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
By Jenise Harmon, LISW-S
Featured at GoodTherapy.org, February 23, 2015
Depression is a real illness with very real symptoms. It’s not something a person can ‘snap out of’. It’s a fine balance knowing how to help or in finding the right words to say. Communication can be difficult and feel awkward but a non-judgemental ear is priceless.
This article offers solid suggestions on how to communicate with those we care for who are suffering the effects of depression.
Harmon offers the following recommendations;
For the article in full, please select the following link;
Beauty as defined by Merriam Webster dictionary is qualities of being physically attractive and qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or the mind.
A further exploration from the same dictionary defines beauty as the quality or aggregate qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit-loveliness.
It has taken me many years to understand and change my view of beauty. We live in a world that defines beauty outwardly and measures beauty by standards that are untrue and unreasonable to achieve. Our world rewards outward beauty, yet the outward beauty and the rewards therein are false.
Coming from a background of horrific childhood abuse and neglect I believed I was the least of any beauty or rather ugliest of all on earth. These ideas I held were solidified with words, being called ugly and unlovable, solidified with actions of rejection, violence and rape, betrayal and isolation.
The effect of my ugliness was reinforced above all by my rejection and hatred for me causing me to connect with others who would in turn pour out the same contempt that was also found inside them.
I no longer believe I am ugly and I no longer believe that the world is an ugly place full of deception, greed, selfishness and hate. But how did I come to change what I saw as beauty? I wish the answer to that question was simple, that I pressed the “easy” button and it was done; but that is not true and not how understanding beauty transpired in me.
I first saw beauty in a bird at the age of seven; can’t remember what kind of bird only that the bird was small and had a broken wing. When I saw the bird hurting, I was also hurting and I simply wanted to help the bird so I picked it up, brought it home, found a small box and made a safe place for it to heal. I fed the tiny bird bits of bread soaked in milk and even tried to gather worms for it, which it did not eat. I visited the bird and talked to it everyday telling the bird its wing would heal and it would fly again.
Two weeks later it did. Looking, sounding and moving its wings better, I carefully carried the bird and returned it to the place I found it. I opened my hands and the bird flew out of them. It was the first beautiful experience of my life.
This story is a picture of this site, isurvive and in this site I have found the most brilliant of all beauty ever seen or experienced on earth.
isurvive is like the box, a safe place to heal. isurvive is like me; people who are wounded and who understand woundedness and its effects; feeding, sheltering, encouraging and strengthening each other. isurvive is people who know ugliness, hatred, violence, abuse and neglect sharing voices and experiences, wisdom and knowledge, trials and successes, laughter and tears. isurvive is a picture of loveliness and beauty.
The bird and I were two different species in my story, we did not speak the same language, did not look the same , behave the same, we didn’t know the same things or experience the world in exactly the same way, yet underneath all of that we were connected by what we did share; woundedness and love, both universal languages.
Herein is the beauty of isurvive, the aggregate qualities in people joined by woundedness and love sharing and caring for each other. On the outside we the people of isurvive would not know each other if we passed on the street, nor would we share the burdens of our hearts and minds to strangers that we meet.
Yet here in our box, our safe place to heal, we are free.
Free to ask, free to receive. Free to speak our truth, free to show our woundedness and ugliness. In our box we are unbound by judgement of outward appearance or reward. We come from different places, speak different languages, have different beliefs, different cultures, different religions; yet we are bound together by what we share, the universal language of pain, suffering, fear, shame, guilt and isolation.
It took me many years to accept that my actions towards the small bird were beautiful and that in my actions, I was beautiful. My understanding of my beauty started as a small seed, a seed of hope that the bird would fly again and that I could help him do it.
In our box of isurvive we are free to see the inward beauty of others and in so doing we become free to accept the beauty in ourselves, the beauty in the world. Out of our shared experience of voices and stories we see pictures of healing, pictures of caring, and pictures of hope. We are beauty personified, limited only by our own imaginations, sowing seeds of acceptance, understanding, caring, support, wisdom and love.
In unison we lack no good thing and as we share and learn from each other, feed and comfort each other, shelter and support each other; our combined voices, experiences and stories are a resounding song of victory bringing pleasure to the senses, the mind, body and spirit. Our song is a universal song which can be heard throughout the world-loveliness. The beauty of isurvive.
This article helps us understand how to stop repeating those unhelpful behaviour patterns that many of us established in childhood years.
“Family-of-origin influences certainly seem destined to last a lifetime as we repeatedly fall easily into old family patterns,” writes Claudia Black. Whether we’re aware of them or not, repetitive habits and customs can shape our lives and influence our relationships. “These old patterns may just feel comfortingly familiar,” says Black.
There are ways of altering these patterns and the destinies we subconsciously create for ourselves, however. The article goes on to outline 4 key areas we need to address in order to make some positive changes:
In order to move on from the past, we have to acknowledge it and connect it to what is happening in the present. Only then may we develop empathy and self-compassion. Change requires us to learn new skills and abandon belief systems we’ve long held—beliefs which may be self-defeating or holding us back from creating new patterns.For the article in full please go here. (http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/4-steps-vital-to-releasing-old-family-patterns-082214)