Who am I?’
It’s not the silly question it may seem; I have learned through writing my story and ultimately creating a fulfilling life that knowing and loving myself was a vital and necessary component on my journey. Through my pattern of involvement in abusive relationships I had lost my sense of self; my behaviour was centred around trying to change others to make me happy, so I forgot the vibrant, interesting and compassionate person I used to be. Now I know who she is I will always protect her as a precious child, worthy of love and respect- and if I’m precious, so are we all.
The other thing about me is that, although I have experienced many toxic relationships, I don’t naturally self-define as a survivor or victim. When I ask myself why, I realise it’s because I have many interests in addition to my work on domestic abuse; I love to write, to teach and help others to learn, I have a lifelong interest in creating compassionate organisations, I love my partner, my home, my friends and family. And, just maybe, I have moved on. My life is about so much more than pain and trauma, and this is my new beginning.
I read many, many things about domestic abuse and often I see people stuck in patterns of thinking and behaviour. I witness Twitter conversations where women and men compete to be seen as the most damaged by toxic relationships, yet I know that whoever we are, despite our age, gender and social position the effects of abuse are equally devastating and the statistics can only take us so far. I wish for us to work together to find solutions and be free of the traumatic bonds which spread into all areas of life and can prevent us from behaving kindly towards ourselves and each other.
Sometimes I hear people who have been deeply hurt expressing anger and mistrust of others. Their natural response to such pain is often to generalise, to scapegoat certain groups and to enter into conflict mode in the mistaken belief that winning will put things right, yet it often pushes the hurt deeper. I see children, silent, anxious and damaged by the toxicity that surrounds them, their feelings sidelined as the adults drown in theirs.
Angry thoughts, feelings and actions keep abusers alive in our memories and hearts, even though they may be gone from our lives. We punish ourselves long after the events and sometimes become trapped again when the need for affirmation blinds us to reality, and then it’s too late.
So here’s an easy exercise to help you with your new beginning. Take a pause, sit quietly, take a deep breath and let go of all the anger and pain. Then simply surround yourself with loving kindness; sit with this beautiful feeling for as long as you can. It sounds a little strange to our westernised, scientific minds, but why not give it a try? It will help you to remember how amazing it feels to be truly loved and protected. This is what you deserve.
In this challenging and conflicted world, we are all struggling to be heard, valued and loved. My advice is to start with yourself as I have done, ask yourself who you really are and what you deserve. It took me a lifetime to realise that the answer was always within me, but it need not take you so long.
Could this be your new beginning? Can you move on from the people, behaviours thoughts and conversations which have kept you trapped? Can you treat yourself as a precious child? When you do, remember that is what we all deserve and pass the message on to others.