This series of blogs expands on Self-Care 1 where I discussed how essential self-care is to recovering from the damage done to us by Domestic Abuse. I’ve been following the suggestions in 15 MINUTES TO SELF-CARE , and the last suggestion on the list, Think Positively, can be the most controversial.
Think Positively: What it is not
When something catastrophic happens, and I’m told to think positively, I always want to scream. This little nugget of advice comes over as a criticism to someone who has learned to see things as they are. Years of ignoring my intuition about my abuser’s actions, and stuffing down my true feelings, have left me unwilling to gloss over the clear realities in a situation. We have survived the concentration camp of Domestic Abuse*; we know there are tough times ahead, and we objectively have the strength to move forward. Thinking positively is not magical thinking; it’s not about wishful thinking; it’s a conscious decision to challenge our thought patterns, a little at a time, and return to our own values and inner selves. Our thoughts do not exist in a concrete way until we put them into action.
Let’s have a look at some ways of thinking that keep us stuck, and alternatives. I found these lists helpful when I was first recovering, because I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know where to start; returning to lists like this helped move things for me. This table uses yoga poses as an activity demonstating types of thoughts; clearly any activity can bring up these ways of thinking – the remedies are the same for any situation.
Number 2: ‘We form strict rules and unrealistic expectations’. is an enormous challenge for many of us, because we lived for so long with our abuser’s rules and expectations. We internalised these rules, despite our abuser constantly breaking them. We also internalised our abusers statements about ourselves: I recall feeling crippling anxiety about being able to manage on my own, each time I tried to leave our marriage, I was told I would never cope alone, our children’s lives would be awful, but when I saw the reality I was, and had been living, my outlook changed completely – I had existed as a single parent within our marriage, with responsibility for all our finances, organising the house, and caring for our children. Of course I had the skills to cope as a lone parent! Reframing our habitual thought patterns is extremely important.
Due to the skills we have used to survive abuse, we often have a strong attachment to making things perfect – if the dinner is perfect he won’t kick off. The lived reality was one of constantly shifting goal posts; we could sense when an outburst was coming, but could never sidestep it. Perfectionism became a huge waste of energy, leaving us feeling we aren’t good enough. Good enough is a concept we need to learn, and adopt.
To help us adopt this belief that we are good enough, we also need to adopt healthy boundaries. We are allowed to take up space in the world. We are valuable beings in our own right, regardless of our achievements. We are important!
Carving out a space that is yours is challenging to start with, but helps us create the lives we want to have. We can stop eating porridge for breakfast, because we do not like it. We can choose to be vegetarian, because we believe it will improve our health. We can invite friends over for a meal because we live in our own space, and can choose who to invite into it. We can make our own happiness, because we value our own likes and dislikes, and trust our intuition about people and places.
So, thinking positively is an active choice to live our lives our way, and to that extent is a beneficial tool in helping shape the lives we desire.
I leave you with this.
*This is not to belittle the dangers when leaving an abusive relationship; the point that women are most likely to be murdered is when they leave.
I hope this has been helpful. Please share and sign up for my blog notifications.
Sending out peace to you.