Sanctuary and Serenity

Archive for the ‘The Path’ Category


I Have a Right to Tell.

When I was abused I learned that it was not OK and that, if I told anyone, I would be not OK either.  I may have been threatened by my abuser(s) about the consequences of telling what happened.
Maybe no one helped me when I was abused.  Or maybe I did try to tell, but got either ignored or not believed.  I may have come to believe, as a child, that telling someone or asking for help was very useless and that not being believed and protected was normal.
I know I had a right as a child to tell what happened.  I had a right to be protected from further abuse, and I had a right to receive love and care after the abuse happened.  I will tell now, at my own pace, and I will listen to my voice within.


I Am Courageous!
Whenever I have doubted my courage, I need only recall that I am alive.  To have survived those atrocious and sometimes violent abuses, inflicted on me as a child, I needed and had tremendous amounts of courage.
I may not always be able to see my own courage, but others remind me of it – others, to whom it is so clear.  I can let people I trust mirror times they have seen me acting courageously – and start to believe in myself.
I went through some extremely painful times in my life, when I thought that I would never emerge again, into the light.  It was during those times that I was most courageous.  Perhaps the most courageous act of all is to feel that intense loneliness, fear, and pain, and still go on.


The Path

by Lee Mosby

Go forth on your Path in life with honor and dignity and do whatever good you can.

As long as it lasts, life can be full of wonderful memories if you wish. Everyone is unique and changing and all have the right to reach their full potential in all their abilities.

Peace, love and truth are the absence of fear.

As you live your life, try to gain human understanding and learn from the successes and failures of other people. Their experiences are as real to them as yours, and all are part of an ever changing whole.

The highest ideal is love and the greatest strength is truth. Love, with all its diversities and subtleties is the reason for living.

Everything has a purpose in life, regardless of its nature. Look at the stars or listen to children playing and you may understand.

Peace, love and truth are the absence of fear. Accept it and give it freely, and love will fill your life with the power of powers.

Your life and destiny are everything you make them to be. Turn your dreams into beautiful things. There are no limits to creativity but those you accept.

Life is an adventure and it is yours to live.

~Posted on another thread and moved here so it won’t get lost.

Thanks, JR


Shame and Intimacy

Shame takes its toll on intimacy.  Abuse survivors feel an inner sense of shame, no matter what they say or do.  Not the shame when we do something wrong ….that’s having a conscience.  It is the deep-rooted shame about feeling unworthy, inadequate, unlovable or not good enough – even when we have done nothing wrong.  This shame interferes with having good intimate relationships with others.

The core of feeling ashamed as a human being comes down to a sense of inadequacy.  Feeling inadequate, in turn, makes us afraid nobody will want us and we will be rejected, abandoned or found to be not good enough.  We see ourselves as mistakes, flawed and defective and there’s nothing we can do about it.

These feelings of inadequacy or unlovableness begin when we’re growing up.  Our families – especially our parents – gave us messages that we didn’t measure up and that we weren’t likeable, lovable, desirable or good enough as persons.

These rules are the operative principles that govern shame-based families:

Control

One must be in control of all interactions, feelings and personal behaviours at all times.  Control is the major defense against shame-based feelings.

Perfectionism

Always be right in everything you do.  Avoidance of negative judgment or criticism – or any suggestion that you’re less than perfect – is the organizing principle of life.

Blame

Whenever things don’t turn out as planned, blame others and self-righteously defend yourself at all costs, although occasionally you can blame and denigrate yourself as well.

Denial of the five freedoms

The five freedoms, first enunciated by Virginia Satir, describe a fully functional person:  the power to perceive, to think and interpret;  to feel; to want and chose; and to imagine.  In shame-based families, the rule says you shouldn’t perceive, think, feel, desire or imagine the way you do.  You should do these the way the perfectionist ideal demands.

The no-talk rule

This rule prohibits the full expression of any feeling, need or want.  So no one speaks of his/her loneliness, sense of self-rupture or feelings of not measuring up.

Don’t make mistakes

Errors reveal the flawed, vulnerable self.  To acknowledge a mistake is to open one’s self up to judgment, criticism and the implication that you’re not good enough.  So cover up your own mistakes and if someone else makes a mistake, shame him.

Low trust

Don’t trust anyone.  That way, you’ll never be disappointed.  If I can’t trust my parents to show me how valued I am, I cannot trust anyone.

So how are we going to trust others – or let others get really close to us?  I fear if I let you get close, you will find out I am not good enough and reject me.

Perhaps the greatest wound a shame-based person carries is the inability to be intimate in a relationship.  People who grow up in shame-based families are very sensitive to criticism.  The slightest criticism sets off feelings of inner shame.  They feel worthless, not good enough, broken, unlovable.  The shame is then covered up by blaming, criticizing, getting angry, being defensive or keeping themselves emotionally removed from their lovers or spouses.  They end up attacking the very people they love and care about.

The Shame – Rage Connection

The core feeling of having been mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritual abused is shame. Our shame is deeply rooted because it stems from the core beliefs that we are not worthy, that there is something that is flawed in us and that we are just not good enough and don’t deserve good coming our way. This deep rooted shame affects our every day living which is especially evident in our relationships with others.

The rejection of self is central to feeling toxic shame.  A shame – based person tries desperately to present a mask to the world that says “I’m more than human” or “I’m less than human”.  To be more than human is to never make a mistake.  To be less than human is to believe that you are a mistake, says John Bradshaw in ‘Healing the Shame that Binds You. (Health communications, Inc.) (highly recommended as an excellent book for inner child work)

Steps to take to heal inner shame:

* Keep a journal or diary of your defensive over-reactions.  Each evening before retiring, think back over the events of the day.  When were you upset?  Where did you over-react?  What was the context?  Who was there?  What was said to you?  What made you feel inadequate or rejected?  How does what was said to you compare to what you say to yourself?  What does it say to you about your adequacy and lovableness?

*  Other than anger, what emotions are you feeling?

*  What do people say or do to you that triggers your shame?  With whom does this happen and in which circumstances?  How often?

*  Ask yourself “What am I ashamed about right now?” every time you get angry. It’s the best way to break the shame-rage link.

*  Treat others with respect – particularly those you love and care about.  Consistently tell them they are good, good enough and lovable – that you value them and find them worthwhile and important.  Then pass up chances to insult, attack, criticize or shame them.  Give praise out loud for the good you see in others.  This is the opposite of shaming behaviour.

*  Become a student of self-love and self-acceptance.  What is it that triggers your feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy?  What makes you feel better about yourself that isn’t hurtful or disrespectful toward you or others?  How can you accept your imperfections or mistakes or requests from others about what they would like you to do differently – without taking such feedback as an indictment of your character, value or worth?  How can you better value, love, appreciate and approve of yourself as a human being?

If you work on these ideas and find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stop immediately.  This means you need to do them with someone who is trained to assist you.

The good news is that you can achieve greater calmness, peace of mind, happiness, self-acceptance – and healthier, more intimate relationships with others.  All you need to do is face your feelings of inadequacy, undesirability, unlovableness and inner shame.


Learning to Parent Myself.
There have been many guides in my life.  There were people who helped me learn to parent myself, in a more nurturing, kind way.  I do not have to be alone.  I will need help in undoing a lot of the negative parenting skills I know and have internalized as a direct result of the abuse.  I need objective people who truly understand what any child needs to grow and flourish emotionally and spiritually.
These guides are found in many places and at many different times in my life.  Some are a consistent part of my life, others only for a fleeting moment.  However I may get this parenting knowledge, my inner-child will be much richer and stronger in spirit.
Each time I actively use the knowledge I get from my guides, I will be showing my child-within my love for her and my compassion for her past abuses.  She deserves to be parented in a loving, respectful way, and I can begin to give that to her.  She will help me know just what she needs from each guide.


I Am Very Creative.
I may sometimes look at people and wonder at – maybe even envy – their creativity.  I can see and appreciate the special life force within these people that allows them to express themselves so creatively and share their wonderful gifts with others.
I am only seeing creativity in other people, then I am surely missing the creativity that is in everyone – including myself.  I have only to take note of how creative I was as a very small child in surviving and even flourishing during extremely horrendous, frightening experiences.  Somehow that small creative spirit invented thoughts and fantasies that helped her to stay alive and to reach for help.  I should take time to notice my inherent creativity as it was expressed through me as a child, and to be grateful to myself for that gift.  I can also start to look within myself to see how I already express my creativity today.  What I envy in others is within myself – maybe just in another form.


Who Will Touch Me.
As a child I had no rights – where my body was concerned.  I was subjected to indiscriminate, inappropriate touching by adult(s) that did not feel right, good or nurturing to me.  I was obligated to endure those uneasy and scary feelings as a child.
In my recovery I am learning to set boundaries and I realize that I have a right to determine by whom and how I will be touched.  Depending on how I feel, I can say “no” or “yes” to others who want to touch me.  It is my choice.  I listen the “inner-radar” that tells me – when I listen – if touching is OK.  My inner voice, along with my adult skills, helps me to learn who the safe people are.
I can seek out a *safe* person and ask for a hug or a pat on the back and simply note how it feels.  I can also remember that I have the right to decline being touched in any way, by others, and that I can tell them precisely how I want to be touched.


My Own Higher Power.
Because my first experience of a *higher power* was my parents…in my abusive family, I quickly learned that my higher power was not safe, that *it* loved me conditionally…and that I would be punished or abandoned if I made mistakes.  No wonder I may have felt hopelessness and confusion.  I may have firmly believed that no one was going to be there for me, no one.
As an adult in recovery, I can create my own higher power…I can choose what or who to believe in, and fill my mind and soul with the missing attributes that were required as a child.  I know I deserve to be alive, and a loving force will support my choices in this life.  My own higher power can be nurturing, caring and safe for me.


I Deserve to Wear Flattering Clothing
Wearing clothes that flatter or reveal the shape of your body does not mean you are “asking” to be abused.  This is a valid fear for the inner child…and as an adult, you may, at times, have tried dressing to compliment your body, but could never quite feel confident that this was OK or healthy.
As I recovering from my abuse, I learn that I don’t have to hide my body with shapeless or colorless clothing.  I can let go of the shame about my body and know that its shape is truly beautiful and worthy of my respect.
I know that the way I choose to dress today, is up to me, and is not a reflection of my sexual intentions.  I can choose clothes that flatter my body and I can proclaim my femininity.  I don’t have to worry that how I dress myself will determine the behaviour of anyone else.  This is not possible.  I know that I have no control over others’ thoughts, feelings, or behaviour!
I am free to dress myself exactly as I wish – to embrace my sexuality. If old feelings resurface and I feel unsafe with how I express myself, I can listen and acknowledge those feelings and reassure myself of my rights.  I should never fear that the sight alone of my body will bring abuse from anyone.


I Can Choose to be Sexually Inactive.
My feelings and perceptions about my own sexuality have probably always been skewed and very confusing to me.  When I learn about my sexual abuse, the causes of some of this negative thinking and feeling is finally making sense to me.  However, I will need to relearn healthy attitudes and accurate information about my own sexuality.
I can choose at the most vulnerable times to be sexually inactive, as I am in the healing process from my abuse, My choice provides protection and safety for my terrified inner child, who may be flooded with a lot of scary and confusing memories.  Her feelings will be intense as the memories become real for her, and I will need to provide protection and gentleness for her.  She deserves to finally receive gentle nurturing and protection.
To be sexually inactive may create conflict for me if I am involved in, or maybe considering being involved, in a sexually intimate relationship.  Only I will be able to make that decision which is best for me, since I know my healing process intimately.  The important thing is to tell my truths, to myself especially, and to others, and to be gentle and patient with my small child-within.  At the very least, she deserves my respect.


My Child’s Honorable Courage to Survive.
As I think back on all the troubles and the odds that my inner-child fought against, just to survive, I cannot help but marvel at her courage.  It is amazing that such a small spirit could prevail in the face of so many abuses, some on a daily basis.
I am learning to appreciate this young child’s courage by observing other survivors as they rail and fight against the offender feeling of shame, the feeling that tells them they do not deserve to live.
Every time I see a survivor turn toward life by simply confronting those sometimes all-consuming feelings of shame and fear, I can really celebrate my own inner-child’s miraculous courage for survival.  She truly is a warrior and a gentle soul, still waiting to be loved and recognized.  All my gratitude goes to that inner child for all her valiant and rather persistent efforts to survive under such odds.


Take Time to Notice the Beauty of the World.
Sometimes, I get lost in my own chaos of reliving the horrid past and trying to figure out the future.  These are the times that I need to take a deep breath to reconnect with the things in this world that support my inner spirit.
Wherever I look today, I will see beauty.  When I go through my day, I will notice my surroundings and find beauty in everything.  I may feel, see, smell, and hear the beauty.  The world offers an endless variety of absolute wonder and loveliness.  I can use all of my senses to experience the world I am in.  I will see birds, trees, the clouds, rain drops, rainbows…If I just open myself to it.


What Was Done to Me as a Child Is NOT Who That Child Was.
With my child’s mind, I thought that who I was as a child was directly related to my sexual abuse.  Since I had no one to tell me how precious and worthful I was, no matter what was done to me, I figured that what was done to me was who I was – shameful and terrifying!
I carried these feelings inside me, into my adulthood and continued to wonder why I had so much self-loathing and so little self-esteem.  I may have even tried to rid myself of these “demons” by trying to do away with myself.  Perhaps I could see no other way to relieve myself of these overwhelmingly painful feelings.
I have learned in recovery that those feelings of shame and terror were not at all a part of who that child was.  They were feelings passed on to me by my abuser’s shameful and terrorizing acts.
With my recovering adult thinking, I can separate the acts of my abuser from my precious and worthful child.  I do this by affirming that child and by walking with her through the grief and process of returning the shameful feelings to her abusers.  I become lighter and more joy-filled as I continue to let go of shame that does not belong to me and as I allow myself to have the feelings about what was done to me.


I Am Not Alone.
When I feel utterly alone, I remind myself that my Higher Power is with me and knows how I feel.  This concept may be hard to trust, but if I keep affirming this, I will start to believe it.
My sexual abuse experience taught me that I was alone and there would be no help or support.  I held that feeling of total aloneness and may carry it with me on a daily basis.  This is where hopelessness lives and flourishes.
I need to affirm that I am not a helpless or frightened child any longer.  I am an adult, and I have many choices.  One of those choices is to reach out to others and tell them how I feel.  I can feel my feelings about having been left so alone and helpless, and use my adult-self to reassure her of protection, and help.
My inner-child may have some difficulty with believing in a Higher Power because she may not yet have had the experience of someone “coming through” for her.  As I am able to be there for her and let others be there for her too, I nurture her need to believe in a protective, loving spiritual being.


I Don’t Have to Bear Those Unbearable Situations.
My choices were very limited when I was a child.  I couldn’t choose my parents, environment, or what happened in my environment.  Not only was I powerless, I was also helpless.  By surviving my abuse, I learned to bear terrifying situations that were abusive to my spirit and soul, emotions, and body.  I may have dissociated in order to deal with this abuse, or I might have buried memories and feelings.  I learned to bear the truly unbearable.  It was my way of surviving and keeping myself and my soul alive.
Now I am an adult and it is conceivable that I might just forget that I don’t have to do this any longer.  I may not even recognize abusive or unhealthy situations until someone gently brings my attention to them.  I am so used to numbing out, or believing that I should be “tough,” that I may stay in unhealthy situations long after I need to.  I can help my healing process by checking in with my inner-child to see if she is feeling as if she is being asked to “bear up” once again.  I can then use that knowledge along with my judgment to decide if I need to leave a situation or stay.  I can make better decisions today about what is challenging and what is hurtful if I am willing to tune in to my child-within’s feelings and exercise my mature thinking.
Making changes will be a process of trial and error and will certainly involve risk and some faith.  I will allow myself to make mistakes and know that I will grow from this natural process.  Sometimes the amount of pain I am in will help me to determine more readily what I need to do to take care of myself today.