by Atticus Fleury*
(Editor’s Note: This actor, writer, and poet was regressed to a period of childhood abuse following a year of therapeutic work with Dr. Afton Blake. His three regressions illustrate the importance of establishing an atmosphere of trust before retrieving such painful memories. They also make clear the necessity of ongoing work to deepen, transform, and integrate the material recovered, a process which in this patient is not yet complete. Work with childhood abuse cannot be hurried. We thank this author for his candid and courageous sharing).
Forgiveness will reign as the clouds
Will rain, and the tears of my sorrow will
Water this patch of earth, and I shall play
In the spray, in the deep muddy puddles play
Laughing, crying from the sheer release.
And the flash and crack kabooms of thunder
Are the cries…are the cries of a child
Who never made a sound, but shuddered,
Shuddered, and now booms out: It Happened!
Hear me, my world, I am an honest child,
I do not lie. I do not lie. It happened.
I suspect that I was abused as a child. I suspect that it was my father who abused me. The jury is still out. I cannot remember in the way that we think of memory, in the way that we are used to having memories come to us, but my instincts and intuitions say with unwavering conviction that yes, I was abused, and that yes, my father was the abuser.
I was born on November 17, 1953. In the spring of 1959 my parents divorced, and my mother and younger sister and I went to live with my mother’s family in a small town in Louisiana. From that time on, I grew up in the arms of a loving extended family.
In October of 1971, at the age of 17, while working toward acquiring my commercial pilot’s license, I was on a solo training flight when an emergency developed and I came close to being killed. I landed safely and without apparent injury, but on my next flight I developed a phobia of flying solo. The sensation “jumped” me unawares; my skin began to tingle, I went numb, and I felt myself leave my body. It was a horrible feeling.
By 1976 this phobia had become so pronounced that I elected to ground myself and leave the Air Force pilot training program in which I had been accepted. I began therapy in 1977 to try to find out why I could no longer fly and why the phobia had begun to spread into other aspects of my life. But six years of therapy brought me no answers, and so I discontinued it.
I began to harbor a growing suspicion that I might have been abused sexually and psychologically by my father when I was four or five. This suspicion led me in 1987 to seek another therapist, Dr. Afton Blake. It was through Dr. Blake’s regression work that answers, sad and disturbing answers, began to emerge.
Regression to a Prior Lifetime
For some months I worked on material recovered from my most recent life time, in which I had served as a My crew and I were killed on our 9th mission over Germany in 1943. After losing power we had to leave the formation and fighters swarmed around us for about 20 minutes shooting us to pieces. During that attack my co-pilot’s head was blown off, and I could hear over the intercom the screams of boys crying for their mothers as they died.
In the end we blew up, and as the big plane rolled to the left in a huge fireball, my last thought came to me in a rage: “It is a lie, it is a lie, it is all a lie! There is no reason, no cause so great that one should kill another. None.”
It may be that as I died in rage, I was born in rage, and this rage of mine opened the gate for my equally enraged father to come in.
First Regression to Childhood
On October 11, 1988, after a full year of work with Dr. Blake, I experienced my first regression back to this period of my childhood. It proved to be a reconnaissance of sorts.
Atticus: I’m at the Alexandria Street house. This is where it all happened. I’m standing on the front steps. I’m afraid to go in. It’s very dangerous in there.
Therapist: Atticus, know that you can watch the events, whatever is there, as if you were watching yourself in a movie.
Atticus: Okay, that’s good. I can do that.
Atticus: I’m on his lap. We have our clothes on. Now this is a memory. I’ve got this one. He’s tickling me. I’m laughing and laughing. We’re having fun. All of a sudden he flips me over his knee and spanks the tar out of me. I’m stunned, simply stunned. What did I do wrong? I don’t feel any pain, just complete surprise.
Therapist: What happens next?
Atticus: I don’t know. That’s where the memory stops. It just stops. I’ve had that memory my whole life. Now my instincts say that it started that day, right after the spanking.
Therapist: Go ahead and see what happens next.
Atticus: Okay, but I think its real bad.
Therapist: Remember, you can watch it all as a movie.
Atticus: Okay. He—the little boy—is lying on the bed naked with my father. They’re laughing, playing with each other; my father’s tickling me. He says, “Do you want to play a fun game?”
When I say yes, my father says, “OK, lick my pee-pee.” That’s a scary thought but the little boy does it though he doesn’t want to. But he starts doing it, and then it’s kind of fun. It’s exciting, and the boy feels special. He likes all the attention. He’s scared a little bit, but not too much.
My father says, “Oh, my little son, you smell so clean and fresh. I love you so much. I love you.” There is whiskey by the bed—my father’s drinking it. My father’s moaning now, thrusting his hips, groaning with pleasure. He gets wilder and wilder. Suddenly be grabs the boy’s head by the hair and shoves his penis into…it’s violent, he really jabs him hard—in the mouth, into his mouth, yes, his throat.
The boy can’t breathe. He’s terrified. He’s thinking, “What happened? It’s all out of control!”
As the regression continues I witness a series of tortures, the sexual acts being only one component, one instrument, of my father’s sadism.
Therapist: Where are you now, Atticus? Where do you, the observer, see yourself in the room?
Atticus: I’m floating up by the ceiling. A whole part of me, most of me, has split off and left my body. It’s too awful, too painful to stay. Part of me stayed though, in my body. It had to stay and keep my body alive.
But it’s enraged at my father and at me for leaving it alone. It’s alone in hell. That’s the problem, one of the problems at least. I have to somehow put us back together. I’m in pieces.
It is the same feeling I have when flying solo. The thing comes over me, and I can hardly stay in my body. Everything becomes dreamlike and my skin tingles and goes numb all over.
Then another part of me comes out and is so enraged it wants to crash the airplane in this horrible fireball. It wants to mutilate me. That is the war in me.
Second Regression to Childhood
I approached this regression with reluctance so Dr. Blake worked a long time to help me become relaxed and comfortable and ready to look again at the distressing events of my childhood relationship with my father.
Atticus: God, I can’t get it out. It’s so awful. Like a great constipation. It’s big and it’s really bad.
Therapist: Try to let yourself experience the feelings.
Atticus: Jesus, I’m so afraid it will be too loud. I’m gonna be screaming like a mad man. People will think I’m being murdered.
Therapist: Don’t worry about the noise. Just let yourself go with the feelings and know that your higher self will not let you experience anything that you are not prepared to handle.
Atticus: OK. Here goes, if I can get it out. It feels lodged in my spine. If I could just break open my spine.
Therapist: Well, imagine just that, that your spine breaks open.
Atticus: That’s a good idea. I can do that.
God, oh God, my legs are tied up with sheets. I’m dragging myself across the floor. He says, “Why are you making me do this to you? Why, son, why? You little shit, you got a little bitty dick, not like mine. I’m a man, Mine’s huge, see!”
Bastard shoves it down my throat. I got to get out! I got to get out! He’s dragging me by my legs across the floor. “No, no, please don’t, Daddy. Daddy, please, oh please, oh please, don’t!”
I’m in the tub. He’s put me in the tub taken the sheets off. He says, “Don’t move, you little puke. Don’t move one muscle.”
I’m frozen, seems forever. I sniffle.
“You moved, son. You’re not listening to me. So you know what I have to do?” God, no, no, no! He’s shitting in my face. He’s pissing on me.
Now the tub is full of water. Now he’s drowning me, holding me under by my hair so as not to leave bruises. He’s very good and meticulous about not marking me up. He raises me up, down under again, up, down, up. He’ll kill me! He’s going to kill me! He’s greasing up his penis, laughing, just laughing so evil. He picks me up and sticks me down on it. My eyes are coming out of my head. The pressure, the pressure! He comes. He’s done.
He drops me like a rag doll and walks away. He’s sitting on the sofa, staring at the wall in a stupor. I’m looking at him through the door. I start to vomit but I hold it in my mouth and swallow it in little gulps. If I let it out, he’ll kill me.
He turns to me and says, “Come here.” I go. He grabs me by the throat and squeezes gently. “If you tell anyone about this, anyone at all…if you tell Mom, ever, I will kill you. I will come and find you, wherever you are, and I will kill you.”
My sense is that four or five events of this nature occurred within a two-year period. Apparently my father was able to control his impulses for a time, but they would build up in him and then, like a thunderstorm, he would explode.
In the fall of 1988 I had a dream about a mutilated animal, and following this I had several violent dreams whose imagery was of severed appendages and body parts—mutilations. I was also awakened several times at night by a popping sound, a cracking nose, sharp and quick. It would wake me from sleep and then leave me very disturbed and upset, while all around me the night was silent.
Third Regression to Childhood
Only after nine months of integrating therapeutic work did I feel ready for another regression to my childhood. The second regression had proved to be so intense and frightening that for a long time afterward I did not want to put myself through that degree of suffering again so soon. But after a good rest I felt stronger and more centered and ready to discover more.
The weekend before the third regression, I had been to an air show, and during it I said to myself, “Whatever it takes, whatever I must see, no matter how horrible, I will see it and go through it. I want to fly again. I want to fly.”
As an induction to this third regression back to childhood my therapist worked with light in the chakra centers, beginning with the crown chakra, and she had just reached the throat chakra when I started screaming.
Atticus: He’s putting it in my face. He’s laughing. He’s sitting on top of me, on a pillow. He has killed our pet cat Friday and cut him in pieces. The pieces are on a newspaper by my head. He picks up part of my cat—he’s like a dentist picking up a tool. He runs it over my face. He’s forcing it into my mouth.
I don’t scream. I’m not so afraid this time. Though it’s happening again, I don’t feel as betrayed. I know he’s a sick fuck. The first time the terror and the betrayal overwhelmed me. This time it’s a matter of survival. Just survive! How to endure these torture sessions. Figure it out. Figure it out.
I should have hit Friday, our cat, made him run away; then he would have lived. I knew my father might kill him, but I didn’t think he really would. I should have been mean to Friday and thrown rocks, to make him run away, but I didn’t, and my father killed him.
Therapist: Atticus, it’s been my experience, from what I know, that animals choose to stay with their masters as long as they can. They want to go through what their masters are going through, and they sacrifice themselves for their masters, usually much more easily than people do. I’m sure Friday knew, in his own way, that he probably would be killed and that he could have run away, but he chose instead to stay with you as long as he could.
Atticus: I’ve always thought animals were little angels, silent little angels, watching over us, quietly helping; teaching where they can. Maybe my present cat is Friday, come back to me. I feel like he is. He and I have been through everything together for nine years.
Therapist: Maybe he is, and I think he knows of your suffering.
Atticus: It feels good to me, calming, to think that way.
Therapist: What did your mother think about Friday’s disappearance?
Atticus: She said he’ll come home, tonight or in the morning. “Here kitty, kitty, kitty! He’ll come home.”
Therapist: But you knew differently.
Atticus: Oh, yes. He won’t be coming home, Mommy. Daddy killed him.
Therapist: Did you tell her?
Atticus: With my eyes and looks I tried, but she didn’t see. She didn’t want to see. God damn her, she just put blinders on.
Therapist: Children always think their parents should be able to tell when something’s wrong.
Atticus: God, how stupid could she be, all this happening under her nose! No, no. That’s not true. If she had known she would have gotten us out of there. I know she would. She is a good mother. She is. He picked up so good. She’d come home and there wasn’t a trace of anything. That was part of his pleasure. How far could he go and not get caught.
Therapist: Do you have a sense that this experience, the killing of Friday, comes after the other experience?
Atticus: Oh, yes. He was expanding his repertoire. Feeling more confident.
Therapist: Do you know if there are other times after this one?
Atticus: Oh, yes, there’s more, more, more. I should have thrown rocks. Oh, I can’t believe all this is coming out of me. How did I survive? I should be a multiple personality or a maniac. How did I keep it together so well? Seems worse than Sybil.
Therapist: I think, Atticus, each spirit born into this life comes into the world with its own strengths and weaknesses. Your suffering made you stronger.
Atticus, take this time, all the time you need to just feel how alone you were then and how you struggled so.
Atticus: Oh, poor little boy! Poor, poor little boy. My little cat. Oh, it’s all so sad! So sad. So so sad. I can’t believe how I suffered then. My poor little boy!
You know, I think I made a conscious choice to forget. A part of me feels like an old, old man, ancient and he would come out then, after the torture session was over. I’d try to tell my mom, and I knew it was hopeless. The old man would come out and say, “You must forget now. That is how you will survive. Forget.”
And so I’d take a deep breath, hold it, bear down, and force memories deep, deep into myself and out of sight. When I opened my eyes I had forgotten and was happy again. At least, I could play and have a sort of normal life until Mr. Hyde would come for me again.
Therapist: Atticus, see if you can be the old man now and with your little boy and Friday let a healing occur.
Atticus: My left knee is Friday and my right knee is my little boy. I am the old man. I’m stroking them both. “The Peace of God. The Peace of God. The Peace of God.” I’m saying it over and over. It feels good. Sad, so sad, but good.
Therapist: Good. Take as long as you need with this.
Atticus: My God, I can’t believe all this is coming out of me. How have I lived with all of this in me? Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable.
The one change I can really feel is that I want to kill him now and not me. Up to now I’ve always wanted to kill myself.
Therapist: Now you’re more valuable than your father.
Atticus: Yes, and that’s good. That’s really good. But I’ve just exchanged homicide for suicide. What I realize is that finally I must forgive him and let it go. The real healing is in forgiveness. So I see where my work is to be.
A part of me simply cannot believe that all my pain and rage, which expresses itself in this devastating imagery, came from out of nowhere. Something awful must have happened. Another part, the part that I can’t remember, argues that I have made it all up. My God, then what of me?
Yet, for all my impatience and frustration, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind and heart that working in this way, with these images, has brought about positive and substantial changes in my life.
Though my flying phobia still persists, and I am from time to time almost completely immobilized by depression and lack of energy, I still sense, even in my darkest moods, a chord of harmony vibrating deep within, and I know that the darkness will pass, and that my creative work as a writer continues in the dark times as well as in the light times.
I am an honest child. I do not lie.
* Atticus Fleury, M.A., because of scars from early childhood abuse, gave up a career in the Air Force to become an actor and writer and currently has a book of poetry in publication.