Space for Myself
Many of us have been in intimate relationships where we were betrayed and abused; some of us left after a few weeks or months, but many of us stayed for years, sometimes decades. The longer we live with our abuser, the less we feel in contact with ourselves because the ground has constantly been shifting under us, and our abuser erodes our sense of self, and our self confidence. To begin reclaiming ourselves, we need to spend some time each day alone feeding ourselves, without distraction, with something to allow us to be in ourselves. I’ve put together some suggestions to get you started.
First, allow yourself to have some quiet by turning off the television, radio, I-pod, and phones. Decide on the length of time you want to spend and stick to it, making it at least 15 minutes, then choose how to relax.
- Read for pleasure – anything; your favourite author, a magazine, poetry, lyrics from a song.
- Go outside into your garden, if you have one; you’ll be able to hear your children from there. If you don’t have children, and don’t have a garden, take a walk. If you do have children, and don’t have a garden, find a place to sit close to the house and feel the breeze on your face – even the raindrops. Going outside changes the atmosphere around us and inside us.
- Call a friend. I know this can be hard, but our friends want to hear from us, share our news, share their news, listen to our difficulties, listen to our triumphs.
- Colour. Buy an adult colouring book, or use your children’s colouring books; failing that, draw a pattern on some paper and colour it. The practice of colouring focuses our minds on the here and now, and helps us let go of our concerns. Resting from our concerns is an important part of self care.
- Listen to music, but only listen to music; don’t use it as a background activity. I like to lie down on the floor on a fleecy rug and allow the music to overtake me.
- Take a nap: Get yourself comfortable, set an alarm for 30 minutes or so, and snooze. Allow your body and mind to rest.
- Think positively: This is an often misunderstood idea; it’s not about being upbeat and only seeing the positives in your life. Thinking positively means giving attention to the good things in our day. So often we pay attention to our lists of jobs to do, things to fix. Going through a divorce is a major task in itself; when an abusive partner is involved we have much more to consider. Thinking positively, focusing on yourself, your abilities and your achievements, helps build inner strength, and confidence in yourself. I recall feeling dragged down by the idea of raising my children on my own until I realised that even while married that’s what I had been doing. We have been told we won’t manage on our own, but that is a lie, and being on our own is another lie; there is always someone willing to help us.
- Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness Practice is becoming ever more popular, and if you are new to it there are many resources available to you, but the only resource you truly need is your breath. The focus in mindfulness practice is to bring your awareness to the present moment and what it contains.
- Start by sitting upright in a chair with your back against the chair back, and your feet flat on the floor, hands resting in your lap.
- As you breath in and out, bring your attention to your feet on the floor. Are your feet relaxed or tense? Is the surface soft or hard? Send your breath all the way down to your feet.
- Now, aware of your in breath and your out breath, bring your attention to your knees. Are your knees stiff or relaxed? Do the backs of your knees touch the chair? Are your knees painful? Send your breath all the way to your knees.
- While you breath in and out, bring your attention to your buttockss Are you sitting comfortably? Is the chair soft or hard? Are you aware of any discomfort? Send your breath to your buttocks.
- Now, still aware of your in breath and your out breath, bring your attention to your spine. Become aware of the surface it rests on. Is it hard or soft? Do you feel any discomfort or pain? Taking your time, send your breath down your spine, one vertebra at a time, starting at your neck.
- Next bring your attention to your shoulders, arms and hands, remembering to breathe in and out. Is there tension in your shoulders? Are your arms tired or relaxed? Are your hands sore, or at ease? Again, taking your time, send your breath across your shoulders, down your arms and into your hands, allowing the breath to leave through your finger tips.
- Lastly, breathing in and breathing out, bring your attention to your head. Our heads are often the busiest part of ourselves because we associate the head with thinking. The practice here is to notice our thinking, then let it go. We don’t need to get caught up in our thoughts. Gently notice a thought is there, label it as a thought, and come back to your breath. Do this, breathing in and breathing out, six times, allowing any thoughts to dissolve into the ocean of consciousness.
- When you finish, and before you stand up, give your body a gentle stretch to waken up.
Footnote: once you are familiar with this meditation, you might like to try in lying on the floor, hands turned toward the ceiling.
I hope you find this useful. I welcome your feedback and suggestions. Meantime I leave you with this helpful mindfulness practice body scan resource which I find very helpful.