Friday, March 21, 2008

How to Recover Your "Self" After Surviving Abuse

Dear Readers:

So, you have survived an abusive situation.

Whether the situation was of short or long duration, you are left with often a shaky sense of self and conflicting feelings. You have experienced some of the worst aspects of life and are now working to discover or rediscover the best aspects.

Remember: While you are going through this process, do not expect to stop being fearful, just expect to stop letting fear control you. Let your fear, along with your shame, doubt, and guilt teach you instead. They were all created from imprints and patterns of experiences that need to be re-examined and put through your own truth filter. These reactions were put in place to help you survive, cope, and manage overwhelmingly negative input. They are not "bad", they have a function.

They are just overdeveloped, overused, and no longer needed to be the leader of your mental/emotional gang. Let's get the emotional/mental leaders in place that help you and those around you to thrive, and give them the attention and intention that they need to support your goals and life purpose.

Negativity and violence are indeed a great problem in the world: Right now, awful things are happening. It is foolish to ignore them. However, it is equally foolish to indulge your unhappiness or fear about them. I don’t advocate naivete and assuming only good actions from others, because that mindset will not prepare you for the challenges you meet. It is useless to pretend everything is all okay, but it is very useful to realize there’s a lot that is going well, and that you can contribute to and help grow what is already good, and work to create something even better.

You can learn ways to discover and cultivate the seeds of positive growth within yourself and others. Because RIGHT NOW good things are also happening right beside the bad stuff. While suffering is rampant, love is too. Which energy do you want to feed? How will your suffering help anyone, including yourself, make a positive impact in the world?

As you begin to break away from the burden of the abusive experiences and find out what to let go of and what you have learned that can move you forward in your life, there are several questions that will help you get into the self-determination mindset. To do this exercise, you need to honestly look at your whole self without judgment of thoughts, feelings, actions, and appearance.

Get paper or start a document on the computer and write down your answers to the following questions – don’t edit yourself at first, just let it flow out because your first unedited responses are you automatic/unconsciously based ones. Later you can review, reflect and add, but at first just write whatever comes out:

*What did I believe or know to be true about myself before the abusive experience(s) ?

*Are all these things still true?

*What is still the same as it was before?

*What is different than it was?

*What is new?

*Does someone else's expressing conflict or anger trigger me more or less than it did before?

*Does someone else’s negativity get me down more or less than it did before?

*What triggers my anxiety or depression?

*What triggers my happiness or sense of fulfillment?

*What do I want to strengthen in myself?

*What do I want to release in myself?

*What is my first step toward healing?

You have an inner knowing that is often hidden by all the layers of patterns that have developed in defense and fear over the years. It may be deeply buried, but it is still a spark that can be kindled into a full-blown, life-affirming flame. You have the power to be yourself, fully and authentically blossoming and growing. Let no one, especially yourself, tell you otherwise.

When you are feeling discouraged, remember these quotes from amazing women who discovered their true selves and achieved their personal goals despite great obstacles:

Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

Helen Keller “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

Let your fear be part of the process.

As a reader of this blog, please note that the advice and information given by me as a lifestyle and wellness trainer does not treat mental disorders as defined by the American Psychiatric Association or medical disorders as defined by the American Medical Association. Life and wellness instruction and coaching are not a substitute for medical care, psychotherapy, mental health care, or substance abuse treatment. If you have ongoing medical and/or mental health issues, you should be in ongoing contact with medical and/or mental health professionals.

- Cinda

[Douglas Castle contributed to the editing of this article.]