Sacred Ground or Haunted Territory?

My past still haunted me … This is trauma: a near constant feeling in my gut that something is wrong, or that something terrible is about to happen, the automatic fear responses in my body telling me to run away, to take cover, to hide myself from danger everywhere. My trauma can still rise up out of mundane encounters. A sudden sight, a particular smell, can transport me back to the past.” – Edith Eva Eger

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that memory is sacred ground. But I would also argue that it’s haunted territory.

Think about it …

What happens if you live through something absolutely awful? A trauma or a horror? Something truly devastating? How are you told to handle it?

The message we pick up from society is: Bury all that stuff. Never, ever talk about it. Push it down inside. Don’t look at it again. Whatever you do, don’t ruminate on it. Don’t allow yourself go there. Just pretend it didn’t happen.

So that’s what we try so desperately to do.

The sensible – even the perfect – solution?  

But here’s the problem

This isn’t the solution – for it doesn’t go away.

When we refuse ourselves permission to face and grieve what’s lost, we doom ourselves to constantly re-living all that pain. That’s why we keep being triggered, sometimes after many years.

The past remains haunted, and it holds us in its grip.

Finding Freedom

There is a way to be free – but it’s a very different road. It’s embracing all that happened, and then facing it head-on.

Freedom means we find the courage to look at all that stuff. We make the hard decision that we’ll tear the prison down. A slow and painful task that is accomplished brick by brick.

This is not an easy choice. But it’s the best choice we can make.

But let me also warn you …

Freedom happens very slowly. Unbelievably slowly. Depressingly slowly.

But, in time, you’ll see and difference and you’ll find that you have changed.

The past is in the past, and you can move on with your life.

Paradise Lost

Try this.

Picture yourself as happy, carefree child – maybe 6 or 7 years of age.

Where are you? What are you doing? Try to identify what you might be thinking and feeling.

What makes this child so adorable? What makes your heart fill with love for her?

This is the real you.

The you you used to be. Before all those painful, damaging experiences. Before you stopped liking and loving yourself.

This is the you who got lost along the way.

But that you still exists – beneath the layers of the years.

That you is still there – maybe buried, but still there.

Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to reconnect with her!

If only you could access that child once again.

“This is the beginning of loving yourself. Welcome home.”

Thank You for the Music

We cling to music, to poems, to quotes, to writing, to art because we desperately do not want to be alone. We want to know we aren’t going crazy, and someone out there knows exactly how we’re feeling.”

Isn’t that the truth.

Going through some really difficult is made a whole lot worse by feeling we’re alone. By feeling that there’s no-one who truly understands. By feeling there is absolutely no-one we can tell.

And the fact is, we desperately need other people. We need them to witness our sadness and our pain. We need them to walk through the darkness with us. We need them to tell us that we’re going to survive.

We need them to tell us that we’re not alone. That others have experienced what we are going through. That we’re not going crazy when we’re tormented by thoughts that really shock and scare us, and distress us even more.

So the music, and the writing, and the art all bring us comfort. They tell us someone else has felt excruciating pain. They tell us other people found a way to speak about it, to process their experience, and slowly start to heal.

They tell us that: “They get it”. They were knocked off course as well. They experienced confusion. They were in the wilderness. The heartbreak and the sorrow felt interminable to them.    

Yes, they know what you are feeling …

And they shine a ray of hope. 

I Don’t Deserve to be Loved

I wonder if you ever struggle with that painful feeling … The feeling that you really don’t deserve to be loved.

And when we’re in that desperate place we often move to self-attack. We turn against ourselves and we recite the countless reasons why we ought to be rejected, disliked or even scorned.

But this self-attack is crazy on so many different levels.

It usually has no bearing in reality.

Also, it serves no useful purpose, and it scars and wounds us deeply as we turn against ourselves with loud, self-shaming accusations.

Why do we do it?

There is a voice inside our head that has been nurtured through the years by negative experiences that left their mark on us. The voices of our parents, or of cruel, unloving people, have gathered evidence that now feels hard to contradict. Words like:

“Nobody likes you.”

“No-one cares about you.”

“Who would ever love you?”

“You’re not beautiful; you’re ugly.”

“Have you heard the way you sound?”

“You have nothing to contribute.”

“You’re stupid, and you’re boring.”

“You are worthless.”

“You’re a loser.”

Something to Think About

But that person in our head – the way we’ve come to see ourselves – is just some fantasy. It isn’t really who we are.

We need to shake off that false image, and to search for our true self. The person who went missing when we listened to the lies.

How to do that?

1. The first thing to do is to start to notice every time you ruthlessly attack, or are mean to yourself. Make a note of what you said, and what was happening at that time. Think about how you were feeling, and why you felt that way.  

Usually, a pattern will start to emerge.

2. Think back to other times when you have heard those things being said. Who made those accusations? And why did you believe them? Can you challenge what they said? What could you say to yourself? What would be a reasonable and accurate rebuttal?

Now practice talking back to the voice inside in your head. It will silence that old critic so it starts to lose its power. And you’ll find that, over time, your real self will get much stronger.

3. Notice how your thinking has affected your behaviour. Has it caused you to withdraw. and to isolate yourself? Has it stopped you taking risks, or setting goals for yourself? Has it stopped you being funny, or being natural with new people?

Start to notice these connections. Start to see how you’ve missed out. Then start to change those patterns. One small step by one small step.

4. Think of people that you’re drawn to. Think of why you like that person. You might find them attractive – as you see yourself in them. Because they have some interests that are part of you as well.

“You are standing in the answer. It is when you start to lose yourself that you start to look for yourself in other people … other things. But there is a place and a time in your life that links you to the person you were before all the chaos. All the pain. All the heartache.  Before you looked in the mirror and judged the reflection looking back at you. Find this place. Go back to this place. Because, in this place, you knew exactly who you were. You just got a little lost.”

– April Green

It’s Good to Talk

Tell your story. Shout it. Write it. Whisper it if you have to. But tell it. Some won’t understand it. Some will outright reject it. But many will thank you for it. And then the most magical thing will happen. One by one, voices will start whispering, “Me, too. ” And your tribe will gather. And you will never feel alone again.”

-L.R. Knost 

Can you imagine how good it would be to be able to talk? To be able to share. To have your pain held – like a scared, tender thing?

Can you picture that?

Can you imagine what it would be like to be understood? To feel understood. To know that you are not the only one. To know that others have walked in your shoes, and experienced what you’ve experienced.

Of course, it can never be exactly the same – because everyone’s experience is different. But something similar enough for them to absolutely get it. Without having to defend yourself, or explain yourself to anyone.

Can you imagine how good that would feel?

Can you imagine how the weight would lift from your shoulders?

Can you imagine the relief? The sense of being able to let go – of all the pain, the heartache, the sorrow, the judgment, the deep, deep disappoint and pain.

Can you imagine what a difference that would make to you?

I hope that you are able to take that first step. To find a way to talk, and to share what you’ve been through.  You owe it to yourself. Your story really should be heard.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’” – C.S. Lewis  

What might boundaries look like to you?

“She set her boundaries and rebuilt her life.”

If you are recovering from betrayal trauma, there are boundaries you will want to put in place. So what might boundaries look like to you? Some suggestions include the following:

  • Having your partner or spouse see a counsellor or therapist?
  • Requiring your partner or spouse to have an accountability partner?
  • You being the one who has administrative rights for the family computer?
  • Having all the passwords to his laptop, phone and devices?
  • Having him remove all dating apps and close down any accounts he has with companies like Ashley Maddison or
  • Being able to check messages and texts anytime you want?
  • Having access to all bank accounts – and going through statements together regularly?
  • Going through credit card statements together each month?
  • Having him accountable for his time so you know where he is, who he is with, and what he is doing, anytime you are apart?
  • Having him break all contact with (including ‘unfriending’ on social media) anyone he has had a relationship with (while in a committed relationship with you)?
  • Asking that he tell you if someone from a previous illicit relationship ever tries to contact him again?

They are other boundaries you might want to think about. Some boundaries specific to your relationship.

Also, these boundaries might change as time goes by.

The important thing is – you absolutely need to feel safe. Otherwise a secure trust can never be rebuilt.

So don’t be hesitant to ask for what you want. Having boundaries is crucial when you have been betrayed.

Boundaries are crucial. They are at the heart of every healthy relationships.”

The Painful Art of Letting Go

Fruit drops from the tree when it is ready. Staying too long, or moving too early, misses the mark … The process has its own timing, and it creates changes in your life when those changes need to happen.”

-Gary Zukav

Here are a few thoughts on letting go:

1.Letting go is a process. Yes, it may begin with a decision we make, and often there will be a desire to move on. But that is just the very start of the journey. The road is long and winding, and it’s unpredictable.

2. You can trust the process. You mind knows how to heal and protect itself. Allow it to guide you – though it won’t always make sense. It knows what it is doing; you can trust your intuition.

3. You might feel really bad, and you may struggle to let go. There are reasons why we struggle to let go, and then move on.  It involves some major losses – things we didn’t want to lose.  

4. Celebrate the changes, and the signs that you are healing. It can help if you look back, so you can see how far you’ve come. It can help to motivate you, and inspire you to keep going. 

5. Expect to stand still, and to regress from time to time. This is absolutely normal, and it happens to us all. It is always three steps forward … then a few steps back again. Don’t start to feel discouraged. Just expect that this will happen.

6. If you’re letting go of a relationship, identify the reasons why you feel you must move on. Try to focus on the facts, and not the strong, negative feelings. For example … How were you being treated? What was toxic about that? What do you deserve? What do you need most from a partner?  These can help you to see why it’s better to let go.

7. Make room for something new, or someone new in your life. If you don’t feel you are ready, put this thought on hold for now. But eventually you’ll want to find and have a different future. That future could be better than the life you have at present.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”

 – Joseph Campbell

Taking Care Of Me

“I can cut you off and still love you.

I can stop speaking to you, and still care for you.

I can let you go, and still wish you the best.

If I leave you alone, it’s not to be bitter or petty.

If I leave you alone, it’s for my own good.

If I let you go, it’s so that I can accept still being able to love you

whilst also knowing I can be happy without you.”

These are courageous words.

Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves, is to withdraw from a relationship. Whether it’s from a partner, a spouse, or a friend … sometimes we just need to walk away.

It can be for a while; it doesn’t have to be forever. But for now, you need your space. You need a boundary in place.

And who really knows want you’ll want later on. It’s much too early to play that guessing game.

Right now, you need the freedom to simply be yourself. To get back in touch with the person you have lost.

You need the room to breathe.

You need the room to just be you.

You are doing what is right: you are taking care of you.   

Learning to Trust Yourself After Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves … Gaslighting often develops gradually, making it difficult for a person to detect.”[1]

Gaslighting occurs when there’s betrayal, abuse, or we’re living with a narcissistic partner or spouse.

Common symptoms of gaslighting include the following:

  • Feeling disoriented and confused; not knowing what is true and what isn’t true; questioning your understanding of reality; questioning your memory of events
  • Wondering if you’re crazy
  • Feeling anxious about making decisions, even very simple decisions
  • Constantly second guessing yourself; always wondering if ‘you got it wrong’
  • Constantly asking yourself if you are far are too thin-skinned and sensitive; feeling like you need to apologize all the time for who you are or what you say and do
  • Feeling as if you have lost yourself; not knowing who you are any more
  • Losing your confidence; feeling stupid, incompetent, worthless and unlovable.

Recovering from Gaslighting

If you’ve experienced gaslighting, and you’re trying to move on, and you want to learn to trust yourself and follow your own heart – then here are a few things to, maybe, bear in mind:

1. It’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes: It’s absolutely fine to make mistakes and get things wrong. It happens to us all, and simply shows that you are human.

2. Start choosing for yourself: You’re allowed to make decisions, and to choose for yourself. This is actually your right, and it’s something you can do! From your choice of food or clothes, to the way you spend your time, to your views on politics … and a million other things.

3. Let go of the need to understand what really happened: The fact is … You were the victim of a person who played games with your mind, deliberately deceived you, and manipulated you. Also, it’s likely that your memories are scattered, vague and patchy. So put the past on hold, and just focus on today.

4. Allow yourself to be emotional, and to release the buried feelings: We tend to push down our feelings when we’re being manipulated. We don’t know what to feel, and we think we might be wrong. So when the truth comes to light, all the feelings get unleashed (and it’s likely we’ll be suffering from PTSD, too.)

5. Try to see the positives in being vulnerable and real: You weren’t wrong or dumb to take your partner at face value. It is actually a sign of being trustworthy yourself. We are meant to trust and love, and to be genuine and open. It means that you are healthy, and able to love well.  That is, it doesn’t mean you’re weak, or you were stupid or naïve.

6. Don’t set goals for healing; healing follows its own course: You don’t have to follow timelines, be happy all the time, be healed from being triggered, or feel confident and strong. It’s an ongoing process, and one you can’t control. So give your brain permission to heal in its own way.