As survivors, we often talk about how being vulnerable is scary. Opening up to someone, even a person that is trustworthy, is far from an easy task when we’ve experienced the trauma of abuse. This is next up in our Tricks of Anxiety series, learning how anxiety tries to use your vulnerability against you.
After all, the person who abused us may very well have been someone we should have been able to trust. Whether the abuse was at the hands of a parent, sibling, uncle or aunt, family friend, pastor, or whomever, that trust was immediately broken. This invalidation, especially when we were children, can often carry over into adulthood. So, even if it’s decades after the abuse, opening up about anything at all can immediately cause our guard to go up and our vulnerability radar to go berzerk.
That’s okay, there is nothing wrong with that. Broken trust takes a long time to heal, but the hope we have as survivors is that the ability to trust is something that can be repaired. We don’t have to live in fear, excluding ourselves from all types of relationships or just the outside world in general.
So, being vulnerable is not a bad thing and it is essential to healing, but it’s also where anxiety tries to grab hold and use it against us. It loves to latch on to that feeling of vulnerability and try to make us relive the helpless that we experienced during the abuse. It’s important to remember this trick because it can easily derail our healing if we aren’t conscious of it.
You can watch the Periscope Video I made on this topic, by clicking here. Be sure and join me every Sunday morning for our interactive reading on Periscope. Let’s beat Anxiety together!
Anxiety doesn’t want you to remember all the things you may have done to defend yourself, either outwardly or inwardly, because if we focus on that, anxiety begins to lose power. It would rather us focus on the helpless feeling, the vulnerable feeling, the loneliness, and use that as a way to undermine our ability to heal.
If anxiety convinces us that we did nothing, that can lead us to feeling like we can do nothing on our own behalf in the future. “You couldn’t stand up for yourself then, and you can’t stand up for yourself now”. It took me a long time to realize that.
When a child is abused, they have no chance to physically fight off an abuser who is 3 times their size. On the flip side, being groomed to not fight back can fuel those same anxious feelings of being vulnerable as an adult.
If we question that lie of anxiety and realize that even just a thought of “this isn’t right, this hurts, why is this happening”; that shows that we knew something was wrong. Using those thoughts right there validates we didn’t invite or encourage those terrible actions, even though anxiety would love for us to think otherwise.
Focusing on what we did or thought, on our own behalf, begins to take anxiety’s power away!
Anxiety will also use the vulnerable feelings that we experience in everyday life; be at work, at home, out with friends, virtually any situation where we are out of our comfort zone. If we are being real here, and that’s what we do on this blog, we can feel very uneasy in a new or unfamiliar situation. Essentially, we feel vulnerable to the unknown, and that’s a great place for anxiety to twist those feelings and try to break us down.
Case in point for me not long ago, I had to go for a week-long stint of jury duty. I was very uneasy, totally hypervigilant, and way out of my comfort zone for most of the week. I felt very vulnerable being in a sea of unfamiliar people all secluded in the same big room. Even though there was no legitimate, imminent threat to my safety or well-being, anxiety did its best to make me feel otherwise.
There were several people in the jury pool that reminded me of the teenager up the street who stole my innocence from me so long ago. That was a daily struggle, and it did cause some flashbacks during that week. Fortunately those flashbacks weren’t as strong as they used to be, but still, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either. All the healing work that I had done previously helped me to cope.
I had to question anxiety’s lies and take its power back, empowering myself in the process. It was a daily battle that I am glad to say that I ultimately did win. Anxiety may have won a few battles that week, but I emerged victorious in the end.
What situations do you find yourself in throughout daily life that cause you to feel vulnerable? Have you experienced that feeling of anxiety trying to invalidate you? As you can see I certainly have, and not just during that time in jury duty.
Anxiety is relentless, plain and simple. Especially early on in our healing journey, when we are still learning what it means to take our power back, no longer live as a victim, and live in the chains of anxiety, we are vulnerable. The good news is friends, that this is not a life sentence of feeling powerless, inadequate, and helpless, even though anxiety wants us to think that it is.
Remember, you are in the drivers’ seat of your life. You are in control. You have all the say in how you respond to anxiety’s tricks. It may not be easy at first, and it may feel like anxiety wins more often than not, but in time that will change. With dedication and a relentless pursuit of taking our power back, we begin to win more of these battles with anxiety.
Once we start doing that, the effectiveness of anxious feelings takes a back seat to the power that we took from it. The battles gets easier in time and there is hope, friends. Believe it and believe in yourself!
You can do this! I believe in you.
- Pictures courtesy of Pixabay. Social Media images created by Matt Pappas using Canva.
- Jodi Aman approves this series on Surviving My Past and the weekly Periscope Videos. I encourage you to check out her book and get your copy via her website or on Amazon.
Thanks Matt for the honest and insightful blog. I can relate totally. Trust is a huge issue with me, especially with those in authority. This often works against me because I really need to be honest and open with others in order for them to help me help myself. I often put off important issues because of fear letting a bad situation get worse. I had a bad situation oingng on for weeks but I would just panick every time I thought about it. After weeks of suffering I finally spoke to the person about it and it went far better than I imagined! I know this is because in the past I was always ridiculed, neglected, or abused however this positive experience helped me to have just a little more faith in people. Perhaps next time around I will handle it better. Every good experience helps me move along in my recovery. Ofcourse one bad one seems to seems to impact me even more on the opposite direction. ? Go figure. Anyhow, no matter, I won’t give up this time!!!
Anxiety certainly is relentless. A very honest post and you’ve managed to capture the feelings and experiences really well. x