One of my biggest hurdles in healing from child abuse has been recognizing the faulty premises in my life and challenging them. This is a process that I call reframing, but I like the idea of referring to this process as challenging faulty premises.
I learned this terminology from Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged. I am paraphrasing her words – one of her characters says that there are no contradictions in life, so if you encounter a contradiction, question your premises.
I have been through this process numerous times and continue to do the reframing process today. As an example, most child abuse survivors have to challenge premises such as that the abuse was their fault or that they are worthless. A large part of therapy for child abuse survivors, particularly in the early months, involves the therapist challenging faulty premises such as these.
Because child abuse survivors have bought into these faulty premises for most of their lives, the reframing process can be difficult and scary. Challenging the very foundation upon which you have built your life is frightening, even when the foundation is harmful to you.
The good news is that challenging your premises is worth the effort because it results in clarity and greatly improves the odds of your energies actually resulting in the expected or desired results. As an example, before therapy, I had several people in my life who said they were my friends. I believed this premise and treated them accordingly. The problem was that they did not act like my definition of a friend. When push came to shove, they were not there for me when I needed them the most.
I become frustrated because my “friends” where not treating me like a friend. I finally reached a place of challenging my premise of them being “friends.” What if they were actually just acquaintances? When I reframed my categorization of these “friends” as “acquaintances,” their behavior made perfect sense.
Reframing my understanding of these relationships was painful because I had to awaken to the realization that I had very few friends in my life at a time that I really needed them. I also felt like an idiot for investing in these people as a friend when, in reality, they did not want me as a friend. This hurt deeply because I had been a good friend to them while they had been mere acquaintances to me. I experienced this reframing as a loss that I needed to grieve.
However, the process of reframing this area of my life was empowering because I could stop pouring energy into a dry well. I kept thinking that if I put more energy into being a good friend, I would get the results I needed (true friendship in return). Once I reframed these people as acquaintances, I stopped setting myself up for disappointment.
Tomorrow, I will share how I work through the process of reframing.
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