What I have learned that has been the most transformative, as a survivor and while working on healing from child sexual abuse, is:
I’ve tried hundreds of things during my process of healing from childhood abuse and this is the one thing that works the best for me; being calm and assertive.
I’ve tried meditating. I’ve tried cognitive therapy. I’ve tried Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I’ve tried over a decade of therapy. I’ve tried refuting the false cognitive beliefs, which was helpful, but not much. I’ve tried increasing my self-love and eliminating self-loathing and reducing self-hatred and that was good, but I always believed that I had to have a reason to love myself and really had trouble finding one. I would remind myself that other inners in the multiple system all loved me and that they loved me for a reason. Even after all that I was still being bullied and emotionally abused by bullies and abusers almost each time that I went out in public. As a consequence I never felt safe. Safety was an important element to healing.
What I ended up with was a long list of things that didn’t work, a long list of things that mostly didn’t work and a long list of things that triggered me and made things worse. I guess this was a good thing, because it helped me to look elsewhere with an eye to changing things around to suit me and our multiple system. If something doesn’t fit, no shame should be attached, and I should feel free to learn my valuable lesson and move on to trying something else.
What I learned from therapy and from all the things that I tried that were not very effective, helpful or healing was:
The mindset that you had to work from the inner experience of self outward. All that assault on the inner self and my personal beliefs was very bruising. I didn’t feel healed from it, more like beleaguered.
What I’ve found the most helpful, healing and transformative has been exactly the opposite.
What I’ve learned is that I can figure out what is best for me; that I am the best person to do that. What I have learned is that my mind and my heart, my self and selves, that together we can make the best decisions about life and healing and that other ideas are only a suggestion, a stepping stone to what works best for me, for us.
I had heard of the fake it till you make it philosophy. I didn’t find that easy, firstly you are faking something, not being, not doing, just faking. One of the hallmarks of my life is a strong desire to live a life of integrity, honesty, and my own truth. So faking of any kind did not sit well with my soul or us. I didn’t think that it felt right to other survivors either.
What has worked for me is:
I got this idea from Ceasar Millan, The Dog Whisperer. I know I have written about this process a lot on the blog. For me it has been the key. I would start on the bike rides with doggie with the plan of being calm and assertive. Each time a challenge came along, a person, another dog, a squirrel, a car driving too close or too fast; I would feel my fear spike. I would get off the bike, get the doggie sitting down and obeying me and then calm down once again.
Calm and assertive was not a place I found within me. It was a state of mind that I presented to my mind and my body. It wasn’t something that I had to meditate into. It wasn’t something that I spent a lot of time or money on, it was something that I did by myself and for myself. It was something that I did. It wasn’t something that I wore, it was something that I put into my mind and into my body, into all my cells, I think something I did with the force of my will. Something that changed my energy, my vibe. It didn’t have anything to do with how much I loved myself or how much I hated myself or how someone else was treated me or loved me or didn’t love me. Sometimes it didn’t last long, a block or two. Then I got the opportunity to do it again; over and over.
At first I only did it while I was on the bike rides with doggie. And then I found myself doing it more and more in my daily life, even at times doing calm and assertive when I wasn’t thinking about it. What I figured out was that after a while it was easier and that after doing calm and assertive for a while my body and mind would start doing it all by itself, they must liked being in that state of mind. I started seeing myself speak assertively back to others without thinking about it. I’m sure that others who were not used to me speaking up like that didn’t like it or appreciate it, but really I believed they would have to just get used to it.
What I’ve found is that I do calm and assertive a lot. It has helped increase my self-esteem and self-love. The other way of increasing those didn’t work well or much for me, so I am tremendously happy that I have found another way of working on them by being.
What I’ve learned is that all of us are different and things that work for someone else might not work for another. There is no shame in that. We all deserve to have a self-designed healing path. Indeed it is what we all find in the end.