You, Me and Empathy

At times, it’s almost impossible to believe that we will get better, and be our old selves.

There are days when ‘two steps forward, and one step back’ becomes ‘one step forwards, and ten steps back’.

Those are the days when you give in to despair.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t recover from the trauma.

You hate your partner for what they’ve done to you.

You’re frustrated with yourself for it seems you can’t move on.

Those are the awful days we all battle with.

And that’s why it means so much when others share their struggles. And talk about their journey. What it’s been like for them.

It’s like they’re holding up a mirror where we see not just them … but we also see ourselves, and we see our life, as well.

It encourages us to think: “You, and I … We’re both the same. You have felt what I have felt, and you’ve struggled, just like me … And look at how changed. Look at where you are today!

So if you have survived, then perhaps I can as well.

And if you can thrive, then perhaps I can as well.”

That powerful realization renews our sense of hope.

It helps renew our strength.

It renews our will to fight.

One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through. And it will be someone’ else’s survival guide.”

It Isn’t Over ‘Till It’s Over


“Inhale. Exhale. Prevail.”

Yes. You can do it.

For inside you there’s a warrior.

You may be weak and weary, but there’s still that will to fight.

Life’s dealt you some tough blows. Blows that it’s very hard to cope with.

It’s left you bruised and broken; but you aren’t beaten yet.

You inhale very slowly.

Hold your breath.

Then exhale slowly.

You take another breath.

Now you are rising to your feet.

You feel as if you’re swaying.

You’re unsteady –

But you’re standing.

You know you’re going to make it

For you won’t accept defeat.

The Art of Letting Go


“Let it go”.

It all sounds so easy, such a simple thing to do.  But letting go of something isn’t straightforward at all. In fact, I would say that it’s very difficult.  

For you don’t just decide, and everything is different now. I wish it was as simple as just making up your mind. But ask anyone – and they’ll say that’s not the case.

Instead there’s this huge struggle for the pain has got a grip. All the hurt and the injustice – plus the need to self-protect – have wound a twisted chord tightly round your broken heart.

In fact, it’s more like some huge chain with a padlock that is stuck. You twist and turn the key. You can try to free the lock – but it’s going to take time, and you know it will be tough.

What to do?

But really wanting to let go is an important starting place. It affirms you want to change, and to write your own life script. You don’t want the pain and trauma to dictate the rest of life.   

1. So you need to face the truth – and admit what you’ve gone through. Tell it like it really is. All the heartache. All the shame. All the horror and the shock. All the shattered, broken dreams.

2. And after doing that, you must allow yourself to feel all the horrible emotions you don’t really want to feel.  

And as you start to mourn and grieve, you will find you start to heal. For your tears will cleanse your wounds, and you’ll sense a new release.

And very slowly you will notice that you’re starting to let go.   

Do not run away from the heavy emotions. Honour the anger, give pain the space it needs to breathe. This is how we let go.”

  • Yung Pueblo

Everything is Broken

 

dead flower

You might be wondering if you’ll ever recover because the struggle has gone on so long.

You might be thinking that you’ll never recover.

That the damage is too deep.

That the scars will never heal.

But that is not the case.

Things will gradually get better.

It’s just that we can’t see it when the darkness closes in.

The whole thing is a nightmare.

One we constantly relive.

We feel so tired and weary.

Is there no hope of relief?

 

These feelings are all normal.

It’s a roller coaster ride.

It’s utterly exhausting.

You feel so tired and drained.

But all of us go through it.  We’ve experienced that pain.

The sense of desperation.

The sorrow.

The despair.

 

But then you turn a corner, and you see a shaft of light.

A ray on the horizon.

A break in the storm clouds.

You feel a little stronger.

You feel that you can breathe.

Perhaps the wound is healing.

Perhaps you can go on.

Getting Over the Torment of Betrayal

there are no shortcuts

There are no easy answers for recovering from betrayal. It’s not the kind of thing you get over easily. But I’d like to offer you a few suggestions that might be of help at this difficult time.

1. Try to achieve some degree of detachment. One way of doing this is to try to take yourself out of the picture (temporarily) and to view yourself, and what has happened, as a compassionate and caring ‘outsider’.

2. Admit to yourself there’s a hole in your heart, and allow yourself to grieve over all the different losses. The intense and painful feelings will likely ebb and flow. Allow them to surface. Don’t suppress your emotions. Also, you can’t speed up this process. In the end it will backfire. Instead, you need to experience, and work through, all the feelings.

3. Don’t keep it to yourself. You need support at this time. Maybe try to find someone who’s survived the same betrayal, and who knows what it is like, and is further down the road. We need to feel understood, and to have our story witnessed.

4. Fight off any tendency to blame yourself. It’s natural to think we must have played a part. But it usually has nothing to do with us at all. And that is the truth – even though it’s hard to see when we’ve just been triggered, and our feelings are intense. Keep repeating to yourself that  this isn’t about me. And focus on the good things that others say about you. These are the real facts. Hold on to these truths.

5. Once the shock has diminished (or has worn off a little) try to think about a plan for your recovery. This is best worked through with a counsellor. Here, it is important to remember that time is not a healer. You will need to be both active and deliberate in your healing.

6. Be alert to the danger of idealizing the past, or of completely demonizing the person who’s betrayed you. It’s easy to deceive ourselves, and wrongly start believing that everything was magical before we learned the truth. At the same time, it is common to believe that everything must have been a total lie or some kind of fantasy. Usually, the truth will lie between these two extremes.

7. Try to work towards creating a new tomorrow that is better than today (and maybe better than the past). It doesn’t help for us to fixate on what could or should have been. The past is history now, and we’re on a different page. Please don’t let this bad experience destroy the rest of life.

Quote of the Day

a sign of progress is

A sign of progress is noticing your mind is turbulent, and not trusting how you see yourself during that time.”

I think this quote kind of says it all.

When we’re in the midst of a surge of emotion, we know for a fact that we’re not in our right mind.  We know it’s highly likely that we’ll over-react, and our view of reality is going to be warped.

So this is really not the time to reflect on our life – because we can’t be objective when our brain’s on overdrive.

And it’s also not the time to analyze ourselves – as we’ll likely to be harsh, cruel, and hyper-critical.

Tomorrow we’ll feel different.

We can trust ourselves tomorrow.

But for now, we need to step back, hit “pause”, and disengage.

The Road not Taken

ultimately the worst kind of pain

I’ve always been attracted to this poem by Robert Frost. Some verses that invite us to reflect upon our lives, and think about the outcome if we’d taken other roads.

The trails we quickly glanced down at some crossroads on the street. Decisions we had taken when the outcome wasn’t clear.

Perhaps this path is better?  No, perhaps I’d like this more

We cannot tell the future. We don’t have a crystal ball.

But as we look into the past, back to the point where paths diverged, we sometime dream and wonder “How would life be different – if

I’d studied something different, or

I’d taken that great job, or

I’d moved away from home, or

I had travelled overseas.

It’s usually a distraction. Just a way to pass the time. It resurrects old hopes and dreams of how life could have been.

No doubt, there would be problems; but we put those from our mind. It’s just a fantasy. Of course, we know it isn’t real.

Yet …

This question sometimes rises up when things go badly wrong. We learn about betrayal and our whole life seems a lie.

It causes devastation. There’s destruction everywhere. The trauma stalks and haunts us. We are anxious all the time.

Our former life’s in tatters; we’re a shell of who we were. Our heart is full of splinters and our confidence is gone.

That happy, carefree person who would live life to the full, has been replaced by someone who is sad and fragile now.

Yes … I wonder who I’d be if he’d been faithful through the years. If I’d felt loved and cherished, and I had no need to fear.

I wish I was that person. She was happier back then.

But sometimes others take a road that changes our life, too.

It’s Just Not That Easy

there is no greater trauma.png

I have a friend – let’s call her Jane – whose husband has been viewing webcams for years. He has also had a couple of one-night stands. (Let’s call the husband Joe.)

When all this came to light, Jane was absolutely shocked. The couple had been married for over 20 years, and Jane had never thought that Joe would do something like this. There weren’t any signs – and Joe “didn’t seem the type”. (Jane’s words.)

Also, to the outside world they were the best of friends. They had three lovely kids; their lives were intertwined; and they spent their holidays and leisure time together.

Who would have believed it? A total shock to Jane. But, sadly, not an uncommon storyline.

So what happened next?

Joe was sure that Jane would leave him. He wanted to get help. He begged for Jane’s forgiveness, and he went for counselling. In counselling he learned the following:

  • Joe had always had troubled with intimacy and had formed an avoidant attachment to Jane. This was something Joe could recognize, and wanted to work on.
  • Joe started viewing porn at around 12 years of age. Hence, his brain had become primed, and then addicted to porn. As a consequence of this, sex for Joe meant secret thrills.
  • In his mind, all this was separate from sex with Jane. It was something very different. An illusion and a game. The women were just objects. They were tools to turn him on. There was no competition. They would never replace Jane.

But here’s the thing …

  • To Jane this sounds like garbage – for he chose them over her (or as well as her). He says it all meant nothing. It was just a mental thing. But it all feels real to Jane, and especially since she knows her husband had a couple of one-night stands.
  • Perhaps he was addicted, but Joe made choices too. There were numerous points in time when he consciously gave in. He knew what he was doing when he broke his wedding vows.
  • Joe would say it was a way of avoiding intimacy. But paying girls to strip, or to have illicit sex, sounds intimate to Jane (though she “gets” what Joe says too).

Why recovery is a slow and messy process

Understanding can be helpful but it doesn’t ease the pain. Betrayal’s still betrayal. The wounds are just as deep.  If only mental knowledge was enough to heal our hearts. Jane’s trying to forgive – but it’s not an easy road.

Thus, there are four realities that make this journey so complex: Joe’s actions, and the reasons, the questions that remain, and the damage that’s been done – and can never be undone.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

start where you are.PNG

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”This quote by the tennis player Arthur Ashe appears quite a lot on social media. It’s the kind of cute quote you might expect to see there. It’s the kind of cute quote I’ve posted myself when life has been happy, or at least humdrum.

It’s the kind of cute quote that can give you a lift, and inspire you to try, and make a start on your dreams.

But it’s not the right quote if you’re curled up in a ball, and you’re dealing with a trauma, and you think you’re going to die.

No! It’s not the kind of quote that you want to hear just now.

Then, one day you decide that your life must go on. You are going to survive. You are made of stronger stuff. Yes, the pain’s unbearable, and you don’t know what to do. The options all look bad. None of this was in the script.

So, you rip up the old script and you start where you are.

But your self-esteem is shattered. You have lost your confidence. It is hard to open up and to trust anyone.

Work and hobbies? What are those? They hold no interest all. And because you never sleep you have zero energy.

Still, you make some kind of effort to retain a normal life. You turn up at the office, and you take your kids to school. You try to act the part – even though you’re in a mess. But you find there are reserves.  You can manage minor tasks.

Step by step you’ve been choosing to use what you have.

And let’s be honest about things. You won’t “just get over this.” No, you’re going to be limping and bleeding for some years. You can wear a plaster cast, get some stitches for the wounds, replace the bandages, apply ointment, take some pills … but, still, it will take time. You can’t rush this process up.

But you’re caring for yourself. You are doing what you can. And those small acts of self-love help to change you bit by bit.

Then one day you catch a glimpse of the old self you had lost. You can’t believe it’s true. You had missed that self so much. You’re much stronger than before. Yes, it’s true, you have moved on.  Who ever would have thought there was truth in that cute quote!

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”