It’s Not About the Abuse – It’s About Its Effects
(Or: It’s not about dwelling on the past – it is about working on the “NOW”.)
(Note: this is LONG – 2770 words. Sorry. But hey: scan through it, see if there’s anything you can use, take what you want or as it applies to you and be happy along the way. In the NOW! And stay there. 😉 Read on – you’ll see.)
We’ve all faced it if you’ve admitted to yourself, a therapist, shrink, friend, whatever – your memories and your past. You are encouraged to tell those horror stories. Trust me: IT CAN RE-TRAUMATIZE YOU. It can make things worse. You can end up dwelling on past harm, swimming in it, drowning at times; maybe even wanting to take your life, or do harm. Sometimes it’s to yourself or in our case, “selves”. But face it: human beings are human beings and who doesn’t like watching a good train? And some people get off on controlling making you feel pain, saying it’s in the name of “therapy” and claiming it’s healing. It is NOT, and not always. It just helps you understand where certain views and reactions you (and “yours”, if you have them) came from. WHY you have “those thoughts” and maybe what they mean; or why your thinking is distorted, or the thinking of one of your sides, or selves.
But that doesn’t change anything. It is simply understanding yourself better by knowing how a view, a way of seeing, can be distorted, or just wrong on your part based on past events.
Trust me, you don’t have to go through all that, though in some cases it may be necessary. You don’t have to go through every horrid stroke, every feeling, word, thought, action in the past which got you where you are. Dwelling on sh** can leave you mired in the sh**, get “stuck”. And be really wary of a therapist who seems too interested solely in your past, and wants stories, making you thrash through every painful event and detail. Ultimately these are going to be unimportant to you and your healing. Trust me: I’ve done it all, been through it. Healed now, I consider “myself”. Going through all that old sh**/stuff can actually make things much worse. And to tell the truth? All those past horrors and events? They are unimportant compared to what IS – today!
Because TODAY isn’t about your past, though your past formed your views and response to today. What IS important is NOW, and how that will feel in the future. Yes, it IS or may be important to you for you to know what happened to you. I can feel your pain on that! But as an old friend told me: “You have to accept there are parts of your past you can never know.” Never mind memory is like a thin gold mirror reflecting events from the past: even touching it can change it. Studies have shown just remembering physically changes the memory, ‘strengthening’ or increasing the ‘weight’ or importance of something IN the memory, and to the memory itself, and that the mind WILL make up some of the details to fill in the gaps.
So never mind “what happened”, however horrid, abusive, etc. Everyone’s got horror stories, some really bad. Some things you maybe can get over, through, or around. In a case like mine you must do all 3. Some things you might never get completely over. Some things are always going to bring a touch of sadness, of loss. BUT: You have learned tragedy. You have known pain. You can learn to embrace that; realize how much richer your life is for it. YOU KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE. You’ve can to learn to accept that and forge it to good. That might mean – DOES often mean – forgiving yourself and others, including between any “selves” that might be lurking inside. Don’t look at them with fear or loathing, or hatred, dread. Learn to accept ‘them’ within you with open arms. Learning to forgive for peace of mind is important. Once you do you no longer have reason for hate and rage. Thus it’s for the sake of your happiness. Your happiness should become all important to you. It is to me, believe it or not, though I will put my own happiness first – a thing hard won and well earned. I wish everyone could be happy & all at the same time. But that’s not going to happen, and I can’t do it for them, or even you. I can only help as best I can by putting signposts ahead. After all, Happiness IS the only goal in Life. Only you can do it. There is no other when you dig to the root of any behavior, want, desire, want, fate . . . it ends with “I think or thought it would make me happy at the time” while admitting it was a failed effort over 99% of the time. YOU CAN FIX THAT, DO IT WITHIN YOURSELF. And only YOU can do it. No one else can do it for you – no therapist, psychologist, shrink, counselor. Ultimately it comes down to “the client must make some effort and do these things themselves”.
So the past, while important, isn’t important NOW. What is important NOW is the EFFECT today. If your perception give problems, whether it’s suicidal tendencies (or even “idealization”), self-harm, split personalities, an uncontrolled ability to stop dwelling on some facets of your life – whatever. You can get over it, beyond and learn to handle things with ease IF you are willing to work on how you feel in the NOW: examining how you think, and more importantly, how you see, or perceive (and thus think) about things. Once you realize WHY you think the way you do you can know where certain feelings can come from, where they may be false in this particular application in your “NOW” and in the “TODAY”. By knowing what went wrong, where and how, you can more easily change it, which is much of the reason therapists & counselors want you to tell them your stories – but then later on, after you’ve figured out the “why’s” and “how’s”, you can begin to compensate for that “wrong thought” or “mislabeled perception”. As you get better at this later you might find you are doing it more automatically, then later still – it just comes naturally. You can be a mentally healthy & happy human being. YOU CAN GET BETTER handling things, including your own past – by handling YOURSELF, and quite consciously – in the beginning and in the “now”. Learn to take strength from what happened instead of letting it TAKE strength FROM you, find wisdom it gave you. You are a unique human being for having gone through all of this. Think not? Look at your scars, self-inflicted, perhaps. I have mine, too, as a reminder now, a remembrance, an event I’ll never repeat. You, like me, may rememberempty pill bottles in the trash and by now you know – or I hope you know: that’s NOT the way to my happiness, not really. And if all else fails, hang onto the hope of having some hope someday, perhaps far in the future . . . but it is there.
Because – trust me: IT CAN BE DONE.
Ask yourself: who else but YOU knows these kinds of things, all intimate and close up? Who had the wisdom to see their way this far? What kind of knowledge did it give you? What tools did you use? Maybe it’s time for some new ones, something to supplement your armor – and the best come from changing your attitudes and your perceptions so that things no longer bother you. And no, I don’t mean an “apathy” feeling, as in “I don’t care how I feel towards the world, or the world in general.” I’ve touched on the dangers of apathy before. No – look towards the positive sides of the abuse, and how it affects your behavior in this day and age. NOW. More empathic? Kinder? Tougher? More knowledgeable ABOUT abuse and all its assorted effects? Looking for and FINDING the good that can come out of it, and how to apply that in a positive, encouraging manner that helps is a great way to your new life. From time to time you’re will find yourself picking up old tools and using them, but that’s the intelligence which comes from ‘healing’ and “controlling”, and “doing the work”. You learn how to handle things, what YOU must do in YOURSELF, whether it’s changing your views or the outside world, or coming to terms with that you CAN’T change – all these things. Learn to catch yourself in the moment AT the moment, halting what is going on inside and then re-examining it: how you feel, where that welling panic, distrust, fear, or whatever comes from – and then coldly setting that aside while you re-evaluate your position. “Am I wrong?” is one of the first things you should be asking about those “instinctive” or “gut” feelings when you have been abused and become a survivor. Consulting statistics (and I mean real ones) about dangers, if you think, or have, dangers around you – because some of them ARE real. So get the right information about them. For instance, most of us are in mortal danger traveling down the autobahn, or highways here in America. But the fact is most things are safe as houses, or even more so. (Most accidents happen at home, after all – lol!) And most people are not bad once you get to know them. But to do all that you must deal in the “NOW” and learn to re-evaluate your emotions by examining your own thoughts, and making sure they aren’t stemming from some past abusive history.
Learn to ask yourself “why?” about a zillion times about a feeling, or why something bothers & plagues you – some facet of your life you find or found so horrifying it traumatized you and now seems intent on dragging you to the Pit of Depression. Those things matter, but ONLY in relation to how you’re feeling today and would like to feel later. I would suggest Journaling as a method of doing this, whether it’s about past events or something that just happened right now. Dig down by asking “why” to every answer you come to, dig down & drill some more. Eventually you’re going to find the truth of it. That comes when you reach the point where you say: “I thought someone or this thing and/or event was going to bring me some happiness” and there are no more “why’s” behind that.
But that’s just the thing. Say you, like ‘me’, “found” you actually weren’t like everyone else. I didn’t think anything was wrong. ‘We’ had always thought in a ‘we’, or plural form, down until we were about 4 or 5 years old. “We” thought feeling suicidal all the time was normal: that was our perception. “We” felt that all this inward fighting – well, EVERYONE had that. Looking back at it I can feel kinda stupid. After all that psychological training that we had . . . but that was to give us some tools in case anythig went wrong, which it did, and kept going wrong multiple times until another ‘alter’ rose to the top to help take care of it, this “split” personality – one that can get out of control, OR as we reassure those who struggling with DID, BPD, or MPD*, it can become useful – a tool for getting around, indeed, for getting ahead once you’ve learned to treat ‘you’ and ‘yourselves’ as one big family. I can’t be ‘cured’, not really. The original ‘I’ is gone,, broken, dead, evolved, shattered – whatever. But I accept ‘myself’ (or selves) with a sense of humor. ‘We’ are all not all always happy, but we struggle much less. It was difficult to be sure, but we had advantages: time was on our side, and we went through a great deal of work “getting there”, or rather, “in the now” and no longer worrying or hurting inside. Dealing with business in the TODAY; beng a child when appropriate, etc. We’ll probably always bear the title of being “a little strange in his views”. “Fifteen degrees off,” as some have put it. But all agree on one thing. We are seem to be a very happy person and well adjusted in SOME ways.
And I think any DID “system”, or a person with one of the disorders listed above, does not have to undergo integration in order to ‘work’ as so many psychologists, counselors, therapists, and other doctors in the professional field, as well as many ‘civilians’ who think they are ‘trained’, or just the public perception – through the use of drugs, say, to limit the amount of switching and make the person’s personalities half dead, or non-existant at all. (They’ve “fallen asleep” in other words, to use the parlay in lunatic asylum patient speak. I can say that having being one of them, LOL.) Drugs don’t work; they incapacitate the patient and keep “him” (or her, as the case may be) from dealing with themselves inside. Making you numb inside and out.
Never a good solution. After all, that’s what DID IS!!
So as you can see – did I tell you a single story from my past? Did you hear horrors or just yawns and moans? (I’m okay with that, too, LOL. You got this far and we’re almost at the end.) And do you know why?
I’m not dealing with my past. Instead of wasting my efforts on water down the drain, water over the dam and staring at all that darned milk spilled . . .
I analyze how I am in the now. I pay attention to myself and selves, and how ‘they’ are feeling. Especially when I am ‘uncomfortable’. It’s a sign somethings not right . . . in the now, and since I am not wasting my time fretting about my past I can concentrate my resources on the ‘now’. NOT into the future where the unknown AND unknowable will be happening. That’s how one begins to WORRY – by living too much ahead. It’s okay to dream and plan, but after that? Just go ahead and handle things as they come up. Don’t fret about every detail of “the plan” going 100% perfect and especially 100% of the time. Plans don’t survive contact with reality, a well proven and time worn fact. (They even teach it in Army School.)
No, what you’ve got to do is deal with the “now” of things, quit living in the past IF YOU CAN. Well do I understand the meaning of the phrase: “I’d love to, but IT won’t let go of ME” when someone would ask why I “couldn’t let something go”. I invented it! 😉 While relating old stories can have some uses – it can help identify WHEN things might have gone wrong, and for all the right reasons, or they could be wrong. You may find, as (I’m smiling here) I did that when you discover “where” some of those impulses, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, daymares, dreams, hallucinations, etc. – all those things of “madness” being described by some people – are but aren’t really your own. And a “system” can be built to handle it. That goes for monominds as well – those of a single personality, or no personality disorder at all. Working on the now, and not what happened before – rebuilding the walls and bridges, not staring at some devastated landscape in your mind – it can be done. But only in the now. Because really, that’s all there is.
Depression comes from dwelling too much on bad things that happened – the PAST – and worry comes from living too much in the future. Don’t do too much of either one of them.
Instead focus on the effects on the “YOU” now. Find them, “fix” them (again, not looking towards the past for a solution, nor to some unseen future) – keep asking yourself “why?” over and over again . . . and YOU can find some answer, something to give you the key (or “a” key) to start healing.
And good luck – do some deep thinking! – along the way. It’s a hard row to harrow any time of the week.
MPD: NIMH’s old of “split personality disorder”, now superceded and fragmented into other categories which have been folded in under the all encompassing umbrella term of “D.I.D.”
*DID: Dissociation Identity Disorder: generally charcterized by a high degree of compartmentalization within a person to include such structures, and to a point, that it seems another ‘person’ or personality emerges.
BPD: Borderline Personality Disorder: Also under “D.I.D.”, generally characterized as what seems more as a “mood swing” or wild and rapid changes to the base personality. Usually the person is aware, but may be unable to control themselves; e.g. acts inappropriately, smiles at all the wrong things, etc.