Posts Tagged ‘healing after child abuse’

*** religious triggers ***

This is a continuation from this blog entry.

I want to focus on this part of Lizzy’s question:

How do you handle the balance between not being able to undo the past and it\’s scars and the whole ”Jesus heals all” attitude? ~ Lizzy

I am (thankfully) in a season of recognizing how far I have come with my healing. That is not to say that I won’t have a whole lot of sludge to work through as the holidays roll around … only that, at the present time, I am in a season of respite, which I am enjoying immensely.

My experience has been that, as my emotional wounds heal into scars, they stop hurting. I have experienced this many times. If you read through my blog, you will see me writing about processing lots of pain, but I am not typically dealing with the same emotional wound for years on end. Some emotional wounds take me longer to heal, but they do, in fact, heal.

No, I cannot change the past, but the past loses its power over me as I heal. As an example, when I first recovered the memories of animal rape, I could not look anyone in the eye because I felt such deep shame. I worked through my feelings about those experiences, and now I can talk about without feeling any shame or emotional pain. It’s not something I go around telling everyone (nor is there a need to do this). It is also something I don’t think about on a daily basis. It is something I experienced as a girl, but it is not something that continues to hurt me as a woman (since healing it).

This does not mean that I am immune from triggers. If I were to watch a movie with an animal rape scene, I am sure I would feel triggered, and I would use my tools (deep breathing, walking out of the theater, etc.) to calm myself back down. I might feel “off” for a few days, but then I might go months without thinking about the animal rapes at all.

I do believe that God has the power to heal all, but it takes time and work. Because I endured so much trauma, I don’t know at what point, if ever, I will have experienced healing in all areas. What I can tell you is that I am no longer the brokenhearted woman I used to be, and I view my life much differently than I used to. My past has not changed, but my perspective about my past has.

I do not write about religious topics like this very often because I don’t want to exclude my readers who are triggered by religion, but talking about God’s healing power is actually one of my favorite topics! I am glad you asked the questions.

Photo credit: Microsoft

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Fish by ReefI can’t remember where I read this (probably in one of my healing books), but I read a great analogy about healing that I am beginning to experience firsthand. The resource shared about an experiment involving fish.

A large fish tank was subdivided into two parts separated by a pane of glass. The scientist released a fish on one side and the fish’s prey on the other side. The predator repeatedly hit the glass in pursuit of its prey and eventually gave up. A few months later, the scientist removed the glass. Even though the barrier was removed, the fish never again tried to pursue its prey on the other side of the tank.

I am finding that I have been living in artificial boundaries that have been removed, and the only impediment to me going to the other side of the fish tank is my own mistaken belief that a barrier still exists. This seems to be true in multiple areas of my life. I assume that because X triggered me in the past, I must always avoid X. The thing is … I am finding that this belief is frequently no longer true.

Let’s take the approach of Halloween, for example. In the past, Halloween has been triggering to me, and I would get triggered by the black robes in Halloween stores. I would take precautions before going into a Halloween store or just avoid it altogether. This year, I have taken my son into Halloween stores three times and been completely OK. Not only have I been OK – I have enjoyed myself!

I typically get worked up before I visit my hometown. As I shared last week, that did not happen this time. Instead of assuming that I was going to be all wigged out, I just went about my day and figured that I would deal with whatever emotions arose as I went. I only recall one short burst of anxiety, and that only happened when I started analyzing myself and how I have reacted in the past.

This is happening in other areas of my life as well, so I am trying to get out of my own way and stop assuming that I cannot do X because X has always been a problem in the past. Instead, I am experimenting with just going about my day and not worrying about if I get triggered. If I do get triggered, I know how to calm myself down – the world won’t end. I am surprised by how infrequently I am being triggered these days.

The holiday season is typically a difficult time of year for me, but I am going to wait and see. I’ll just go about my life without having preconceived notions and see what happens. Who knows? Perhaps they will be fine. And if I get triggered, I know I’ll be OK.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Some child abuse survivors are so used to believing certain things about themselves that, although they want to heal, they also don’t want to try new strategies to heal. To quote Dr. Phil,

If you keep doing the same things that you have always done, you will keep getting the same results that you have always gotten. ~ Dr. Phil McGraw

If you want to change the course of your life, you have to make changes. You cannot choose to keep thinking the same thoughts and doing the same things but still expect to change the course of your life. To change the direction of a ship, you need to turn the steering wheel. It might take a long time to see that your course is changing, but it isn’t going to change at all until you choose to do some changing yourself.

The big picture view of how to heal from child abuse is pretty simple – You need to love and accept every part of yourself (your memories, experiences, emotions, feelings, etc.). It really is that simple. Unfortunately, simple is not the same thing as easy.

If you are on a course that keeps you moving away from this goal, then you are not going to achieve the healing you are hoping for. You have to find a way to change direction and move toward this goal. What that means in the details is going to be different from person to person. For me, this means carving time out of each day to do yoga and meditation. I am setting aside daily time to do something loving and healing for myself.

For someone else, doing yoga might be the worst possible idea, but perhaps taking time to do expressive art is the way to go. For another, it might be committing to therapy, talking about what happened, or going for a trip to an amusement park. It might be something big like fulfilling a lifelong dream to climb a mountain, or it might be something as simple as allowing yourself to enjoy an ice cream cone without telling yourself that you are a terrible person who is going to get fat by eating the ice cream.

You might have to try different strategies to find the one (or, more likely, a combination of several) that work for you. You might come up with something for yourself that nobody else has even thought of. For example, I knew one child abuse survivor whose need to be rocked as a baby was never met. She bought herself a hammock and experienced a huge leap in healing by rocking herself in it.

The important thing is that you risk trying something new. If you keep doing the same things you always have, you are not going to see much progress in healing from child abuse.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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