I was involved in a situation recently where I observed a woman being verbally abused by another woman in a professional setting. I know these women well enough, especially the abusive one, long enough to know this is not the first time this happened, and it’s probably not the last. They are stuck in a pattern where the abusive woman is completely blind to the effects of her behavior, while the other woman is blind to the fact that by not putting a stop to it right away, she has effectively given permission to the abuser to do it time and again. The daughter of the abused woman was kind enough to speak with me about the situation when I flagged what was happening as inappropriate and as verbal abuse. We discussed ideas on how to help situation. Her daughter was willing to confront the abuser on her mother’s behalf, which made me realize something… it’s not about someone confronting the abuser, or even the abuser leaving or changing. It is about the victim becoming empowered and changing their pattern, because if they don’t change it, then they are just leaving space and giving permission for the next abuser to come into their life and just hurt them all over again.
Over the years of dealing with verbal abuse I found that a feeling of empowerment can make a huge difference in my situation. Although moving away from my dad has been an important step in my healing (a VERY important step!!!), that in and of itself did not stop his abuse. It was my standing up to him that helped ME feel empowered.. it helped ME change, and not only did it stop him from abusing me so much, but it also keeps me safe from others who are stuck in those same sick patterns. It just helped me no longer be a puzzle piece that fits the abusive piece of those with those tendencies.
It does take two to tango, doesn’t it? So although the abuser has their issues, I realized that I as a victim also have mine, and it is important to address them because the world won’t stop hurting me unless I stop giving it permission to.
One place where I am learning about this is with a recovery group called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA). Although the group has the word Alcoholics in it, it’s not limited to people who grew up in households where alcohol was present. It applies to all families who had any sort of dysfunction like verbal abuse, narcissism, perfectionism, overly critical parents, other substance abuse issues, under-earning, and so on.
Hello all, a reader recently pointed out to me that I haven’t written since my visit with the healer Doña Leova. In my response to the comment I realized that I guess I’ve “let it go” since seeing her and haven’t felt the need to write as much. But I wanted to get back to it because I feel like maybe now is exactly the time I should be writing… to share with those who are struggling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So yes, my visit with Donna was one piece of my healing puzzle, but there are so many more. I wanted to share what inspires me to continue to heal from a verbally and sometimes physically abusive childhood:
- My first step in healing was to become aware of what was going on and educate myself. These resources helped me. What I learned from these books is that my dad is in complete denial about his problem and therefore feels completely justified in his actions. Therefore, no amount of arguing with him will get him to see the truth, because he is too invested in his own mental image of himself and his own sense of “reality.” So once I confronted him, I felt better about myself and my own sense of power, but it did nothing to make him see the truth. Therefore, I expressed to him in my family intervention for him that if he begins to talk to me in a disrespectful manner, I will not respond to him, and I will leave. I said this several times, very clearly, so that he definitely heard me. And then from that point on, I have stuck to that. I simply get up, and walk away. No conversation needed. The other thing I learned is that anger is a chemical reaction in the brain that one can become addicted to. As is drama. So when I hear him staying things that are pressing my buttons, I take the high route and do not react. I can almost sense that he is looking for a way to elicit a reaciton to get attention. So I simply ignore it, and do not react. This in and of itself has allowed us to get over so much drama in our relationship.
- My next step was to remove myself from the situation. I moved out. It’s been huge. It’s not the end of it – I am still healing, and he is still doing his thing – but it is an important step in protecting myself on a day to day basis.
- Finding support was huge. I found a 12 step group called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA), that has helped me TREMENDOUSLY. The name is a bit limiting because it’s not just for people who grew up with alcoholic parents. It is also for people who grew up with any dysfunction in their homes like verbal abuse, any addictions, perfectionism, criticism, etc. The beauty of this program for me is that it looks at the whole family including several generations and really gives you a chance to look at the big picture. When we do that, we are able to not just heal and forgive ourselves, but we can also choose to put down the baggage of blame and shame that has been passed down from generation to generation. Doing so, helped me understand why my dad ended up the way he did, and it helped me forgive him.
- Note on forgiveness: it’s not for the other person, it’s for you. It’s a way of putting down that suitcase of issues you’ve been carrying all your life and just letting it go.
- Meditation is my number one healing tool. I spent a lot of time learning about child brain development and learned that abuse cases the brain to physically be different than that of children who were not abused. Meditation heals that. Physically. It repairs it. And it is never too late to begin. Realizing that and implementing a daily practice of meditation has been THE KEY to my healing.
- Kundalini Yoga is a tool I also appreciate and use in my daily life. It’s not like most hatha yoga classes you might take in a gym or yoga studio. It includes a lot of cardio and meditation with chanting and mantras to physically break through the energetic barriers in my body that have been keeping the abuse stuck in my system. I feel like it’s really helping me.
- Going gluten and dairy free has also been a tremendous help for my brain. There’s are a lot of books about the stomach/brain connection and how dairy and gluten can affect thinking and lead to depression. When I am clear, I am stronger and feel more empowered. When I am empowered, an abuser has no way to attack me.
All of these healing approaches have one thing in common: they put the focus on me, and naturally shift the focus off the abuser. As sick as it may sound, my dad was abusing me in order to get attention. It was negative, but still attention, and he is so hurt that this was better than nothing. By changing myself, I have shifted that attention to my own healing, giving him nothing to hang on to, so our relationship has naturally shifted. I personally didn’t want to cut ties with my dad. I want to heal and I want to forgive him. My wish for him is to heal too. Our relationship has transformed in the recent years and I am very thankful for it.
My healing journey continues. I have become very aware of the fear I feel around men in general. A trauma block of sorts. I am going to attend a healing session with this healer:
Doña Leova is a Traditional Healer from the Nahuatl Indian nation of Puebla, Mexico. Her work is based in a cosmology of Healing that is known as the “Tradition of the Grandmothers”….. named because historically, one grandmother would share the practice with one granddaughter who would then go on to become the next practitioner.
Within her Community she is renowned as a Medicine Women and in her tradition a “Limpia” (or inner cleansing) is a form in which using a combination of body-work, massage, prayer and the intention of the healer and the client the echo of old pains, traumas, fears and tendencies that no longer serve the client can be released and cleared. Generally people feel lighter, more balanced, open and profoundly relaxed following a treatment.
Her work is deep…. and filled with Kindness…..
If you have success stories on healing from trauma from verbal abuse, please feel free to share.
I just listened to a very inspiring piece on NPR about a rehabilitation program for women who have suffered the trauma of human sexual trafficking, prostitution and associated drug addictions. Wow, this made my heart soar. Thank you Kathryn Griffin-Townsend. Visit: http://wevebeentheredonethat.org.
From their website:
We’ve Been There Done That is a non-profit organization started by Kathryn Griffin-Townsend with a goal to rehabilitate women who have lived through sex trafficking, prostitution, and associated drug addiction. A former cocaine addict and prostitute, Kathryn Griffin-Townsend credits rehabilitation programs with changing her life. Kathryn has been featured in The Houston Chronicle, ABC News and most recently, The Steve Wilkos Show for her unabashed, toughlove, tell-it-like-it-is style that strikes a chord with the women she helps. We’ve Been There Done That has been serving the Houston community for almost a decade, having helped over 1,000 women. The program not only helps to rehabilitate, but also to reintegrate them into society and has the highest success rate of former prostitues not going back to the life. The outreach program has garnered so much praise, both locally and nationally, that their resources lag behind the number of women who need help. To that end, We’ve Been There Done That is always accepting donations to assist.
I’ve had a tough week. Really, I’ve had a few tough weeks, but today I’m just feeling like its all catching up with me. I am so thankful though for all I have, for all the people I love who are in my life. A gratitude list is always helpful for me when I feel a need to tune in and reset. I have prayer bleeds around my neck… Been praying for days for a friend’s life to be spared… please God. Adele, MIKA and Lennon keep me company on Pandora, as does my faithful dog.
It’s amazing to look back on my life and the many dark moments that have kept me prisoner of pain. Today, although a certain melancholy is present, along with just a feeling of exhaustion, there is also a sense of compassion in my heart. I overrate today… And I was conscious of it. I knew no relief would come from that extra macaroon though. And that consciousness made all the difference. That and choosing to not hate myself after. Instead I choose to acknowledge that I’ve been under a lot of stress and I need to rest and take good care. Even if that care comes in the form of coconuts goodness, that’s ok. Some part of my being needed that nutrient today, so I choose to trust that. I trust that my body knows what it’s doing, what it needs. Indeed, trusting is akin to compassion.
So on today’s gratitude list: my capacity to feel compassion for me. Thank You God.
My dear friends, I want to invite you all today to a warm and beautiful place. It is the place within each of us… Our souls’ home. Although this is the sweetest place to be, I am saddened by how few of us have the key to the door that leads there. In the simplest terms, all we need to get there is the complete acceptance of who we are, and the willingness to just be who we are.
But unfortunately, apparently only 2% of women consider themselves beautiful. That’s 98% of us who waste our precious life force energy on feeling anxious about our noses, weigh, or the hair on our toes! (These are actual examples of conversations I’ve had with women!) It’s hard to believe that this would be the case, especially considering how smart and well educated these fellow women are. In effect it seems that no amount of education in our patriarchal system actually makes us immune to the self-hate we are brainwashed to adopt into our psyches.
So how did I break through the brainwashing? It’s a little bit like finally seeing the Matrix we live in. The messages to hate ourselves are everywhere, and are so normalized, we don’t even notice them. But I finally saw through it all after learning about the nature of abuse I’ve had to deal with in my family of origin. It finally got so intense that I finally had to seek out information about it. And you know what I learned? It’s that none of the horrible stuff had ANYTHING to do with me! It was all the another person’s pain that they were using me as a garbage dump for. Well, that made me see the bigger patterns in our society. In effect, none of the stuff the media suggests has anything to do with me personally. It’s all just a way to make money, because if they can keep you insecure, they can keep you spending that hard earned cash. It all became so clear for me. There is such parallel between the personal self-hatred, the abuse in my family, and the general self-hatred sold to us in the media. It is all connected and it is all normalized so we don’t even realize it is happening.
But I did realize, and I am no longer willing to hate myself for the benefit of others. I’ve adopted a policy of radical self-acceptance. I consider myself a soul activist. The change has taken place, there is no going back. I invite you to join me on this journey and I welcome you back home.
As a survivor of a spectrum of personal boundary trespasses, I’ve had a challenging time with developing a healthy sense of self. Part of the way this has manifested for me is an unhealthy body image, and a preoccupation with beauty (and my perceived lack of it). It was a truly challenging mindset to grow up with. As a young woman I have not been able to feel safe in a relationship or trust men to find me beautiful because I did not think I was.
But something remarkable happened over the last few weeks. First of all a recent hypnotherapy session allowed me to tune into my inner child and find out that all I ever needed was to feel safe. Since it was not a feeling I was accustomed to at home with my own father, it was hard to allow myself to trust complete strangers to accept me for who I was. So I realized that the thought that I was not beautiful was actually just a self-defense mechanism my mind created at a young age to keep the bad away. Continue reading