real" nature of her problems. She is told that if she applies herself diligently and does not resist the therapeutic process, she will come into greater wholeness than she has ever known. As the hypnotic images begin to come, she is praised and encouraged by her therapist, the very pattern that the client has followed throughout her life.
Dependent Personality"Sally" has always had a poor self-image. She lacks confidence, is soft-spoken, and never likes making her own decisions. She got into a marriage in which her husband had become increasingly controlling and abusive, but she simply didn't have the strength to take a stand against his cruel treatment. In desperation she turned to therapy. The relief she found was tremendous. Her regressionist helped her understand why she had always been this way, that she's acting out secret abuses she had repressed. Sally learned to trust her regressionist completely, following his every directive. As the weeks turned into months, she became increasingly dependent and devoted, little by little giving all control over to him. Dependent personalities are one of the most frequently reported disorders in counseling centers. Their symptoms include a constant need to be taken care of, submissive and clinging behaviors, fear of separation, difficulty making everyday decisions without excessive advice, fear of disagreeing with others, lacking independent initiative, going to great lengths to get support from others, and fear of being left alone. In the context of regressionism, this personality type is quickly pulled into a destructive dependency on her therapist.
Borderline, narcissistic, histrionic, and so on--psychologists have discovered personality disorders are tenacious and resistant to change. They are common, time-consuming, and difficult to treat. The therapist who simply sits down and listens, hypnotizes, and encourages the narcissist, borderline, or histrionic to go with her thoughts and feelings is throwing fuel on the fire of the disorder. By misdiagnosing, the therapists are exacerbating the personality disorder rather than providing the proper treatment a structured and accountable intervention, with a "here and now" focus. Diagnosis is everything. Before we can ever begin treatment, we must first know what we're treating. Imagine if a person went into a physician's office with a broken toe and his presenting aliment was misdiagnosed as stemming from a brain tumor. The physician happened to be a brain tumor specialist and the subsequent operation was performed flawlessly. He earned $48,000 for doing the brain operation, compared to the seventy dollars he would have earned to fix a broken toe. But in the end, the toe still isnít fixed and the patient has lost half of his cerebral cortex in the process. Truth matters. Getting the right diagnosis--before treatment--matters.
For some of the regression believers I spoke with I could tell their personality disorders had been in place long, before their journey into regressionism. But for others, including most of the retractors, I discovered they only developed severe personality changes once they had entered regressionism, like the radical personality shifts researchers see in new cult members. The good news is that personality disorders that are a by-product of regression therapy are quickly relieved once the client is able to escape her therapist. Pamela Freyd, of the FMS Foundation, notes:
A legal suit brought by a retractor against her therapist . . . was settled in spring of 1995 in favor of the retractor. The suit was brought in King County Superior Court of Washington and evidence was introduced that noted that the patient had tested in the normal range on a standard personality test at the beginning of therapy. Her test results were elevated well beyond normal limits after therapy began and hypnosis was used. The patient did appear to have suffered severe trauma, but the trauma seems to have taken place in the therapy.26