The final tool not to be overlooked:
YOU ARE A SURVIVOR
This is more vital than you may imagine, at this point, but you need to believe that it is true. Consider this: You’ve already survived through the worst of what has happened. You have developed coping skills, however imperfect, and now, you are determined to make your life better.
You have already made the most important choice: To change, to be better than what you were taught you were capable of being, to not pass on the abuse — or, if you have passed it on, to admit the past was wrong, and to make it right, or as right as it is possible.
Just because you’re born into an asylum doesn’t mean you have to stay there.
Remember that negative tape I talked about? The one that runs along the line of “You’re a horrible person. Why would anyone love you? You’re stupid. You’re ugly. You’re rotten. There’s nothing good about you.” Yeah, that one.
Last year, the tape was still running strong. I fought it. I tried to find ways to turn it off and change it. I practiced all those handy-dandy positive affirmations. I tried singing a favorite hymn. I tried thinking of something else. I tried re-writing it. No matter how I twist the words, the old ones would snap back into place more clearly and surely than a rubber band twisted and then released. It’s difficult to change the negative words to positive words, if you still feel like the positive words are lies. Nothing helped. It only grew louder, more insistent.
Earlier this year, I stopped fighting. Yes, you read that correctly. I stopped fighting. I let it come. I let it play. I accepted it. I no longer tried to change it. I did not try to contradict it or ignore it. I simply allowed it to play without any kind of confrontation, whatsoever.
Before you wonder if I’m crazy, let me add one important thing. I accepted it, unconditionally, for a while. Then I added a tiny little tag line:
“If it makes you feel better to say so.”
It wasn’t long before I was able to reduce that to:
Then I changed my response to:
“Can’t you come up with anything else?”
Then it was:
“Come on! I know you can come up with worse.”
It’s a lot of work trying to dig up every flaw and error. It also becomes really boring, really fast.
Then I’d let the tape play while I counted my blessings. Sometimes the tape would win, but more and more the counting blessings were gaining strength, and they were more interesting.
Then I noticed I hadn’t heard the tape in a while. When it tried to pop up, I found myself rolling my eyes, and thinking, “You again? Have you added anything new? No? Then I already know everything on the list.”
You know what, I haven’t heard that nasty little tape in a really long time. I don’t miss it.
(Since I wrote this — a while ago — the tape has been troublesome, but I’ve narrowed it down to “You’re stupid” and “You aren’t loveable.” Those were my earliest lessons. I figure they’ll take the longest to unlearn.)
As a quick side note: It pops up when I’m not feeling well, but it still doesn’t stay long, and never has time to run the full length before my thoughts turn elsewhere.
I’m not perfect. I know this. No one needs to tell me. Really. The world’s perception of perfection is not healthy, and all too often it is usually a standard set by someone else who is not perfect either. God and Christ are obvious exceptions, but their idea of perfection isn’t what I usually run into in the world. In the Bible translation of “Be ye therefore perfect,” from the Aramaic, which is what Christ would have spoken, ‘perfect’ means complete, or finished.
I grew up being told in church that I was a child of God, but it didn’t really mean anything beyond the words. I mean, everyone is a child of God! Some have accepted Christ and some have not, but the potential to accept Him is there — that choice is there even for my abusers.
So if you think accepting that you are a precious child of God and that He loves you is difficult, here’s more tough news: From here on, it only gets harder, because now the work begins. But it’s worth it.
The important thing to acknowledge is that you’ve started. And you may have to start hundreds of thousands of times, which is fine, as long as you never quit. Take breaks. Think things through. Mull things over, but always start again.
As you learn, you’ll need to be re-thinking things anyway. Things that used to fit won’t anymore, and readjusting isn’t easy. But it is possible. You’ve already survived the abuse. Now it’s time to learn to thrive in spite of it. And it is a learning process. It doesn’t magically happen. You have it within you to figure it out and choose a life of worth for yourself, because you are of worth.
Being a survivor, you’re at a disadvantage. There are things you should have learned but didn’t, and it doesn’t get any easier as time goes by. You’re smart. You’re capable. You’ve made it this far.
Start, today. Even if you fall on your face and have to start over again, tomorrow. Because one of these days, you’ll realize that you’re a whole lot farther along than you imagined possible. Don’t forget to look back, once in a while, not in longing or rehashing, but simply to see how far you’ve come.
Acknowledging that God didn’t send you here to fail — and its corollary, that He must have prepared you with what you needed — is not easy.
So here’s the easy part: You don’t really need to create the person you want to be because you already are that person. Everything you are — all your potential — is right there, inside, waiting. Waiting for you to finally recognize it. Set yourself free, and utilize it. No one can do the work for you. God is there to unlock the shackles with the key, but you have to turn to Him. It starts with you deciding that you are a project worthy of your time, energy, effort, and love. Pick up a tool and start working. There’s an amazing piece of Art waiting to be revealed: You.
© 2010 The Project: The Tools I Wish I’d Known About Sooner / My Abuse Survivor’s Basic Toolkit by Judy