THE BLOG
02/27/2012 05:19 pm ET Updated Apr 28, 2012

Life Lessons From a Kidnapping Survivor and the Reflective Healing Power of Writing: Smile, It's Just Fear

My goal through my writing is to one day end the kidnapping of our children, their abuse and endangerment. I was one of them. I understand.

 I understand that there will always be an innocent who suffers at the hands of the malevolent and the mad. There will always be the forgotten few, the children grown up who still linger between life and the perpetual shadows of their long, lost years.

And so, for now, I want to focus on the healing power of reflective writing and the effects of childhood trauma on our lives as adults. How the complex weave and crushing weight of such secretive burdens can run roughshod through our relationships and our dreams. 

Unlike so many others in similar situations, I survived my father's possessed spirit; persevering in the face of his naked aggression and exorcised humanity. He chose to soothe his wounded pride and balm his aggrieved heart by kidnapping me to gain a controlling foothold over my mother. When his plans for her to follow him into the Greek Highlands failed to manifest, he began his spiraling descent into the uncharted depths of devils and demons.

He tortured me for a year with his fists and, worse, his on-again off-again confusing signals of love and loss. He proclaimed his unyielding love. And with equal measures of malice and malignancy he despised me for refusing to rebuke my mother. But I never betrayed her. And I never backed down. I survived. I survived him and returned home. Now, could I survive the damage he had done?

He left a few gifts to remember his love by. Fear was one that, 33 years later, still tests my veracity and vies for a final victory. Fear. What a bitch!

Untethered and uncontrolled, fear will feed on everything and all of you. Like a virus, multiplying; infecting every fiber of your being and contaminating your every choice.

I didn't know that ignoring fear would doom me for a time, genetically altering my emotional quotient and redrawing the mental map of how I interacted with the world. Unlike pain, which can be choked down for a time before it surfaces, fear can prove to be quite resilient and remain completely unaffected by premature attempts at burying it.

Fear must be confronted. It cannot be contained. There is no vessel that can bind such an elemental force without it altering the very weft and weave of the person held prisoner. You can laugh at it, fight it, and run from it, but ignoring fear makes it only grow and fester into something that takes on a life all its own. Until it finishes feasting on your sole remaining smiles; leaving you a lifeless shell, a slave to its will.

Before I decided to confront the past, spending eight years writing >Scarred: A Memoir, reliving my memories would send me into a panic. But when I unmasked the moments writing page after page; reflecting on all that had been, I discovered the hidden talents and strength that had carried me from dark shores to bright dawns.

For me, writing was my salvation. Whether it is through writing a book, penning a righteous letter of closure made out to a dearly departed ex to burn on the barbecue grill, or dropping a prayer in a makeshift backyard mailbox for God to answer, revealing your fears unmasks its brittle bones.

And when all else fails in facing down fear, and you're so afraid as to not even step out of your door to live your life, fake it. Simply smile and fake it. Fake that you are fearless until you fear no more.

There are days when I'm on top of the world and moments where I'm still a kid struggling to get away. But now, I've reached a place as a survivor, as a man who is no longer shaped by fear but forged of free will. 

Subscribe to the Culture Shift email.
Get your weekly dose of books, film and culture.