[00:00] – Introduction
[0:40] – Mistake #1: Not making space for healing
[06:00] – Mistake #2: Thinking there’s a better time to heal
[07:35] – Mistake #3: Believing that information will heal you
[11:03] – Mistake #4: Relying on someone else to fix or heal you
[13:28] – Mistake #5: Trying to heal without a support community
[15:04] – Mistake #6: Treating pain like it’s the enemy
[18:22] – Mistake #7: Relying on coping rather than self soothing
[21:32] – Mistake #8: Not celebrating your progress
“Your healing will take up space. It will require time, energy and money. And it’s perfect that it does. Abuse teaches you that it’s wrong to take up space, to ask for anything, to prioritize yourself. It tells you that you don’t have inherent value and you need to constantly earn it. But you’re a human being. You have needs. You don’t have to be strong all the time. You’re allowed to fall apart. You deserve to be loved and supported.”
“If you’re telling yourself you’re not ready to heal, what does ‘ready’ look like? Do you have that specifically defined?”
“Connection is a very valid need that won’t go away just because you may not know where to meet it. Even if you try to tell yourself you don’t need anyone or can’t count on anyone, that need is still there.”
“We have a tendency to see everything through our current emotional lens. When we’re down, everything seems hard and hopeless; When we’re up, we tend to view things more optimistically.”
Free Resource: 3 Steps to Your Healing Breakthrough
Article: Do Kids Miss out While Parents Heal?
Episode 002 on the timing of healing: When Fear Tries to Stop You From Healing From Abuse
Be the first to know:
As an insider, you won’t miss any of my healing resources and latest updates.
Welcome to the Overcoming Sexual Abuse podcast where you get the tools and inspiration to help you overcome childhood sexual abuse. I’m your host, Christina Enevoldsen, certified coach, author and incest survivor, and I’m here to help you heal and live your very best life!
These are the top 8 things that may already be frustrating you or stopping you from healing. I’ll share how and why these things slow you down and what you can do to avoid them. And then I’ll give you empowering alternative approaches so you can heal and finally put your past behind you.
Okay, Mistake #1 Not making space for healing
And not making space for healing can manifest in several different ways. It might mean waiting for permission to heal, It might mean trying to make your healing convenient for everyone, or not putting yourself first, or not asking for support, and trying to do 50 other important things while you heal.
When I started healing, I tried to do this. I tried to squish my healing in as small a space as possible. In my heart, I was thinking, “Is this okay? Am I bothering you? Is my mess making you uncomfortable? Are my emotions okay?
I felt really guilty. All my life, I’d served other people and for the first time, I had to say no to people. I had to stop being available to whoever needed me. I was just way too exhausted from the work of healing to solve everyone’s problems the way I was used to doing.
Though I tried to keep things to myself, my emotional turmoil spilled out. I had angry outbursts, I was morose for hours or days, I cried for unknown reasons and I cancelled plans at the last minute because I couldn’t fake a cheerful smile.
It put the most strain on my husband. On a particularly tough day, I threw toilet paper rolls in his general direction. Not a proud moment.
When we were first married and learned about the other’s imperfections, we’d joke, “Hey, that wasn’t in the disclosure statement.” Well, my healing was definitely something neither of us bargained for.
I felt like it was unfair to him that my healing impacted him. This was my issue. He didn’t ask for this.
It was true that he never asked for this and it wasn’t fair to him. But I never asked for any of this either. I didn’t get a choice in whether or not I was abused. I didn’t get to decide if every area of my life was impacted by abuse.
Just to be clear, Don was amazingly supportive. But even if he hadn’t been, nobody else had the right to decide if it was alright for me to heal.
I don’t have to apologize for my healing process or the things it brings up. Though I did have to apologize for the toilet paper roll incident!
Healing was my decision to make. For the first time in my life, I chose me. Healing was for me.
Don and everyone else in my life did eventually benefit from my healing. But it wasn’t about him or anyone else.
And by the way, If you’re a parent of young children, you may think your healing should wait until your kids are older. Something to consider is that healing is so good for your kids. Healing helps you be a better parent. If you want to hear more about that, there’s an article written by a survivor that I’ll link in the show notes.
Your healing will take up space. It will require time, energy and money. And it’s perfect that it does. Abuse teaches you that it’s wrong to take up space, to ask for anything, to prioritize yourself. It tells you that you don’t have inherent value and you need to constantly earn it. But you’re a human being. You have needs. You don’t have to be strong all the time. You’re allowed to fall apart. You deserve to be loved and supported.
When I was in school and our class had a field trip, I’d have to get a permission slip to attend. And when I was absent, I had to have a note excusing me.
You can do that for yourself. Write a permission slip for yourself expressing your right to heal. And if you’re involved in anything that feels like too much right now, write yourself a note excusing you. And then speak up and say you don’t have the capacity at the moment.
Let your healing take up space.
Mistake #2: Thinking there’s a better time to heal
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could put a pause on the struggles of everyday life while we face the past? It seems like the healing journey is challenging enough, so we should be able to opt out of other challenges, at least temporarily. But we know that if life was fair, we wouldn’t have been abused in the first place.
To be honest, there’s never going to be a time when healing is convenient. Nobody wakes up and says, “This seems like the perfect day to heal!”
However, the more you heal from the past, the better equipped you are to deal with challenges in the present. The sooner you work on your healing, the sooner you have the results of healing.
If you’re telling yourself you’re not ready to heal, what does “ready” look like? Do you have that specifically defined? A lot of people tell themselves they need to “get their ducks in a row.” But that’s a way of fooling yourself because you likely don’t even own ducks. So define what you mean by “ready”. Like, “I’ll be ready when I graduate university.”
So be specific and define that for yourself. I do have more about the timing of healing in the next episode.
Mistake #3: Believing that information will heal you.
Information on healing won’t heal you. There’s never been more information available on sexual abuse, trauma and recovery than there is right now. And that’s amazing! My healing benefitted from this abundance of information, and likely, yours has too.
It’s fascinating to learn how trauma impacted you (and a relief to discover it was the abuse, not you). Plus, it’s important to validate the effects you’re experiencing and to know you’re not alone. The trouble is, learning by itself doesn’t bring healing.
Maybe you’ve recognized that for all you’ve learned, you still haven’t made the progress you hoped for. Maybe you’re still in pain; still treating yourself poorly, still in dysfunctional relationships, still in the same unhealthy patterns. It can feel discouraging to learn so much about healing and yet not see your knowledge translate to healing breakthroughs.
Many survivors go from one book, website or article to another. Or post memes on healing without actually benefitting from the information they take in. They get an insight and without a pause or breath, search for the next one.
That’s like sitting at a banquet table surrounded by wonderful food and eating without tasting or enjoying the flavor or being present with it. Just scarfing it down and going onto the next plate.
Even worse, it’s like malabsorption in the body. That’s when the nutrition you’re taking in passes right through you without doing your body any good.
Gathering information is a mental exercise. It’s helpful to understand but healing isn’t a matter of understanding in your head. Healing has to go deeper than that.
The truth is, all the information could actually be holding you back from healing. It’s the illusion of progress without really moving ahead. You might be exhausting yourself on information you don’t use can leave you overwhelmed and too tired to do the real work of healing.
Seeking information can be nothing more than a coping method to distract you from the actual work of healing. As long as you go from one thing to the next, it’s just entertainment.
To heal, you have to digest and absorb the information. Digestion starts in the mouth so when you get an insight, you need to chew on it; consider it; mull it over. you have to absorb it. How does this apply to you? Why does this matter? How sensations do you feel in your body? What emotions do you feel? What actions can you take to apply this? Then take any corresponding action.
Healing requires action. If you’re ready to actually use the information to heal, I created something for. It’s a workbook and journal to take you through the steps to experience healing breakthroughs. To get that for free, go to the show notes.
Mistake: #4: Relying on someone else to fix or heal you.
Abuse leaves us feeling very inadequate to improve our own lives. After all, abuse is the act and experience of being overpowered. I don’t know any survivors of abuse who initially feel capable and empowered to heal themselves.
And that leads to looking for someone else to fix us. So we turn to someone else like a therapist or some other support person yet no matter how much they may want to, no matter how skilled or knowledgeable they are, nobody has the ability to heal you except you.
In my Flourish Healing 12 month Program, I tell everyone that I can’t heal them; I can only teach them tools, help them overcome their blocks, provide insights, guidance and encouragement and facilitate the group experience. But their healing is in their own hands. If they heal, it will be because they did it.
And that’s so hard to hear that many don’t hear that, can’t comprehend it. Because it seems impossible. But midway through the year, the lightbulb turns on and they really get that they are empowered to heal. And they take charge of their healing and it’s amazing to see what happens. Then it’s breakthrough after breakthrough. Success after success.
Nobody else can heal you but that doesn’t mean you have to figure out everything for yourself and can never ask for help. And it definitely doesn’t mean you’re by yourself.
If you have trouble believing you can make a significant improvements to your life, think about positive changes you’ve already made. What’s something you’ve accomplished that was very difficult? What’s something you’re proud of? What’s something people acknowledge you for?
Consider that healing is going to be another thing you’ll be proud of too.
Mistake #5: Trying to heal without a support community.
Have you ever noticed that people who, after extended struggle with addiction, find sobriety only after joining a program with group support? That’s not a coincidence. Research shows that our brains, hearts, and bodies respond to relationships, empowering us to do things that feel impossible.
Relational energy is like biological nutrients to our bodies. Relationships not only serve our needs in the moment, but serve our long term well being. They are the building blocks to life.
That’s not a sign of weakness or a sign of unhealthy dependence. It’s a very healthy signal to seek out people who care.
The wounds we’re healing come from relationships but healing comes through relationships too. Abuse causes disconnection, fragmentation and isolation but healing brings connection.
Connection is a very valid need that won’t go away just because you may not know where to meet it. Even if you try to tell yourself you don’t need anyone or can’t count on anyone, that need is still there.
You need support of some type whether that’s from a group of understanding friends, a structured support group, a therapist, or one of my group programs.
Mistake #6: Treating pain like it’s the enemy
It’s a human thing to move away from pain. Throughout human history, that’s been a great survival strategy. The pain of hunger, the pain of being eaten, the pain of freezing–the pain prompts us to avoid those dangers. They are legitimate threats to life.
We still face danger and pain helps us avoid it. But just because we feel pain doesn’t mean there’s danger. There’s some very old wiring telling you that your life is at risk every time you feel pain.
And unfortunately, every time we run away from the pain, we reinforce to our brain that it’s really dangerous. That reinforces those neuropathways so it’s gets harder and harder to face the pain.
When we try to block the pain of sexual abuse, we don’t block it from coming in. It’s already in. We’re blocking it from coming out.
Stored pain is denied pain. To release it, we have to accept and acknowledge it first.
These emotions have been deeply buried because as children we weren’t equipped to handle it. It was too much then but we are capable of experiencing it now.
Each emotion and sensation carry a message. You may have heard that emotions are meant to get us into motion. And the ones that feel unpleasant are meant to move us toward change. The change might be internal, external or both.
Those unpleasant feelings are meant to feel uncomfortable because without the discomfort, we wouldn’t be motivated to change anything. Knowing that, they aren’t threats to resist or run from. They are actually our allies.
Feeling pain means there’s been an injury. It’s a signal to withdraw to protect yourself and slow down to allow yourself to heal. In the case of the pain of sexual abuse coming up long after it’s over, Pain protects us from expending too much energy when it’s time to rest and slow down. Healing happens in rest. Pain tells us where the wound is so it can be healed. It helps us connect with ourselves and our experience. Without the pain, it seems surreal. Pain helps us believe the abuse happened so we can address it.
It’s our job to examine pain’s messages to benefit from it. When we run from it, we often miss the message. Resisting the pain amplifies it. If you don’t listen to it when it whispers, it will start shouting.
It’s important to allow and sit with the pain but when pain has been suppressed for so long and built up over time, it can feel overwhelming to finally face it. That’s especially true if you’re inexperienced with simply being with your pain. In overwhelm, you shut down. And that leads us to number 7 because they go together.
Mistake #7: Relying on coping rather than self soothing
Likely, part of your reason for healing is to feel better. Then all the pain surfaces when you start the healing process and you might deal with it with coping methods that ultimately cause more pain–and more things to heal from or repair. Maybe it even stops or slows down your healing.
Even before I started healing, I invested a large portion of my life trying to avoid feeling bad. I disappeared or went numb when I anticipated feeling unpleasant emotions. I’ve dissociated so much of my life away.
Then I started to face my past. As many years as it’s been, I still vividly remember how painful it was when all of those memories came up that had been repressed for years.
Some ways I dealt with the pain were helpful and healthy. But other ways weren’t very good for me. They felt great in the moment but not so great later. They may have been okay in moderation (like eating chocolate), but I didn’t use them in moderation. The higher my pain and stress levels, the more chocolate I ate.
Avoiding the pain left me feeling powerless since I saw pain as scary and bigger and more powerful than me.
The way I coped with the pain made me feel even more powerless because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop, even when I saw how much it was hurting me. Over time, I gained a lot of weight and endangered my health. My body is still repairing from all I put it through over the years.
The mistake I made, and the mistake a lot of survivors make is in thinking the only choices around pain are to be overwhelmed by it or to avoid it. Both of those false beliefs are obstacles to healing.
The truth is, you can feel pain without being engulfed by it.
I needed ways to help me feel better, but I needed ways that supported my well-being, instead of causing me more abuse. I needed them to be things that kept me present instead of abandoning myself.
And that’s the difference between coping methods, which help you disconnect, and self soothing, which helps you stay present.
So the fear of being swallowed up in pain doesn’t have to haunt you and it doesn’t have to stop you from letting the trapped pain out.
With self soothing, you can experience your pain in a conscious and empowered way. It reduces the fear of being emotionally out of control and it allows you to feel and express your pain in smaller doses.
An example of a self soothing exercise is deep breathing. You may already know some deep breathing exercises. I also have a complete guide to self soothing that’s available on my website. You can find that link in the show notes.
Mistake: #8: Not acknowledging your progress with celebrations.
Celebrations are a good thing but it’s funny that survivors avoid this almost as much as avoiding the pain.
And I really get that. I never used to celebrate accomplishments. If someone gave me recognition, I immediately listed my shortcomings. I panicked I’d be discovered as a fraud. I never thought it was good enough because I wasn’t good enough.
I criticized myself:
“I guess that’s fine for now.”
“What took so long?”
“Anybody could have done that.”
“It could have been better.”
When it came to my healing, whatever breakthroughs I had, however I grew, whatever I faced, it wasn’t good enough. I always wanted to be healthier than I was. I thought I needed to be hard on myself to motivate me to keep going.
But it wasn’t the huge motivator I thought it was. It’s hard to enjoy doing things for someone who is never satisfied with what you do. And I was never satisfied. The “do more and more and more” was just more abuse. Abuse can’t produce healing.
Not only that, we move in the direction of our focus so looking at my deficiencies wasn’t pointing me in the direction where I claimed to want to go.
We are on a planet that is traveling around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 miles per hour. At the same time, It’s rotating at around 1,000 miles per hour.
Does it feel like you’re going that fast? You probably don’t notice it. It’s that way with healing. You don’t always recognize your forward movement.
The thing to know is, Part of you wants to grow, heal, improve, change and part of you wants to stay safely put where you are. The brain knows you can survive right where you are so it resists change. To get you not to change and to even discourage you, it “hides” your progress from you. That distorts where you are in your journey. So you dismiss, ignore, and discount your progress. You might even think what you’re doing isn’t working so you might quit.
We have a tendency to see everything through our current emotional lens. When we’re down, everything seems hard and hopeless; When we’re up, we tend to view things more optimistically.
Let’s play a game.
Look around your room at everything that’s blue.
Now close your eyes and name the objects that are red.
Now look around at what is red. How many things did you miss when you were focused on the blue?
You’ll find what you’re looking for. When you were looking for objects that are blue, did you count blue-gray or blue green things as blue to count more blue things?
So intentionally recognize, celebrate and record your progress. Look for and focus on every breakthrough, every healing “win”, any progress you make, any effort you invest. Anchor the celebrations in some ritual, like a special meal, an event, or activity of something you enjoy.
There needs to be some kind of emotional attachment to this. This may seem trivial, but it’s actually very powerful as a way to refocus, stay motivated and energized to keep going.
One of the benefits of recording your celebrations is to have a collection of your healing “wins” to read when you’re feeling discouraged.
You’ll find what you’re looking for.
Thanks for joining me today. Remember to collect your free Healing Breakthrough guide that’s a workbook and journal to take you through the steps to set you up to heal. To download that for free, go to the show notes page at overcomingsexualabuse.com/001.
When you download that, be sure to accept my invitation to subscribe to my emails, and I’ll send you lots of helpful healing tips and resources.
I’m bringing you more on healing, boundaries, self care, and family dysfunction, and so much more so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of it.