Jess is a survivor of incest, rape, and date-rape. Jess feels that writing helps her to heal, share her story, and perhaps provide inspiration for other survivors to continue their healing process. Jess is also an admin on our online support group R.S.O.S.A. You can always contact Jess via this website and I will pass on your messages. Jess is a dear personal friend of mine, one whom I admire for a number of reasons. Which is why I wanted to give this page to Jess’ writing…I always find the blog entries thought provoking and so well written…I am sure you will too. My thanks to Jess for agreeing to share her thoughts with ‘Tangled Web’. You can see alot more about Jess on her website and follow her blog direct… www.silenceisnotgolden.us
Silence is not golden
Silence is not golden.
Silence is brutal. Silence is cruel. Silence is binding.
Silence is so powerful that after the first time my uncle raped me, I began to stutter so badly that it was nearly impossible to understand anything I said. I was literally bound and gagged by my own mouth. The horror and confusion and trauma were trapped inside, wrapped up in a tight bandage of silence, eradicating any possibility of speaking.
Truth was trapped by my silence, and I have lived with the repercussions of that my entire life, the way that a stone dropped into a pond creates innumerable ripples spreading out to the edges of the bank. All the years that truth was screaming, clawing, burning, and flailing away inside to be given life and freedom, silence held it captive. I did not know how destructive silence would be, how tenaciously I held onto the belief that relinquishing silence would be the catalyst for the implosion of my world.
I have found my voice.
I have chosen sound over silence, truth over deception, and light over darkness. The consequences of my choice have been great, but I will never again be a captive to silence. I will share my truth, and speak it when it would otherwise be quieted.
I am an advocate for truth, and a destroyer of Silence.
Silence is not golden.
Hi friends, I’m revamping my blog! Each week, I’ll discuss a different theme relating to the many aspects of recovery from childhood abuse. I’ll be posting a couple of short blogs during the week with links to items of interest, and adding a full length blog post at the end of the week to recap/review/explore the theme of the week in more detail. I look forward to sharing resources, ideas, suggestions and advice with all of you as we continue moving forward together from the darkness of our past into the light of healing. I’m excited about this new step in my goal to reach and help fellow survivors. And, as always, feedback is both welcome and encouraged. Let me know what you think!
This week’s theme is “Self-Sabotage.”
We all do little things from day to day that are not necessarily awful, but certainly are not in our best interests, either. I drink Coke. A lot of Coke. I know how bad it is for me, and yet I continue to do it. I find all kinds of excuses, justifications, and reasons for why I “can’t” give it up. But that is not the truth. It would not be easy to give up, but it certainly would not be impossible. There are probably at least twenty more things that I could list that fall into the category of self-sabotaging things that I do.
So what exactly is “self-sabotage”?
This great article by Terry Levine outlines seven of the most common sabotaging behaviors we do to ourselves. How many on this list can you recognize in yourself?
1. Focusing on what is not working or not right.
2. Being stuck in fear.
3. Feeling you have no value.
4. Comparison of self to others.
5. Meeting goals and then losing them.
6. You chase away relationships.
7. Having no purpose.
I don’t know about you, but I can relate to every one of those.
Make a point over the next couple days to simply pay attention to the number and ways you sabotage your self-worth. From eating unhealthy, to procrastinating on important decisions, to engaging in actively harmful behavior, take note of what you do throughout the day. You might be surprised how often you are doing these things. It’s a tricky thing, catching yourself in the midst of the act of self-sabotage. But you can do it, because identifying the ways in which you make unhealthy choices is the first step to learning how to make healthy choices. And, because you are worth it.
Earlier this week I talked about what self-sabotage is, and some of the ways in which we do this to ourselves.
So, now comes the hard part. What are you going to do about it?
Personally I think there are basically three simple (or not so simple!) steps to stopping yourself from behaving in a way that sabotages your happiness, and your health:
Identify self-sabotaging behaviors
Actively stop or redirect those behaviors
Practice and develop healthy behaviors
Doesn’t sound hard, but as most of us know, the devil is in the details, so to speak. From my previous post, you most likely have a good idea of what kinds of things fall into this kind of behavior. The challenge, however, is not to limit your thinking to those few things that I listed, or even what ten, fifty, or a hundred other people list. Instead, you must really open yourself up to looking at your own life; try to see it without the defensive filter we all have and just observe. What are you doing day to day to hold yourself back, set yourself up for failure, or perpetuating decisions that are not healthy for you?
It’s important to consider big things and little things. Because once you have identified those harmful behaviors and thought processes, you need to actively work on stopping them. It might be something as easy as driving a different way to work in the morning so that you are not stopping at the donut shop or the fast food place for breakfast. Or it could be something as profoundly difficult as biting your tongue when someone has hurt your feelings instead of lashing out in anger. If you can just interrupt the habit of whatever it is you are doing, you can lay the groundwork for developing a healthier habit in its place.
I say “develop” and “practice” because I don’t know that we ever stop growing and learning. It’s not as though you will master one small set of skills, and voila! you are done. You will face many, many, many, many challenges throughout your lifetime, and it’s take a whole heck of a lot of work to face those challenges with helpful, healthy tools rather than harmful, self-sabotaging reactions.
To use my examples in the previous paragraph, in addition to driving a different route to avoid the temptation of unhealthy food, set your alarm five or ten minutes earlier (don’t go crazy, now) and make yourself a bowl of something nutritious at home. If someone says something hurtful to you, bite your tongue, and then calmly ask if they meant to say what they said in a hurtful way.
This is the way that you not only identify the behavior, actively try to stop it, and then replace it it with something else that is more beneficial to you. Is this easy? No. Is this going to be better in a week? Of course not, you have had a lifetime of reinforcing this kind of behavior. Is it worth it? Yes, yes, 100% yes!
So take a look around in that ol’ noggin of yours. What are you doing that is harmful? How can you stop it or avoid it? What can you do instead to make a healthier, more loving choice for yourself?
TOTW: Self-Sabotage (final post of the week)
So far this week I’ve discussed the “what” and the “how” of self-sabotage, but we haven’t really touched the “why” of it.
It’s not as though abuse survivors have some monopoly on self-sabotaging behaviors, but we are generally pretty damn good at it. If we are to dig down through all the layers of our past to unearth WHY we behave in such irrational ways, it’s helpful to look at what it accomplishes first.
When we procrastinate and avoid deadlines, or drink to oblivion, or heap undeserved amounts of criticism on ourselves, or do anything else that falls under the wide, wide range of “self-sabotage” we are reinforcing strongly held beliefs that we have about who we are. On a nearly subconscious level, we carry this deeply rooted, fixed idea that we are essentially a flawed being. As a flawed being, we do not believe that we have a right to be happy, reliable, healthy, and safe.
We expect that at any moment people will see us for who we “really” are–worthless, useless, dumb, irritating, needy, damaged, and second-rate. Our harmful behaviors reflect that. If we simply procrastinate long enough, maybe someone else will do it and we don’t have to take the chance of failing–or succeeding. If we drink until we pass out we don’t have to face the fear of living without an intoxicated filter between us and the world’s judgement. If we criticize ourselves mercilessly, we beat everyone else to it.
Every single thing we do to harm and sabotage ourselves has a purpose–we don’t do this willy-nilly or for the fun of it. We are reinforcing and cementing ideas that we adopted long ago as a coping mechanism to understand the monstrosity of the abuse we experienced.
So what does it matter if we understand the “why” of it?
I think it is very important to understand why if we are to succeed in both stopping the behavior and healing from our past. We truly have two battles to fight–the first against the pain of the abuse itself; dealing with and overcoming the awful truth that we were deeply, irrevocably injured by someone we cared for and trusted. And second, we must fight against ourselves. We must learn that WE are not the enemy. WE did not betray us. WE are worth the effort to heal.
I don’t think its possible to win that fight if we don’t analyze our behavior, habits, thought processes, and reactions. I don’t think its possible if we aren’t willing to see what we do to ourselves in this running-on-a-hamster-wheel-mad-dash away from the pain. I don’t think it’s possible if you are unable to face the truth, in all of its ugly, terrifying glory and work at rebuilding who you are.
Self-sabotage is insidious, and after you develop healthier habits for the big things, it will still crop up in small ways. I think I mentioned in my first post this week that I like soda–Coke in particular. I like it A LOT. I am fully aware of the damage it does to my body each time I drink it, and yet I have perfected the art of ignoring that information while I am drinking it. I refuse to see it, like the proverbial “elephant in the room.” There are at least a handful of other things I do on an almost daily basis that, while not nearly as damaging as drinking, cutting, or otherwise abusing myself, are still intentionally unhealthy choices.
Will I ever be able to stop ALL of my self-sabotaging behaviors? The truth is I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. At this point in time what I think is more important than stopping all of them is to never give up my vigilance in identifying them. If I choose to ignore the choices I make that are harmful, then I will begin to backslide into believing all the nasty things I have told myself so many times over the years.
Don’t beat yourself up over finding out the various ways you might be sabotaging yourself. You might not ever achieve perfection–and that is okay. But don’t give up on looking and being aware of what you are doing to yourself. That is a form of self-sabotage in and of itself.
“All humans are born with a fundamental need to be loved and to love.” L. Lee Scott
Trust is a touchy subject for most abuse survivors. In many ways, we have experienced a form of betrayal that is unequaled in its cruelty; a betrayal so soul-shatteringly deep that some never recover. Trust, we learned at such tender ages, is something that leads to terrible pain and anguish.
And yet, we don’t talk about it very much. Not nearly as much as the anger, the outrage, the grief, the mourning of innocence, the resignation, or our lost childhoods. It is like the proverbial elephant in the room; something we all know we struggle with, and yet don’t just come right out and talk about it.
Why don’t we confront this thing head-on? I think we avoid it because at the heart of our abuse lies the ultimate betrayal of trust–an adult stealing and destroying the unconditional love and trust of a child. It becomes a boogey man, waiting in the shadows to destroy us time and time again.
It’s time to face that spectre of pain, that ghoulish fear that invades our hearts and prevents us from truly and openly loving those we hold dear. We can start to acknowledge this big scary THING and break it down into manageable chunks. A great place to start is the article below. It touches on each major aspect of dealing with trust issues, without going into overwhelming detail.
TOTW: Trust — Getting through the fear
Trust - noun. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc. of a person or thing.
Abuse teaches us that we cannot rely on the very people we must rely on; the parents, relatives, coaches, and other adults that we depend on for love, safety, security, and stability. That lesson takes root in an impossibly deep way. We struggle immensely with trusting others even well into our adulthood.
Sometimes we get so entrenched in the behaviors we have perfected to protect ourselves, we are not consciously aware of our trust issues. I don’t think I have ever met another abuse survivor who doesn’t know that they have trust issues, but I have met many (and I was one of them) that don’t know the extent of their fear of trust. Here is a great short article to get you thinking about how your fear of trust may be affecting you:
Okay, so now you are a little more aware of the ways your avoidance of trust may be affecting you. What next? It’s not as though you will magically be able to trust everyone you meet–and really, why would you do that anyway? What I think is more important is how you explore the ways that trust (or a lack of) has affected your life. Look at the ways that fear of trust is isolating you. Be honest with yourself about the choices you make in response to your anxiety of trusting others.
The truth about trust is that when you give it to someone, you will always be vulnerable. But vulnerability isn’t evil. It takes courage, and strength to open yourself to that risk. If that trust gets broken, you will be hurt. You will feel pain, anger, disbelief, outrage, and grief if your trust is betrayed. But you will survive.
Sometimes, our fear of a thing is worse than the thing itself. When we deny ourselves of the instinctual drive to connect with other human beings because we fear the pain of betrayal, we allow fear to rule our lives. Being afraid robs us of the ability to make intelligent decisions, and makes us a slave to the pain of our past.
Getting through your fear of trusting others and deciding that there is something more valuable to work towards is a crucial step in healing. Feel the fear, then let it go and move on.
TOTW: Trust – Training yourself first
By the tender age of eight, when my sexual abuse began, I had already had a lifetime of learning the dangers of trust. Both of my parents were addicts, and there was an incredible amount of upheaval and instability in my life. I was well-acquainted with the fear, confusion, and anger that mistrust of undependable adults caused.
So, like many kids in similar situations, I learned to depend on myself.
I didn’t trust myself though.
How could I?
The people I relied on, the people I counted on for guidance and support were constantly telling me, through words, actions, and even through their inaction, that what I knew about the world was wrong. They told me that I was wrong, and my abuser was right. They told me that the messages from my body were wrong, and I should believe them instead. They told me that my feelings were wrong, and therefore I didn’t have a right to them.
All of those messages over the years built a very shaky foundation of self-worth and self-trust. How could I be really sure that what I thought I knew was real and valid? How could I possibly know that my instincts were right on target? How could I ever trust myself again?
Healing from sexual abuse is, in part, the re-learning of how to trust ourselves. It involves accepting that we can, in fact, have confidence in the signals our bodies and minds send us regarding the world around us. It means practicing belief in what we see and feel, without second-guessing our perceptions. It means understanding that we are dependable in recognizing the truth, and can honor our deepest self by acting on that trust.
Remember that you were born knowing how to trust–with simplicity and utter faith in the world. You did not cause that faith to be damaged. You were taught the dangers of trust by those who, in their cruelty and ignorance, destroyed that profound certainty. You knew how to believe, once. You can do it again; you can rebuild the foundation of self-trust.
A very simple exercise you can practice, inspired by this excellent article by Susanne Babbel, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201003/simple-exercise-increase-trust-in-yourself, is to learn how to trust your own body. Our instincts don’t go away, but they can get muffled over years of ignoring them. When you practice listening to your body, acknowledging what it tells you, and believing that what you perceive is true, you rebuild trust in yourself.
Once you have built the faith in yourself and your body, you will find that you can start trusting your instincts about the world around you. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. If something seems too good to be true, stop and connect with your inner self and ask what is triggering that thought? Is it just a habitual knee-jerk reaction, or is it a signal coming from somewhere deep inside?
Remember, trust is built and earned. That includes yourself. You can learn to trust yourself by earning it–by practicing it. In every situation, in every relationship, ask yourself what your instinct, spirit, and body is telling you. And listen.