A friend of mine used to be a stand-in on a network show. While the actors were in their trailers, he stood in front of the camera. He was examined from every angle while the crew perfected the lighting and worked out the camera positions before filming. But when the time came for the director to yell “action”, the real actors were brought in to perform.
He was the same height and build as the star he filled in for. He had the same hair color and skin tone as the actor. But he was no replacement for the talent. His only purpose was to help the crew prepare before the real work began.
Reading about other survivors is like having stand-ins. Having a stand-in allows you to be able to see a situation on someone else before you try it on yourself. You can view it from different angles and see how the same might apply to your life. You have the opportunity to see if you identify with a story, a situation, or an emotion.
Since my mom and I started Overcoming Sexual abuse, many readers tend to label me as the child. Since my first post, messages have flooded my inbox. Some of them have been people who wanted support in their healing process, but the majority are survivors who offer to help or comfort me in my own healing.
You’re the star of your own healing journey.
But I’m just the stand-in for your healing. Empathizing with the pains of my past does nothing for your own healing. It’s necessary to try the emotions on for yourself. What do you feel?
It’s hard to acknowledge such painful memories. It’s much easier to imagine my pain and to seek to comfort my inner child than your own. Empathizing with my emotions is easy. It’s safe. Cheering me on might help you feel like you’re above the situation instead of in the middle of it.
It’s even harder to realize where those feelings come from. Maybe your favorite uncle didn’t love you after all, maybe your mother betrayed you, maybe your family really did know what was going on. Facing those truths can be agonizing. It’s much easier to help me heal than to help yourself. Dealing with my inner child does nothing for your healing. Identifying with someone else’s story isn’t doing the actual work. There’s no replacement for the star.
You’re the star of your own healing journey. Healing requires you to allow the spotlight to be on you. Healing means sifting through your past, getting into the character of that inner child and reliving emotions that are dark and painful. Healing takes facing the lies you believed and seeing the truth. Being the star is hard work. But the star gets the biggest pay-off. Your healing journey is unique to you. Let your healing take center stage instead of being upstaged by the stand-in.
Bethany, along with her mother, Christina Enevoldsen, is the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Besides helping abuse survivors see the beauty within themselves, she enhances the beauty of others as a professional make-up artist and has worked in television, film and print. She lives in Los Angeles.
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