You Have a Choice: To Heal or Not to Heal
Choose Healing To Go From Victim To Victor Secrets Every Victim or Survivor of Abuse Needs
Are you a victim or survivor of abuse? Do you need to get started the healing process, but you feel like fear is conspiring against you and sabotaging your success? With May being Mental Health Awareness Month we have dedicated the month to learn the different patterns of why abusers abuse, and today we want to address the victims and help them find healing.
In the healing process many questions arise. How do you make a choice in healing to go from victim to victor and what are the tools to help you? Well, look no further because this article will give you the steps by asking questions and finding the answers you need. Healing is a journey and process. Best of all, these seven steps will put you on the right track to knowing that you have a choice in the healing process to go from victim to victor.
Step1: Why am I a victim?
This step is important because you are acknowledging that you are or have been a victim. This is the first step. Acts of abuse happened to you, but it is not your fault. How others act and behave is never your fault. They have a choice to abuse or to not. Now the abuse can range from emotional, mental, financial, spiritual, and physical. They usually are a combination of all of these. Like we discussed in the previous blogs that are how the abuser controls us.
We endured pain, guilt, and shame while we lived in abuse and we experience this after we leave it. There is an element of guilt in our thinking. Do any of these sound familiar?
“I think I could have done more to help him", or
“If only I didn’t set him off”
“If I could have gotten home before him and cleaned up better, he wouldn’t have gotten so mad.”
Then the shame piles on.
“I was not good enough to help him.”
“I was not lovable enough.”
“ I am not worthy of being loved by others, etc.”
Next the pain sets in because you still wonder if you will ever be loved, or if you will be alone forever? In that fear, we reach back towards the abuser to give them a second, third, or even a fourth chance thinking that if I change then they will change. We blame everything and make excuses for their behavior.
“I don’t think they meant to hurt me.”
“ It was the drinking or drugs.”
“He is a really good person.”
“He might change if I do things better,” or
“If I love him better he will return to the kind of person he was the first time we started dating.”
This is the lie that we tell ourselves. This kind of thinking keeps us as victims. We must get out of our own head and find help to gain perspective, to learn what a healthy relationship looks like, to know that there is more, and you are worth more. Because, if we have actually left the relationship without healing or doing any of the work to find out our problems, we will actually attract the same type of person back into our lives. Why? Because we don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like. Victims end up reaching for the next warm body because they fear to be alone. Victims, you can choose this or you can find your way out.
Step 2: How do I leave victimhood behind me?
You leave physically with the help and support of your network. Then you have to leave the relationship of abuse behind as well. One of the first steps is sharing what happened to you. I call it sharing your story. There is a need to have the voice and to share the "then story" (then this happened, then this happened, etc) again and again. This is the first step toward healing.
Warning! Be careful in sharing the pain too many times because it can become a place to identify with and you will share in your victimhood cycle. It is as if you were in the middle of a turbulent ocean with your abuser and you find the life raft, you see the lights in the harbor and from the Lighthouse, yet instead of rowing towards it, you stay in the boat being tossed about by all the emotion that comes with identifying to being a victim. If that is all you know then that is where you will stay—pulled back into the raging sea and never finding healing.
Step 3: I am a Survivor. What are my next steps in the Healing Process?
You used your network to get out and now you are physically out. The next key is finding a network of supporters. You cannot do this work alone. There are people to help you at women’s shelters, counselors, and speaking with other women who have “moved on” and make choices not excuses. As a survivor, you with the help of the professionals, gain time to
Learn about your weaknesses; so that you know the steps it takes to make them become strengths. Don’t berate yourself because you have them. We all do. Deep breath and take the baby steps to work through it.
Learn how to set boundaries (block them on SM, avoid talking to them, if you must have witnessed with your record everything, they have not changed and won’t with you).
Learn about your strengths; all of the things you can do. Believe in them and say them daily.
Trust your gut. After all, God gave it to you so trust it.
Love yourself. Don't’ depend on others to make you happy. Bring happiness to yourself.
Self Care is not Selfish. You are worth 30 minutes every day (exercise, pamper, treat, connect spiritually). This is a lifestyle change and practice. It is crucial for your healing.
Write, write, write; Write the pain, guilt, shame, strengths, the “then story” and you will find power with the words you write. It will go up and down, but if you are authentic and honest with yourself, you will be empowered with it.
If you need medication to give you support with your mental health that is perfectly acceptable! Medication can give you that boost and support to get through the hard work of healing.
You have worth and value—you are worth it!
Remember that you have the choice to do this work or not. It is your choice and responsibility to get the help you need so that you stay out of being a victim, living in fear, and finding the confidence to live life!
Credit Mark and Shelly Thomas Photography
Step 4: Surviving Gives Me Great Identity, But I’m not Done Healing.
You have found value, worth, and identity in your surviving warrior attitude. You even start to share your story, you share your exit plan and your strength. The proud image you may have of yourself is that warrior in the arena of life with mud on your face making it every day.
Now what? Am I healed? Remember that this is a process.
Part of the process is to understand that you won't’ get closure from your abuser. Ouch. The truth is that the only closure you can get will be from yourself. Period. This is a hard thing to let go of. If you think
"I have to try to get them to apologize, or try to tell you why they hurt you, they will end up using the same manipulation tactics as before."
Part of the healing is to write a letter (or several) to them sharing all the pain, hurt, anger, everything that you have felt. BUT NEVER send it. (That will ONLY cause problems—remember this is for your closure. They can never change with or for you. That is what they have to work out on their own). Writing this letter is a way for you to say everything you want to say without consequence. Feel free to share it with someone your counselor or after it is written rip it up or even burn it.
Step 5: I Want to Thrive
For me, I had a deep sense of pride sharing that I was a survivor. But one day a good and trusted friend piped up and said,
“Aren’t you tired of surviving? Don't you want to thrive?”
It knocked the wind out of me and I had no response. All my life I had prided myself on what I could survive. I have been placed in abuse since I was around six years old being sexually molested by the neighbor. I had learned to overcome and survive that.
But there is a price of survival. You need to know that there are life and joy that you can have. There is so much more than that title of surviving. Think about a picture of the sun on the horizon. Do you know if it is setting or if it is rising? It is so hard to tell. Many times as I would survive it was hour by hour. I could not tell if I was getting better or getting worse. But if you are a Thriver you see it rising. You see possibilities. You see the light of a new day.
You no longer live in fear or the abuser or of his tactics. He might change but not with you, and it is not your job to fix anyone but yourself. You have learned to love yourself, care for others, and set healthy boundaries. You have worked with counselors, other victims of abuse, and other survivors. You are now open to live and just having joy. The deep plague of pain is gone. WOW! Congratulations on this process and journey. It took me 10 years to get to a strong place of thriving. It is wonderful.
Step 6 How do I Obtain Victory? The Price is Forgiveness
Yes. This is the ultimate price. Forgiveness is two-fold: It is forgiveness of yourself and of the abuser. The work and foundation happen during your survival stage because you have started the process to help yourself heal. So don’t look at this step and think “oh great! Now, I have to start this.” The great news is that you already have.
The steps of forgiveness are:
Focus on the feelings that stir the anger or fear and process them (you have already started this in the survival stage--we are just pointed this out again).
Acknowledge the mistake out loud or in writing (you may have already done this)
Think of the mistakes and learning experiences, not failures
Give yourself permission to process this and then put it down and walk away then when you are ready to return to it
Have the conversation with that inner critic (I call him the Shame Shadow) to help in forgiving yourself.
Write the letter to the other person in forgiving them.
Notice when you are being critical of yourself and shift it to kindness
Breath through the negative things and keep going.
Forgiveness for the acts that your abuser committed against you will not come and can’t come until all of this work has been thoroughly gone over. That is the process of healing. Time is not just weeks or months, it can be measured in years. And there is no shame in how “fast or slow” it took you to forgive. It will happen as long as you are actively working on the healing process. It takes time, but it is so worth it!
Finally when you are ready to become the victor, you have fully forgiven yourself and the abuser. You know that this is complete when the anguish, shame, and pain are no longer there. Remember that all of this is a choice. You are truly free and that freedom is the victory.