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I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. I have been focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

The book The Shack hits upon a hot-button topic for child abuse survivors: forgiveness. I have mixed reviews to offer about the way this book handles forgiveness. I was quite displeased with the sudden forgiveness of and reconciliation with the abusive father. However, the matter involving forgiving the man who murdered Mack’s daughter was much more realistic.

I do not completely agree with the author’s views on forgiveness, but I really did like this part:

Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver, to release you from something that will eat you alive, that will destroy your joy and your ability to love full and openly. Do you think this man cares about the pain and torment you have gone through? If anything, he feeds on that knowledge. Don’t you want to cut that off? ~ The Shack page 227

I have been saying for years that forgiveness has nothing to do with reconciliation. It also has nothing to do with “forgetting” about the offense. Instead, forgiveness is an internal choice that I made within myself to stop “feeding” energy into hatred toward my abusers. By choosing to stop nursing the bitterness and, instead, use the energy to heal myself, I cut the bond between us.

The day I chose to begin forgiving my mother/abuser (forgiveness is a process, not a “moment”), my life stopped being about her. Up until that point, I aimed so much mental energy toward hating her. My life was consumed by hating her. I thought about her a lot (how much I hated her), and I limited the degree to which I could connect with other people. There was no room left for investing in loving others because so much of myself was consumed by hating her.

I did not want to stop hating her because she deserved my hatred. However, it hit me that I was the only one suffering, not her. My hatred was all inside of myself. So, when I chose to stop nursing my bitterness toward her, it really made little difference in her life, but it made all of the difference in the world in mine.

I don’t really like the term “forgiveness” because society has tacked on many things that it does not include, such as forgetting about the offense and reconciling with the offender. I like the term “letting go” better because that better captures what was involved in my choice to forgive.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. I have been focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

Today, I would like to discuss the following quote:

Emotions are the color of the soul—they are spectacular and incredible. When you don’t feel, the world becomes dull and colorless. Just think how The Great Sadness reduced the range of color in your life down to monotones and flat grays and blacks … [Emotions] just are. They are neither bad nor good; they just exist … Most emotions are responses to perception—what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too…The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. ~ The Shack pp. 198-199

I spent most of my life running from my emotions. I repressed the emotion of anger so far down that I truly did not believe that I even knew how to experience that emotion. I lived my life in shades of gray. I mostly felt nothing. It was a dark, cold existence.

After I entered into therapy and started healing from child abuse, I felt emotions in spades, and I was not one bit happy about it. One day, I felt such incredibly deep grief that I questioned whether it was even possible to survive it. When I told my therapist about this, he was pleased. He said that I was finally feeling, which meant that I was healing. I was no longer living my life numb.

I was very angry about this. I could not believe that my options were either numbness or feeling such deep pain that death seemed preferable. However, my therapist was correct that my painful emotions would pass, and they did. After they passed, I was finally able to feel positive emotions – things I had not felt in my entire lifetime. I could feel joy and peace in a way that I never dreamed possible.

The key to managing your emotions is remembering that they are transient. No emotion lasts forever. Whether you are feeling very good or very bad, that emotion is going to pass. Learn how to savor the “good” emotions when you have them, and try not to feed into the “bad” emotions – just let them pass through you. If you will allow yourself to “be” with the bad emotions without giving energy to them, they will pass much more quickly.

Although I know the truth of these statements, I continue to wrestle with following my own advice. I recently went through a period of feeling so low that I did not know if I could make it through. Whenever I experience very deep emotions, particularly despair, I have trouble remembering that emotions are transient. It takes a lot of seemingly blind faith to hold on for better days.

As painful as the bad emotions are, I would not trade away the good ones. Unfortunately, you cannot just shut off the “bad” emotions. They come with the good ones. The emotions really are worth experiencing, and they definitely color your world.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. I have been focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

I thought this part of the book was particularly interesting:

Honey, you’re a survivor. No shame in that. Your daddy hurt you something fierce. Life hurt you. Lies are one of the easiest places for survivors to run. They give you a sense of safety, a place where you have to depend only on yourself…Lies are a little fortress; inside them you can feel safe and powerful. ~ The Shack page 189

What kinds of lies to we tell ourselves? A big one is that we were responsible for the abuse. The reason for this is that, if we are responsible for the abuse, then we have the power to stop it. Facing the truth – that there was absolutely nothing that we could do to stop the abuse – was too painful a truth to face.

Another lie is that we cannot be loved. Yes, we can be, but the risk is scary. When we open up our hearts to other people, we risk being rejected. Rather than risk the pain of rejection, we lie to ourselves about being unlovable. The truth is that we are able to love and be loved – we are just too scared to try.

The inability to trust is another lie that we tell ourselves. We say that we have been so hurt that we cannot trust. This is a lie – we can trust, but it is, again, a big risk that is scary to take. So, rather than risk being betrayed, we give up the opportunity to trust another person. This is a choice we make, but we lie to ourselves, saying that we have no power over this part of our lives when we really do.

Another lie is that our lives are limited by being survivors of child abuse. Yes, it can feel this way (and I often do feel this way), but the truth is that only we have the power to limit our lives. Limiting your life is a choice that you make.

Being a child abuse survivor is a great excuse to disengage from life. We tell ourselves that we are “freaks” and that we have nothing to offer the world. This could not be farther from the truth. I have never encountered so much deep loving and caring as I have from fellow child abuse survivors. We have so much to give the world, but we hold back because we believe the lies that we have nothing to offer.

Recognizing these lies for what they are and pushing past them to the truth is a daunting task. While I have made some progress, I still have a long way to go. I have several areas in my life in which I am dissatisfied, but I hide behind the lies of being unable to change them because I am a child abuse survivor. The truth is that I choose every relationship in my adult life, and I choose to allow certain things to be the way that they are.

It is much easier for me to play the “child abuse survivor” card and get a free pass out of dealing with a thorny issue than to admit that I am scared. However, admitting that I am scared is the truth, and it is only through facing the truth that I can heal the areas of my life that bother me.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. I have been focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

Today’s quote is a biggie for me and, I suspect, for many of you. The quote is kind of long, but this is all really good stuff:

The darkness hides the true size of fears and lies and regrets…The truth is they are more shadow than reality, so they seem bigger in the dark. When the light shines into the places where they live inside you, you start to see them for what they are…

“But why do we keep all that crap inside?” Mack asked.

Because we believe it’s safer there. And, sometimes, when you’re a kid trying to survive, it really is safer there. Then you grow up on the outside, but on the inside you’re still that kid in the dark cave surrounded by monsters, and out of habit you keep adding to your collection…Some folks try with all kinds of coping mechanisms and mental games. But the monsters are still there, just waiting for the chance to come out.” ~ The Shack pp. 176-177

I see the “monsters” as all of the lies that I internalized as an abused child – that I am unlovable; that everyone in my life will betray me; that I cannot trust anyone; that I must be perfect. When I keep them in the dark, they seem larger than life. However, when I shine the light of self-love onto them, I see these lies for what they really are.

I have experienced the feeling of these “monsters” always wanting to come back out. I will make marked progress in my healing. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, the “monsters” will come out, and I will feel the punch of the shame and self-loathing all over again.

Like the author says in the book, I will try all sorts of coping mechanisms to “tame the monsters” with varying levels of success. Ultimately, the more compassion that I show myself, the easier it is to tame the monsters.

I still have not conquered my monsters. I think my monsters are part of my “evil wolf.” I can starve them, but I never seem to be successful in killing them off altogether.

My therapist has advised me that, after I win a battle with my monsters, I should “go to the beach” in my head. The beach is my safe place. He says that I need to take some time to nurture myself after one of these “battles,” and “going to the beach” in my head has been a good way to do this.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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****** religious triggers *****

I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. I have been focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

Today, I would like to focus upon the following quote. Mack is asking God about where He was while his daughter was being abused and murdered. Here is God’s response in the book:

Mack, she was never alone. I never left her; we [the trinity] never left her, not for one instant. I could no more abandon her, or you, than I could abandon myself … [T]here was not a moment that we were not with her. ~ The Shack page 175

Many child abuse survivors struggle with where God was while they were being abused. I truly believe this quote from the book. I believe that God was right there, giving me the strength and courage to survive it. I also believe that God is the one who blessed me with the ability to dissociate and gave me the gift of dissociative identity disorder (DID). No, God did not stop the abuse, but He gave me the tools I needed to survive it, and he rubbed a healing balm over me to help me heal the pain as an adult.

Over at Isurvive, I posted the following words to someone who is struggling with this very issue. So, if this sounds familiar to those of you who frequent there, that would be why. :O)

We child abuse survivors get angry with God because we see Him as the only one able to stop the abuse, but really it was the people in our lives who let us down, not God. I believe that God grieved mightily, with tears streaming down his face, as He saw me being harmed. I also believe that He became angry with the adults in my life who ignored His instruction in the Bible to protect the children.

I don’t believe that it is God’s job to protect my kid — It is MY job to protect him. I protect my kid because I love him. I was not protected because I was not loved. That’s a choice of men, not of God.

Despite all of that, God made me strong and gave me the gift of dissociation to enable me to survive the abuse. God is the only one who helped me — my parents sure didn’t. God was also present in the teachers who took me under their wings and my sister, who gave me love.

God has also taken something as horrible as my abuse and brought lots of good and beauty out of it. Because I survived it, I know that others can survive it, too. Because I am healing, I know that others can heal, and I encourage them as they heal.

No, I would never choose to experience abuse or for anyone else to experience it, and this is why I take my job seriously in helping any child abuse survivor that I can. I am also active in helping change society to protect children. I believe that is how God works — through people caring enough to make a difference.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Time to get back to The Shack. I took a break to address some other issues, but now that I have almost finished reading the book, I have many more topics to discuss.

For those who are new to my blog, I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. I have been focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

Today, I would like to focus upon this quote:

As Mack made his way down the trail toward the lake, he suddenly realized that something was missing. His constant companion, The Great Sadness, was gone … Its absence felt odd, perhaps even uncomfortable. For the past years it had defined for him what was normal, but now, unexpectedly, it had vanished … He wondered who he would be now that he was letting all of that go–to walk into each day without the guilt and despair that had sucked the colors of life out of everything. ~ The Shack page 172

A couple of years ago, a friend called me on my “dependence” upon the label of child abuse survivor. She told me that, although I had been abused as a child, a child abuse survivor did not define who I am. By choosing to identify myself with this label, I was boxing myself in and limiting the potential of who I could be.

If I identify myself a child abuse survivor, then I set limits on my own potential. The human spirit has no limits, so why do I want to limit myself? She pointed out that I was forcing myself to live in a closet while I had mansion at my disposal. Only I could choose to step out of the closet and claim what is rightfully mine – A fulfilling life that is not limited by anything.

Since that conversation, I have wrestled with who I am and what I can be. On the one hand, I agree that I do not want to limit myself. I don’t want to use being a child abuse survivor as an excuse for refusing to engage in life or invest in relationships. However, there is also no denying that my symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are very real and do not just “go away” just because I want them to.

So, in many ways, I feel like Mack in this quote from the book, wondering who I am and who I can be when I remove the limitations of my history of child abuse.

I have also wrestled with not wanting to lose my connection with other child abuse survivors. I never felt like I fit in anywhere until I found Isurvive, a message board for child abuse survivors. I didn’t want to give up that connection and feeling of belonging.

So, for a couple of years now, I have been wrestling with where I fit in. I want to honor my reality without limiting my future. The balance between the two is not always easy.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. This week, I am focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

I am, admittedly, taking the following quote in a direction a little differently than the author intended so I can apply it to child abuse survivors. In the book, the following quote applies to the father feeling guilty for being unable to save his daughter from a serial killer. I am applying the quote to child abuse survivors who blame themselves for their abuse:

Only you, in the entire universe, believe that somehow you are to blame…Perhaps it’s time to let that go—that lie. ~ The Shack, page 170

How many of us have stayed mired in guilt and shame, believing that we were somehow responsible for being abused as a child? We have numerous “reasons” for buying into that lie – we did not say no…we did not tell anyone about the abuse…we “led the abuser on” by welcoming the attention…we “should have” done X, Y, or Z…

And, yet, we would not hold another child to that standard. My eight-year-old son could not possible “entice” an adult to sexually abuse him. I don’t care if he did not say no, did not tell another person about the abuse, hugged the abuser, and enjoyed getting attention from the abuser. He is EIGHT YEARS OLD!! He does not have the ability to understand sex, much less sexual abuse. There is absolutely nothing that my sweet and innocent eight-year-old child could do to be responsible for being abused.

We survivors of child abuse need to apply the same standards to ourselves that we would apply to any other child. When I think about my own mental state at age eight, I judge myself through adult eyes. However, in parenting an eight-year-old child, I see how crazy that is. I was no more “adult” than my son is, and he still believes in Santa Clause!!

I find a lot of healing in looking at a child who was the age that I was when I was abused and seeing just how young I really was. I never should have been forced to endure the things that I did, and it is one big, fat lie that I was in any way responsible for any of the “choices” that my abusers had me make.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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