Because I am talking about the issue of abuse, I know that this post (like the last one) might bring up some feelings which are problematic for you. With this in mind, let me repeat what I said earlier…..
If you are dealing with issues related to your past history of “abuse” and these issues are having a negative (however you define this) impact on your life, please seek professional help. Therapy works. When you need help with your car, you seek out a competent mechanic. When you need help getting your life together, seek out a competent mental health professional.
That being said, let me continue to lay out for you how you can begin to recover from your abuse.
I ended my last post by noting that while the process of recovery may be difficult, it is important to remember that it is doable.
And, because it is doable, how difficult it may be is nice to know but is largely irrelevant. If the outcome you desire (to be free to move on from your abuse), and you know you can do it (it is doable), all that is left is for you to do the necessary work (whatever that may involve) and the outcome is yours!
We were talking about your thoughts…..
As you think about your past, you probably tell yourself something like:
- It isn’t right or fair
- It never should have happened
You are, of course, right on both counts. But, it did happen.
So, IWBNI allows you to acknowledge both that it happened and that it is behind you. When you tell yourself that it would be nice if it had never occurred, you are acknowledging that it did take place and that it is over.
This is the first step and begins the process of moving on. You can always, if you choose, revisit your past.
Please note that using IWBNI does not excuse, diminish or pardon the past. It only acknowledges it and begins the process of separating you in the present from your past.
I will start my next post by discussing the second “element”…the perpetrators
These are the bad people (sometimes male and sometimes female) who victimized you.
Most likely, what you feel toward them is anger and hate. You might want to hurt them.
Or, equally as likely (but more difficult to comprehend), you might feel love toward them and want to defend them.
Or, you might feel some other combination of feelings.
I can’t, in this space, provide an explanation of these feelings but I do provide this information on my website (TheEmotionsDoctor.com)
The key to dealing with your abuse through the lens of your perpetrators is forgiveness.
Yes, you will need to forgive those who hurt you. But, before you cuss me out and stop reading, let me explain that…
what you think forgiving means is very different from what I am suggesting you do.
Here is a link to an article I wrote on forgiveness.
Most people think that to forgive is to exonerate someone of any responsibility for their behavior. This is what I call a biblical understanding as when Jesus forgave someone and they were born again.
Your perpetrator did what he, she or they did and probably do not deserve to be exonerated.
But, whether they do or do not deserve exoneration is not the issue here.
When you hold on to your (totally understandable) animosity toward your perpetrator, you bind yourself to them psychologically. Wherever you go, they go with you. This is the reason that your recovery is difficult. You are tightly bound psychologically to those who victimized you.
Forgiveness involves separating yourself from these bad people who hurt you.
Forgiveness says, “I hope you burn in hell (emphasis added) but I am done with you. You no longer have any power or influence over me. What you did will never be okay but I am moving on.”
Forgiveness is an act taken for you. It has nothing at all to do with your perpetrator!
The third and final element is you.
Wait a minute, you say, I’m the victim. How am I an “element” in recovering from my abuse?
A fair question!
While it may not be the case for you, many victims often blame themselves in part or completely for their victimization.
I worked with a young woman who was raped when she took a shortcut home to her grandmother’s house. Grandma had told her not to take the short cut as it was dangerous. She was in a hurry, took the shortcut and was raped.
She reasoned that she was responsible for the rape because she had been warned, disregarded the warning, and suffered the consequences.
While it is true that she would not have been raped if she had listened to grandma, it is not true that she is responsible for the rape. She is “guilty” of poor judgment. The rapist is totally responsible for the rape.
Self-blame occurs for at least two reasons:
- The victim is trying to make sense of an unreasonable event and focuses on themselves because the actions of the perpetrator are incomprehensible.
- The perpetrator has told the victim the abuse is their fault. “If you hadn’t done XYZ, I wouldn’t have beat you!” or “If you weren’t so attractive, I wouldn’t have…”.
The “reason” why you might blame yourself is not critical here. What is important is that you “forgive” yourself.
Forgiveness here means that whatever actions you might have taken which appear to connect you to the event did not cause or give your perpetrator permission to commit the abuse. You are acknowledging any action you might have done and separating it from the event.
I hope this has been helpful and that it starts your process of recovery and gives you a roadmap to getting the help (professional or otherwise) you require.