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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Sick of Suffering for Others? Stop Being a Martyr!

shutterstock_67945258How can you give so much but feel so empty and angry?

Because if you’re a martyr, you’re selfish and you’re not giving freely.

You tell others you are, but you’re not. And because of this you’re suffering in silence… and causing it all yourself.

The motivation of a martyr is to sacrifice themselves for someone else or for a cause – in their relationship, family, friends, work, a cause, or any area of life.

They give give give to feel like a good person. And they tell others they give freely.

But that is a lie

They don’t give freely. They expect something in return and when they don’t get this thing in return they feel empty, tired and angry.

And they don’t let out the anger – because they’re “giving freely” and shouldn’t expect anything in return, right? – So of course it comes out as passive aggression.

Does any of this sound uncomfortably familiar? I see it so often. And if you’re a little bit of a martyr (or maybe a lot) I’ve got some good news for you. You can turn the whole pattern round and let go of the disappointed expectations, anger, tiredness and passive aggression for good. Starting TODAY.

Time to Take Your Power Back

Here’s the key to getting over being a martyr. Remember YOU chose that behaviour. YOU chose to ‘give’. YOU chose to sacrifice yourself. YOU chose it. No one else.

And you forgot that you chose it and now you’re upset when you get nothing in return.

The moment you realise that you chose to sacrifice yourself for someone else, or for a cause, or for your work then you can also choose to stop doing it and take your power back. And you can do it NOW.

Firstly, you have to accept that some beliefs you’ve been living with for years – perhaps your whole life – are just plain wrong. And that can be tough. For example;

Suffering is Not Always Rewarded

Start analyzing exactly what you think to gain every time you sacrifice yourself for someone else. Do you hope to gain respect, a feeling of value, nobility? Or a return favour?

Or does a sneaky feeling of unidentifiable guilt lie behind it? Or undeservedness? Are you trying to prove yourself a good person to yourself, or your parents, or your concept of God?

Remember, all the happiness and richness you can get out of life will not come from someone else, it will come from YOU. By going out and getting it.

Suffering does not lead to joy. If you’re in doubt of this, just think back to when you were young. How easy does a child find it to be happy – without suffering for others. Imagine a child sacrificing everything they want to other children just in the hope the other kids will pay them back and make them happy somehow one day. It’s ridiculous!

Martyrs Are Actually Extremely Selfish

When someone gives a compliment spontaneously and sincerely they’re doing a lovely thing for the other person. When they give a compliment just because they’re fishing for one themselves, well that’s just unpleasant, needy and selfish. Don’t you think?

It’s the same with any sacrifice where you secretly expect something in return. When you give something to someone purely 100% to help them in that moment it’s a lovely gesture for both parties. But when you want something in return, well, you should make sure you say that clearly, because;

Mind-Readers Don’t Exist!

No one can read your mind, and no one knows of these secret deals you’re setting up with them when you sacrifice yourself for them. No one knows of these unfulfilled obligations building up over time the more you “give give give.”

And if they did know that everything you were “giving” came with a debt, they probably wouldn’t accept your sacrifice!

Your Action Plan – Quit Martyrdom and Become Selfless Once More

Firstly, examining your beliefs. And be brutally honest with yourself.

And start setting boundaries and enforcing them with a steel hand;

When you want to say ‘No’… SAY ‘NO’

Don’t be afraid to change the way you act, and the way others will see you. When you start saying ‘No’ others will respect you more, trust me. And when your passive aggression towards them disappears, they’ll love it as much as you do.

And of course, take responsibility for everything in your life. You caused it all. When you accept this, it’s a wonderfully empowering feeling.

Tell me what you think about Martyrs. Are YOU secretly one?

Do share, I want to hear it!

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