By Deb Avery
For those of us who have felt the pain and despair of being abused, betrayed or injured, whether mentally or physically, there is a part of us which we think will never heal.
Sometimes we think we are healing, only to find out that we have merely covered our wounds with the armor of resentment, bitterness and fear. And we sometimes close our hearts, vowing never to be used or abused ever again.
Then, somewhere down the line, usually during a time when we are feeling brave and strong because of our healed wounds and armor, the cracks begin to appear. We frantically begin trying to fill in these fractures with whatever we can find; usually more of what we originally made them, and adding a little bit of self-pity or blame.
This however, is merely a temporary fix. Soon the fractures will spiderweb, growing larger until they become large enough to see the wounds—still unhealed—underneath it all. Seeing and feeling these still tender, raw and painful wounds allow us to realize that no amount of armor will allow them to heal. We must strip off every layer, every piece of it, painfully prizing loose those that have adhered due to being in place for so long, finally exposing our wounds to the light of day. Sometimes this is their first time to be totally uncovered.
There we stand, naked, raw and bleeding. We feel exposed, vulnerable and afraid. But the painful truth is, that is exactly where we need to be.
After all we’ve been through we feel defeated, lost and ready to surrender. And surrender we must, but not to defeat, not to bitterness, anger or despair. We need to surrender to the truth—to what is—to accept the situation for what it truly is; a process of healing our long buried wounds.
The first thing we need to do is let go of all blame.
Believe me, I know how difficult that can be. I’ve been there. I’ve felt the anger and resentment of being manipulated, used and abused. But I also know that the feelings of shame, guilt and self-blame are always hiding just beneath the anger and resentment. Those feelings must be gently extracted, examined and dealt with.
It is difficult to accept the fact that maybe, through feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem and unworthiness, that we found ourselves in situations that were destructive for us. It’s difficult to look beyond the pain we have endured and realize that maybe because of childhood trauma, a lack of sufficient nurturing, and incidents from our past, just maybe we found ourselves locked in our own cages with the key buried deep inside of us.
In all relationships where there is domestic abuse, loving others more than we love ourselves, or always putting the needs of another before our own even when that may cause us harm in some way, we are reinforcing all those hidden beliefs and judgments we have about ourselves. By constantly reinforcing them, we give them strength, fortitude and validity. It is imperative that we undercover the feelings and the reasons for these feelings.
The question I guess I asked myself more than any other was this: Why did I allow things to go on for as long as they did?
This is a very tough question and it usually has multifaceted answers. And the process and revelations may shatter our world even more than the actual events from which we emerged.
But it is through this process—these revelations—that we reach the root of all that has motivated and sustained us through the years. The point of the whole process is not to place more blame, but to simply understand the reasons why we make the choices that we do in our lives.
We must be prepared to cleanse our wounds with love and compassion without blaming the one(s) responsible for their making. They too had their own wounds. This is not to absolve them from all responsibility, it is simply to see the whole situation through eyes of understanding, compassion and love. It is so necessary for our own healing.
How can we forgive the people who have caused us so much suffering? I think the simplest answer to this question is, because we must. We cannot move on with our lives when we carry resentment, anger and bitterness in our hearts. Doing so creates within us the possibility of acting out of those intense emotions, thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse, neglect and fear.
By simply accepting the situations in life that have brought us to this point in time, to the person we are at this point, we open our hearts and minds to all the healing and love that we have to offer ourselves and others. By choosing to remain with intense negative feelings, we close our hearts and cause not only our own suffering, but that of others as well.
By not choosing the ‘victim mentality,’ and by learning to accept, forgive and move on, we are freeing ourselves from the cage we have been living in for so long. This in no way means that it was our fault or that we wanted these things to happen to us—far from it. It simply allows us to turn the key that was always within us, and set ourselves free.
It is only through self-love, self-forgiveness and self-compassion that we find the ability to love, have compassion for, and to forgive others.
It all begins within each of us. We are not victims.
We are warriors of love and compassion.
Editor: Dana Gornall