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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Are You A Giver Or A Taker In Your Relationships?

6956173-girl-hands-daisy-flowers-summer-moodSome people live life being just on the take – looking at what they can get out of every situation. They’re also not interested in doing something unless they get something in return.

In some way none of us will do anything unless we get something out of it but true joy in life comes from giving without a guarantee of receiving anything in return. Like unconditional love.

If you find yourself being conditional in the gifts you give people i.e. I gave you x, you owe me y then your gift was not given unconditionally.

From taker to dictator

I think self-centered people often wind up taking the Dictator role in relationships. Especially if they’re paired with a giver. This is where `who gets what and how much` is always determined by the taker, the other partner gets whatever the taker decides they’ll get. And that’s that.

This inevitably leads to unhappiness for the taker’s partner. And a failing relationship.

You can’t take and win

This fascinating study ‘Reciprocity is Not Give and Take’ illustrates a powerful reason why takers kill relationships. With a series of experiments, a team at the University of Chicago found that when it comes to social relationships, including intimate relationships, when one side gives, the other side can give equally and both parties feel satisfied.

But when one side takes, and then in return the other side takes the same or receives something of equal value, then the dictator (sorry I mean the taker) is the only happy one left. The other party who was initially taken from is still not happy. It’s just human nature.

So to sum this up, the only relationship that can work and flourish is two givers. But watch out, there are still ways being a giver can be bad for you.

Be a giver, not a record-keeping matcher

Make sure you’re a giver, and not a matcher – someone who remembers every little thing they gave and expects the equal amount in return, or they’re just not happy. This Psychology Today article explains the matcher nicely.

Very often such matchers don’t even express all the things they feel the other party owes them and they become martyrs – always giving, giving, giving and feeling sad and frustrated because the world just isn’t giving back. See my earlier post on martyrs here. Don’t become one!

Givers can be taken advantage of

In any relationship the giver is the happiest and also potentially the unhappiest.

Just make sure you’re with another giver, not a taker or a matcher. And the best way to be is always strive to give unconditionally, expecting nothing in return. Except perhaps that warm feeling of giving to someone you love.

Give from the heart because you want to. I think you’ll agree that’s true love and the foundation of something beautiful.

How to know you’re receiving unconditional love

And at the same time respect yourself, don’t be taken disadvantage of and make sure you’re receiving unconditional love too. Not in a tit-for-tat way. But just be aware of it.

When you’re conscious of this you’ll know if your partner is playing the role of a taker and dictator. And you can communicate it to them if they are, because they’re probably unaware of it.

When your partner gives love and is happy, regardless, you know it’s no strings attached giving. And when you mess up, make poor choices, get in your partner’s way, take a wrong turn or sabotage your own happiness and you’re partner’s not disappointed or irritated. And stays right with you, without judging or punishing. That’s another sign you’re not with a taker.

So, are you a taker or a giver in your relationships?

Share your thoughts!

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Are You Choosing Your Life Or Just Surviving?

DepressedOne of my clients was so traumatized by something brutal which happened in her life. She dealt with it by swallowing everything down, including alcohol, drugs and just numbing herself.

 

Many would say she ‘chose’ her path of destruction

In life this word ‘choice’ always gets tossed about. Perhaps too much. How we always have a choice in everything we do. How everything we do is our choice.

I believe that on one level but I am beginning to think that true choice is something which becomes available when you’re on the higher echelons of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs;

MaslowsHiearchyofNeeds

 

You need to be able to think straight to truly ‘choose’

Otherwise we’re just reacting and stumbling along. The thing about being in survival is you go back to basics and consequently have no true ‘choice’ because you’re just existing to survive. You can’t think properly and operate robotically.

Suddenly all you feel you can focus on is getting the basic needs of physiology and safety; sleep, food, sex, homeostasis, safety of body, safety of employment.

All those old stuck emotions keep you held down, unable to rise above survival mode or think beyond it. When you don’t face those emotions and work to release them permanently you’re just stuck struggling to deal with them day by day, while also trying to operate a normal life and survive.

Everything beyond that is way out of your reach, and beyond your choice to have in your life.

Without releasing all those old stuck emotions, you can’t choose a different path consciously. You can’t just ‘switch’ off anger, deadness, and coping mechanisms to just be full of happiness or possibility.

Your unconscious mind is driving you blindly

Although you may consciously recognize that you’re on a self-destructive, unfulfilling path away from real healing, you don’t have the choice to get off it without taking the difficult step first to release all the crap that’s holding you there.

So your unconscious mind is robotically taking over and trying to get you through the day. And without any understanding of a real strategy for release and long term healing, your unconscious mind is pushing you to deal with the pain and stuck emotions the only way it knows how – with short term escape tactics.

For my client this was drugs and alcohol among other things.

How to release and escape the cycle

But my client has now been doing this incredible catharsis release process we designed and what is now there is pure sadness and compassion – for herself, others and her family.

She now has a choice!

A choice to take a different path and heal herself. To move beyond this kind of destructive survival mode and cycle, and towards happiness and possibility once more.

And she got there by taking that first bold step and facing those old stuck emotions head on, following our carefully developed release process.

Are you stuck in a similar place?

I’d love to help.

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