This following was inspired after a very humbling, deep, dive into some specific events of the childhood sexual abuse that I suffered.
I was asked to share anything that came to mind about the abuse events, or the abuser himself. Anything at all. I was a bit taken back initially, trying to figure out what I felt comfortable talking about.
I began by sharing some details about the events that led up the start of the abuse. For example, memories of what he looked like, the type of clothes that he wore, the color comb he always carried in his back right jean pocket, the smells around his house and shed, etc.
As I was recalling those thoughts, more about the specific acts began to come to my mind as well. The more I shared, the more I could feel the self-shame starting to really flare up.
The more vulnerable I got, the more I wanted to shame myself. I had to literally bite my tongue a few times to make sure that I stayed on course and share as much as I could before I just had to stop. It became overwhelming much quicker than I anticipated.
After about 10 minutes of me continuously talking, I could sense that I needed to receive some compassion. I felt like I needed some validation.
It should be easier for me to receive that compassion. Did you catch that shaming right there? Using the world “should” in reference to ourselves, is shaming. We are telling ourselves we should have done something and shaming ourselves for not having done it.
Receiving compassion is important to healing, if we can’t receive compassion and love, we can remain all kinds of stuck in our recovery.
Compassion is validating, it’s encouraging, it’s soothing to our broken hearts and minds.
When someone genuinely offers compassion, it lets us know that they care.
That is so important because for so many survivors, we didn’t have people that cared.
There was no-one that cared enough to step up and save us, to come to our rescue. Nobody showed us the compassion we needed.
As children we would have openly received it and embraced that compassion if it was available to us. As adults, if we can openly receive and embrace it in the same way, think about how good that would feel!
If we can stop blaming ourselves and shaming ourselves long enough to embrace some true compassion, it can have a ripple effect on our entire being. The hardest part though is doing receiving it the first time; getting past that initial desire to reject compassion in favor shaming and minimizing ourselves.
I can tell you from firsthand experience that it does get a little easier each time. Getting used to someone showing us kindness gives us a boost of confidence, healing energy, and a sense of self-worth.
If someone cares enough about us to show us understanding, empathy, and compassion, then we must mean something to them.
Conversely, if we let the Guilty Gremlin fight his way back into our minds and push back the support because we think we don’t deserve it, we are hurting ourselves. We are also hurting the person who is trying to help us.
I know it’s hard to not feel shame for what we experienced, to not feel like we are worthless, broken, and not capable of things that others are. Or that we think they are.
It’s a constant battle of “how bad do you want to heal”? How sick and tired are you of feeling sick and tired? How much hard work are you willing to put in, part of which is allowing yourself to be vulnerable so you can receive support?
Healing is up to us, and if we are going to be proactive and seek out help and support, then it’s our job to receive it and embrace it. We have to believe we are worth the help we are seeking out. Otherwise what’s the point of trying to heal in the first place?
It doesn’t happen overnight; trust me I totally get it. There is no timetable, but the important thing is that we are open to the possibility that someday it might be OK for us to feel the way that we want to feel.
That’s all it takes, to believe we are worth receiving validation, encouragement, and support. Doing that can keep us heading down the path towards thriving and empowerment.
When get to that thriving and empowerment stage of your healing journey, you can pass your support, compassion, and encouragement along to someone who needs it. Some who is where you were or maybe are at right now.
This post is part I of a two part series on Shame and the survivor. Part II will posted up soon and then linked here.
image courtesy of www.pixelstalk.net/
“There was no-one that cared enough to step up and save us, to come to our rescue. Nobody showed us the compassion we needed.”
Yep, I thought the same thing. To find people who truly care is like finding a diamond. I’ve experienced far too many that say they care only to give me the “don’t bother me – you should be healed by now” look.
We do deserve much more than we often allow ourselves to receive. It was entrenched in our young minds, but now is something we can choose to re-create and let the good stuff in to our lives now.
This post is validating, compassionate and empowering. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your journey with this community as we all experience our own * .* lightbulb moment * . * This has been a big one for myself, as well as so many of my colleagues and clients… –>”…the important thing is that we are open to the possibility that someday it might be OK for us to feel the way that we want to feel…” <–
Thank you Athena, for your validation and encouragement. Your friendship and wisdom continues to be a driving force of calm and peace in my recovery journey.
20+ years of compassion and support that I will never stop giving you. And will never stop telling you how proud I am of you…How amazing you are. We have different survivor scenarios…But you will never know how much you truly helped me. Saved me. Still saving me. Thank you. 🙂
Thank you Charlie, for your friendship to me for so long. You’ve been a great friend and I’m glad to have you in my corner. 🙂
Even after decades of healing work, even as I now identify more as a thrivor than a survivor, even after completing a memoir about my healing journey, to this day I still have to work hard at receiving compassion and understanding when it is offered to me. I still have to remind myself sometimes that vulnerability is no longer a dangerous attribute, but rather a super-power that allows me to heal and thrive. Just recently I was brought to sobbing tears by the words of someone I respect greatly (not a survivor) who read my manuscript and said, “it is a very moving story: horrifying, inspiring, and in the end life affirming and a real testimony to your strength and character.” Why to this day, am I still completely floored by that kind of validation, encouragement and compassion? I aspire to be able to receive words like that and say in response, “Damn straight!” with joy and pride and self-compassion. You are right Matt, that it gets easier with practice. With each time I share my story and receive positive feedback like that, my old reflexive minimizing and stoicism melt away drip by drip. Even after all these years and all this work, one of my favorite and most healing affirmations is still: It is safe to feel.
At night it’s difficult for me to sleep because my head replays loops of all my shameful experiences over and over. During the day I usually feel fine.
I’m just the opposite, I have more replays during the day and evening than I do at night. I still have problems sleeping at times, just like any other survivor, but normally my brain is so tired it just shuts down and says I’ve had enough.
This is something I experienced today at my therapist’s office. She is amazingly compassionate and kind. However, when I go, like you said, deep into the abuse, the shame is so heavy….that sometimes, I am unable to accept the compassion and kindness. Today she hugged me and said, “I have so much respect for you…” To which I replied, “no” She said, “I am allowed to respect you for what you have been through and how you are helping others….” It is hard. Healing is hard… but we are strong.
You are strong Dawn, that is so clear. All that you have endured has not broken you and I’m so glad that you are here sharing your story.
Shame is a daily battle for me, and healing is hard..but knowing there are amazing survivors out like you always helps me get through the days. Trying to accept love and compassion, and give myself a break…the struggle is so real but we have to keep knowing we are worth it every day!
Keep rockin your journey friend!
Man this is one of the best articles I read Thank you, 🙂
I’m so glad that you found it helpful. Always remember, you are worth receiving all of the compassion and support possible! 🙂