It was wrong, and it hurt – in fact it may have hurt so bad and messed you up so much you didn’t know if you would get through it.
You had to fight hard, to the point you thought your strength was all gone, and then you had to fight some more.
But you are still breathing.
Which means that now you are a survivor.
Pat yourself on the back – you dug deep and came through alive. Maybe barely, but still. We’ll count that as a win.
But the road to recovery has just begun my friend.
If you return to the same situation for more pain – you are now choosing it knowingly, with the full 20/20 hindsight of experience you gained last time. It becomes your choice. That doesn’t mean it’s really what you want, but you are choosing it because you feel you have no better options right now. And you are hurting yourself by willingly exposing yourself to the toxicity that you just survived. May I suggest that you rethink this approach – they make you believe you cannot escape – but they aren’t god. They just think they are.
If you remove yourself, but then relive it in your mind everyday, you resubmit your psyche, your brain and yes your emotions to the stress and trauma all over again. You allow it to continue to harm you, so that even though you may be physically distanced from the situation, you have brought along with you a VHS (remember those) or a Youtube video (I’m hip too) that plays on repeat and for all intensive purposes causes the pain to continue and thus to worsen your condition. You remain in harm’s way. The abuser – even if absent – continues to victimize you. Your stress system is overloaded and the event still consumes your energies.
So how can we stop being a victim to whatever traumatic experience violently collided into our world?
I recently had to face this when a trigger event (and they are waiting in ambush everywhere my friends) suddenly brought me back to a past trauma. In the blink of an eye I was no longer the middle aged (you’re right, young 40s) professional woman coming into work. Instead I was the drunk teenager, unconscious, carried to the van where I was then sexually abused – basically raped – while unable to defend myself since I was unconscious. I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that the event impacted me deeply and took me many counseling sessions to work through and affected several ensuing relationships. And when it reemerged in my psyche decades later, I was amazed at how powerful it still was. My heart rate skyrocketed, my brain lost focus, my mind was on high alert, and I suddenly felt like I was going to have a breakdown right in the middle of the workplace. This was a physical reaction I could not control.
Not cool. This event from my past was traumatising me all over again and I felt like a victim once more.
It pissed me off. How can this traumatic event still hijack my being and twist me up in fear and shame and cause me to forget who I am now?
I am not a victim.
I am NOT a victim.
I was mistreated. I was abused. I was taken advantage of.
But not today.
Today I am safe. I am strong. I am pure.
I went into the bathroom, sat down on the toilet and in that bizarre setting I began to take deep breaths and repeat those truths to myself.
I am safe. I am strong. I am pure.
To stop being a victim we need to do a few things – none of them terribly complicated, but none of them easy either.
One I need to recognize the event for what it is. Call it by its name. Whether it is emotional abuse, manipulation, rape, gaslighting, deception, betrayal, physical harm, psychological abuse… name it. Yes it’s ugly to look at, but there it is. You didn’t invite it, you didn’t deserve it, you didn’t cause it. But it happened. Look it in the eye.
Once I recognize it, I need to drag it into the light so it cannot stay and fester. I need to tell some safe people and get some support and good counsel. Seek out the truth of the situation.
Third I need to reestablish my identity – remember who I was before this happened and who I STILL am. This event does NOT define me.
Fourth I need to fight like hell every time the shame creeps in, everytime the fear crawls up my spine or I become consumed with the event in my mind. Fight to RID yourself of its ability to take you over. Because trauma and abuse like to leave the victim in a clingy blanket of shame and powerlessness. But we are NOT to blame for what happened. And we are no longer powerless.
So we fight to reclaim our thoughts, our emotions, our knowledge of who we REALLY are.
We speak truth to the lies.
The lies say: You caused this. You had it coming. It’s your fault.
The truth is: HELL NO. Someone willingly did this to me. I don’t care how much I had to drink and how naive I was to hang out with some guys we barely knew. I didn’t ask to be raped. You didn’t ask to be lied to, or hit, or stolen from.
The lies say: Now you are damaged. You are dirty. You are stupid. You are messed up.
The truth is: I AM BEAUTIFUL. I AM WONDERFUL. I AM LOVING, and TRUSTING and CARING and GOOD. I AM PURE, because my God is brighter than the darkness. He laughs at it. He washes it away from me. He protects my identity, my reputation and my very being.
The lies say: You are helpless. You are powerless. You are weak. You are stuck. It’s going to happen again.
The truth is: I have POWER DIVINE on my side! I am STRONG. I am CAPABLE. I am COMPETENT. I am growing through this and will not be defined by it. I am already moving beyond it.
I may need to face some tough truths, some unpleasant interactions, some difficult changes. But I am NOT limited or controlled by this event.
I have the strength of my God to get me through and the support and love of friends. I am NOT a victim.
I am a magnificent spirit who resides in a body that happened to be misused by an ignorant spirit, but I am so much more than my body! My soul is made of such resiliency that it cannot be fully broken, even by years of psychological abuse, unless I believe the lies. And I choose NOT TO.
I am safe. I am strong. I am pure.
The school of hard knocks is a crappy teacher, but we CAN still learn from it. So our job is to take what we can from it and use it to propel our growth and transition to our stronger, wiser selves. The one who is no longer as naive, as weak, or as susceptible to being used. The one whose identity comes from Divine ordinance – not one that is defined by the ignorant slimy deeds of a predator or a manipulator. They can’t say who I am!
Psychological abuse I will grant you takes much longer to fight, but it can be done. I assure you.
I will not allow that event – even if it is a decade of an abusive relationship – to follow me around like a dirty mangy animal with rabies. It is sick and it needs to go. Deal with it, release it, fight it away.
Step back into your identity with all of the strength you can muster. Put on your superhero attitude, pull on your big girl pants, and reclaim your rightful position.
You are not a victim. You are a beautiful survivor, one who stays true to themselves no matter what and who never gives up, and according to the urban dictionary, that officially makes you a badass.
Now go let the rest of the world know by living the rest of your life in freedom and peace and joy. Those are your birthrights, and no traumatic event can rob them from you forever.