By Aaron Anderson
My Girlfriend Was Raped. What I Wish I Would Have Said to Her.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Improving Communication, Healing, and Intimacy
Imagine you are forced upon your stomach and someone is forcing you to do things you never ever wanted to do.
Your power, your will, your autonomy completely stripped from you. If you were powerless to prevent someone from exerting their will upon you, how would you feel? Knowing that the only power you have in this situation is the control of your thoughts, yet your thoughts are scattered and oscillate from moments of the quiet serenity of the smell of your mom’s homemade biscuits and the person who is violently forcing pain upon in spite of your pleas for mercy.
Unfortunately, for far too many women in America, this is a reality.
Sexual assault is a scourge in our society, and as men we have to take a more proactive stance to help those who suffer in this silent hell find peace and healing. It is not the responsibility of the victim of sexual assault to make their partner feel comfortable about their past assault. It is the responsibility of the man to be mindful and engaged in the life of his loved one to help them feel comfortable with sharing their feelings of this living nightmare. There are right ways and wrong ways to talk to your girlfriend about their past sexual assault.
Here is a common example of an ineffective approach…
What NOT to say to your girlfriend about being a victim of this heinous crime
“I had had enough! I had been dating my girlfriend for three months now, and every time I attempted to do something with her sexually she would pull away and have an excuse as to why we could not be intimate. That night something snapped inside and me, and I screamed at her, “What is wrong with you? Why won’t you let me touch you?!” She immediately began sobbing and told me to leave. I left dumbfounded and angry. The next day we met and she told me that the reason that she has problems with sexual intimacy is that five years ago she was raped by a former boyfriend. That really floored me. I was not expecting that at all. We broke up soon after this, and all I could think about was I wish I would have handled that situation differently.”
That story comes from a client I that I used to work with. He was devastated because a relationship he was really invested in ended because of his insensitivity. This is a prime example of the classic male handicap: looking for the seen and concocting solutions rather than listening and seeking the unseen. Yes, I know that there is no way he could’ve read his girlfriend’s mind to know of her past sexual assault, but in this day and age guys have to be aware of the epidemic of rape and sexual assault that pervades this planet. One in five women in the United States will experience sexual assault at some point in their lives. Any male looking to find a life mate to care for in a committed relationship has to be aware of this fact because one in five is an astronomical number. It means that of every five women that you know, at least one of them have been sexually assaulted. So that means that there are more victims of sexual assault in America than there are Beyoncé fans! Fellas, that should be a wakeup call to all of us, and it speaks to the fact that it is imperative that men are aware of the signs that show that your girlfriend might have been sexually assaulted so that you can prevent the disaster that happened to the man at the beginning of this article. There is no definitive list of signs that someone has been sexually assaulted because everyone processes trauma in different ways; however, there are a few signs that manifest often in victims of sexual assault.
Three Signs That Your Girlfriend Might Have Been Sexually Assaulted
Women who have been sexually assaulted regularly show a strong aversion toward sexual intimacy with partners. If you have been in a relationship with someone and they avoid sexual contact, you might try to address it in a polite way to see what is causing that. It could be anything from being taught that sex is dirty to having been sexually assaulted. Communication leads to understanding, and understanding leads to intimacy. Most people think that intimacy means sexual intercourse. That assumption is far from the truth. The prerequisite to intercourse is communication and a sense of safety.
SOLUTION: Gentlemen, before you try to be intimate with your girlfriend, focus on communicating with her in a way that fosters open discourse and understanding. Ask gentle questions like:
The important thing is to use “I” statements and to not make it seem like it’s her fault, because it absolutely isn’t.
If your girlfriend has a problem letting people get close to her or has a problem trusting people, this could also be a sign of being sexually assaulted in the past. Clearly, this type of trauma has a devastating effect on the psyche and can turn the most trusting individual into someone who cannot believe a word anyone tells them. There is a saying that goes “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.” Keep in mind that the victims of sexual assault were innocent and often trusted someone they felt close to. That creates a deep emotional chasm that is hard to cross.
SOLUTION: If your significant other shows signs of mistrust such as always questioning you or not believing the things you tell them, you should talk to her about it. Try asking questions like:
Women who have experienced this type of trauma usually have a problem trusting men from that point on. If your girl is always complaining about how bad men are, you should take note. You could one day in a normal everyday conversation talk about how you understand why women don’t trust guys because of infidelity, sexual assault, etc. Let it be an organic conversation though; you don’t want to force this.
SOLUTION: For example, maybe you two are watching a movie or TV show with a rape scene or a guy being violent toward a woman, and you say something like:
Remember, a victim of sexual assault is very apprehensive about talking about their past trauma so make sure you are cultivating a relationship built on respect, trust, and love so that your partner will feel secure to talk to you openly about their assault and their life in general.
Sexual assault affects the human brain in deep and profound ways. As a boyfriend, you should strive to build an environment where your girlfriend feels protected so that she can openly share with you and so that you can say things that will spurn her on toward healing so that your relationship can continue to flourish rather than fizzle out. What you say to your girlfriend who has been sexually assaulted can make or break your relationship.
What is the difference between a good boyfriend and a true gentleman (the type of man that every woman pines for)? A good boyfriend shows care and concern for his mate; a true gentleman is an advocate for his lover. He does not seek to avenge the wrong done to his lover. He does not dismiss her thoughts or pain. Rather, he partners with her to be a champion for her to help her heal from the despicable crime of sexual assault.
Gentlemen, I challenge you to be emotional gladiators for your girlfriends and show them that you are there to help them heal so that we can normalize conversations about sexual assault and the victims have an output to step out of the dark into the light.
About the author: Aaron resides in Virginia Beach, VA with his wife and two sons. He is an Army Veteran who specialized in Human Resources and continued his education to obtain a master’s degree in Professional Counseling. Currently, he is working to help break the cycle of violence by counseling juvenile sex offenders and at-risk youth.
By Ellen Lacter, Ph.D. (Copyright, October 15, 2017)
This article can be found here https://endritualabuse.org/coerced-under-torture/ and seeks:
1) to educate therapists and survivors about the existence of torture-coerced perpetration;
2) to describe the long-term devastating moral injury resulting from having been coerced to harm others;
3) to describe the kinds of torture that predictably work to coerce victims to harm and kill others;
4) to describe various psychological responses of victims while they are being coerced to harm others;
5) to place full responsibility for all coerced harm with the abusers; the torture victims are innocent.
6) to help victims and survivors to overcome their moral injury, and to help therapists help them.
At the end are two declarations, one for victim-survivors to sign and one for therapists to sign, to proclaim that the guilt, shame, and moral responsibility for these acts is borne entirely by the perpetrators who executed the torture, not by the victims who were being coerced.
Individuals who would like to add their names to these declarations may contact Ellen Lacter at email@example.com
Some surprising ways I have healed from childhood sexual abuse
You’ve made that first difficult, brave but significant step and told someone about the sexual abuse or rape you have endured. Perhaps you have progressed further and received some therapy. At this point I hope you have come further than you could have ever imagined from those dark hours, days and even years that have consumed more time than you thought possible. Think about that for a moment. No matter where you are in your journey, you have moved forward. You are no longer hiding this dark secret, you have let it go by telling someone. There is a real freedom in that.
Speaking and talking through our experiences helps us to make sense of our feelings. I find speaking to others and sharing my worries a truly empowering experience and I get a lot of solace from it. It hasn’t always been that way though. Keeping silent for six years whilst my stepfather was abusing me took its toll on my verbal communication. When I am particularly stressed or under pressure, I still go into shut down, my powers of communication recede dramatically and I can become insular and silent again, a child once again locked in with my own private dementors.
Having counselling was a lot like pulling teeth at the beginning, but gradually with the encouragement of my counsellor and a lot of hard work from me, I started to realise the benefits of talking things through. The process has helped me to check in with myself and recognise when I am feeling negative emotions and be aware of them. Counselling has also taught me a lot about acceptance.
Acceptance is another powerful emotional tool in our box. When I recognise myself going through the motions of shutting down, edging back from society, friends, my husband and even my children, I try to practise acceptance. The faster I can accept that I am not feeling quite right, that my emotions and negativity are beginning to dominate my everyday life, I consciously tell myself that I am not feeling 100% right now; I consciously acknowledge that I cannot be fighting fit every day, and I accept that this feeling does exist, that it is real. It sounds trivial, the idea of acceptance, but when I can acknowledge and truly accept my negative feelings, they seem to swim away until after a few days, I have bounced back and I feel as if the world is a far nicer place once again.
For more clarity on the art of acceptance, Windy Dryden’s ’10 Steps to Positive Living’ *1 explores this in greater detail.
As well as receiving counselling with Family Matters UK, I have tried other methods of healing with various degrees of success. I am a great reader and there are many useful books out there that can help us to heal and deal with our experiences. I will list the books I have found the most helpful at the end of this blog. Exercise, yoga, meditation, eating healthily, spending time with friends and loved ones all have important roles to play in our emotional wellbeing. I would like to talk about the more surprising methods that have worked for me.
Some people are very uncomfortable with crying, especially the British. I know, because I am a Brit. I am also a crier. I don’t care, I am a crier and you know what they say, its better out than in. I recently had an unexpected experience in a Yoga class (another fantastic tool in my recovery box). I was doing some routine chest stretches when suddenly my head started to swim and I felt an overwhelming tide of emotion overcome me. Halfway through my class, I can honestly say, I cried and cried, and cried some more, loudly and without pause, I cried with a force that surprised me, and certainly surprised the rest of the class. And you know what, I was a little embarrassed and miffed as to why that exercise had caused such a dramatic reaction A few members of the class were clearly a bit uncomfortable with my public display of grief, but I was also amazed at the positive responses I also received. One of the class members approached me in the coming weeks to tell me how empowering she had found my crying. Others confided how they found their own tears difficult to access ad they would love to be able to release in that way.
I have always feel much, much better after a good cry, it’s a significant release, and after reading Judith Oriole’s article in Psychology Today, I understand why. She sites Biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis who through his research has discovered that our emotional tears contain stress hormones which get extracted when we cry, which “shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress”. This would explain why, after a good cry, we feel calmer and more peaceful as “Typically, after crying, our breathing, and heart rate decrease, and we enter into a calmer biological and emotional state.”
That’s why crying for me is always courageous, authentic and strong.
Recognising our traumas in our bodies
Over a period, I have become much more aware of the stress that sexual abuse or rape leaves behind in the memories of our bodies. We often apply body memory to sports practises but times of intense stress also leave a memory print in our bodies. Body memory is a hypothesis that the body itself can store memories, as opposed to only the brain. Our bodies react to stress in various ways – perhaps by our hearts beating faster, holding our breath, swallowing down air, holding tension in our stomachs, amongst other things. Many experts believe this stays in your body as trapped energy.
I have found connecting to my body through yoga and breathing techniques has made me far more aware of where my body holds stress and anxiety. Using this knowledge in alternative therapies has allowed me to release a lot of anxiety from my tummy, an area where I have held butterflies and tensions for many years.
An interesting article by Side Effects Public Media explores the effects of childhood trauma and how it shapes the brain and examines the benefits of yoga to help release these emotions and reshape the brains pathways.
One of my most surprisingly successful and enduring alternative therapies has been EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques.
EFT is a relatively new discovery but draws from traditional practices of acupressure. It is often referred to as “psychological acupressure”. The technique works by releasing blockages within the energy system which are the source of emotional intensity and discomfort. These blockages in our energy system, in addition to challenging us emotionally, often lead to limiting beliefs and behaviours and an inability to live life harmoniously. It is now widely accepted that emotional disharmony is a key factor in physical symptoms and dis-ease and for this reason these techniques are being extensively used on physical issues, including chronic illness with often astounding results. As such these techniques are being accepted more and more in medical and psychiatric circles as well as in the range of psychotherapies and healing disciplines. The Energy Centre
My own experiences with EFT began 12 years ago when I was living in Muswelll Hill, North London. when I happened upon a therapist that practiced EFT in Crouch End. I was originally searching for hypnotherapy, but the information I was reading about EFT was compelling and I wanted to know more. I was also desperate for a fix to my emotional pain , preferably a quick and painless one (aren’t we all?!) and the article I was reading seem to tick all of those required boxes. I was suffering with acute panic and anxiety whenever I was required to be intimate with my boyfriend and my fear was destroying the relationship. Something had to be done and fast. Simply tap the body in certain areas and relieve emotionally crippling symptoms. Tick, tick, tick. Cynical but desperate, desperation won and I found myself in another therapy room.
My therapist asked me to think about the issue that was bothering me. I felt the familiar wave of shame, self-disgust, guilt, wash over me. She told me to find my ‘Sore Spot’ or the Neurolymphatic point and press down in circular movements whilst focusing on these negative emotions. She then tapped me on different points or meridians on my face and body. Then she instructed me to repeat over and over the following. ‘Even though I have this anxiety with intimacy, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” This was repeated three times.
To say that EFT had a profound effect on me is an understatement. Twelve years later, I still pinch myself a little. Two very profound things happened to me after my first session. The intense memories of the sexual abuse no longer had any emotion attached to them. I could (and still do) watch the scene of myself in the bed with my stepfather and it’s like a video is being played, I simply don’t feel anything. Also, the very next morning, I woke up and without any prior conscious warning, I decided that the relationship that I was in was no longer fulfilling me. After a morning of frank and honest discussions about our happiness together, we both agreed that we were not happy together anymore and after five years together we parted ways. I do not know if this is some huge coincidence but something in that session centred me and changed my energy quite profoundly. I knew completely and absolutely that it was time to move on. Only shortly after I became romantic with the man who is now my husband and the father of my two boys.
I am not completely free of the pain that I suffered as a child, the abuse has shaped my life and who I am as a person. It does not define me though and there are many other facets to me than the abuse. I try to remember how far I have come, the many journeys of self-discovery I have taken and doubtlessly always will. I love and accept myself for who I am and the experiences I have had. I can only write about my experiences and what works for me. Others will have had very different journeys to find their inner peace. Whatever your journey is just remember to accept, love and be kind, the rest will follow when you are ready.
If you have experienced sexual abuse or rape, then there are people who can help you.
UK: Family Matters UK offer support services for male and female survivors of rape and sexual abuse
By Joleene Gonzalez
Author: Trisha Miller
Even long after emotional or physical abuse has ended, the effects will remain. A single bout of abuse can change a person’s mental state forever. However, redetermining the course of your life, who you are as a person, and how to maintain healthy relationships is a gift that every person deserves to receive. Still, the most “emotionally strong” individual cannot always see the ways that abuse can and will affect their life. We are not our abuse and we do not have to live as such.
Subtle Signs of Abuse
Emotional or physical abuse can affect children in a myriad of ways. Something subdued like reclusiveness or unwillingness to participate in social activities can become present. On the other hand, it very well may manifest itself is a much louder way, such as severe mood swings, anxiety, depression, anger etc.
All of these signs can grow into much larger mental health problems down the line. As an example, a child may grow into a teen who hurts themselves in order to try to work through their pain. Another common example is experimentation with drugs in order to numb the pain they may feel each day.
Unfortunately, we are not all equipped with the mental tools we need at birth. There is not a switch that can be turned on to make things right and good. No amount of love and caring or drugs and pain can heal these types of wounds. We must mentally condition ourselves regularly to properly process abuse. The brain is a muscle and it must be worked out in order to make connections we may not have seen previously.
Someone who suffered from an abusive relationship often feels that they have a weight on their shoulders or a dark past following them everywhere they go. Keeping something like that inside is never a choice that leads to happiness and fulfillment. Of course, no one should be forced to tell their story before they are ready, but constantly pushing down the symptoms of abuse is just not a way to live.
Those who seek professional help often feel a release of responsibility from their abuse. They are no longer attached to an event that does not define their character or the course of their life. Someone who has been defined by their abuse their entire life now has the delightful opportunity to decide what kind of person they would like to be and pursue that to their full capability.
Sadly, those who feel that they do not need help may not be able to experience life to its fullest extent. Those who truly live a happy and fulfilled life are able to make sound decisions for themselves and their loved ones. They maintain long, happy, and balanced relationships. They are able to proactively handle stress, anxiety, and sadness. And they are endowed with confidence and self-worth. If you feel that as a direct result of your abuse you are not able to achieve these things, then you can benefit from professional help.
If you or someone you know was a victim of abuse, it is never too late to seek professional help. Having the satisfaction of knowing your life is entirely your own and that you are not controlled by your abuse, is beautifully priceless. Although it may be difficult, showing someone the way towards mental health by asking them to get help is a step in the right direction. Show someone you care by surrounding them with love and support. This is the best possible way to ensure their safety and happiness.
Author: Juliusz Wodzianski (LLB PGDip MSC MBACP)
One of the things that doctors and others involved with well-being tell us is that we need to take care of ourselves. We should eat nutritious food, be well hydrated, take exercise, be mindful, take time to relax and have nurturing relationships.
All of that is good advice, but are we all able to do those things? What is the effect of stress and depression on our ability to take care of ourselves, what is the effect of having low self-esteem?
One of the things that I have noticed in my therapeutic work with abuse survivors is that clients often have low self-esteem. This low self-esteem can often manifest in different ways:
‘Being a victim’, is understandable having regard to the patterns established in early life, where silence and acceptance is often the only coping mechanism. Being abused whether physically, sexually, emotionally or mentally leads to psychological scars which can take time to heal. An abusive relationship in later life may appear to be the only relationship that an abuse survivor may feel that he or she deserves.
The positive message though is that the scars can heal, and abuse survivors can overcome the historical issues which continue to play out in their lives. The process of healing can take some time as building a relationship involving trust with a therapist is a delicate act for an abuse survivor. This requires a skilled and empathic counsellor or psychotherapist that can work with whatever an abuse survivor may bring into the therapy room. The transformation for abuse survivors who engage in counselling and psychotherapy can be remarkable. However, this is a process that cannot be rushed as the work can only proceed at the pace that is right for the client. Opening too much trauma before the client has the ability to cope with it might be counter-productive.
There are many approaches to talking therapy based on different theoretical frameworks. The one thing that is common across the board is that they are all based on the element of dialogue, primarily moving from the client. One comment that is made by a number of commentators, and where there is some level of agreement, is that it is the relationship between the therapist and the client that heals. Different therapeutic models may have a different understanding as to how their methods bring about healing, but it is perhaps not necessary to understand exactly how the process brings about healing as long as it does.
People often think of counselling and psychotherapy as a system by which a client lies on a couch with the therapist silently sitting behind him or her or to the side whilst the client talks about their dreams. Whilst that is one approach, it is not the only one. This type of work is the process of psychoanalytic analysis where a client may well see the therapist two or three times a week for many years.
At the other end of the scale, patients referred to a counsellor by their GPs are more likely to be seen within an Improved Access to Psychological Therapies set up, where the number of sessions will be limited to a number, quite typically six, spaced at weekly intervals. Cognitive behavioural therapy is popular within the NHS framework, possibly because its practitioners have carried out the most research.
There is also person centred counselling (where the sessions are effectively led by the client), psychodynamic counselling (where behaviour is looked at from the perspective of the type of relationship that the client had with their parents or guardians and significant other persons when very young), transpersonal counselling (the unexplained or soul dimension being key), existential therapy (considering the meaning of life and our place in it) and so on. To confuse matters even more there are also therapies that involve some level of body work such as emotional freedom technique (where acupressure points are tapped) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (replicating rapid eye movement in sleep where memories are stored in the correct area of the brain) which has been shown to be effective in a number of clients presenting with post-traumatic stress disorder.
My own training has been on an integrative basis incorporating a number of different theoretical perspectives and which therefore gives me a greater number of tools with which I can work with. My only concern, and which should be at the core of all therapeutic work, is how can I help this client before me right now.
I personally have not known counselling and psychotherapy to be unhelpful to any client that I have worked with. As with all things however, it is very important to work within the framework of what the client is ready to explore. Rushing in and opening up traumatic episodes at a very early stage may not be the best way to engage in the counselling process.
One of the key areas of distinction between counselling and psychotherapy is that the former is often seen as short term work (for example, six sessions) whereas psychotherapy is often considered to be longer term work. It is sometimes considered that counselling is very helpful at dealing with immediate issues, whereas psychotherapy enables the client and the counsellor to engage at greater depth and encourage understanding of why the client responds to certain things in the way that he or she does.
My own view is that the client is in charge of him or herself, and is the best person to judge what they may need. The counsellor and psychotherapist is, in some ways, a facilitator along a journey.
Talk therapy can be immensely helpful to abuse survivors. The key to successful therapy stems from the relationship between the client and the therapist, and it is therefore of tremendous importance that the client finds a therapist that he or she can trust. It is also very important to check that the therapist is professionally trained and a member of a recognised professional body, and has experience of having worked with abuse survivors. In the UK, the two largest professional bodies are the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, both of which maintain a register of current members. The most comprehensive directory for therapists in the UK is the Counselling Directory (which only lists professionally qualified therapists).
Juliusz Wodzianski LLB PGDip MSc MBACP is a practising counsellor and psychotherapist based in Finchley and Uxbridge, London. Juliusz can be contact via the links below:
Tel: 07973 269356
The views expressed in this article are those of Juliusz Wodzianski alone.
Depression – Some Supportive Resources
By Patricia Sarmiento
Did you know that there are almost 350 million people worldwide who suffer from depression? Men, women and even children can fall victim to this mental health issue. What’s worse is that depression can lead to other devastating issues including alcoholism, obesity and insomnia.
Depression isn’t something we can simply ignore – some of the people that we talk to every day may very well be battling this illness. To help spread awareness, I decided to create this list of resources, which offer advice that may be beneficial in treating this illness in addition to a professional healthcare regimen.
Those who are struggling with depression need all of the support they can get.
How Stress is Threatening Your Health
Depression and Swimming
How Diet May Help Protect Your Mental Health
Service Dogs for Depression and Anxiety
By Patricia Sarmiento
If you find yourself suffering from the winter blues, know that you’re not alone. The winter blues is such a common phenomenon that it even has its own medical diagnosis: seasonal affective disorder.
It’s quite convenient that the disorder’s acronym spells “sad,” because that’s often how we feel around this time of the year. Whether it’s the loneliness, the iciness, or the stress that often comes with the winter season, there are steps you can take to help improve your mood during these colder months. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be frolicking around in the snow in no time.
Although you’re feeling a bit glum, go out of your way to spend more time with your friends and family during this lonelier season.
Social interaction is important for mental health, and studies show that hanging out with positive peopleis even powerful enough to help beat depression. Schedule fun winter activities together or pop in a movie and stay cozy indoors. Either way, spending time with people you care about will help improve your blue mood.
Even if you can’t bring yourself to go out into the cold weather to get your exercise in, you can find other ways to stay active indoors. You need those endorphins to help boost your mood, so whether you go for a jog on the treadmill, take a dip in the local YMCA’s indoor swimming pool, or join a group dance exercise class, find ways to keep your body moving all season long.
Eating healthy foods rich in B12, folic acid, and vitamin D will help combat the winter blues. Since you’re likely not soaking up as much sunshine as you do during the rest of the year, it’s especially important that you go out of your way to increase your vitamin D intake to stay healthy. You can get your extra dose of vitamin D from foods like milk, orange juice, and fatty fish.
Ah, but it’s cold outside–and trying to keep yourself warm and comfortable can be a huge feat. But going outside for some fresh air and Vitamin D can be a great mood boost, and an excellent way to take a break from the everyday worries of life. If you’re a dog owner, bring him! His excitement is likely all the motivation you need to get out the door. If you don’t have a pet, a service dog can be a wonderful way to help you cope with your wintertime distress and be a loyal companion year-round.
Keep these tips in mind and you’re sure to win the battle over the winter blues for many seasons to come. Being social and focusing on taking care of yourself will keep you occupied and optimistic. You might even begin to enjoy these colder months, and then before you know it, summer will be just around the corner again.
Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.
When I was active on isurvive from 2003 through~ 2007, forgiveness was the LAST topic I wanted to think about. The abuse was too terrible and the aftereffects too pervasive for me even to CONSIDER forgiveness. After all, my abusers did not DESERVE to be forgiven. They deserved to suffer just as badly as they had forced me to suffer.
The problem was that without forgiveness, my abusers continued to hold power over me. I would think about them, and I would feel the anger, shame, and pain wash over me again. I grew angry as realized just how frequently I was thinking about my abusers. They already took away my childhood. Why should they take away my adulthood as well?
I made a life decision to stop feeding the bitterness. I had absolutely no interest in forgiveness, but I recognized that I no longer wanted my thoughts to focus on my childhood pain. So, each time my abusers would come to my mind, I would make conscious choice not to think about them (much less relive the abuse) and, instead, focus my thoughts on something else. I learned through an isurvive member that the term for this is shlemut. She said it was a Jewish term meaning that I was not choosing forgiveness or reconciliation, but I was choosing to stop fueling the bitterness so I could heal myself. The Christian term that is most similar is forbearance.
I stayed in a place of forbearance for several years (from ~ 2005 through 2014). I made a conscious choice not to dwell on my abusers or relive the past in my head. As new memories surfaced, I worked through those, but after I processed each one, I chose not to let them suck me back into nursing the bitterness toward my abusers, no matter how tempting it was.
In 2013, my faith grew enormously as I made the life decision to start my day each morning in quiet time with my Maker. I explored what unconditional love means … not the warped, selfish misrepresentations of love that I saw in childhood but real unconditional love. As I grew to realize how fully and completely loved I am by my Maker, my emotional wounds healed, and as I filled with unconditional love, it began to overflow to those in my life around me.
In the Fall of 2014, I felt led to begin praying over my abusers every morning. Let me tell you, this was hard. Even though I had spent many years choosing not to continue fueling the bitterness, I also did not feel “loving” toward them. However, I made the decision to do this … day after day, week after week, and month after month. And then, one day, I realized that I had forgiven my abusers!
How do you know when you have forgiven them? They no longer hold emotional power over you. If they come to mind, there is no twisting of the stomach or tension in your body. You no longer see them as monsters. Instead, you pity them because you recognize how emotionally wounded they must have been to do what they did to an innocent child.
I just had lunch with one of my abusers a couple of days ago … at my invitation. While I don’t feel “loving” toward her or want a relationship with her, dining with her did not hurt. I was no longer the helpless victim fearful of the person in front of me. Instead, I was an empowered woman offering grace to someone who does not deserve it, and I felt good about shining some kindness into the life of someone who had not been kind to me.
Does she deserve this kindness? Absolutely not. Nobody ever deserves forgiveness. Forgiveness is grace that we give out of the overflow out of our own healing. Enough pain has taken place in my life. I now want no interactions with anyone else that are not healing. I have not forgotten the many terrible acts she did to me, but those memories no longer hurt. My choice to eat lunch with her is not about her – it is about me being true to who **I** am and extending grace to someone who does not deserve it because my Maker has extended grace to me that I did not deserve. I am paying forward what has been given to me, and I feel so richly blessed to continue extended grace through sharing my story with you.
If you are not ready to forgive, that’s OK. This process took me over a decade to complete, and it might take you even longer. All I can tell you is that I know what it feels like to live angry, and I know what it feels like to live free. I choose freedom.
By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC
Featured on GoodTherapy.org, May 14, 2007
This article is not bang up to date, but the information is sound. It was created using ideas from the members of GoodTherapy.org and goes on to outline 14 points to consider when choosing a counselor/ therapist who is the ‘right fit’ for you.
Rubenstein goes on to provide further detail in the full article, but here are those 14 questions well worth considering;
For the article in full, please select the following link;
When a child growing up is traumatized, often she has to hide the trauma and “act normal.” The wounded part gets split off and the pain or shame becomes a secret, even to the child herself. Sometimes actual memories, as of abuse, are suppressed or lost, while for other people it’s more like the feelings get lost somewhere. A part of the growing person gets stuck in a young place. Later, events that remind us of what happened to the suppressed part can trigger reactions that feel disproportionate to the circumstances—a good clue that young feelings are involved.
Getting in touch with our wounded inner children can be scary when it lets out feelings of fear, anger, pain, and sadness. The feelings seem huge because they’ve been bottled up like genies for all those years. But listening to the child-parts allows us to integrate more parts of ourselves over time.
In addition, we need to re-frame and re-order our worldview. While we were growing up, we had to accept our family’s view, more or less, including all the denial and distortion. Listening to the inner child and re-orienting our reality to include the knowledge of abuse is a huge, life-changing task.
I’ve also found that the joyful and free parts of my child-self got lost in the split. Those parts came back slowly when they saw it could be safe.
Getting in touch with our inner children is not always easy. Sometimes my inner child was afraid to speak up and she kind of hid from me. Also, at first it seemed that she just wanted to cry and cry. That’s natural. The parts of us that were split off at a young age had to go away for good reasons—abuse, fear, neglect, misunderstanding. These young parts were not allowed to express their overwhelming feelings, so they took the feelings away with them.
How do we soothe the inner child? When we invite these lost inner children back into our lives, we have to be ready for them to express a lot of distress. But what do we do then?
First of all, it’s a process and it won’t get done all at once. You need to learn how to parent your own particular inner children. They will teach you what they need as time goes on. You will have to be just as patient as if you had adopted a real child with a troubled background.
Second, you need to take those feelings extremely seriously. “Soothing” the child does not mean saying, “There, there, dear. It’s OK. Stop crying.” You may have heard voices like that in your past, but your job is to be a different kind of parent, one who really listens to the child’s feelings. So the first part of soothing is to hear the feelings. The child might not be able to tell you why she or he feels sad or angry or scared. Your job is to pay attention to the feelings.
If you can, find a safe a quiet place where you can literally sit down and listen. Let the feelings emerge. Accept all of them, even though it is painful. If you can’t bear all of it at once, tell the child that you will listen for ten minutes, or five, or two minutes. Then promise the child to make another time later to listen some more.
As the feelings emerge, focus on loving the child who is entrusting you with these valuable and vulnerable emotions. Tell the child that you are proud of her or him for coming forth. Sometimes you may feel completely overwhelmed and inside the feelings, like you are being the child. That’s OK. If you stay in that place, just notice what’s happening. See if you can detect any shift where you might feel a little more like a grownup holding the child. Ultimately, you need to be an adult, so you can care for the inner child.
Here are some ways to work with soothing the distressed inner child:
Value all those difficult child-feelings and validate them.
Let your body express the love you have for this child by holding a pillow or stuffed animal, rocking, humming, stroking, doing anything you’d do to comfort an actual child.
Trust your instincts on this. Let the child tell you what feels good to her or him.
Don’t let any critical voices tell you that it’s silly to rock and hum a lullaby. It’s not silly–it is valuable practice in loving yourself.
Remember, you will need to do this practice over and over as your inner child gradually learns to trust you.
Over time you will learn to be the caring parent that this child never had. You will share your future with the wonderful, free, and loving spirit that is your original inner child.
By Jane Rowan