I was reminded recently, that there are always two sides to the experience of sexual abuse. There is the external side which is the event itself. Sometimes this is horrible and cruel, while other times it is confusing and a betrayal. For many people who have been abused, both women and men, the worse trauma is from the second side which is the internal experience. This is the way the trauma event impacts on our emotions and our soul, damaging our trust in life and our belief in ourself. We can’t change history but we can change the way historical events impact on us as emotional beings. We can change our perceptions and our reactions and our beliefs. I’ve never heard anyone say it was easy, but I have seen lots of people claim their life back by taking some simple steps to control their own emotional and thought experiences relating to their abuse.
The simplest starting point is to decide not to allow “over-the-top” thoughts to control our feelings. These can be all or nothing type thoughts, like “It is never safe to go outside alone”, or “It is not worth opening up to another person because they always let you down.” The human mind is really creative in finding new levels of “over the top” thoughts which sadly have the effect of destroying our sense of capability and personal power. This destroys confidence and has the end result of helping to perpetuate the emotional trauma itself.
Why not try a simple strategy, every time we have an “over the top” thought, take a moment to notice it and in our own head remind ourself that it is “over the top”. Simply doing this is the first step towards conquering it, and to start to change our perspective. The second step is to name to ourself why this particular thought or belief is “over the top”. Thoughts can continue and grow in intensity and impact if they are not challenged. We can continue to believe something which isn’t true, as long as we don’t take time to remind ourself of why it isn’t true. The third step is to focus on finding a balancing thought that we know and believe to be true but which is the opposite to the “over the top” thought. This can be hard, but this is where good friends and family can prove really helpful. Why not ask someone who knows you, what do they see in you that is the opposite to the “over the top” thought? Once we start looking for exceptions and changes to our belief system it is amazing how some of the inner issues start to shift and transform.
One of the challenging issues that emerges is that as we start to challenge our inner thoughts which increase our fear and anxious reactions, it can trigger a negative set of emotional reactions from deep inside us. We remind ourself that life isn’t so unsafe, and it is as if an inner voice suddenly whispers in our ear that we are stupid or useless or some other demeaning self-criticism. This is the way the mind has to try and stay in the same place. It is helpful to take some time to notice that initial spontaneous response to trying to balance out our negative inner voice and the “over the top” thoughts. Again we can remind ourself that this is the way an inner part is scared of change, and then quietly insist to ourself that regardless of what happens we are going to claim back our life. Finally, spend a few moments allowing ourself to dream about our future self, the self we want to become as we earn back our healed self.