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#467159 - 07/02/14 11:24 AM helplessness: the last line of defense
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 363
Loc: NY


Recently, I had the opportunity to confront my mother about some of her provocative behavior. I saw her shut down, but also have an emotional response to my telling her that what she was doing was pushing me away. What of this? With regard to my own mother's feelings of helplessness, I can only surmise on what she has done with it. The rest is about me.

There were a few moments when she sat frozen in front of me. I feared she might choose to physically lunge toward me in an emotional collapse or dramatic attempt to connect to me. I probably have been carrying around that fear as long as I can remember.

Although she didn't do that, and I was able to briefly embrace her as she cried a little, I am left with the memory of a lot of helplessness. With regard to trauma and its physical response, I have been helped by a theory of the nervous system and what happens when the usual defenses fail.

"Porges’s polyvagal hierarchy theory reminds us that the dorsal vagal complex comes into action when all other defenses fail to ensure safety. Individuals who suffered chronic abuse as children, especially during a developmentally vulnerable period, and who may not have been able to capitalize on social engagement, attachment, or mobilizing defenses for survival, generally have come to rely on immobilizing defenses. It is inevitable, given their dependent status and developmental vulnerability, that children will submit to abuse at least until the adolescent years; victims of childhood sexual abuse seldom report actively resisting their perpetrators (Nijenhuis et al., 1998). Although the freeze responses are not available until the second half of the first year (Schore, submitted), the increase in dorsal vagal tone has been observed even in newborns who become hypoxic (Bergman et al., 2004; in Schore, submitted). The hypoarousal of the submissive response leads to a subjective detachment from emotions as well as an evacuation, so to speak, of emotional experience; remarks such as “I just wasn’t there” seem to suggest a reduction in, or respite from, the individual’s emotional pain and suffering. Clients frequently describe depersonalization experiences: being outside their body, watching themselves from a distance as though they were someone else."

As a man, this state of physical helplessness is equivalent to feeling like a wimp and a loser. I have done a lot of things in an attempt to subvert it. The list is long. Now I realize that as abhorrent as helplessness is to me, especially when I feel it in my body, it is, and has been, the only way that I could have reacted when faced with abusive situations. Staying with that awareness, I find that I slowly "come to my senses". The little boy who couldn't mobilize anything in response begins to feel the warmth of the grown man in me who understands and wants to heal.

Would like to know if others have had frustrations with helplessness, and any similar signs of progress.

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#467188 - 07/03/14 02:12 AM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
don64 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/09/13
Posts: 804
Loc: St. Croix, USVI
Hi FB,

The "Porge's" reference is timely for me. I also recently read and article on traumatic amnesia as a result of betrayal recommended here on the site. It's all giving me a context that feels like a prelude to some mega-integrating and healing. This is all coming at a time when I have been getting much more personal with my rage work, becoming much more comfortable with my rage work, doing much more frequent rage work, reading in a post "bonding was a precursor to betrayal," and generally feeling some major shifting inside that I can't put a name to yet.

So, yes, it all has to do with teasing apart the structure of my learned helplessness. I am not an academic, but somehow, all of my experiences are gaining momentum to shift my thinking from defensive to neutral. From negative to neutral. If it gets to neutral, I certainly intend to make loving and sustainable choices. I wonder what that will be like.

Love and good will to you,

Don
_________________________
Divine Law is not judgment or denial of self truths. Divine Law is honoring harmony that comes from a peaceful mind, an open heart, a true tongue, a light step, a forgiving nature, and a love of all living creatures. Jamie Sams & David Carson, Medicine Cards

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#467211 - 07/03/14 03:25 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 363
Loc: NY

Don:

Ever since I began this work, the feeling of sustainability has been different. Where before I would dismiss feelings of hopelessness in a feigned defensive posture, I now check in with what is hopeful. As you say, the neutral place is where it feels like better choices are made.

At times, it feels like a very rocky road. A lot of me wants to portray an image of being able to overcome all feelings of helplessness. But I have the memory of more than one betrayal amidst that plan. In moments when I thought I had a good possession of myself, there was plenty of doubt how to respond to the confusion I lived in, to say nothing of my mother's. I used to ignore the feelings associated with the pain. Now when I don't, there is more room for the amnesia to correct itself.

This can be slow and excruciating at first. Some days seem better suited to sustaining the amnesia. But by the end of one of those days, I know I will feel unfulfilled. So I look for ways to feel more.

Your familiarity with rage seems good. I think the hardest place to sustain that is in social situations. In my past, rage was instantly associated with destruction and harm. It is constantly suppressed by my system. But that doesn't mean it is not affecting me.

Conversing with you reminds me that rage does not have to be the only gear that drives the car. There are other choices, including neutral.

With hope,

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#467248 - 07/04/14 09:19 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
gaatt Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 123
Hi FB,

Originally Posted By: focusedbody
Would like to know if others have had frustrations with helplessness, and any similar signs of progress.


I've been through many phases of struggling with helplessness. My mind quickly goes to arguments that many people use to rationalize behaviour that was hurtful to me: "She couldn't have meant it. She was menopausal. It must have been unconscious... etc..." None of this is particularly reassuring or helpful to me. My mind can easily go to larger societal forces at play as well. It often seems to me that women have cornered the market on helplessness/victimhood so how am I going to compete with that? These arguments are so pervasive and so strongly influential in the culture of my family, that if I didn't have a severe and life-threatening illness, my pain would be easily overlooked.

The turning point for me came with a very sobering encounter with suicide and a decision to not follow that route. As I continue to heal, I encounter layers of anger unfolding particularly as I seek an intimate partner and people who seem to resonate with me.

Just today I was wondering, "How on earth did I get born into that family?". As far as meditative consciousness is concerned and healing the psycho-emotional aspects of life, we have no common ground at all. I'm seen as a dreamer and impractical (most strongly by my mother). I don't get what is so impractical about getting to the social roots of severe physical illness nor do I see what is impractical about longing for a world in which the drivers to total self-destruction (I grew up deeply immersed in the Cold War mentality and have a strong concern for the consequences of Climate Change) are healed. It angers me to be seen as a freak. My values are really good!

As I experience the anger and move through it, I've also experienced a deep feeling of being "Not good enough" and hurt. When I'm able to come to peace with those hurts and recognize my innate value as a person, the whole conflict seems to dissolve and I seem to have less investment in the opinions of others. That stance is empowering to me. It has nothing to do with the brainwashing (or actually more like brain-stuffing/brain-programming) of my youth and much of the culture still around me today.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Sincerely,

GAATT
_________________________
"Love yourself and watch...Today, Tomorrow, Always." Buddha.

My Story: http://www.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=468661#Post468661

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#467253 - 07/04/14 10:30 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 363
Loc: NY
Hey, Gaatt.

Great to hear from you, and inspiring too. Sounds like some very healthy responses are emerging.

Yes, part of what I was trying to point out was that helplessness is not even something we choose, but rather we get stuck in at an early age. As women get to corner the market on it, as men we don't have anywhere to go with it.

The continuous experience of it in relation to our mothers gets obscured because there is no way to refer to it. And underneath the helplessness, is rage and pain. Which brings me to my next point, one which I was hoping I would have a chance to discuss with you.

The situation you have been describing with your parents, and that seems to probably be common in CSA experiences with all parents, is one of triangulation. In that situation, one parent attempts to get from the child something they are not getting from the other parent. One of the consequences of this is that healthy separation and individuation do not occur naturally. There is always this leftover undercurrent of trying to get something from the child on the part of the parent, as if the child could somehow heal some old wound.

So your experiences of "not being good enough" and being hurt make sense. As well, your coming to terms with the good parts of yourself and looking at your own healing for your own sake, seem to be very good paths to be on.

Good luck on them,

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#467268 - 07/05/14 01:22 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
gaatt Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 123
HI FB,

Thanks for writing.

Originally Posted By: focusedbody
The situation you have been describing with your parents, and that seems to probably be common in CSA experiences with all parents, is one of triangulation. In that situation, one parent attempts to get from the child something they are not getting from the other parent.


Oh boy... Yes! in a BIG way. A Doctor of Chinese medicine once described me as "The political football in my parent's battles". It's really stressful to be working overtime as a newborn trying to get the nurturing attention from mother that a newborn absolutely needs while trying to dodge the jealous energy of father AND satisfy the unmet adult needs of mother. Given that mother was shut down for reasons of which I was completely unaware (both inside her relationship to my father and in the family of her birth), it was totally crazy making in a very subtle but very powerful way.

It's good to be around people who understand that pain. Generally, in social settings, I can get triggered very powerfully by dissatisfied women in relationships. This kind of woman is very common in my experience and generally is perceived as saintly. My connection with men is generally far too weak to be of much use. So isolation is a very common situation in my life. I just can't stand getting teased/starved/beat up so much.

Fortunately, I'm pursuing a connection with a woman who shares my interest in a healing approach to intimacy. Whether she has the strength to handle the depth I routinely touch, deal with the instability that I can show at times, and whether my body will let me get close to her, are all up in the air... but we can write and talk. It's better than nothing at all!

Thanks for your wishes. Best wishes to you in your healing too. It sounds like you are making progress in your connection with your mother. Have you noticed an effect on your connection with other women?

Cheers,

GAATT

PS: I've heard through Alice Miller that one way to deal with the consequences of child abuse is to have kids and pass it on to them (The other two are self-destruction and socio-pathology... much more obvious manifestations). I often wonder what was going on in the childhood world of my parents. One thing I'm very clear about is that their interest in healing those wounds within themselves appears to be zero.


Edited by gaatt (07/05/14 01:35 PM)
Edit Reason: Add a thought
_________________________
"Love yourself and watch...Today, Tomorrow, Always." Buddha.

My Story: http://www.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=468661#Post468661

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#467273 - 07/05/14 03:25 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
don64 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/09/13
Posts: 804
Loc: St. Croix, USVI
Hi GAATT,

Your mother and mine have similarities as twins. Jealous father, too. I've been a sieve most of my life and am only now learning something about boundaries. And, I'm having to do it in isolation because my experience was that I did nothing but perpetuate abusive situations. I am growing, but I'll only know how successfully the next time I stick my toe outside my front door in regards to group activities. I divorced my family of origin 12 years ago. My mother is a very angry and a very sick woman. Completely narcissistic wearing a mask of normalcy showing larger and larger cracks as she ages. Last time I saw them, my father was turning into a jealous and simplistic child. My brother and sisters are versions of them, and heavily invested in the family script. Everyone in my immediate family not only had no interest in healing any wounds, they had no interest in even acknowledging any wounds. As far as I can tell, I'm the only one who escaped. I'm glad you have the sensitivity you seem to have, and are committed to your own self worth. I feel the same way.

Hi FB,

My current thinking is that as I release this ancient infant and child rage--that is where the most serious generalized rage is and where most of the amnesia is, the older child rage and teen and young adult rage is much easier for me to access and release-been doing that for years--my thinking will heal and my boundaries will APPEAR and be much more flexible regarding the effects others have on me. In other words, if someone makes me angry or disappoints me, my own inner sense of self won't be threatened, and a resiliency I have never had will be there. Won't know until I check it out. Not the time yet. I believe there'll be enough reparative work done to venture out within the next year.

Sending love and support to you both.

Don
_________________________
Divine Law is not judgment or denial of self truths. Divine Law is honoring harmony that comes from a peaceful mind, an open heart, a true tongue, a light step, a forgiving nature, and a love of all living creatures. Jamie Sams & David Carson, Medicine Cards

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#467282 - 07/05/14 05:03 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: don64]
gaatt Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 123
Hi Don,

Glad to know that I'm not alone. I seem to be very much outside the box of many generations of people (including the current one) in my birth family.

Originally Posted By: don64
I've been a sieve most of my life and am only now learning something about boundaries. And, I'm having to do it in isolation because my experience was that I did nothing but perpetuate abusive situations.


Boundaries have been very tricky for me too. I've had to learn to separate out the support that family can offer (my mother is generous financially and with help with household chores. I'd be dead without it.) from the subtler hurtful stuff. I'm also learning to create a sense of family amongst people who share my interest in healing. Like your birth family, mine has no interest in perceiving the problems I quite clearly see and experience the consequences.

I too ran into a major problem many years ago with a woman I was strongly attracted to and eventually married. I became very unstable emotionally (anger, attractions to other women) and yet had no idea why this was happening. Like you, I got out because I feared what I might do (I feared perpetuating what was already a hurtful situation). Fortunately, I am aware of an approach to healing in intimate relationships and want to pursue it if at all possible. Otherwise, I'm going to continue to be very isolated.

Thanks for writing. Great to hear from you.

Cheers,

GAATT.
_________________________
"Love yourself and watch...Today, Tomorrow, Always." Buddha.

My Story: http://www.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=468661#Post468661

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#467286 - 07/05/14 07:23 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
don64 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/09/13
Posts: 804
Loc: St. Croix, USVI
Hi GAATT,

Great to hear from you, too. Working things out with my family of origin was not an issue for me. HOWEVER, I am very encouraged that you have developed boundaries and learned to sift out the healthy from the non-healthy with your family and make it work. That is what I'm working on regarding me and the rest of the world--the ability to be more flexible with others. I have a ways to go, but, as I release my old anger, I see my brain rewriting itself, and find my thoughts rearranging somewhat regarding me and others. It's a work in progress, but I have reason for optimism.

I'm real clear that I will create my own family with others, too, as I am able.

Best of luck to you as you continue your healing journey.

Don
_________________________
Divine Law is not judgment or denial of self truths. Divine Law is honoring harmony that comes from a peaceful mind, an open heart, a true tongue, a light step, a forgiving nature, and a love of all living creatures. Jamie Sams & David Carson, Medicine Cards

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#467306 - 07/06/14 02:16 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
gaatt Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 123
Hi Don,

Thanks! Best wishes to you too! :-)

This is challenging and demanding work. It's great for me to know people like you who are taking it on. It's quite rare in my experience.

GAATT
_________________________
"Love yourself and watch...Today, Tomorrow, Always." Buddha.

My Story: http://www.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=468661#Post468661

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#467460 - 07/10/14 11:27 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 363
Loc: NY
Gaatt:

Good to hear the similarities, as painful as they are.

Like you, for many years I empathized with women who had been hurt. It became something I thought I was good at, something that seemed to make it easier to get close to them.

When more of what was going on began to come into my consciousness, I had a hard time reconciling the old person with the new one. These days the best sense I have of things not being integrated is when I just feel dead inside. I now understand that being numb is a defense.

So as much as I would like to say that my connection to women is changing, I think it's all more complicated than that. There is still a lot of confusion to sort through about what I really need from someone. It's as if a man is here that was not here before and I'm trying to listen to him.

One thing that I do seem to be doing is having a different relationship to being playful and having fun. It feels more genuine sometimes. I'm not sure why, but it's as if the person who is whole is more willing and understands that some bravery is needed in the task of being here.

There is a way that working things out with my Mom would appear to make things better with other women. The problem with that is that it's still difficult for me to differentiate between mom and other women. What I mean is, is that because Mom was so interested in merging with me and not giving me the emotional feedback I needed, I tend to miss what other women are actually asking me for.

So taking things slowly with the goal of becoming and remaining more present to my thoughts and impulses still seems like the right road to be on. I'm sure I'll have more to say as more time passes.



Don64:

For some reason, a quote I found in a book on the body has been resonating with what you wrote.

"The ultimate goal of working with body memories is neither remembering facts nor reexperiencing emotions. Healing requires changing our relationship to our memories. Transformation comes from investing the traumatic event with a new meaning—Rubenfeld calls it “rescripting.” It necessitates replacing unsuccessful episodes with successful ones and imprinting new neuromuscular patterns. And in the process, we establish or reestablish somatic, emotional, and psychological resources."

Perhaps this is something we all know intuitively. Going through the emotions of the past is done to get us more in the present.

For me, there have literally been times when my brain has decided to go offline and I've had to stay in my body in order to understand what I'm feeling. This is as frightening as one could imagine in some ways, but with awareness, I've been able to see the dissociative trance I've been in from a secure place in myself. So that's why I'm not surprised that you have had the experience of new ways of thinking.

Thanks for responding and understanding,

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#467574 - 07/14/14 03:38 AM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
don64 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/09/13
Posts: 804
Loc: St. Croix, USVI
Hi FB,

Your post is helping me, right now in this present moment, in ways you probably could not have known. I am going through a time of MY brain being offline, a time of feeling my infant and toddler terror, and it is as scary as it gets for me--feeling I am asked to do so much more than I am able to do and death is imminent. This is the space where I have always raced around in fear and urgency in the physical world and created a self-fulfilling prophecy of an abusive situation for myself.


This space is not able to use good judgment. In fact, the sole feature of this space is to survive without the ability to judge or to understand. This is the space of circular thinking, where I shut down my ability to feel in an effort to survive the abusive situation I was born into. Your post, combined with my posting "out loud in the present" here, is enabling me to ride this out, to experience this hysterical out of control thinking and the space that does not feel inside me, to consciously choose to set no creative energy in motion from this place, and so create a new outcome. It has not been easy for my adult self to step into this space because of the level of terror, but I am doing it.

And, this is the first time this energy is coming into consciousness for me. I believe this is the beginning of this infant terror integrating into all of me, which suggests there will be a change in my thinking. It should be obvious to me. This is the place that has always impulsed me to getting into trouble.

A work in progress.

Don
_________________________
Divine Law is not judgment or denial of self truths. Divine Law is honoring harmony that comes from a peaceful mind, an open heart, a true tongue, a light step, a forgiving nature, and a love of all living creatures. Jamie Sams & David Carson, Medicine Cards

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#467607 - 07/14/14 10:13 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 363
Loc: NY
Don64:

Thanks very much for your post.

I understand what you are saying. For me this state can evolve into a kind of paranoia, beyond the usual vigilance. I think describing the different feelings is not only good, but essential. It normalizes what the child could never sort out.

I'm beginning to accept the constellation of my mother's behaviors. Like yourself, the fear of them has probably been the cause of a lot of trouble for me. Underneath a confident exterior, it probably exhibited the damage in ways that led me down wrong roads and left me open to being taken advantage of. Perhaps the intense need for safety was never acknowledged, which is why I took up offers for that in all the wrong places.

In my case, my mother was not overtly abusive. She unknowingly took me into a lifelong trance that has covered up a lot of feelings of dependency. She inhibited natural processes in me and made me hate them because of how they made me feel. My terror is one of confusion, where things don't add up consistently.

Like you said, the adult has the benefit of greater knowledge and awareness. I struggle with what the words are that can be spoken to the toddler, who in my case is coming out from under the bed and looking around for real for the first time.

As I watch my five year old son struggle with his feelings, I realize that talking to this toddler is not a simple matter, nor is it the only thing necessary. Listening, embracing, reassuring, calming -- all of these are necessary ways to take care of the neglected child in us.

I hope you will find and take the time and energy necessary to be good to yourself. These terrors are not for the faint of heart, and the young heart within us needs TLC from the braver one that has endured.

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#467659 - 07/15/14 10:55 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
gaatt Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 123
Originally Posted By: focusedbody
the young heart within us needs TLC from the braver one that has endured.

Thanks FB! this is really beautiful. I'm touched.

GAATT
_________________________
"Love yourself and watch...Today, Tomorrow, Always." Buddha.

My Story: http://www.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=468661#Post468661

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#467727 - 07/17/14 05:39 PM Re: helplessness: the last line of defense [Re: focusedbody]
don64 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/09/13
Posts: 804
Loc: St. Croix, USVI
Hi FB,

I love the word "constellation" in your reference to your mother. For me, the vastness of that word describes the smothering capacity of my mother with me. And, the covert is completely crazy making for me. The overt savage brutality of childhood rape is simple for me in comparison to the insidiousness and pervasiveness of the covert stuff. The efforts to decode were endless and kept me living an insane life until recently. For me, there was simply no way to operate in the world with people and make any headway untangling the insane labyrinth of defenses my young self cobbled together. My effort to remain safe from her insured the obliteration of any contact with an authentic self.

In a regression retreat I attended 20 years ago, the leader gave an example with three cups of different sizes. She started with the smallest cup and began filling it with water, saying the cup was ourselves. She asked the question, "What happens when your cup fills up with experience?" Well, of course at that moment she filled the cup and it began to spill on the floor. She answered her own question and said "You need a bigger cup." She made the same point with the medium size cup, etc.

That has been valuable for me in my recovery process as I retrieve my infant and child selves. I actually visualize the container that is me as growing larger to contain my adult wise self while also holding my young and barely formed selves in safety and love. It isn't so easy when I'm at a new growing edge, but it does become easier as I "grow" into it. As I grow, my ability to comfortably allow my immature and damaged places to have whatever flexibility of expression they need becomes easier.

And, your sensitizing me to the need for me to have a different relationship with my memories has been so timely. Today during a lengthy nap, I awoke from a dream. In it there were a number of mundane interactions with my mother, and in them all she was uncomplicated, calm, totally nonthreatening, and in general totally chilled out. That's never happened before. She wasn't of any particular benefit to me, but she was no threat to me. Now, I still have no intention of ever seeing or talking to my actual mother again, but my relationship with my internalized experiences of her are changing. And, thanks to you I have a context to help make sense of all this.

The creative power of this process continually amazes me.

Don


Edited by don64 (07/17/14 05:42 PM)

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