The Aftermath of the Recent Post on Dirk Manning and other Abusers
I’ve read some comments left here (which then I closed) and on my friends’ social media threads which clearly show that people are still lacking in the education about what constitutes abuse. These people think that someone needs to have raped a person physically or forced you to do unspeakable sexual acts like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. These commenters have a shallow base of understanding. They think years of abuse like gaslighting and manipulating are the same as a break-up; that being lied to is no big deal. The element those people are missing is that we are talking about YEARS of repetitive behavior with MANY victims. That’s not just someone who got sick of dating and broke up. That’s pathology.
Dirk Manning emotionally abused countless women [edit to add:] and financially abused them. One I know of is petrified to come forward because of her job related to comic conventions. She doesn’t want to be seen as a “problem” or unprofessional because she got involved with Dirk Manning while working. Trust me there are so many. It’s not safe for everyone to talk.
This is not just about a man cheating on his wife. This is about lying and making up stories on the fly about whether or not wives and ex-wives and children even existed. Men cheating on wives? That shit happens every day to just about everyone. I’ve in fact, been fine with it as a polyamorous woman as long as I know the deal going in. Don’t tell me you want to be with me forever. Don’t beg me to come visit you across the country when you make no effort on your part. Don’t lie to me. Period.
Good relationships don’t erase the past without a process of thoroughly being healed from the abuse.
“We remember insults and injuries best: The adrenaline that we secrete to defend against potential threats helps to engrave those incidents into our minds.” — Bessel van der Kolk, Ph.D.
This information is from Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps Score, one book among several I have studied in the last year about the neuroscience of trauma on our bodies. I’m bolding and drawing attention to particularly relevant sections which may be in easier terms to understand. First of all Gaslighting is abuse (see previous post with easy to follow definition.)
Pathway to the amygdala is extremely fast; pathway to the frontal cortex takes several milliseconds longer in the midst of an overwhelmingly threatening experience. If the amygdala senses a threat, it sends an instant message down to the hypothalamus and the brain stem, recruiting the stress-hormone system and the autonomic nervous system to orchestrate a whole-body response. Because the amygdala processes the information it receives from the thalamus faster than the frontal lobes do, it decides whether incoming information is a threat to our survival even before we are consciously aware of the danger. By the time we realize what is happening, our body may already be on the move. Stress hormones triggered include cortisol and adrenaline which increase heart rate, breathing rate, and preparing us to fight back or run away. The body should return fairly quickly; but when recovery is blocked, the body is triggered to defend itself, which makes people feel agitate and aroused.
In 1994, Stephen Porges, a researcher at the Univ of Maryland, introduced the Polyvagal Theory; polyvagal refers to the many branches of the vagus nerve. It put social relationships front and center in our understanding of trauma; suggested new approaches to healing that focus on strengthening the body’s system for regulating arousal.
You may be most familiar with the trauma responses: Fight or Flight. They are actually secondary responses.
- The human body’s first response to adversity is Find Help.
- When there’s no help, then our nervous systems moves on to the next choices: Fight or Flight.
- If we do not have the capacity to get away to safety (including mental and emotional safety), then the next option is Freeze or Collapse.
- Finally, if those options aren’t available, there’s Clinging — this is what happens when victims return to their abusers over and over again. The victims would rather be with what is predictable and familiar than venture out into unknown territory.
One commenter said something I’m paraphrasing like, “You don’t like how you were treated by a guy, just leave.” Wow — there’s so much to unpack with telling abuse victims to just let go and leave. Do your own research, darling. I’ll give the Cliff’s notes here:
“The mere opportunity to escape does not necessarily make traumatized animals, or people, take the road to freedom.” — Bessel van der Kolk, Ph.D.
“Suppressing our inner cries for help does not stop our stress hormones from mobilizing the body.” — Bessel van der Kolk, Ph.D.
I found an old hard drive where I have folder appropriately named Dickhead; my new drive is called Fucking Asshole as is his entry in my contacts list. I dug through the Dickhead drive and and found screen captures of conversations I had with one of Dirk Manning’s other longtime “girlfriends” for lack of a better word; I’ll call her “C”. When he would get mad at me, he would go to her since she was local to him in Ohio. He “dumped” me on my birthday, said he couldn’t live without me and I took him back, then dumped me on Valentine’s Day (oh, happy dumping anniversary!) — and ran back to “C” again. Women are disposable.
Trauma may result from overwhelming or violent physical experiences, or from difficult psychological and emotional experiences. Its impact may be sudden and dramatic—or the result of gradual and unrelenting violations of our very sense of self. Sometimes, we are not even aware that we’re experiencing trauma until weeks, months, or even years have passed. Its damage can be quiet, creeping, and insidious. — David Emerson, Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga
What is being Triggered in simple terms?
Why does revisiting this old relationship cause me and others to be triggered? Why can’t we just say, “sure it happened to us and now it’s happening to the next generation of victims — good luck, gals!” It’s because of the trauma pattern — neurons that fire together, wire together.
“The stress hormones of traumatized people, in contrast, take much longer to return to baseline and spike quickly and disproportionately.” — Bessel van der Kolk, Ph.D.
How do we heal?
Social support is not the same as merely being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart.
The most natural way for human beings to calm themselves when they are upset is by clinging to another person. This means that patients who have been physically or sexually violated face a dilemma: They desperately crave touch while simultaneously being terrified of body contact. — Bessel van der Kolk, Ph.D.
Crystal (not the “C” in the images below) is one of the victims speaking out through her personal Facebook this week. She’s a wreck and in near constant tears because her wounds are fresh. She’s calling for healing — even for Dirk Manning. That’s magnanimous of her. She believes he can be healed and be a better man. Personally, I don’t see that happening. I believe people can change; but when behavior has gone on for decades unchecked, I think that would take an incredible amount of commitment to self improvement and health that someone who spends 90% of his time promoting his work and having a day job and a family, simply wouldn’t do.
This is part of my practice called metta bhavana which closely translates in English as one mashup word, lovingkindness. In lovingkindness, first you take the time necessary to focus on your own self healing; then you extend the healing out to someone you casually know in passing; then to someone in conflict or with whom you have a difficult relationship; then to all beings everywhere if you can finally make it to that point.
Through whatever approach to healing you choose to take, whether it’s medication and therapy, EMDR, or meditation and self help, the mission is to reclaim your agency.
“Agency” is the technical term for the feeling of being in charge of your life: knowing where you stand, knowing that you have a say in what happens to you, knowing that you have some ability to shape your circumstances. — Bessel van der Kolk, Ph.D.
Befriend Your Body:
The reason scientists and therapists are now coming around about the body like yoga asanas, outdoor activities, and martial arts is because they require people to be fully aware of where their bodies are going. What is your foot about to land on? Is it a wobbly rock or a stable floor? Is you hip going to support you if you lift your other leg? Can you regulate the proprioception so you know which was is up?
Recovery from trauma involves the restoration of executive functioning and, with it, self-confidence and the capacity for playfulness and creativity.
Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves. — Bessel van der Kolk, Ph.D.
Bessel van der Kolk has other ideas for befriending the body such as play — embracing the fun of imaginary worlds, move the body, play a non-harmful, non-competitive activity. Build a tree house. Go bird watching. Take time to go to a beach and look for sea glass. Find joy with your body. Van der Kolk expressed that one workable solution is to join a community theatre program. Being an actor and putting yourself in a role that isn’t you. For us geeks, that could mean LARPing.
Take you hands and physically hug yourself. Tell yourself that you are safe and you have your agency.
Mindfulness Proven by Neuroscience:
Mindfulness increases activation of the medial prefrontal cortex and decreases activation of structures like the amygdala that trigger our emotional responses. This increases our control over the emotional brain.
Mindfulness not only makes it possible to survey our internal landscape with compassion and curiosity but can also actively steer us in the right direction for self-care. — Bessel van der Kolk, Ph.D.
More Receipts from 2014:
Again, I apologize that I don’t have the emotional sustenance to laboriously transcribe these images. As I said in the previous post, it took a devastating toll on my mental and physical health to revisit these messages and to then think about copying and pasting them and making them format in a legible way is simply not something I can bring myself to do. I’m so sorry for those of you who need alt-text. This is my conversation with “C” from all those years ago when we discovered each other as Dirk Manning’s “girlfriends.”
[Edit: Feb-15]: Posting this conversation terribly upset the other party. I’m doing my best to expose Dirk Manning for what his is — an abuser. That came at the expense of hurting another woman’s feelings and I should not have done that. We should stick together against him not against each other. I’m deleting most of the conversation and leaving up the two parts I think are the most important: That Dirk Manning not only uses women for emotional punching bags at his convenience, but that he will also use them financially. As I previously said, I did not have the money to do things like back his Kickstarter or pay for a hotel room. Other women have shelled out even more expenses and flat out given him money.
When You Think You’re Healed and Then Get Triggered:
I’ve been a damn useless mess since this broke. I am still profoundly grateful for Rachel and Crystal (and those who choose to remain anonymous). I have been unable to work in either of my chosen fields since this came out. That’s how triggering has affected my spirit and my body. All these years later and this person that I cared for so much is causing pain to so many people. I thought it might have stopped with me, but essentially I didn’t care about others, because I didn’t have the energy or the strength until I personally healed.
Recovering from emotional and financial abuse and the betrayals are like other crises. “You have to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping the person next to you.” And that’s why I was not in a position to help anyone else.
I hope this makes a difference now. I honestly do hope Dirk faces punishment. He is not safe to have booked at comic/horror conventions because they are literally his feeding grounds for victims.
I believe people can heal. Like when (correction to name — Brian Wood was a different creep but not the one known for biting people in bars) Scott Allie
said he went to rehab and came out owning his mistakes (edited for new context 25-June-2020) said he was rehabilitated, but it turns out his behavior was not only while drinking; Shawna Gore’s story changed my opinion on this one. There are still a lot of industry professionals that will not work with him and don’t want to see him at cons. The Mary Sue has timeline of comic industry abuse that went up to 2017 so it didn’t have all these new names on the list. It goes up through Nathan Edmondson (as I said, I fell into his victim pool too). The list needs to be updated. By all means, if the editors at TMS want to do that it, kudos to them. Some of these abusers don’t want to change. They don’t want to recover. They simply want to rebrand and come back to comics/entertainment. That’s a mistake. They should not be allowed back in without clear promises to the general public and the fans they have disappointed.
- Bessel van der Kolk The Body Keeps Score
- Amy Weintraub’s Yoga for Depression: A Compassionate Guide to Relieve Suffering Through Yoga
- Deborah Adele The Yamas and Niyamas
- Lindy West Shrill
- Michelle Cassandra Johnson Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World
- David Emerson Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body
- John Little The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee
- Sharon Salzberg Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
Part One – my experience with a toxic person
Part Two – Science on abuse
Part Three – trolls don’t like crying