Music is a form of communication and expression for me, so you will see some music videos posted on this blog as they related to subjects such as abuse, healing, trauma, etc.
The video for “Rockabye” by Clean Bandit featuring Sean Paul and Anne- Marie, I thought is an important video because it vividly portrays the experience of a woman who uses dissociation to protect herself from a stressful, and traumatic experience. Dissociation is survival mechanism also common to victims of domestic violence and child abuse.
The nature and cause of dissociation is complex, and this article is not meant to offer medical or professional advise but rather to give a general description; additional links and info are included below for further reading. Dissociation happens when a person can not fully comprehend or assimilate an overwhelming or traumatic event. In order to protect itself, the brain breaks up (fragments) the traumatic experience to help people from experiencing too much pain – whether it be physical or emotional pain. As soon as it is safe to do so, those pieces are assimilated or resolved. If the trauma and resulting fragments are left unresolved, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, and other psychological and physical problems often result. Dissociation in a child or parent will also affect that person’s ability to form attachments in their own family, and affect their ability to later develop other social relationships. The way dissociation manifests is unique to each person, and their experience.
There is a range of symptoms and manifestation of dissociation from day dreaming to anxiety and diagnosable disorders; a number of factors determine how severely a person is affected (those factors are explained here: Dissociation Explained). Momentary dissociation vs. longer episodes also impact the severity. Dissociation is a normal reaction to an abnormal or traumatic event that includes repetitive abuse, and complex trauma.
The song “Rockabye” is performed by Clean Bandit, an electronic/dance band from England. The video tells the story of a woman with a troubled past who is raising a son on her own after the child’s father left. The woman has been disowned from her own family because she did not live up to their expectations. The woman has resolved to give her child a better life than what she had experienced. She is portrayed as a devoted, loving mother.
In order to make ends meet, the woman resorts to working in a strip bar. The patrons in the strip bar are older men, shady characters. In order to cope, the woman imagines a hole opening up in the wall, and instead of dancing for these perverts who treat her poorly, she images she is dancing on top of a beautiful cliff facing a vast ocean. In another scene, she is twirling on a pole in the midst of a serene forest with the sun shining through the trees. In between these scenes the woman thinks about her son – the video shows as he grows from an infant to a young child. This is dissociation – temporarily spacing out of your reality, imagining you are someplace else.
The woman is a skilled and talented dancer. Outside of the bar, through her imagination, you can see her strength, beauty and athleticism in her moves. The way she dances looks more like a professional performer or artist when she is in her safe place, free to express herself. And that is the tragedy of this video – that someone with so much heart, and talent would be reduced to this miserable circumstance.
There are touching scenes of the mother and son swinging together on a playground, in another scene they are riding on a train together and she holds him close, rocking him. The mother has given her life to protect her son, and keep him safe. The hope in the video is that through the efforts made for her son, she will be able to start anew, and will achieve that better life she has courageously worked for.
There is also hope for abuse survivors, and those who have experienced dissociation due to traumatic events, that it is possible to recover, and to enjoy a healthy and satisfying life.
Some Personal Thoughts –
The “Rockabye” video made me think of a past experience… which I am sharing to offer a personal perspective on abuse, and how I coped with overwhelming trauma (and fear) while living in abuse. Now that I have left the relationship, and have healed – I do not have these issues anymore. In my experience, the best “cure” for the stress and trauma I was experiencing was to completely separate myself from the abuser, and create a life on my own terms. I am now fighting to bring my children to safety.
My ex is very abusive and controlling. Not too long after our “relationship” began, “Mr. X”, he inflicted a horrific act of abuse towards me. I never wanted to be in any kind of relationship with him – but due to what happened, my whole sense of self was shattered. My will power, and ability to assert myself in any way was gone. This event would shape the entire course of our relationship – only when I was able to come to terms with what happened would I gain the strength to escape.
There were times when Mr. X was so hurtful towards me, and was so frightening, that I would push what he was doing from my mind. I made it a point not to remember or think about what had happened. Mr. X’s moods would also swing from intense rages to acting like everything was fine. I walked on broken glass around him, and learned to acclimate my mood to his as a survival skill. As a result, I have blocked out certain incidents of abuse. Other memories are fragmented. To be honest, I have no desire to remember what has been suppressed. I think the world will be a better place if those memories remain buried.
In one instance, I remember laying on the bed and looking up to see one of the glass fixtures on the ceiling fan was broken. Without the protection of the fixture, rays of harsh white light were thrown into my eyes like arrows. There was a large shard of broken glass hanging down, leaving a pointed edge that was noticeable among the rest of the delicate fixture, whose frosted glass holders resembled flowers. I could not recall the exact moment the fixture was broken but I did remember of Mr. X raging – I could hear the sound of his voice throbbing in my hears. Could feel his anger fill the room like a rising thunderhead. Could remember him lunging at me … then blackness. I remember laying on the bed, the covers were messy, and I just did not feel well… like something had happened.. but I could not remember what.
Not remembering made it easier to deal with Mr. X. Because if I did feel then I might become angry or might cry or might do something that would just make him mad… and my safety depended on becoming so small, and so invisible that I would not provoke his rage. I was also completely dependent on Mr. X for my basic needs, and my survival. At the time, it would never have occurred to me to leave. I honestly did not know any other kind of life. I met Mr. X soon after I graduated from high school and had no other experiences in the world, no friends, no job, no other home – I was totally isolated. This was just my life, and for a long time, I accepted this horrible existence. I thought it was normal.
That I was able to escape the abuse is a miracle, and I thank God every day for my freedom, and for being able to regain my life and sense of self. I pray for the safety of my children, who remain with the abuser – and pray that one day my family will be reunited, our lives free of violence or drama.
“Rockabye” is an amazing video – be sure to check it out. The song is positive, upbeat.. and has given me insight that helped me take another step forward in my recovery from abuse.
Have any songs, movies or messages inspired you? Plz post below!
“She tells him ‘uh, love, no one’s ever gonna hurt you, love
I’m gonna give you all of my love
Nobody matters like you’
She tells him “your life ain’t gonna be nothing like my life
You’re gonna grow and have a good life
I’m gonna do what I’ve got to do…”
~ Rockabye, Clean Bandit (In this verse the mother is singing to her child)
~ Emily Court, 2016