Does this Apply to Me?
Our Thursday Night curriculum contains four modules which are covered over 4 months in the Spring and Fall. One is on addiction, another on gender and sexual identity and then one on healthy relating. But we also have a module that we’ve expanded recently called “Roadblocks to Healing”. This module covers all the things that are ‘in our way’ which prevent us from growing and thriving. If you’re like me, this list can be ample. Some topics might include unforgiveness, anxiety, shame, unhealthy relating styles and abuse. It has been interesting to me over the years how when it comes to the issue of abuse, many people don’t think the topic applies to them. My mantra in response has been, “If you’re breathing, you’ve probably experienced some type of abuse.”
As I think about the vast scope of types of abuse, the possibility seems more likely it’s part of the human experience in a broken, fallen world. There are “invasive wounds” which can be direct and overt. This could be abuse that is verbal, emotional, spiritual, physical and sadly, even sexual. But there are different kinds of wounds which are a less tangible type of abuse. These would be “abandonment wounds”—being invisible, uncared for, “under-loved” and having a lack of nurturing touch. Most people would not associate this as abuse. I was actually shocked to connect these dots in my own life as I helped co-lead a “Survivors of Abuse” group several years ago. This revelation of neglect rocked me emotionally. What’s difficult about this type of abuse is how intangible it is—there are no words and nothing exactly to point to as with physical or sexual abuse.
A good friend of ours, Veronica Johnson, is a therapist at Envision Counseling Clinic. One Thursday evening a couple of years ago she came to teach on healing from abuse. Several things have stuck with me since then from the discussion. One is the continuum of abuse a person can experience. Some people experience the invasive wounds or neglect on a severe, profound level, while others might experience it less or moderately. Each person may feel a unique impact and especially how they react to the abuse. A destructive reaction (like addiction or promiscuity) might cause more personal damage. The other thing Veronica shared is recovery is a balancing act that I’d like to expound on in this series. Veronica is also a good reminder when it comes to recovery from abuse, it’s best to not go it alone but to find a trustworthy therapist.
Building “Self” Abilities
We begin the process of recovery by working on ourselves—our “self abilities” as Veronica says. A good first step is learning to become a more “self-aware” person. People who are self-aware realize their impact on people positively and negatively and own their behavior. They are usually more empathic and open to other’s differing opinions. It’s also good identifying various emotions (“what am I feeling?”) and how to manage them in healthy constructive ways. Besides addressing our emotional life, we also battle the false and shaming beliefs which influence the view we have of ourselves. Who does God say we are versus the toxic false things we have heard and believed? Hopefully, we begin to wholeheartedly embrace this truth more and more.
We also need to build up our relational skills. Healthy connection is vital and healing in the recovery process. Our wounds have been inflicted in relationships and God uses relationships to bring healing. We develop and exercise better personal boundaries. Where do I end and you begin? What are reasonable healthy expectations in a relationship? It’s likely, even with these new skills we’ll get hurt again by people. Over the years in my own life, I’ve needed to learn to “sit with” strong, difficult emotions. Trying to build up “resiliency” by not reacting negatively to the person or situation. I wish I could say I was better at this (I still can react like a crazy person), but I’m a bit better than in my younger years. Practicing these things will help grow a capacity to recover quicker when difficulties arise.
One Side of the Recovery See-Saw
I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to find a good therapist when beginning to address issues around abuse. Someone to journey with you on these various paths of healing. It’s a good thing to find an environment of grace, acceptance and safety. Only then can we bear the other side of the balancing act of recovery—pressing into processing the trauma experienced. This can feel vulnerable, painful and scary which is why we first build up our “self abilities”. What does this process look like? We’ll explore and unpack that more in my next blog.
A staff member since June of 1992, Scott is a key player in the WGA discipleship ministry. He plans, organizes, and implements every aspect of the Thursday night support group. In addition to public speaking, counseling group participants and training leaders, Scott maintains personal contact with many group members and it is to Scott’s credit that many group members feel personally welcomed, cared for and loved.
Although he holds a degree in graphic arts, he attributes his ministry qualifications to the “school of hard knocks.” God’s abundant grace continues to be the instrument of growth in his life, and he desires to be firmly grounded in the forgiveness and freedom of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Scott attends a Presbyterian Church.
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