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A Non-Profit Organization for Child Abuse Survivors Learning to Thrive

Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

Book Review: Dear Little Ones

Dear Little Ones

Dissociative Identity Disorder for Young Alters

By Jade Miller

This is a beautiful little book with a powerful message; easy to read and understand with soft, non-threatening illustrations.

The gentle words come from a caring ‘big sister’ perspective, trying to help little ones understand what’s going on for them within their team. It reinforces that the things that happened were not their fault and that they are safe now. Jade goes on to explain about the others inside, encourages team work and shares how each one is valuable with their own purpose. The notion is introduced that the little ones get to choose what will happen next, that their voice is important. Jade offers them suggestions on how to deal with those unmanageable big feelings and a reassurance that things will get better.

Equally valuable to share with a partner or friend, as a way of trying to help them understand what life is like for those living with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This book is available to purchase on Amazon & Kindle

The Power of Forgiveness

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.

~Faith

Commitment to Recovery

By Pete Walker, M.A., MFT (Therapy for and recovery from childhood trauma, abuse and/or neglect)

“… with my blessings to all survivors who through no fault of their own got a bad deal from the parenting deck, and deserve limitless help and grace in recovering from the terrible losses they suffered.”

I believe the foundation of my recovery work is in all the time and energy I have put into reawakening my instincts of self-compassion and self-protection. I have a fierce commitment to being loyal to myself – to being like a kind mother and a protective father to myself no matter what.

As my own recovery deepens, I notice that whenever it needs a boost, I frequently find myself invoking my inner child visually as sitting on my lap, and I tell him much I love him. I often feel myself wishing I could go back into the past in a time machine and rescue him – and bring him back to live with me in the present. I tell him there’s always a place in my heart for him, and that whenever he is suffering or struggling with some difficult aspect of an emotional flashback, I love him even more and feel a huge desire to go back in time and protect him from the outrageous unfairness he experienced.

Many Blessings,

Pete

How to Choose a Counselor or Therapist

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;

  1. What does it feel like for you to sit with the therapist?
  2. What’s the counselor’s general philosophy and approach to helping?
  3. Can the counselor clearly define how he or she can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy?
  4. Does the counselor seek regular peer consultation?
  5. Can your counselor accept feedback and admit mistakes?
  6. Does the counselor encourage dependence or independence?
  7. Has your counselor done his or her own therapy?
  8. Does the therapist have experience helping others with the particular issues for which you are seeking therapy?
  9. Does the counselor make guarantees or promises? 
  10. Does your counselor adhere to ethical principles in regard to issues such as boundaries, dual relationships, and confidentiality?
  11. Is the counselor licensed?
  12. Does the counselor have a graduate degree?
  13. Does the counselor have postgraduate training?
  14. Have any complaints been filed with the board?

For the article in full, please select the following link;

http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-find-a-therapist

Working With Your Inner Child to Heal Abuse

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

The Beauty of isurvive – Loveliness

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.

4 Steps Vital to Releasing Old Family Patterns

By Claudia Black, PhD
Featured at GoodTherapy.org,  August 22, 2014

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:

  1. Explore Your Past
  2. Connect the Past to the Present
  3. Challenge Internalized Beliefs
  4. Learn new Skills

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)
 
 

Why You’re Braver Than You Think

I am continuously in awe of all the brave souls who find their way to this website. The members here have endured atrocities beyond belief, experienced the very worst of human nature. Many of their stories have moved me to tears. Stories of heartlessness, cruelty and devastating betrayal, often at the hands of family members entrusted to care for them – parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings. Stories of secondary betrayals as adult survivors speaking their truth to families who, in the majority of cases, refuse to hear, refuse to see, would rather risk losing their child than take responsibility for their crimes.

It is no wonder survivors of child abuse can be fearful of, or find it difficult to trust people. We humans can, and do, truly horrible things to each other. When the world has repeatedly taught you that trusting others leads to pain, why on earth would you want to continue doing so? Why wouldn’t you just give up, hide from others, not try anymore? When connecting with others feels so dangerous it brings on panic attacks if someone gets remotely close to you, where’s the incentive to keep trying?

If you’re a survivor of child abuse, you may not believe that you’re very brave. Should you be called, your answer may involve something along these lines:

“Me? Brave?! I’m not brave. Are you kidding? I’m terrified all the freaking time, of everyone and everything. I don’t want to come out of my house. I don’t trust anyone. I hate dealing with people. I get scared going to the corner shop sometimes, for heaven’s sake, in case someone talks to me. Every now and then I want to shut myself away in my room forever and never come out. I’m the last person on earth someone would ever call brave.”

I’m here to tell you, in the kindest possible way, that you’re wrong.

In fact, I would hazard a guess that, even if you don’t feel it, you are much braver than you give yourself credit for.

For starters, you are alive. As a child you survived the abuse, and you are choosing to remain alive now, even though you may be in a hell of a lot of emotional pain. You don’t know when or how this pain will end, yet you are still choosing to be here. That in itself is pretty huge.

Moreover, you are visiting isurvive and reading this blog post. Which probably means you are searching for answers, comfort, reassurance, hope, and support. The fact you are searching for these things means that part of you refuses to give up hope they are possible to find.

Given your past experiences, your willingness to keep trying is nothing short of incredible.

I sincerely hope you can believe that.

You see, some people may not understand how things like opening up to a new friend could be so scary. They would scoff, or laugh, or say “for heaven’s sake, just do it. It’s not that hard.”

They’re right. It’s not that hard. For them.

That doesn’t mean it’s not that hard for everyone.

People who don’t understand the fear you may feel are likely coming from a different, separate context to you. Perhaps they have not experienced as much trauma, hence their worldview is different; they view the world as a safe place and feel little fear of others. But courage is relative. It is not present where there is no fear, but rather, in those instances where fear must be overcome.

Give yourself more credit. If, for example, you happen to be terrified of people, and you then go and join a book club or meetup group with the specific aim of making new friends; that, in my eyes, is far more of an achievement than someone who has no fear of people doing the same thing.

Why? Because you had to jump over a lot of scary extra hurdles to get to that same point. If that makes sense. Once bitten, twice shy.

The fact that you are here, hoping for something better, wanting to believe in the goodness of people and the possibility of connection; looking for help, reaching out, perhaps sharing your story with others when past experience has taught you that you have no reason to trust anyone or believe things could be different in future…. that right there, my friends, is bravery. That is resilience, hope, and sheer determination. That is your abusers failing to crush your spirit. That is you refusing to let your pain consume you. That is your determination to live a life of your choosing, free of the chains of your past.

And you have every right in this world to do that.

 -Maree
August 25, 2014

Recovery from Abuse: the Search for Information/Validation

Hey there, fellow abuse survivor.

Have you been trawling Google lately, searching for terms like “abuse”, “narcissism”, “co-dependency” and “the rights of children”? Do you have an enormous thirst for knowledge of all things abuse-related? Do you scroll through pages and pages of web data, drinking in information like it’s clean water and you’re lost in the Sahara Desert? But no matter how much you consume, it never seems like enough? You’re up to page 10 of the search results already. Who goes to page 10 of the search results, for anything? Who even goes past page 1, for that matter?!

Who? People who want to do a thorough freaking job, that’s who.

The search for validation can become a compulsion. If web information on abuse were crack, you may now be considered an addict. You can’t help it. No matter how much you take in, it all seems to leak back out the next day. The waves of knowledge consumed are not strong enough to hold up to all those internal voices yelling at you that you’re wrong, that you’re making it all up, that your family was normal, that your parents loved you. Just shut up, they keep saying, stop creating drama and whining about nothing. You’re just as useless and stupid as they always thought.

But here’s the thing:

Maybe you’re not wrong.

Maybe this compulsion you’re developing is coming from somewhere. Perhaps this overwhelming need to understand is your brain trying to process and comprehend patterns in your life that do not otherwise make sense in any logical manner. Maybe this compulsion reflects your suspicion that there is another explanation for why you’ve been feeling so crap than that there’s something wrong with you, as those internal voices would have you believe.

The fact is: whatever part of you is searching hungrily online for information, help and alternative answers deserves support. To continue my starving-in-the-desert analogy (it seems apt so I’m running with it), in the early phases of abuse recovery that part is like a baby plant trying to take root – it needs a whole lot of sunshine and nutrients and probably a little water to help it along. If you are at this website because you were abused as a child, that plant is going to be fighting years of negative conditioning that could easily kill it off before it has a chance to grow. There is a heck of a lot of brainwashing that goes on during abuse. This needs to be inspected, seen for what it is and then dismantled in order to reduce its power.

Abusers always seek to offload responsibility for their actions onto their victims. They may say things like, “look what you made me do. If only you weren’t so stupid/worthless/attractive etc, this would never have happened.” Abusers often promote and encourage the idea that they abuse because of fundamental characteristics inherent within their victims, thus absolving themselves of all accountability. When viewed logically, this idea is blatantly ridiculous. In no way is anyone forced to treat Fred badly because Fred has red hair or sees himself as worthless. But in the absence of alternative support and information, and particularly when told to children by those in positions of authority, such lies may take root causing horrific and sometimes lifelong consequences.

So if you find yourself hungry for information, support, and awareness of abuse and what constitutes abuse; if you are Googling pages and soaking up information like there is no tomorrow: please be very gentle with yourself. At a deep level, you are likely fighting to break patterns that may have taken years to establish. You are analysing, reinterpreting and redefining your life’s events, piece by piece. This is no easy task. Your need for validation, support and accurate information is real, understandable, and deserves to be honoured.

-Maree
June 1, 2014
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