How Compassion Helps You Fight Back Against the Hurtful Voices in Your Head

In the third part of this series on learning to love yourself after a violent relationship, I look at how to use compassion to actually change the way your mind works.

As I talked about here and here, abuse disrupts our ability to seek out and provide the warmth and nurture that all mammals need to function. Our response mechanisms short-circuit and we have to relearn how to treat ourselves with gentleness and care.

Plus, when you’ve experienced a trauma like domestic violence, your fight-or-flight reactors go into overdrive as you try to combat the very real external threat.

But the upshot of our traumatic experience is that we’re also under attack from internal threats: pain, despair, loss, heartbreak – intense emotions that hurt and frighten us.

From a psychological perspective, we react the same way to external threats as to internal ones. So, when these feelings rise up, we counter-attack. We self-attack.

We treat the emotions with ridicule, aggression, frustration or disappointment. We try to fight them away.

But these emotions aren’t an external threat that you can simply force into retreat. They are part of you, and fighting with them will hurt you.

When our legitimate distress is met with cruelty and rejection, it makes us feel ashamed. We tell ourselves that we’re weak, stupid, not good enough… that we brought this on ourselves.

One way to tackle this is to imagine the self-attacking voice – the voice that shames you for the way you feel – as a separate person. Try to visualise them. What do they look like? What emotions are they directing at you? What do they want from you?

Then: Do they have your best interests at heart? What would happen if they left you alone? Who gains from them treating you like this?

Why are you scared of standing up to them?

You may find that the person you hear attacking you isn’t your own voice at all. You may find that it sounds suspiciously like the partner that made your life miserable. Or a parent, authority figure or bully that made you feel small. Maybe even someone that made you feel like you weren’t strong enough to stand up to the abuse.

And, if that’s the case, ask yourself: what right, what legitimacy, does that person have to attack you like this? Why do you feel you have to submit to their opinion?

What makes you think that their criticisms are at all valid?

Working out where this voice comes from won’t make it shut up. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen.

Instead, work on developing some empathy for your negative emotions. Remember the compassionate image that you developed? How would they respond to someone feeling your pain?

This is not easy. You’re working against the fight-or-flight instincts that tell you how to handle a threat. You’re talking over the voice that has dominated your emotional defenses for far too long. It will not let you take over without a struggle.

But you have to challenge the authority of that voice. You can’t just accept it – and you certainly can’t just accept it as part of who you are.

Be patient. You may need to try out different ways of handling your negative emotions and showing kindness to yourself before you find a way that works for you. These feelings might take a long time to quiet down.

What’s more, in order to really heal, you have to go beyond self-soothing – you also need to gather positive momentum for the future, setting goals and giving your vulnerable self the motivation and encouragement it needs to succeed.

The important thing is that, however you do it, you’re approaching yourself with compassion. You’re not judging, shaming or attacking the negative emotions. You’re not giving credence to the voice that attacks you.

If you’re struggling to recover from an abusive relationship, I hope that this series has helped you develop the tools you need to be kinder to yourself. If you feel you need more support, please do get in touch. I’ve helped hundreds of people to get through their divorce trauma – if you’d like to hear more, you can book a clarity call here.

The First Step Domestic Violence Survivors Can Take to Learn to Love Themselves Again

Last week I described how many survivors of domestic violence and abuse get so caught up in beating themselves up that they can’t give themselves the care and compassion they need to heal.

In this post, I’ll explain how to take the first step towards fixing this problem, by building a compassionate image.

If you’ve been a violent relationship, you’ve been deprived of the things that we need the most from those we love, in order to feel psychologically sound and healthy.

Things like kindness, nurture, and a sense of physical and emotional safety.

This can make it hard to picture what a loving persona actually looks like.

We all know what words like kindness and love and compassion mean on an intellectual level – but when we’ve been hurt and betrayed, it’s hard to really feel them.

The purpose of the compassionate image exercise is to start to reconnect with these ideas on an emotional level by creating a fully-formed image of compassion. This gives us an internal reference point that we can keep coming back to.

As a starting point, your compassionate image needs to be built around four essential qualities: warmth, strength, wisdom and non-judgement. Beyond this, it is your own personal ideal and should reflect all the ways in which you want to be loved and cared for.

Find a quiet place where you can close your eyes and breathe deeply and focus without any distractions. Your mind might wander, and that’s ok – just try to guide it gently back to the image you’re creating. You want to feel as relaxed as possible, so don’t try to force anything!

Then, guide your image by asking yourself questions such as:

How would you want your ideal caring-compassionate image to look? Are they human, or is this represented by a particular animal? Or even something else entirely, like sunlight, or the sea? What colours do you associate with them? If they are human, are they male or female? Young or old? Would they look like you?

How would your ideal caring-compassionate image sound? What are their vocal qualities (if they have them)? How does this make you feel?

What other sensory qualities are attached to your ideal caring-compassionate image? Keep in mind the qualities of warmth, strength, wisdom and non-judgment here.

How would you like your ideal caring-compassionate image to relate to you? How would you relate to them?

Perhaps you connect through touch? Laughter? Vocal support? Or perhaps it’s simply an unspoken sense of security?

Try to keep in mind all the time that this image brings you complete compassion.

As you continue in your healing journey, this compassion image will be something you refer back to again and again. You can use it to remind yourself what warmth, strength and love truly look like for you – and can tap back into this ideal when you’re tempted to lash out at yourself and others, or when those around you treat you with less compassion than you need.

It gives you a benchmark for working out what kind of people you genuinely want to have in your life – and the kind of person that you want to be.

In my next post, I’ll explain how, armed with your compassionate image, you can start to use compassion to change the way your mind works, helping you to break out of self-destructive cycles and get on the right road to recovery.

Have you tried the compassionate image exercise? I’d love to hear about your experience – if you feel comfortable, please do let me know in the comments section below.

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Domestic Violence Can Leave You Feeling Like You’re Losing Your Mind. Here’s How to Start Healing

I work with a lot of people who have been in violent relationships. One thing I see time and again is that they continue to beat themselves over what has happened to them.

Mostly it’s guilt. Guilt that they stayed with someone who hurt them. Guilt that they hurt other people by staying. Guilt that they hurt other people by leaving. Guilt for going back. Guilt for not going back. Guilt for standing their ground. Guilt for being weak.

They have absolutely no compassion for themselves.

People on the outside struggle to understand. They wonder why a victim of violence would be so hard on themselves. To them, it makes no sense.

But it does make sense.

Domestic violence isn’t the same as being attacked by a stranger in the street. It’s a betrayal by someone you trusted and loved.

It’s bewildering and incredibly painful to be harmed by someone you love – and it’s natural to try and rationalise it in a way you can understand. There must have been a reason, you tell yourself. I must have done something wrong.

Plus, abusive partners are masters of mind games. They are great at making you feel like you’re going crazy, you’re being over-dramatic or it’s all in your head.

Walking away is the first step, but the confusion and creeping self-doubt remain. Thanks to a phenomenon called hindsight bias, they often get worse.

Hindsight bias (also known as the “knew it all along” effect, or creeping determinism) is an unhelpful habit that humans have of looking back over things that have happened and deciding that we should have seen it coming – even when there’s no reason to think we could.

So strong is the impulse that it can even distort our memories, making us falsely reconstruct the way that something happened to better fit with the outcome.

Hindsight bias is the reason we go over and over events in our minds, berating ourselves for not stepping in to prevent disaster.

You should have been stronger/smarter/better! We scream at ourselves. How could you let this happen?
Do these accusations help? Of course not.

Sometimes they exacerbate our pain to the point that we seek out new drama just to distract ourselves from the trauma and the guilt.

Instead, if you’re struggling with how to leave a violent relationship, to move on and to heal, you need to be gentle with yourself.

Paul Gilbert, developer of compassion-focused therapy (CFT), traces this need back to our earliest experiences as babies. Mammals use gentleness and care to soothe the negative emotions of their infants, calm their threat systems and help them feel safe and secure.

If this care is cut off, we lose the ability to tap into the response systems that handle our negative emotions and painful memories.

We struggle to regulate our emotions, become overwhelmed by self-criticism and shame, and read rejection and hostility into the behaviour of people around us.

Worse, when others do attempt to be caring, we panic. We no longer know how to respond.
This means that the impact of domestic violence goes far beyond the physical harm done to a person. Essentially, it short-circuits their emotional response systems.

Living with a violent partner cuts a person off from the care system that they need to feel secure and to process negative emotions. They may have forgotten how to seek the care they need. They may be distrustful or hostile to any gestures of care that they are offered.

To heal, they need to re-learn how to give and receive care, starting by treating themselves with the compassion they so desperately need.

In the coming weeks, I’ll explain in depth how to care for yourself when cruelty has made you forget how this works. I’ll show you how to model a compassionate image and to use compassion to change the way your mind works.

If you’re trying to rebuild your life after a violent relationship, you don’t have to beat yourself up over the way you feel. Your emotional coping mechanisms have taken a pummelling, but together, we’re going to work out how to heal.

Hang in there – and I’ll see you next week.

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Does Time Heal? They Say 18 Months – I Say 21 Days!

e08c65b4068a173f39c0f51ca1db5dd1A survey covered in this Daily Mail article interviewed 155 people and found that breakups take 11 weeks to get over on average. The article also says it takes 18 months to get over a divorce.

Actually, I’d say with no good strategy, even breakups take 18 months to heal from. It may take just 11 weeks to get over the split, but not to fully heal and get back to your joyous, strong, positive, life-loving self again. Because:

Healing requires active engagement with the topic!

Which is why it really takes 18 months to heal without any system or engagement or strategy, or without the right support.

And during that 18 month period, without the proper healing, you’re very likely to move into more unsuccessful relationships, which will end in breakup or divorce too. 56% of second marriages also end in divorce, and 72% of third marriages – the statistics don’t lie!

Time alone does not heal wounds

Many types of relationship therapy may tell you that it just takes time to heal and there’s nothing more to do about it, but it’s just not true! It makes me sad that so many people believe this nonsense and live unnecessarily with their pain or depression for months and even years.

I’ve seen time and time again that healing happens in short spurts during that time.

Healing is not a linear chronological process – it happens when you focus on healing. And with good strategy, process, attention and support you can make those short spurts of healing happen quickly, over the course of a few weeks. Not months or years.

Here’s another statistic for you – 97% of divorcees who take my Naked Divorce program are successfulin getting over AND healing from all their trauma in 21 days.

Back on track, happy and loving life once more. Check out their personal stories here.

It’s a pity the study above didn’t ask the recipients exactly when and how they felt little bursts of improvement and how they worked to those points and through them.

When you actively embrace the healing process, and face the sometimes very difficult feelings and stages to work through, in an intelligent way, you create an environment where these flashes of improvement and healing begin to happen.

Unfortunately, there is evidence that traditional forms of therapy don’t help the recovery process at all. In fact, there are clear conflicts of interest that certainly don’t incentivize therapists to get their clients cured, healed and happy as rapidly as possible.

Clients become dependent on therapists, and therapists gain secure, long-term clients and income

Imagine if a relationship therapist had to find new clients every month because they were helping them heal so quickly. Business would become extremely tough. Far better to have a guaranteed monthly or weekly client paying for a year or more – make sure you don’t become one of these clients!

With my program, I’ve deliberately incentivized myself and my team of Divorce Angels to help people truly, properly, deeply heal faster and more effectively. Our reputation depends on it.

I want that 97% success rate in 21 days to go up to 99%, not down to 95%.

Come and try the system, we’d be delighted to prove it to you!

Or if you have any questions at all about getting over your divorce, do ask.

I’m here to help.

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7 Reasons Your Bad Divorce Etiquette is Stopping Your Recovery

AngryFour days into my divorce I hadn’t eaten for three days, I’d been in my tracksuit for 36 hours straight and had chain-smoked 40 cigarettes – and I’m not even a smoker.

A huge pile of laundry lay on the couch waiting to be ironed, and used tissues were everywhere. The house was in absolute chaos, I didn’t feel like doing anything.

I was so uncomfortable in my own skin. The pain felt unbearable, I just wanted to feel normal again.

I’d read 27 books on breaking up in two weeks. I’d spoken to two therapists. I had spoken to a counselor. I’d listened to music. I listened to a personal development CD. I spoke to friends. Nothing helped. I was going crazy!

Are You Feeling the Same Way?

The truth is, without the faintest understanding of divorce etiquette, I had no idea how to deal with myself and my emotions, my ex-husband and others around me.

I had no idea even where to begin, and my lack of knowledge was taking me on a steep downward spiral away from recovery.

Finally, my deep pain and trauma served as a catalyst to taking action. And I created my own structured system for recovery using my skills as a corporate change specialist – now of course the 21-Day Divorce Angel system.

Key to this was learning and understanding good divorce etiquette, which gave me the strength, belief and strategy to follow the recovery steps with power and decorum, and get back to a happy, normal life.

 

Seven Reasons You Need Good Divorce Etiquette

 

1. You’re unable to follow a strategy for recovery

Without adopting the right etiquette and code of conduct, you can’t separate yourself from the bitter and twisted version of yourself you could become if you allowed yourself to descend into self pity or loathing of your ex.

And even when you find and believe in a real strategy for recovery, your anger, panic or eratic emotions will short-circuit and sabotage your best efforts to walk out of this with your head held high.

2. Your judgment is poor, and you can’t see nonsense advice for what it is

Without strong, proven divorce etiquette to make you feel anchored in reality, you won’t trust your own judgment, and you’ll believe all types of contradictory advice thrown at you by well-meaning friends and authors.

Like ‘don’t cry, there are plenty more fish in the sea, time heals all wounds, you must stay active, don’t mope about, be strong for your children / mother / brother.’ All of which are unhelpful and even damaging myths.

3. You’ll check out, instead of feeling and facing your emotions

Without knowing how, facing your emotions can seem terrifying. And if you check out instead, as many do, you won’t be able to recover at all.

Correct divorce etiquette allows you to face your emotions with some certainty, strategy and decorum. Knowing there’s freedom and recovery on the other side.

4. You’ll deal with your ex in an unhealthy way

It’s so important how you deal with your ex. The right plan and code of conduct will give you a structure to minimize contact without going cold turkey, and work towards understanding, forgiveness and even one day friendship – for your true peace of mind and recovery.

Without the right etiquette many also get drawn back to having sex with their ex, which doesn’t help you in any way to get a clean break and closure.

5. Your kids, and others in your life, will suffer

You need a game plan and a great deal of personal strength to deal with your kids in a way that leaves them unharmed by the experience.

Also, dealing with your friends and family – especially with the clumsy and strange ways they speak and act around you – is so important to saving your relationships while you recover.

6. Your career will suffer

Keeping your career on track while coping with a divorce is like juggling eggs; you have to remain focused to continue performing, and falling apart is not an option.

With work, knowing the right etiquette is all-important. Without it, your life will be so much worse when you finally do recover.

7. Your next relationship will fail too

A shocking 56% of second marriages end in divorce, and 72% of third marriages fail too. But if you follow the right steps, code of conduct, and process your divorce properly, you’ll be able to move onto a fulfilling, loving, happy relationship that lasts.

It’s easy to get trapped in a never-ending cycle of self-help break up books, therapists and counselors. But when you feel the power and hope that comes with knowing the right strategy and etiquette, and having the right support, then you’ll be focused on real recovery as quickly as possible. No more messing or moping around.

Contrary to what most therapists will tell you, recovering from your divorce should take weeks, not months and years.

Take your first step to a happy, fresh new life today.

Download my free eBook, with in-depth step-by-step guidance on The Etiquette of Divorce from https://www.facebook.com/Divorce.Club/app_190322544333196

Hugs

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Today is our birthday!

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Today Nakeddivorce EmotionalFreedom is 3 years old!
The idea was born in February 2011 and by the 11th December 2011 I had my first sale. I never thought that when I developed the program that it would ever be used by anyone other than me. Since then we have a team which is slowly growing and over 740 people which have completed the 21-day program either with our homestudy kits, Divorce Angels or books. The next phase is about launching our online platform in 2015 which we are working very hard on right now. Everything happens so much slower than I wanted but we have had pre-sales on the program already and we feel very optimistic about it. Then it is onto building the other trauma recovery programs within the Naked Recovery platform which we have also been working on as well as training up the new Angels.
If anyone had ever told me how long this would take or how much work it would be, I would probably have run away but every day I feel very privileged that we get to walk with people through one of the darkest times of their lives back into possibility and lightness. I feel immensely thankful to everyone who trusted us to do the program with us. Especially the people right at the very beginning who helped us make it into what it is today.
Thank you for being who you are.
xxx
Adele