Dedicated to Julie and those who have been abused. Sexual molestation and/or abuse leaves a deep scar sometimes a permanent scar in your spirit. Over time this causes duress and major stress in your life.
The Webster’s Dictionary defines duress as a forcible restraint or restriction. If you were molested or sexually abused in any way this is a forcible restraint and over time you develop restrictions as a result of the abuse.
The problem with abuse is that it evokes such deep hurt and emotional scarring that for many the easiest way to deal is to suppress the emotions this brings out.
Suppressing the past trauma can lead to flashbacks and a constant victim state of mind. Whether we realize it or not we actually choose to be that victim over and over again. Why? Let me tell you why, the reason is that by suppressing the hurt we don’t actually deal with it.
Basically, we sweep it under the rug. If you have an area rug and you put a big rock under it to hide it, every time you walk over the rug that rock sticks out and hurts your foot.
But no one can see the actual rock however; we all know it’s there. You cannot stop hurting yourself on the rock until you remove it.
Abuse is like the rock hidden under the rug. We don’t really want to bring the hurt up, even though we know it’s there all the time. We allow it to continually bring pain into our lives.
So the question is, how do we get rid of the rock under the rug?
1. First you have to focus on the abuse.
Analyze the abuse. Did you cause it? Of Course not! Are you bad for it? Absolutely not! The abuser is to blame.
The abuser is a sick person(s). It is their issue, not yours, that caused this. So, understanding that we didn’t want to be abused and we are not bad people for having been abused is really important in this process.
2. Let’s look at flashbacks…
What scenes do you see over and over again? What emotion does that bring out in you? I realize this part can be painful, however we have to face the emotions and the message that is repetitive in our minds.
For me, there were many years that I experienced flashbacks, especially during my first marriage. I wanted to be sexual with my spouse but anytime he asked for it I would turn off or have a flashback during the lovemaking.
That was so difficult! I had to stop and really take a look at what my issues were that was causing the flashback. What was the underlying issue or specific trigger for this flashback?
3. Facing the Giant….
In the bible there is a story about David and Goliath. David was a small young man. Goliath was a giant of a man. The army was afraid of Goliath. David single handedly used his slingshot and hit the giant with a rock between the eyes and killed him. We have to be like David.
The giant in our life as victims is the abuser and the residue it left behind. Not dealt with, this residue becomes like a cancer eating away at your spirit, your joy, and your effectiveness as a human being. We have to have the courage to face the abuse and call it what it is. We have to kill that giant before it kills us.
4. Realizing and understanding the Shame.
Everyone I have met that has a history of sexual abuse carries around a deep emotional shame. Somehow we accept this as our doing. If only I would have told someone what was going on in secret, if only I would have stopped it etc…
The hard straight facts here are that you had no control over the situation. The abuser and abuse however, has complete control because we don’t let go…we relive it over and over again. Even though many years have passed are you still allowing your abuser to abuse you by suppressing and not facing and dealing with the shame.
That in its self can cause more shame much like a snowball effect…rolling down the hill it gains momentum and it gets bigger and bigger. Do you know what happens to the snowball once it hits the bottom? It is destroyed…it blows apart; it is no longer a snowball, its just snow.
The shame and abuse is much like that…let it hit bottom so it can be disbanded and you can move on. Understand that you didn’t start rolling that snowball…you just adopted it as it rolled and YOU can break it apart.
5. Dealing with the pain, shame, and putting it in perspective.
So far everything I have shared with you is about putting it into perspective. So now how do you deal with the emotions this has brought out or allowed to resurface if you will?
Effective Tips for Dealing with Past Trauma:
Write poetry or journal your feelings that have been suppressed. Write a letter to your abuser. You don’t have to send it just write it. What would you say to that person if you could? Write it all down.
I wrote letters (then I burned them) and a lot of poetry, dark poetry but poetry nonetheless. It was probably one of the most important aspects of my healing.
When you allow all that icky stuff to stay pent up in your head it gains momentum like the snowball. Putting it on paper releases the emotions and breaks up that snowball.
B. Find a support group:
That doesn’t mean you have to find a group and physically be there. There are groups on Yahoo for example where you can post and others like yourself will share with you and help you have a voice.
Maybe if you were to find a support group in your area you could find others that have similar experiences and issues and build some friendships with people who know exactly where you are coming from.
C. Start trusting again!
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Obviously don’t allow anyone to abuse you. Have you ever heard an old saying that goes like this…”nothing ventured nothing gained”? It is so true.
We have to allow people into our lives and hearts. We have to take a chance. Will you ever be hurt again? Yes. Why would you want to risk it if you could be hurt? I will tell you why, because those experiences help us to grow as people.
You cannot put up walls and say no one enters this fortress! Many people have aided in my recovery. Had I not allowed myself to get close I never would have grown and been encouraged by the many countless people who became an important part of the process.
If you give your trust to someone and they abuse that trust, new boundaries must be put into place. No one is guilty until proven otherwise. Do yourself a favor and take a chance.
D. Positive reinforcement:
Stinking thinking is a term I have used numerous times during my teaching on the road. We all have stinking thinking. The key here is to identify the negative self-talk then simply change it into positive self-talk.
Here is an example:
This is what I call Reactive Self-Talk.
“People always hurt me and cause me pain”.
Replaced Proactive Self-Talk
“Even though I have been through a lot of pain I will continue to reach out and share my life and grow from the experience”.
“I am always the victim…everyone uses me”.
“I was a victim to things I could not control. That was the past and now I am in full control of my emotions and friendships and the choices I make”.
Start talking positive and in time you will believe it. That is when you will see miraculous changes in your life.
6. Dream and Set Goals:
When we stop dreaming we die inside. Dreaming is a wonderful outlet. Set goals that are realistic. Make sure they are specific and make sure you set time frames.
These time frames and goals can be evaluated and updated and changed as the need arises.
7. Believe that Anything is Possible:
Some people call this faith. Having faith that you will overcome the past, faith that you will have positive relationships, faith to get out of bed every day and keep moving forward despite the past or current situations. Faith to succeed! Just Believe!
Understand that this is a process. It won’t happen over night. I was about 18 when I started this process. It took a number of years for me to get through it.
However, I made significant strides each and every day for the most part by implementing these principles I have shared with you.
It took time for you to feel what you feel; it takes time to deprogram all that negative, painful, traumatic stuff you have accumulated over time.
Grow, overcome, and succeed.
I believe in you!
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!
Darla Dawald is an author, motivational speaker, and consultant. Ms. Dawald has taught seminars on numerous topics including Stress Management for Women, Overcoming Negativity in the Work Place, Dealing with the Pain of Abuse, and many other topics. If you would like to have Ms. Dawald speak for your group please contact her at [email protected]
Darla G. Dawald is our Out of Stress Expert. Please write to her if you need advice, have questions or comments.
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