by Christina Enevoldsen
When I was a kid, The Wizard of OZ aired on television once a year. I didn’t know any families who didn’t anticipate this event. My family never missed it. We’d eat dinner early, make popcorn and enthusiastically settle in.
The Wizard of Oz is an enchanting story of a twelve-year-old Kansas farm girl, Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto. They are transported to the magical Land of Oz, where she sets out for the Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz to help her return home. On the way, she meets a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion, who join her, hoping to receive what they lack themselves.
When the Wizard is unable to give any of them what they search for, they discover that everything they were looking for was already inside them. In the end, Glinda, The Good Witch of the North, tells Dorothy, “You don’t need to be helped any longer; you’ve always had the power….”
I’ve had my own Oz experience. Like Dorothy, I had a “Meek and Mild” image of myself that led me to seek out “The Great and Powerful” to make up for what I thought I lacked. I didn’t know the power I had and set out to find others who would share theirs with me—many of whom turned out to be abusers. My childhood sexual abuse taught me that I was at other’s mercy and that I was powerless to do anything to help myself. Dorothy’s Wizard claimed to be able to grant wishes, but first she had to appease him by very nearly giving up her life. I didn’t have to bring any wizard a witch’s broomstick, but I had to submit to degradation, humiliation, and control. In the end, my abusers couldn’t offer me what I was looking for anymore than Dorothy’s Wizard could.
Click Your Heels Together Three Times
I never had a witch tell me I had the power I needed all along, but I’ve realized a little at a time over many years that I really am capable of improving my own life in big and small ways.
Some time ago, I made plans with my friend to see a movie. She planned to pick me up at 3pm, but phoned at 1:30pm to say she was an hour ahead of schedule and that she’d pick me up in 30 minutes. She thought it would be fun to go shopping first. When she called I was just making something to eat and her schedule change meant I wouldn’t have time to eat before she arrived. I had something planned right after my outing with her, so lunch was my last chance to eat until the end of the day.
After we hung up I got really angry. I’ve learned to pay attention to my feelings–when they start and where they come from– and I realized that I was angry because I felt powerless. I felt like I didn’t have a choice. In my mind, my friend was keeping me from eating. I challenged that thought. Did I have a choice? I realized I wasn’t being forced to follow her plan so I examined my options. I could eat first while she waited for me or I could just cancel if she didn’t want to wait. Once I realized that I had options, my anger went away. I was empowered.
I learned to listen to my thoughts and be alert to whiney expressions. As a childhood victim, I was at everyone else’s mercy and my only power was complaining. One day I was about to whine to my husband that he never spent any time with me, but I stopped myself. That sounded like an accusation, not the invitation that I intended. I was blaming him and placing all the responsibility for our relationship on him, as though I was powerless. In the past, whining didn’t accomplish anything other than drawing us further apart, which was the opposite effect I wanted. This time, as an empowered person, I said to my husband, “We haven’t spent any time together lately and I miss you. Are you free for dinner on Thursday?” I took responsibility for my feelings and my relationship and I had a date.
On another occasion, I remembered something I wrote in the eighth grade:
“I was passing by a bakery one Sunday afternoon,
The little cookies smiled with tempt but I couldn’t smile back
I was dieting to lose some weight and couldn’t give in now
I was almost to the corner when they caught me looking back
I had to eat their chocolate eyeballs out for torturing me like that.”
It struck me that I even felt pushed around by food. I personified it and made it more powerful than me. As long as I did, it ruled over me. Realizing how ridiculous my beliefs really were has broken its spell over me.
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain
Though Dorothy imagined herself powerless, she found that she had power all along while the Great Oz portrayed himself as powerful, yet was an unsure, frightened man. That’s the way abusers are. The image they portray is just as much a facade as the terrifying image of a gigantic head, surrounded by flames and thunder. They hide behind the curtain of intimidation and manipulation, hoping we will yield the power they lack.
Knowing I’m empowered to take care of myself, to improve my life, and to be responsible has freed me of my need to be taken care of by others—especially those who are likely to exploit my neediness and cause me harm. My thinking no longer draws me to depend on abusers. I don’t feel locked into a certain position; I know I’m free to grow and develop to change my direction. I don’t feel imposed upon by other’s decisions; I speak my mind and express my needs. I’m no longer driven by circumstances; I’m an active participant in shaping my life. I’m on a power trip and I won’t be returning.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.
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