Often, so often, I am asked to talk about the challenges and emotions raised when one is a victim of abuse (sexual, emotional and/or physical). I am seldom asked what can be done about it; how does a person turn this event (or more likely series of events) into a blessing. The very absence of this request is the problem.
Today we are faced with a culture that is exploding in bullets, fists and cyber attacks. Unfortunately, being abused is contagious. We are creatures that copy. We even have neurons especially designed to do just that.
So, yes I was abused, and yes I then chose to put people in my life that would continue this abuse… until I didn’t anymore.
Why? And how do we change that?
First, understand that feeling afraid, repulsed, guilty, shamed, or simply nervous, is a louder experience than calm and quiet, and as such it imprints us with the people and relationships connected to these feelings.
Additionally, during times like this we are processing internally and available to be manipulated, similar to the state one is in during hypnosis. In this way we can honestly say that fear mongering, by society and families and individuals, creates a hypnotic trance that lays the foundations for future behaviors and emotions.
When your therapeutic hypnotist does this, his intention is to release you from the imprints created by society. When the media and your abusers do it, they wish to engage your negative response system: because that one is more tangibly felt and quickly responded to.
What can you do to erase the imprint?
Neurofeedback, purposeful hypnosis, cognitive behavior therapy and self-realization.
That last one is available to everyone.
Allow me to walk you through one of my own self-realization transitions.
When I felt intense fear I also felt intense pleasure in my groin. This was confusing. No one told me that our bodies are set up to respond in this way. So I thought I was twisted. Broken.
And I liked it.
These feelings were imprinted with beliefs as my mother beat me while calling me a slut and a whore. My father/perpetrator countered these actions by sharing words of love and only the occasional beating. In my opinion, the ones I truly deserved. I then associated being a slut who was afraid for her life with true love.
Thus, when I became an adult I looked for this intensity in sex and relationships. I believed myself broken because I had heard that abuse is perpetuated and recreated by the abused. So I policed myself for this and made sure I was sweet, loving and unforgiving of abuse.
Nobody told me I would be broken in a different way.
Nobody explained that my need for this intensity would lead to picking someone abusive. I believed I was the bad one so I assumed everyone else was good. I spent a lot of time trying to vindicate myself by doing good work and making a difference in the world. Thus, I was policing myself and my behavior, not my husband’s.
When my daughter was thirteen her stepfather molested her. He was charged, plead guilty and did one night in jail.
I went to group therapy and learned the missing piece.
I learned that intensity is not the definition of love, and looking for it will bring wolves to your door.
I shared what I learned with my daughter who also went to therapy. Those two days of therapy started our healing but we would have to be the ones that finished the job.
We were the ones that finished the job.
My daughter had a good model for love. Something I never had. So she was faster in her healing work.
Right after being molested she had an abusive relationship. I intercepted it with great force and manipulation. She then changed her opinion on the definition of love. In her words, “First I thought, ‘I guess this is what relationships are.’ But then once you helped me out of the situation I shifted to ‘Phew! I never want to do that again.’ I looked to you for a model of love. You were constant. You were supportive, gentle, attentive, joyful, loaded with listening and laughing, hand holding and respect. You gave me a new vision.” She has now been very happily married for fifteen years.
My adopted special needs children weren’t as quick to learn what healthy feels like because everywhere they turned in the education system they were taught to see themselves as broken. So they perceived themselves that way and, regardless of my influence, struggled dramatically with relationships in their early adult years. I do not believe this is because they were on the spectrum of autism. I believe it is because they were presented with a broken self-image. Eventually, slowly but surely, they have learned to have either a healthy relationship or no relationship. And that is a step in the right direction.
To prevent abuse, to know what to do to help your children, the answer is ‘talk’. I don’t just mean the private parent child talk. That was enough to get my daughter to share what happened but not enough to prevent the abuse. We have to go bigger with our discussions.
So talk everywhere and create group awareness. Talk amongst family, talk amongst neighbors and relatives, talk, talk, talk, revise, revise, revise, every step of your learning. Share what you know. Share what you see. And make sure everybody has this conversation as a matter of course and in the presence of each other. Say “If daddy or mommy ever touches you in an uncomfortable way tell us all.” And say it together. So that if it has happened the child can say “Well (s)he did.” Being together and being clear closes the confusion the child has because that is part of the explanation. Include: “Don’t worry, all people who do this lie and say bad things will happen if you tell. It’s not true, bad things happen if you don’t.” Being this clear in a community of like-minded people makes the predators go somewhere else.
And if we all do this there will be nowhere else to go.
And if there is nowhere else to go the predators will be influenced by what we are saying and they in turn will change as well.
And that is why I went from helping and teaching only my children, to speaking out globally. It is my way of making us all safer.
Since then I have continued to do “good work” in the world. I have corrected my interpretation of love and I have raised children with mostly healthy relationships. Remember, these are even children who were adopted from abuse and came with many cognitive challenges. Their mental health accomplishments are heroic.
So the answer is: Yes, you can get better. But only when you know the whole story.
So learn, speak out, share, ask and then redesign the world we live in with me. That is how I helped my children redesign theirs. I taught what I learned the moment I learned it and apologized for any mistakes I made, explained why, and we made a new plan. My children learned that learning and revising is a good thing. So though I was only a few steps ahead of my children I never held back on admitting my mistakes or pretended I was infallible. I just learned and changed and shared over and over again. This was not confusing to them because, though the answers changed, our trajectory of attaining emotional health and physical safety remained the same. They recognized the path as we figured out the details.
You must share it all. Even your mistakes.
Because as long as we only tell half truths we will stay half broken, and that is actually worse than wholly broken.
This is because the wholly broken are obvious. They are easy to imprison and prevent. The half-broken are buried insidiously amongst us, wreaking havoc and moving our bar of acceptance to include cruelty and sexual perversions.
The blessing only comes when you insist upon it. So insist.
But understand how we as humans function. We are copiers.
So speaking out alone is not enough. You need a learning to share, a plan to enact. And if you have become a perpetrator you need a compensation to create. You need to own it, come what may.
You see, our problems are perpetuated when all we do is cry out and share stories about all the things that happened to us. That is like planting seeds for others to follow. So speak out while seeking a correction.
We need honesty, forgiveness without tolerance, and insistence on change to recreate the world.