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Archive for the ‘Reprogramming Thoughts/Mind’ Category

On my blog entry entitled Integration from DID: Reasons to Integrate, a reader posted the following comment:

Hi Faith, It sounds like you had an incredible amount of self-worth even before embarking on the healing journey. Was this truly the case? And if not, how did you break out of any feelings of self-hatred or worthlessness and come to this place you describe of “making both an internal and external statement (or proclamation!) that I loved and accepted every single part of myself”. I struggle constantly with believing that I am “not worth it” and my therapist now says that I must decide that I am valuable before we can really do any work in therapy. But I’m totally stuck about HOW to change my beliefs. Can you offer any advice? ~ Dawn

I can see how Dawn might believe I started my healing journey from this positive place because it sure would have made the work easier. However, that was not the case for me. To paraphrase one of my healing books (perhaps The Courage to Heal??), I used to strive to reach low self-esteem because then at least I would have some!

I used to loathe myself. I thought that everything about me, even down to my name, was “stupid” and worthless. I felt like I needed to apologize for my mere existence. I had absolutely no idea how to love myself.

My therapist recommend that I read the book Compassion and Self Hate by Theodore I. Rubin to help me learn how to fight my way toward learning how to love myself. In my opinion, the book is really a longer version of the simplified idea provided in the Cherokee Legend of two wolves. I strongly recommend the book but just want to point out that it is (in my opinion) simply a more detailed explanation of how to “feed the right wolf.”

I read the book many years ago in my early stages of therapy. The main point I took away from the book is that our natural state is self-love, but life experiences get in the way, causing us to buy into the lie of self-hate, which is not our natural state. While the self-hate seems more powerful, self-love (or self-compassion) ALWAYS wins, but you have to be courageous enough to push through the lies. At the point where the self-hate is about to dissolve, it will launch its most powerful attack. You have to push through this attack and keep believing that self-love is the real you. Once you do, you will conquer the self-hatred for good.

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For my Book Club, I have been reading Claire LaZebnik’s book, Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts. The book has an interesting dynamic that applies to many child abuse survivors. The main character is 25 years old and has been dating the same guy since she was 15. Everyone in her family can see that this guy isn’t right for her, but she spends an enormous amount of time telling herself all of the reasons why he is right for her. As the reader, it’s obvious that they aren’t a good match, but she just keeps on working the internal propaganda.

I used to do this as a child abuse survivor. A big lie for me was that I was a virgin. My virginity was viciously taken from me by a grown man when I was just a little girl, and multiple men and women raped me after that. I dissociated all of those memories and, instead, told myself over and over again that I was a virgin. I really believed it for a long time.

As an example, my wedding had to be white, white, white to drive home that I was a virgin. My wedding color was white. My bridal bouquet was white. Even the fabric for my wedding gown was the whitest white I could find. As long as I kept telling myself a lie, I believed it. If you have to keep talking yourself into something, it probably isn’t true.

The good news is that we can use the same strategies to undo lies. I did this with my own personal mantra: “I love you. You are safe. I’m sorry.” Those were the three messages I needed to hear the most, and I didn’t believe a word of them. However, over time with repetition, I did grow to believe them.

It’s actually more effective to “brainwash” yourself with the truth instead of a lie because the truth ultimately wins. It gets back to the feed the right wolf concept. You can talk yourself into the truth in the same way you talk yourself into a lie, only the truth will set you free rather than keep you in bondage like a lie does. I know because I have done it successfully. It’s a challenge, and you feel like a fraud starting out, but mantras really do work!

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Several comments on my blog lately have touched upon the issue of self hate. Self hate is a very common aftereffect of child abuse. In fact, it is so common that Compassion and Self Hate by Theodore I. Rubin is the one book that my therapist strongly urged me to read. It is not the most smoothly written book that I have ever read, but the content is great.

The themes of the book are similar to the parable of the good and evil wolf. The book talks about how we each have a battle going on inside of us between self-compassion and self-hatred. Compassion always triumphs over self-hate, but before it does, the self-hate will have a final rally and fight with all that it has inside. That is the time when it is more important to keep fueling that compassion or self-love. Otherwise, you can wind up sliding right back to where you were, hating yourself instead of loving yourself.

I have noticed several readers posting comments about hating themselves or various aspects of themselves. As the book points out, our natural state is self-love. Self-hatred is actually contrary to how we were designed to feel about ourselves. However, the child abuse warped our self-perceptions, causing us to internalize our abusers’ views of ourselves.

When you are in a perpetual state of hating yourself, it is hard to imagine actually loving yourself. It is doubly hard to imagine that loving yourself is a more powerful force because your self-hatred feels so all-consuming. However, I can tell you from firsthand experience that this is true. If you will feed the good wolf and choose to be kind and compassionate to yourself, your compassion will win. However, before it does, the self-hatred will rally back. You have to keep fighting back, being kind and gentle with yourself, to break through the self-hatred and enter into the wonderful world of self-love and acceptance.

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This week, I have been focusing upon reprogramming your thoughts/mind to help you break free from the “programming” you experienced as an abused child. I have been adapting Beth Moore’s method from her study entitled Breaking Free so that those of you who are triggered by religion could also benefit. Unfortunately, those of you with religious triggers will have to bow out of the last discussion, but I fear it is unavoidable.

********* Religious triggers *********

If you have a faith or spiritual connection, your faith can empower you as you use the process I have described this week. Instead of needing to figure out what is true or have a therapist explain it, you can use your holy scriptures/tenets of your faith to help you embrace the truth.

For example, let’s say that you struggle with feeling fundamentally unlovable. Instead of just telling yourself over and over, “I love you” (as I did), you can choose a Bible verse (or text/tenet from your faith/spirituality) to use as your mantra, such as:

“I am the apple of God’s eye.” Zech. 2:8

I have been struggling a lot with anxiety and insomnia. I have chosen the following Bible verse as my mantra:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

I quoted that Bible verse repeatedly last night and had a great night’s sleep.

The Bible (and I would guess most religious texts) have many of the truths we need to help us dismantle the lies. One of my favorites is from Isaiah 61:

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

I memorized all of this and would run it through my head when I felt like I was not worth anything. This scripture is a promise that God will heal my broken heart and release me from my internal prisons. He will comfort me, pull me out of the ashes, and make me beautiful “for the display of his splendor.” He will also “rebuild the ancient ruins” (my history) and renew me.

That scripture might not speak to you as it does for me, but find one that does. As you meditate on scripture, you are not fueling the lies that have held you captive. Give it a try – it really works!

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This week, I am focusing upon reprogramming your thoughts/mind to help you break free from the “programming” you experienced as an abused child. I am adapting Beth Moore’s method from her study entitled Breaking Free so that those of you who are triggered by religion can also benefit.

This week, I have shared that the first step is to recognize that you have been buying into lies, and the next step is to challenge the lies. The third step is to replace the lies with the truth. You might think that tearing down the lies is enough, but it is not. If you do not replace lies with the truth, you will find yourself right back in the same prison, or you will replace your old one with a new one (such as the reformed smoker who overeats to compensate for not smoking).

Even though my therapist got me to the point of recognizing that I had been believing lies, I had an extremely hard time believing the truth. I was so used to believing in the lies that the truth did not “feel right.” Even though I “got it” in my head, I needed the truth to filter into my heart/soul. Until it did, I was vulnerable to walking right back into my own internal prison. Having a faith can be very helpful here. (I will get into that tomorrow – that discussion will have religious triggers.) However, you can replace lies with the truth even if you are triggered by religion because truth is truth.

The three messages I most needed to hear in childhood were these: “I love you. You are safe. I’m sorry.” Because I did not hear those words or believe them, I had built internal prisons around the lies that I was fundamentally unlovable and unsafe. So, I decided to repeat those words over and over in my head.

I turned those words into a mantra. Whenever I started to think any thoughts supporting the lie that I was unlovable or unsafe, I would run this mantra through my head. I said those words to myself hundreds of times a day, and I did not believe a word of them. Despite this, I said them over and over and over again in my head.

Over time, I began to believe them. It was just a little at first, but then I started to embrace these truths. After a few months, I could truly look myself in the mirror and say, “I love you. You are safe.” This was a huge breakthrough for me along my healing journey. Once I really started to believe that I was loved and safe, I started to act like a person who is loved and safe. I started setting and enforcing boundaries in my relationships. I stopped “punishing” myself and stopped believing that I deserved to be treated badly. I started asserting my own needs in my relationships. I was not capable of doing any of these things until I actually started believing the truth – that I am lovable and safe.

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This week, I am focusing upon reprogramming your thoughts/mind to help you break free from the “programming” you experienced as an abused child. I am adapting Beth Moore’s method from her study entitled Breaking Free so that those of you who are triggered by religion can also benefit.

Yesterday, I shared that the first step is to recognize that you have been buying into lies. The next step is to challenge the lies. My therapist was very good at this. I would say that I couldn’t trust anyone. He would counter back with, “You trust your husband to provide for you,” which is true. Whenever I would make a self-defeating statement, which was something I truly believed, my therapist would challenge that statement and show me that it was not true.

We did this a lot over as Isurvive (a message board for child abuse survivors) as well. I remember having an interesting discussion about being unable to trust anyone. The irony was that we trusted one another to have the discussion in the first place, but none of us saw that at the time. However, we challenged one another to think about ways in which we did trust people.

I had to admit that I trusted the waitress to bring me my food after I ordered it. I trusted other drivers to stop at a red light when I was driving through a green one. I trusted my boss to give me a paycheck on pay day.

Once I recognized that I did trust some people in some situations, I had to admit that my belief that I could not trust anyone was a lie. Then, my therapist took it a step further. It was easier to admit that I could trust a stranger to do a job, but I didn’t believe that I trusted anyone who was closer to home. My therapist challenged this as well. I trusted my husband to provide for me financially. I trusted my friend to meet me at a particular time if she said she would. I trusted my sister to be honest with me about her memories of our childhood abuse.

The truth was that I did trust every person I cared about with something. I might not trust any one person with all of me, but I did trust different people in my life to meet different needs of mine.

Then my therapist told me something I had never considered – I do not have to trust one person with all of me in order to get my needs met. I could trust my husband for financial security, my friends for emotional support, and my sister for childhood validation. As long as my needs were getting met, I did not have to worry about overcoming a hurdle of trusting anyone with all of me.

By the time my therapist was finished with me, I recognized that I had been buying into and fueling lies about myself. It was not true that I could not trust. The truth was that I already did trust many people with parts of myself. I was the one making myself miserable by believing that I did not.

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This week, I am focusing upon reprogramming your thoughts/mind to help you break free from the “programming” you experienced as an abused child. I am adapting Beth Moore’s method from her study entitled Breaking Free so that those of you who are triggered by religion can also benefit.

The first step is to recognize that you have been buying into lies. Here are three lies that I shared in my last blog entry that plagued me throughout most my life:

  • “I am fundamentally unlovable.”
  • “I cannot trust anyone.”
  • “I am not safe.”

The truth is that nobody is fundamentally unlovable (except perhaps a psychopath, but I doubt I have many psychopaths reading my blog for help!). You can trust other people in degrees. Finally, as long as you removed yourself from your abusive environment, you are safe now. However, if you continue to believe these lies, you will continue to act and react as if you are fundamentally unlovable, cannot trust anyone, and are not safe, which can feel like living in a prison. You don’t have to continue living this way, and you can reprogram your mind to align it with the truth.

Until you recognize that you are buying into lies, you will never be free. You need to recognize the lies for what they are. Until you do, you will continue to fuel your internal fortress and give energy or “power” to those lies.

Your thoughts are what fuel your internal prisons and keep them standing strong. Each time you think, “I deserve to be treated badly,” or, “I am so stupid,” you are slapping another layer of mortar onto the bricks of your internal prison. Choosing to challenge those thoughts is the first step toward freedom, which is exactly what a good therapist should be doing. Whenever I would say, “I am so ____,” my therapist would challenge that statement. He helped me see how I was hurting myself by thinking things that simply were not true.

Tomorrow, I will talk about challenging the lies.

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