Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Best Words

My healing journey was slow and painful (or so it seems to me) and part of that may be because I live in a culture that expects miracle makeovers. I worked at my healing. I read everything I could find on the topic. I attended conferences where they had breakout groups to deal with sexual issues. I connected on the Internet with men all over the country and a few overseas. I joined a small group of men—I was the only admitted survivor—and the other five men affirmed me and loved me.

Nearly three years later, my wife and I were with another couple and Shirley said, “I don’t know Cec anymore. He used to be predictable, but he’s changed so much. It’s like having a different husband.” She held my hand, smiled at me, and said, “And I love the new man even more.”

Those were the most affirming words I heard during my healing journey. The woman with whom I lived every day saw and affirmed the difference.

She asserted what I had begun to feel.

We all need the outside witness—someone else to notice and appreciate the change. When that happens, we’re able to move farther and faster down the healing path.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Stealing Second Base

I don’t remember the first time I heard or read this truism: you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.

The impact of those words is that the healing journey is risky. Any healthy survivor will echo those words. Once we open the door to our painful childhood, we never know what’s going to come out.

For example, I hadn’t cried since I was 11 years old; I started my healing journey 40 years later. Then I cried—almost every day for weeks. I’d see something about mistreatment on TV and the tears would flow. Or read a scene in a book.

More than the tears, I began seeing things about myself I didn’t like—things others could see but had previously hidden from me. It hurt for me to face them and say to myself, “Yes, that’s true.”

Hard. Risky. The safer, easier path is denial. I had lived in that community too long.

The acute responses to my self-knowledge (i.e., the intense pain) lasted months. But I prevailed. I can only thank God, my wife, and my best friend because they were there when I needed them. Even so, it was my pain, my traumatic past. And as one wise survivor said to me, “The only way out is through. You’ll never be free of the pain until you re-experience it.”

Today I’m healthier. I love being who I am—something that didn’t seem possible 10 years earlier. I took my foot off first base. I risked being hurt, humiliated, and misunderstood, and I just kept going.

So can you.

Move your foot off first base. Take the risk.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

“I Emotionally Abuse My Wife”

A lengthy email came from a man who had gotten in touch with his abuse in his early 50s. He confessed to emotionally abusing his wife. “How can I stop doing that?”

I don’t know the answer, but I offered him a suggestion: start by being compassionate to yourself.

Whatever is in our hearts comes out in our actions. Long ago I realized that the people who criticize and speak harshly of others are really letting us peak inside themselves. The way we treat others reflects the way we treat ourselves.

I suggested the emotionally wounded do what I did when I realized some of the terrible effects of sexual, emotional, and physical assault: I admitted I couldn’t be truly kind to others until I was genuinely compassionate toward Cec. That meant loving and accepting myself.

I wrote several statements on three-by-five file cards and repeated them several times a day.

Here are examples:
  • I am loveable.
  • I am worthwhile.
  • God created me lovable.
  • I like who I am and accept who I am.
  • I lovingly embrace every part of myself.
Weeks passed before the truth of those new messages slowly sank in. Today I can say those words with a smile on my face. I truly like Cec.

The residual effect has been that as I’ve become more accepting of myself it shows up by my being more compassionate and less judgmental of others.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Collateral Damage

The term collateral damage began as a military term to refer to damage done to civilians or unintended targets in warfare. Today, most of us understand it means the undesired consequences of horrific events. For survivors, it’s the harm done to those within our circle, especially family members.

In my own journey, I can think of nothing more difficult for me than speaking to my family of origin about the abuse during my childhood and then informing my own children. The first was more difficult because I assumed they, like me, lived with denial. To my surprise, my three older sisters either said, “I knew” or “I suspected.”

My own children, again to my surprise, handled it well. The thing about which I’m grateful is that I never took my molestation to the next generation—that is, did to them what was done to me.

I’m grateful I caused no collateral damage for my children.