I am on vacation this week in San Diego. We needed a break from that hot Arizona weather. It’s been beautiful here, about 70 degrees but sunny. The cool breeze is just what our bodies needed. I will be caring for my three granddaughters all week as my daughter and son-in-law have decided to move to Arizona, not far from where I am. So in just a year, my entire family has relocated to Arizona. I would have never imagined that God would do this a year ago. But it’s exciting to have everyone so near.
I’ll post some pictures next week with the girls. Pray that I have the energy to keep up. They are pretty active little girls.
This week’s question: Leslie, I am so glad I learned about you in a Divorce Care group. As I looked more into your website I ended up joining CONQUER. This has been a lifesaver! Someone finally validating, who knows and gives clarification on what's been going on for 37 years of my life.
I am stuck! I've been divorced a year now. I can't seem to let go of the hurt caused to me, my children and grandchildren. My husband immediately went online to find another woman as soon as the divorce was final.
All the years, betrayal, lies, pretending we had a marriage relationship. Only to find out, he didn't love me! This hurts to the core! Now, I'm alone! I don't know what God wants me to do. I'm 58 yrs, old, overweight, arthritis in my knees and hands. I'd like to retire, but can't. I need health insurance. I had no idea this is where I'd be mid life! My life has been one abusive event after another. I grew up in a dysfunctional family. Sexually, physically, and emotionally abused all my childhood. I wasn't a child ever.
Answer: I’m so sorry that you have had a lifetime of hurt. Tons and tons of hurt. For 58 years you have been neglected or abused by one person or another. You long to be loved and valued. But sweet sister, the one person who must start valuing you at this point in your life is you. To hold on to all your negativity and pain is only hurting you now. Your husband has moved on (so he says). Your parents and family aren’t crawling back begging for your forgiveness. You feel discarded. And you have been, but that does not mean you are unworthy or invaluable.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they have been repeat victims or even one time victims is getting stuck in their hurt and anger, just like you feel. It’s legitimate. You have been deeply hurt and you are entitled to feel hurt and angry because of it. But sometimes we stay stuck, hoping and waiting for those who have hurt us to make some sort of acknowledgment or apology. Some sort of confession that validates the pain they have caused or the truth of what he or she has done.
I remember in my own life getting stuck in that place for a number of years, waiting, expecting, hoping that my mother would realize what she had done and ask for forgiveness. While I stayed stuck waiting for her to change, my problem was that I was not getting any healthier. I was not growing stronger. I was waiting. I was stuck.
Don’t get me wrong. You have every reason to feel your hurt and angry feelings, but for how long? How long do you need to feel them for you to validate and acknowledge them? How long do you need to continue to suffer for what happened to you last year, or 5 years ago, or 20 years ago? Do you need to suffer for the rest of your life? That is your choice, but let’s look at what holding on to these painful feelings costs you. What’s the price you are paying right now in real time?From what you wrote it's costing you your peace of mind, your sanity, and your future. To me, that’s way too high a price for you to pay. My vote is that you learn to let them go.
The people who have hurt you have already taken a great deal from you. Why would you give them a minute more of your present and your future? Why would you give them any more of your precious emotional energy? To get unstuck from negative emotions, you need to redirect. You need to stop wishing and hoping that they would care for you, validate you, acknowledge what they have done or bear witness to your pain. Instead, you need to start caring for you, but not as a wounded child, but as a healthy adult.
What I mean by that is when a child (or immature) person administers self-care, it’s about getting relief from her painful feelings. So she sucks her thumb or as she gets older, drinks too much or eats too much, watches too much television or turns to pornography as a way of self-soothing. An adult recognizes that those ways of self-soothing might provide some temporary relief but also cause long-term problems like weight gain or a host of other physical or emotional problems.
Therefore, an adult must decide to care for herself in more mature ways. Ways that often go against her feelings. For example, one way I care for myself is by exercising. I never feel like exercising, what I feel like doing is eating a big bowl of Talenti Salted Carmel Gelato every night. But caring for myself as an adult means sometimes I have to say no to my feelings and push myself to do what’s going to help me actually get stronger, not just temporarily feel better.
In the same way, now you may have to learn to discipline your heart and mind to think differently, feel differently and do differently.
For example, God tells us in his Word that we are changed and matured by renewing our mind with the truth. He also tells us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. No one can do this for you but you. So what things are you doing in order to put God’s words inside your heart, instead of your own negative thoughts and feelings, or even the negative words and lies that have been said to you? The psalmists writes, “He sent forth his word and healed them” (Psalm 107:20).
God’s word says that we are to guard our heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Are you doing anything that will help guard your heart against these negative emotions that are swirling around in your body? Do you journal? Are you in some sort of counseling or accountability relationship that will help you stay focused? Only you can guard your heart. No one else can do that for you.
What about taking care of your body? God says that we are to present our body to him as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable (Romans 12:1). Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Are you taking steps to take better care of your body? For example, are you sleeping enough? Are you eating healthy? Are you taking the time to exercise? These are all important things our bodies need in order to function well, including managing our own negative emotions. When we are tired, have eaten too much sugar or junk food, or hormonally challenged, it’s much harder to control our negative feelings, isn’t it?
Valuing you and taking good care of you will be a good first step.
The second step is that you must learn is how to let go of your negative feelings of hurt and anger. One of the biggest challenges in this step is you have to want to. Jesus asked an interesting question to a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years in John 5. He said to him, “Do you want to be well?”
Why would Jesus ask such a ridiculous question? Of course he wanted to be well, didn’t he? Maybe not. I think Jesus knew this man was stuck in his passivity and his victim mindset since he had lived so long as a beggar, depending on everyone else for his welfare. Jesus knew that if he healed this man’s body, there was a whole new life out there that this man would now need to take responsibility for. He would need to get a job. Now as an able bodied person, he couldn’t depend on others to take care of him anymore.
He would have to interact with people from a whole different mindset than he did as a beggar and a helpless person. Did he want that responsibility and that challenge? Perhaps he would get married. Healing his body was only one part of this man’s healing. He had a whole life to rebuild.
So my question to you is “do you want to let go?” I’m going to assume you do since you asked this question, so let me show you a few more ways how.
First, you must begin to separate yourself from your emotions of hurt and anger and your negative thoughts. You are not your feelings nor are you your thoughts. Your thoughts and feelings are real and powerful but they are not you. They are just what you feel and think. Sometimes we feel good things, sometimes not such good things. Sometimes we think true things and other times we have deceitful thoughts or even wicked thoughts. Just because we have them, that does not mean we are them. In fact, sometimes when we observe what we are thinking or feeling, we actually don’t want to think or feel those things. They bother us. Pay attention.
This is the separateness I’m speaking of. Who is the YOU who doesn’t want to feel these feelings and think these negative thoughts anymore? That’s you. So, instead of getting caught in identifying yourself with your feeling, “I am mad and hurt,” I want you to separate yourself a little bit from your thoughts and feelings by the way you speak to yourself about it. Say it this way instead. “I am aware I feel angry and hurt.” Do you hear the difference? In this way, now you have your feelings instead of your feelings having you.
You can thank your feelings for informing you that your husband didn't love you as you wanted him to. This allows you stop living falsely and let them go. Remember, the loss of your husband’s love, or never having it, to begin with, is not a statement about your worth or value any more than Judas not loving Jesus was a statement about his worth and value. People don't always love us as we love them, or as we want them to. That’s painful, but it doesn’t say anything about who you are.
Clinging to your hurt now serves no purpose other than to keep you in a prison of pain. Which I know you don’t want. So I would encourage you to make a list of all the things you need to do to start rebuilding your life and start doing them, regardless of how you feel. You will need to push through your emotions to put one foot in front of the other towards your future. For example, start to make new friends, take some new classes you would enjoy, purposefully look for the good in what’s happened to you instead of always dwelling on the bad. Even when people receive a diagnosis of terminal cancer, if they can see the blessings in their life instead of focusing on the pain, they have a much better quality of life than if all they see is the pain.
This is all difficult work on your part so you definitely need a support system. I’m so glad you’ve joined CONQUER and went to DIVORCE Care. Those are both a good start. You are on the right path of healing and growth, just don’t let those pesky emotions stop you or hold you back.
God has a plan for your future (Jeremiah 29:11; John 10:10). He’s got you covered. Trust him and keep moving forward. >>Click To Tweet<<
Friend, what specific steps did you take to let go of negative emotions that were keeping you stuck?
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The voices in this world, the enemy’s lies, and even our own negative words can do a pretty good job of making us feel defeated and anxious. Choose to tune out from all that mess, and instead choose to listen to what God says about you. He reminds you that you are more than a conqueror. He tells you not to fear. Pray He will help you to have wisdom in whose voice you listen today, and that your thoughts would be focused on Him.
God’s word is living and active. God has words of life – of truth – that he wants to speak into your fears. Soaking them in, praying them out loud until they became so familiar they replace the other things in your mind — that is the first line of defense against lies we believe about ourselves, lies spoken to us, fear and worry. There’s Power through the words and verses, because they’re God’s words, and you will live, yes, abundantly live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Absolutely. When our thoughts and feeling contradict God’s words, which do we believe?
This article was very informative even for us who are still married and struggling Leslie. Learning to let go is not always easy, it can be very scary, we want the other person to validate the pain they have caused us. But reality is, we can’t change our spouse, I can’t fix him. The only person I can change is myself. So that is where I’m at right now at 56. There are only 12 hours in a day to use and make the most of with struggles of two steps forward and sometimes one step backward. Eventually I will get there.
I’d like to add something I’ve learned about myself. I’ve struggled for years on being stuck in negative thoughts and I couldn’t understand why and how come I just couldn’t get past that. Even after working through 12 step ACOA program, praying and trying to work through these things I still found myself stuck here and there. I also tend to hold grudges too. I was recently diagnosed with over focused ADD which includes being stuck in negative thoughts and holding grudges and a list of other symptoms. My doctor has recommended natural supplements to help my brain function to its optimum. I don’t feel stuck like I used to, I’m starting to feel calmer. But I still have to take the necessary steps to change and introduce healthy habits about how I view and life my life for God. Its also important to me to set a healthy example to my two young adult children. I also ‘need’ to exercise, to bring my cardio up which makes a huge difference in how I perceive life. Having said this, God is a big part of my life and I go to Him continuously. He has brought me this far and is continuously shedding light and guiding me. And I’m willing to be willing. His grace is in abundance. Its in my struggles that I’ve grown the most, that’s He’s shown himself to me.
So keep at it! You have so much to live for and so much to offer and make a difference in this world. Don’t give up. Leslie shares some great tips. Surround yourself with great supporting friends, friends that will encourage you and lift you up. Try to take a small step every day. You matter, You are important and God loves you so! I’m rooting for you dear one.
Thanks Carmen for sharing your experience. Part of healing involves healing our body and taking care of our body, which includes sleeping enough, exercise, diet and sometimes medication or other herbal remedies and things that will bring greater clarity and health.
I am a Pastor Emeritus, and now lead Gary Crawford Leadership.com. Just wanted to give you a word of affirmation. Your articles and webcast are always balanced and holds wisdom and encouragement for all who read. Thank you.
Thanks Gary, I appreciate it.
Thank you for this wise advice for letting go of the anger of being hurt/heartbroken. I can relate to this dear lady, as I experienced much the same. Actually, that is what finally led me to divorce my h. However, since I’m a Christian, I realized anger and unforgiveness were sinful and unhealthy, and I confessed to the Lord and prayed for His forgiveness to let it go. What a relief and peace of mind He has given!
Here are some things that have been helpful for me in the last few weeks of getting “unstuck”.
God told me that I needed to grieve specifically. I was ruminating on specific events and memories from the past 25 years. As I was reading (still haven’t finished it) the book Healing is a Choice by Stephen Arterburn (I highly recommend) and reading about the importance of grieving, God showed me that I should take those specific memories and as they pop up, to go ahead and feel the pain of the event. Let the tears come, feel the injustice of it and let God meet me in that grief. It has been very powerful for me. So, the process for me looks kind of like this….I have a thought/memory/trigger. If I am alone, I go with it and I try to hear God’s counseling voice in it: “Content, what did you feel then?” and I face those feelings. Then, I hear God’s permission to be sad and grieve over that, because it was wrong. Sometimes, the grief is very raw. But, the necessary part is hearing God validate me in the pain and then speak His words of truth which bring healing and comfort. The truth could be: “You are valued by me, the way you were treated is not ok with me. I am going to heal you and use that event in your life for good. Your husband is a broken man and the way you were treated is not a reflection of you, but of him…..” etc., etc. Just learn to listen to God’s voice and meet you in that pain. If you’re not alone when the trigger/memories come, make a commitment to yourself to come back to that later when you can have that quiet time and space to do this.
This process could take a while; I don’t think it’s a quick fix, do it one time and it’s over. Every one of us will have different periods of lengths of grieving and we need to be gentle with ourselves as we go through the grieving.
Another thing was to realize that I was being really hard on myself and expecting myself to just magically jump over the grief and pain of it all and be functioning like a person who hasn’t gone through ongoing trauma. The more I relax and rest in God’s love and acceptance of me right where I am, the better I feel and – as a result – the more I do start to function in better ways.
I also believe God has told me he wants me to stop thinking about my husband and all of the unhealthiness of the situation and to turn it around to “What is healthy for me? What do I want to do? What can I dream about for the future? Is there something I can do today that shows that I value myself?” (This is very contrary to the way I normally think and I’m pretty sure, based on all I read from those in abusive relationships, this is a necessary step to healing….and definitely ties right in with Leslie’s advice above). I am learning to love and value myself in a way I never, ever have. And, it feels good and holy and right – not selfish the way I’ve always thought in the past. I am learning to see myself the way God sees me.
I also highly recommend EMDR therapy and getting a good counselor who can take you back to work on healing your childhood trauma as well as your more recent traumas of the abusive relationship. I have been blessed to find a Christian counselor who helps me go back to the trauma and guides me through a new way to look at it with powerful imagery where God is brought into the event and truth is shone into the darkness.
One way I am showing care for myself is to commit to counseling. I can’t believe I have spent as much money as I have on counseling the last year, but I *know* that it was/is absolutely necessary right now and I am seeing God meet me in powerful ways through it. I am on my third counselor, so don’t give up right away if you don’t find someone at first. I finally got with someone where I didn’t feel like…”Why did I just spend that amount of money for *that*? So, if you’re feeling like that at the end of a session, it might be a good indicator to move on and keep looking.
This is a time in your life to let everything break down so much – and to let God do it – so that He can ultimately heal us in deep ways and set us free. This is the time to do it. There are things broken in us that attracted us to these kinds of men. We need to face it, deal with it, let God heal us from the past and from the current abuse that we endured. It’s scary, but let me tell you, I am just at the beginning of letting Him go to the scary places in my past that I haven’t really ever dealt with and it is sooooo worth it. It is beautiful. I’m almost to the point where I am seeing my husband as a gift in my life, if for nothing else, than that God is using this all to bring me to ultimate healing. (I said almost…hahah)
Sorry for the long comment, but reading the above, I felt like I needed to say all of this. 🙂
God will move you past this place, dear sister, and you will be able to look back in a shorter time than you think, being rooted in God’s unfathomable love for you, and see all the beautiful and good things God is doing in and through you as a result of the suffering.
To Content and to the gal who asked the initial question which Leslie posted:
This is beautiful and so helpful to the soul, Content!
I have been thinking about how God created our bodies. He set our eye in front of us. Our back side is basically ‘unprotected’. We don’t have eyes at the back of our head. I want to use the spiritual side of that, as God wants us to look forward, to move ahead, and to not look back.
I could use the story of Lot’s wife, who looked back. Maybe she looked back with regret, or with longings for what she had lost.. But for whatever reason, God turned her into a pillar of salt. Was it unbelief on her part? I don’t know. We definitely don’t want our lives to be a pillar of salt, where we are are constantly ‘looking back’ as we will be of no use to anyone, including ourselves. We want, instead, to be the salt of the Earth, in the spiritual sense of the word.
I think the verse ‘Forgetting those things which are behind (us) we move forward to the faith of the high calling of Jesus Christ.’. Why is it so hard to not look back? Why do we try and hold on to things we cannot change? We can only change ourselves, and we have to let go of the people we can’t change. And leave the rest to God.
I can remember things far back into my childhood. I have an acute sense of remembering, which can be a determent to me, if I let it be. To press forward, and to grow daily in the Lord is where we need to be.
And I don’t want to be trite in the fact that certain events, or time elements in regard to our past need to be faced, but once we face them, to forgive ourselves for our angst, and our worry, and turn to the Lord for our healing.
many years says,
Yeah, it’s interesting this idea of going back in your past to heal. But, also realizing there is a time to move forward and look ahead and not let the past define us any longer.
I was one who never really understood the whole “facing the past” thing. I remember my sister going through some of that several years back – she kind of had to face the fact that, as children, we weren’t really emotionally supported or validated at all. We were taken care of physically and we knew we were loved, which is such a grace that we had in our lives. Anyway, when my sister went through that, I remember listening to her express having to face that loss head-on and forgive. But, I couldn’t really relate to her at that time. My suppressed thoughts and feelings about it were just “Well, they did the best they could and why are you making this a bigger deal than it should be?” Fast forward a few years, and now I’m in the same place she was!
So, I think there’s something to be said about really facing reality and the pain and hurt of ways we were treated and not minimizing those things (which is interesting, because isn’t that what so many of us have had to face from our abusive spouses or parents? They minimized over and over the damage they are/were doing to us….and yet, here we are, we do the same things to ourselves at times. We don’t allow ourselves to really face the hard reality and we minimize the impact of some pretty major life events – or “smaller” events that have still played out as traumatic in our lives).
As I read your comment about you having an acute sense of remembering, I thought again of EMDR therapy because I believe that one of the things EMDR is supposed to help with is that it is supposed to help our brain put or file properly traumatic events so that our brain does not keep seeing them as current events (which our body then responds to in that fight or flight mode which does so much damage to us physically). I don’t know, I could be wrong on that, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that that is one way that EMDR helps.
I think there is a lot to be said about going back and looking at the traumatic events in your past (like counselors say, think of what would be considered big and little trauma – it’s whatever *you* perceive to be traumatic in your life) and inviting God into those places so He can shine a light. We can start seeing how we started believing lies or how we took on shame (some shame that wasn’t even from anything we ourselves had done) and how those lies or that shame shaped us and informed our behavior. We let God help us to see those past events in a right way, we accept His forgiveness for things we willfully chose and we do the necessary work of grieving and hear His comforting voice for the ways we were sinned against.
One thing I’ve tried to remember is God is the healer and healing is on his timetable. However, we do need to cooperate with Him and do our part which I think speeds up healing. But, ultimately, we trust His sovereignty in the timing of how our healing all plays out. He is so big that He is doing way more than just working with us individually on our healing -He is weaving it all into His grand design, using our individual stories to affect others (and others affecting ours).
One day, it will all make perfect sense – I love this quote:
“I can still believe that a day comes for all of us, however far off it may be, when we shall understand; when these tragedies, that now blacken and darken the very air of heaven for us, will sink into their places in a scheme so august, so magnificent, so joyful, that we shall laugh for wonder and delight.
–Arthur Christopher Bacon
Ha! Sorry for calling you “many years says”. Lol I’m a little slow….just realized that your name is many years and that everyone has “says” after their name as they comment. I wonder how many other times I have done this as I’ve replied to people??!! Oh, well, I’m getting a good inner laugh out of it. 😀
I would have replied sooner, but the past two days, my internet has been down. Bummer! You’re good, okay to say ‘many years says’.
But yes, ‘We’ll understand it all by and by’ comes to my mind from the song, when you mentioned when ‘these tragedies…will sink into their places in a scheme of august, so magnificent, so JOYFUL…etc. the quote you posted is so soul-refreshing and uplifting!
We can be spiritual time-travelers, going back in time to re-live our past experiences. To be able to look back in time to the cross of Christ and his suffering is probably the most poignant ‘distant in the past’ experience we can recreate in our minds in order for us to fully comprehend what He did for us.
We have a 6,000 year old, ancient compendium to direct us with our little, hum-drum lives, straight from the hand of God! That is a miracle in itself! We are so blessed with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to guide us, through God’s holy World into all truth, to free us from our circumstances.
I will have to look into EMDR. I have not heard of that process of facing reality of our past.
Thank you so very much for the encouragement to me, and continued prayers for all of the ladies on Leslie’s wonderfully, inspiring blog.
Several sisters here have mentioned EMDR as an effective therapeutic approach, and I have to say that it truly is very effective, when practiced by a well qualified therapist. It allows the brain to process trauma from different perspectives (parts of the brain) and works very well, but does take time (read: many sessions). I have learned some of the basics, and my next door neighbor was an excellent practitioner/trainer in EMDR, until she was killed in a tragic car accident two years ago. If you can find someone who practices it, go for it! However, be aware that just attending a seminar isn’t adequate training. The best practitioners have had extensive training from a qualified trainer.
That was supposed to be ‘Holy Word’ not ‘World’…I do it too! Ha!
Content, I sit here in tears as I read your beautiful comment. Ive been extremely lost in my pain & grief for the awful & abusive ways my husband has treated me. I am doin everything I can to keep my faith in God and my focus on getting back to a healthy me. In doin so, I feel like I am losing friends/relationships that were dear because my husband (who desperately needs to maintain the image of “good guy” but good guys dont abuse their wives) is rallying allies & playing “victim” & despite knowing the real truth of the pain he inflicted and his destructive behaviors, these same people are jumping on his bandwagon of pity and feeling sorry for him – no one seems to address the elephant in the room or hold him accountable (the wise & spiritual mentors that try – he wont listen) – He was the doting husband in public but the
Dr Jeckyll and or Mr Hyde monster behind closed doors. The steps I took to invest my focus on me were (1) in-house separation, (2) move out separation, he purposely made environment of in-house separation so uncomfortable I had no choice but to leave (3) christian based therapy and my counselor is wonderful, (4) finding new hobbies.
After refusing to return to the marital home that he demanded with no visible or consistent change, his behavior worsened WITH NO REPENTENCE & with nothing else left as I had exhausted all efforts to repair the marriage, the only thing now left for me to do is file for divorce. It seems like thats exactly what he wants me to do so he can further blame me & be in victim mode by saying – she left & now she’s filing for divorce – he tells everyone he was working to restore our marriage. Liar!!
The events of the last paragraph keeps me stuck in my hurt and pain – he abused and mistreated me and will collude with his “flying monkeys” that our demise and the state of our marriage is all on me bcuz I will have carried out (leaving and now preparing to divorce) something he “cowardly” & “immaturely” couldnt do.
Some people around you might be gullible. I’ll bet there some folks who see thru him. We ladies here believe you! I know that’s not as much consolation as a friend in real life. He’s being coward making you do the dirty work of filing for a divorce so he can look like the victim and a baby. Well, I see you should change the way you look at -you’re bringing an end to his reign of oppression. You’re like the Israelites leaving bondage in Egypt. Well, Pharoah doesn’t want his pet to leave. Too bad – you belong to God!
Thank you Ruth. I truly believe that there are friends and people who see thru him but what troubles me deeply is their unwillingness to address or hold him accountable for his destructive actions but will also turn a blind eye to my pain which only adds to my already ongoing betrayal. Im having a very difficult time understanding any of this. I often cry to God asking – “why & how did I get here”?
I can very much relate to your comment, SunRiseIsland. About the ones who can see, but don’t hold him accountable and seem oblivious to my pain. I wrestled with questions about that too. Especially when it seems the ones outside my church are more understanding and stand with me but the ones in my church seem to still hold me accountable for our marriage being ‘broken’, while at the same time acknowledging that he isn’t behaving as he should. I cannot figure how they can say that but yet somehow, in some subtle way I’m the one in the wrong??? God has been telling me all that matters is Him, and that He sees and knows all, regardless of what others do or don’t do. And that truth has been taking seed in my heart and soul and assurance of that truth has been growing in me. It’s like a growing glow of peace and joy that God is growing in me. I have just prayed for you, that God will also grow that in you.
Dear SunRise, Is it possible for you to move away and find a whole new life? A fresh start is what’s needed, and even if you can’t move to another city, what about a different social group….new church, new job, new activities, with people who don’t know him? Let him gather his cronies around him. Sooner or later, his true colors will manifest and those “friends” will pull away. The Lord deals righteously with the unrighteous. Leave it all to Him.
JoAnn – I am leaning on God and praying for some direction right now. While some of your great suggestions are not feasible for me, I have begun trying to find and establish many things “new” for me that dont include him. Coming to the reality that friends I thought would validate my feelings and be a strong support base to me; that really arent and now seems to have turned towards him and away from me has been a hard pill to swallow but I know someday the real truth with surface. I have to keep trusting and believing that.
real truth *will* surface.
Sunrise, I know this is a difficult time for you, and so many here have testified to just how hard it is, but you will get through. Think of it as walking through a valley, with the Lord right there with you. Eventually, you and He will emerge on the other end of the valley. Take care of your CORE, and your heart. And please, don’t consider that anything is impossible. If the Lord nudges you to do something, take His grace to do it. So many of the women here have expressed regret for waiting too long and not responding to the Lord’s leading right away. With His speaking comes the power of His resurrection life, that empowers you to do whatever He calls you to do. Lay hold of Him. Let Him lead you.
Rise, I have lived with a man who behaves in almost an identical manner of which you describe. Information helped me. I learned that behavior is to unique to him, but rather matches a profile found in many, many abusive man around the world. He use denial to cope with his actions, because he can’t think of himself as anything but wonderful. You were most likely just an object to him and a means to get what he wanted or needed for himself. Understanding this moved me to a measure of pity.
What a pity that his brain is so sick. He will most likely never get any better and his is throwing his life away worshiping the idol of himself. It is sad, but it has nothing to do with you. You took a vow to marry him. He went through the motions but was never available to love anyone because his heart, mind and soul are full of him. It is a profound illness and he was defective before you knew him. He was just an excellent manipulator. A double minded man, that can fool the best of them, like your friends.
Your anger is real and justified. Injustice has happened to you. You were fooled by a fool. Accepting that takes time. Remember you are the healthy one here. You will thrive, survive and revive, all in due time. Trust the process. Life gets, so much better.
“behavior is NOT unique to him”
The symptoms are rather, universal and easy to diagnosis. It just takes us a while to believe something so horrible is true. Because our brains are normal.
Well stated Free and thanks for validating me. You are right, I am the healthy and normal one here and thru this process am finally starting to escape the fog (fear, obligation, guilt). I now know NONE of this is/was about me and he was defective PRIOR to our marriage vows. I find it hard to pity or feel sorry for him because he wore this MASK for almost 20 years and only the last two did the real person show up. I cant even engage in the same room with someone I am not fond of pretending that all is okay between us (aka be phoney),for just a short length of time, let alone wearing a mask for 20 years, I just dont get it and that is my struggle. It is horrible and mind-boggling This is not normal to me at all and why Im taking this so very personal.
My question to you is: outside of reading and the info and comfort you gained from many others who have gone thru this same thing (sickening how almost identical the abusive husbands behavior is), what helped you REALLY move along, feel validated and thrive in life again when you didnt know what else to do or where else to turn?
This journey and process are often alone and very lonely.
Grief is so hard. I’m so sorry that you’re going through it. When you’re in it, it feels like you will be there forever – that there’s no way that life could be better or feel good again.
Many of us here can confidently attest that you *will* see and feel the sunshine again and that truly, joy does come in the morning.
A few practical things that helped me in my really dark days of grief:
-Typing a few things (every day would be great) on a gratitude journal app I have on my phone (or writing them in a journal, but I was more apt to have my phone and sometimes would just grab my phone in sheer desperation to turn my thoughts from the darkness and force myself to begin to thank God for specific things when it felt like I was drowning in my sorrow and confusion). Lots of science out there to document the power of looking for things to be grateful for and its effect on our brains – as powerful as anti-depressants.
-Staying in community – even though it stinks that you’re constantly crying and can’t even say two sentences without the tears coming again. I pray that you have friends/sisters-in-Christ in your life that can just love you through this.
-Gut-wrenching, honest cries from your heart silently and wailing out loud when you need to and can (alone in your car or alone in your house) to God about everything you are feeling and needing from Him. He can handle it. Even when you’re angry at Him.
-Staying in the Word – reading straight through a book but no guilt if you only read a few verses a day. I also have really enjoyed reading Streams in the Desert (an older daily devotional). It has been updated with modern language, but I prefer the original. The devotional is really written for the suffering soul and is very encouraging.
-Being easy on myself. I sat on the couch A LOT when I could with my kids when we were all hurting and couldn’t even do much else. I didn’t feel bad about it one bit. There will be a day when you’ll be ready to get off of it. Just be easy on yourself through the grieving process and don’t let the enemy hammer you with any false guilt or condemnation.
I know that God is meeting you right where you are and will continue to hold you and walk you through this.
Oh, and SunriseIsland, I’m sorry I didn’t really address the hurt you’re going through regarding your community. That would be so hard. You are sharing in the sufferings of Christ who understands very well what you are going through. You will be vindicated one day; in the meantime, I pray that God will comfort you and bring you a few really understanding and loving friends who more than make up for the ones who are not seeing clearly right now.
Sunrise land, I enjoy little moments with God. We only have our trust that we’ll get through this with a sane mind; or our husbands will miraculously change; or we’ll get a crown someday. Keep hope alive doing whatever you need to do short of sinning. Please don’t go off the handle like I did last week in front of family members after 37 years thinking I was finally exposing his abuse. That was liberating but foolish. It showed my outside family members that he’s probably right. Which I know better, so I repented and didn’t get into condemnation. I hope I’ve helped you in some way.
Dear Sister, each suggestion you wrote is a real gift. Every point is so very helpful. Thank you!
Content, all these are really good ideas. Can you give us a link for the gratitude journal you mentioned, please? That sounds like a great tool.
This is the one I use. It’s called Attitudes of Gratitude by Vista Media – I have an android phone. Looks like there are a lot of other apps to choose from for this purpose that would be good, too.
Thank you, That’s helpful.
Dear Content, and Sunrise, and Teena, and JoAnn, and Free
I can relate to all of this too. It was never me, it was his angst, and anger driven agenda.
When I realized that he had his own fear-based mentality which is how a Narcissist attempts to survive that dilemma, THAT is when I began to see the light that, his FEAR is what drives him, If you do a search on what a Narcissist ‘fears’, it will be an eye-opener and it will also be healing for yourself, as you WILL begin to pity him, even if it is a pity of shaking your head and wondering how in the world can a person live with themselves like that?
It will free you to turn your husband entirely over to the Lord, and the Holy Spirit, and I would say in most cases, those types of men are not even born again. Which makes it more difficult to ‘let them go’. But hey! God is faithful, not willing that any should perish, and it is not up to you to ‘save’ your husband. That job is up to the Holy Spirit, which frees you to ‘let go’.
When you have lived your life of turning to God for your help, you are not accountable for who your husband is. You have had your choices and so has he. And the sad part is, he probably can’t even relate to who God is, so therefore, he can’t even relate spiritually to you, as it is not even in his nature. It may be a ‘religious’ duty of a sort, but within his heart, the void is apparent. Like Free commented, ‘their brains are sick.’
So, yes, feed your own soul.
And to Content: I too survived ‘many years’ by delving into ‘Streams in the Desert’ the original book by Mrs. Cowman. I would pour over pages and pages, and come away so refreshed and soothed after reading it. For the burdened of heart, there is no other devotional that compares to it.
Im sorry Content – I just realized that the reply below which was intended in response to your comment was inadvertently placed and posted under many years’ comment.
SunRise, Thank you for asking me this question because it has propelled me to think and reflect upon my journey. What really helped me was distance from the abuser. I physically moved out and left a note on the kitchen counter. If I close my eyes, I can see and feel all his abuse. I do not text or speak to him. The only form of communication is email.
What really helped, and thanks for asking, were a few people who believed me. I pay a counselor to do the heavy lifting and a few trusted people carry the lighter stuff. Without those outlets, I too would be in a perpetual FOG. (I like how you described it.)
I would also like to address your comment, SunRise about being alone. In my opinion you can’t do this alone. I spend many a night sleeping in my car, on a park bench, under the steps, and in public restrooms as I had to flee my attacker at all hours of the day and night. I did that alone and didn’t tell anyone. Then, you know what happened, i had to come back. I had no place to live, sleep or shower. Any rational person could have helped me or talked sense into me, yet I just endured and prayed through my difficult marriage.
Finally, I became so injured that I had to be hospitalized and they gave me resourced for the domestic violence professionals. Now, mind you over the years we went to Christian counseling, saw our Pastor and I even went to a few women’s sessions for “difficult marriages”. Every darn on of our Christian resources said, stay, try harder, love him more, give him more sex, God will make a way, you took a vow. I agreed and submitted. Yet…the secret was intact. The general public, the law enforcement agencies, the social workers and violence shelters never heard a peep from me or the church. We were handling it. Ha!
So, I would say SunRise, don’t do this alone. If the people you share with don’t love and support you, have to keep searching until you find people who do. This blog is a nice place to start. I am glad you are here.
Wow, Free. I am so glad you are FREE!!!! I know God will take all those years that seem like they were wasted and He will use you to minister to others, to notice their suffering and speak into their lives so they know they are not walking alone and don’t have to suffer hopelessly.
How long has it been since you wrote that note and left?
How lucky yiu were to leave free and clear and never have to see your abuser. How do suggest forthose of js with children to deal with constantly seeing our abuser and suffering physically, mentally and emotionally. This is my biggest struggle as I suffer from bad anxiety and depression.
I am praying for you right now that you will feel the strength and the mighty power of God for you and your children. I pray that this strength and power rises up in you so much that you take bold steps that you wouldn’t even have thought about taking a month ago. I pray that you will throw your burden on the Lord and trust Him to make a way for you. Start running toward that Red Sea and know that He will part it. With strong confidence, know that He will not fail you. Even when things look bleak remember, He is working on your behalf. Things do not have to make sense or line up perfectly for you to know it’s time. That’s why it’s called faith. We take steps when things don’t make sense and then God honors those bold steps of faith and shows Himself mighty.
He is for you. You are the apple of His eye. He will not fail you.
Thank you content for such powerful words. Tears began rolling down my face as soon as I began reading your post. your words have proven true already as my life has taken such an unexpected turn…one I never saw comig. I had to step out, protect myself and my kids even when I had no clue what the next step would be. I still don’t. I have to have faith like you say, and know HE will not fail me.
I too have kids, and am still married, and therefore still have to interact with him. I only involve him when I absolutely can’t do it myself. This is because he is quite unreliable and it lessens my interaction with him. When I do ask him for help, I try to have a backup plan.
As far as letting go of the hurts etc, it’s a daily process. I get really upset when he deliberately hurts my kids. I am fortunate to have friends and family to talk to when that happens. I would encourage you to do things to get healthy in every aspect, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. You can only help your kids if you are healthy. Are you in counseling? We need someone objective to help us through this.
I am in counseling but not regularly. I have primary custody of our 3 kids and don’t have support near by. I might just need to take them with me, huh? For me it is very difficult because he cannot drive for the time being due to an illness, so when he comes around (from living an hour away) I stay to help and drive if need be. Having to be around him after learning such disgusting lies and coninued abuse of myself and kids is almost impossible. He has been gone for the past 3 weeks at an inhouse mental rehabilitation facility, so today is the first we’ve all seen from him. We’ll see what was learned but if past is an indicator, he’ll eventually go back to his old ways….sad but true. He fooled me more than once, but never again!
Hang in there, Sister, and don’t go back to the former ways. Your h has a lot to prove before you will be safe with him again, if ever. That will take a long time. Don’t be quick to believe his promises of being a changed man. He must prove it, over and over again. The Lord will make a way for you to move on. Trust and obey….
5 years ago when we separated for a year I did exactly what you said. He fooled me with more lies he was covering up. I thought divorce would be easy to kniw the end was near but this dance is messy and emotionally I’m drained. Thank you for your advice.
First of all, you are in a tough situation. I acknowledge that for sure! I am wondering how him not having a car is your problem? Also wondering why you don’t move so far away that it is nearly impossible to see you and the kids. Transportation is his problem, not yours.
You are right Rebecca that it is his problem. I’m going to put some new boundaries in place so I can remedy that issue for myself. I was trying to be nice given the extreme medical issues he has. It proved to be worse off for me. Thank you for telling me like it is. Sometimes we have to do what is best for us and not worry about hurting peoples feelings.
I agree with Rebecca. Don’t let his problems become your problems. You have taken enough off him already. All you have to say is, “If you want to see your children, figure out a way to come see them. That’s your problem, not mine.” Done.
mommyof3, I’m glad you’re separated, I misread your comment and thought you were still with him.
I don’t know what the disgusting lies are that you reference, but I do trust that God will give you wisdom and discernment as far as protecting your children in whatever ways that needs to happen and knowing that it’s not up to you to worry about people’s feelings not getting hurt.
I pray for wisdom for you walking ahead. I know God will just keep strengthening you in body, mind and spirit more and more. It’s amazing how quickly God can do things in us, too. I find myself looking at my husband when our paths have to cross and just feeling completely different than I did a month ago even. I am a stronger, different person than I was. He has no hold over me like he did before.
If you can get regular counseling, I strongly recommend it. It’s been very difficult for me to make that commitment to spend the money (that, trust me, we don’t have), but it has been so good for me. And, I’ve seen God provide for it in a few obvious ways which has been a real confirmation that He wants me to continue for now. My counselor does EMDR but Christ-centered. I absolutely love it so far. I went in an absolute mess one morning a couple of weeks ago and she worked with me and I ended up having a great day. I really think that session was a big breakthrough for me emotionally. (Be completely, embarrassingly honest in your counseling sessions…I think it’s the only way….and in the long run, it saves money because you are just getting it all out there right away instead of tiptoeing around your raw thoughts and emotions)
I can’t wait to hear from you as God keeps healing you and setting you free.
Content…My H did EMDR a lot and I did see a difference in some areas through the years. I would love to find a counselor who does that, but no Christian ones here that take insurance. I really need to get into counseling more regularly but looking for work, taking care of my kids, the every day stuff makes it so difficult. I feel like I’ve been in a tornado ever since I found out my husband lied to me about having Cancer which put me though IVF and resulted in one of my twins dying… Long story. At the same time I learned things he told me when we first met were lies too… where he worked (FBI), house in Flordia, business properties in the city, etc, were all lies too.
5 years ago when we separated he supposedly came clean with all the lies that I found out about. When I asked him then if there were any more lies from the past he told me NO, but clearly he knew there was more and deceived me until a few months ago when I found him out. All of this on top of his continued emotional abuse towards myself and kids…
I am so thankful to have supportive parents and family and a few friends also. But Wow, this is so very hard. I find myself saying the same prayer to God and wondering what I should change in myself to see results. Maybe I’m not ready to let go of the hurt and anger. How long is too long to hang on????
I hope and pray for you also…..I know God is there for you too. All of our journeys are different but we all have a God that promises the same for us!
No, I totally understand that you are just overwhelmed trying to get through regular life. Really, I have been separated for 9 months and it’s only been the last couple of months that God opened the door for regular counseling. Before that, *everything* was too overwhelming. It was enough to just love my kids well enough, get some laundry done, all of us eat some food and stay alive. That was a victory in and of itself – just getting through another day. So, I understand and maybe one day, there will be a time down the road for frequent, regular counseling. In the meantime, He is quite capable of bringing healing to you – He is the ultimate Counselor anyway, right?
I don’t think you should be bearing any kind of false guilt or condemnation for not letting go of hurt and anger after only a few months of finding out – yet again – that your husband has been so deceptive and took advantage of your willingness to give him another chance and to try again…..and having to lose one of your precious babies because of one of his outrageous heartless lies. I really can’t imagine the hurt you have gone through.
No, you just be where you are and keep taking it all to God. I think you will see as you read the Scriptures that God is a God who gets angry and has limits and doesn’t sweep things under the rug. He is patient and merciful, yes, but then there are limits where He says “Enough” and calls His people to repentance and change and when they do not repent, He does not shrug His shoulders and say “Well, ok, then…keep ‘kind of’ loving me while you are lusting after your other gods and your pride, too….” No, no, no. Our God is not like that and neither is a healthy spouse (YOU!) in a marriage that should reflect Christ and His Bride.
I think you just keep taking everything to God, letting Him know that you are willing to be made willing (sometimes that’s all we have and I believe it’s enough) to forgive and that you know that He is the One ultimately that will take you fully there in His good time. In the meantime, I do find just stating the words “Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he does” helpful — you can’t say those words without reflecting on what Christ did for all of us on the cross and how He bore all of our sin and shame. For Him to utter those words regarding the very ones who were crucifying Him is amazing and meditating on this is a good step. We don’t have to force anything out of the meditation. Just put your eyes on Christ and meditate on Him and let *Him* do the work of changing your heart over time. He will.
It is good and right for you to feel anger and hurt at this time in your life. It’s what you do in your anger that can be sinful, but righteous anger is not sinful. It is revengeful anger – you trying to get back at him and make him pay, etc. that God warns us against. I don’t sense that at all in your comments.
It’s unimaginable, isn’t it, to know that you have been deceived for so long? To know that people are capable of this? I can’t wrap my head around it. I just can’t. I found out several months after my separation that my husband also lied to me about things before we were even married. They were things that, looking back, I knew didn’t add up. But, I believed him. He was/is so good at lying — really, really good at lying and then turning it back on me to make me feel like the crazy one. But, I feel like when God showed me the truth about that particular situation, it was like He was saying to me…”Girl, you have been right about a lot of other things that didn’t seem right, too”. I don’t know if I’ll ever know for sure the full truth on everything, but I got a sense from the Holy Spirit that morning that the depth of the deception is probably far more than I want to know. A few months ago, I really wanted to know more truth. Now, I’m content either way. I know enough to know that our marriage is over as it stands right now and even though I may not have a “smoking gun” of infidelity, to know that I’ve been lied to straight-faced for 25 years…well, there’s just no way to have a marriage like that. He also has ogled women for 25 years so even though I don’t know about any physical infidelity, I believe that his heart is full of lust and his disregard for my feelings in all of that and refusal to rebuild trust confirms where his true allegiance lies.
I am just coming to terms myself with the fact that my husband seems to be a pathological liar and I **still** find myself trying to believe him and justify for him when in my heart, I know once again, I was lied to (some of the lies are the stupidest things, too!!!!)
I don’t even call him out for the lies anymore. I just kind of picture myself looking at God and say “Hey, Lord — there’s another one. I’ll let you handle that” with a sad shake of my head. I’m trusting Him to take care of those things and defend and protect me and deal with my husband. And, I think I can see ways God is already doing this.
I’m so glad you have good support. It’s such a blessing. Praying for you now.
What a beautiful response and such wonderful advice for me. It sounds like you are very deeply rooted in the word and know who God is and what he expects from us all. I’m still early in my journey, but through this abusive relationship he has shown his face SO VERY OBVIOUSLY is was amazing to see him speak straight to me and my situation.
When you talked about things not adding up about what your husband said but you chose to believe him, that sounds soo familiar. I did the same thing. For me it was the same thing. I knew things didn’t sound right but ignored the little voice telling me to dig further. Instead I went along with it not even thinking someone could be capable of telling such lies!
I hope you are doing better in your separation of 9 months, and from the way it sounds, you are. Thank you for sharing your struggles early on because it lets me know that I’m not the only one who feels like day to day life is such a struggle. I feel so guilty for not being the mom my kids needs, but also know that by divorcing it is exactly what they need. No more abuse, lies, and dysfunctional house!
I so much appreciate the time you took to respond to me. You (and the others) have given me such comfort in such a low part of my life. I pray for you all….
What an amazing response. Thank you for your beautiful thoughts and insight. What a help for us all!
“Friend, what specific steps did you take to let go of negative emotions that were keeping you stuck?”
“All the years, betrayal, lies, pretending we had a marriage relationship. Only to find out, he didn’t love me! This hurts to the core!” . . . .You would think that that would be all the motivation one would ever need to take specific steps to completely let go and move on but resentment causes us to keep “re-sending the bill” for the damages over and over and over even though we know it will never be paid.
“Therefore, an adult must decide to care for herself in more mature ways.” + “. . . .I have to say no to my feelings and push myself to do what’s going to help me actually get stronger, not just temporarily feel better.” . . . . Absolutely, the quick fixes never solve anything long-term. Life does not work like a light switch ―on/off, miserable/happy, et.al. All things take time, patience and practice. There is no quick fix-all procedure to heal. Like any relationship, the relationship with ourselves must be built and re-built one kind, loving conversation at a time.
“Do you want to be well?” + “He would have to interact with people from a whole different mindset than he did as a beggar and a helpless person. Did he want that responsibility and that challenge? Perhaps he would get married. Healing his body was only one part of this man’s healing. He had a whole life to rebuild.” . . . .So true, we have to ask ourselves if we really want the responsibility that comes with change, but the more responsibility you have, the more meaningful your life will generally be. Straighten up the things that you can straighten up and stop saying things that make you feel weak. ―And then you will know what to do next.
“First, you must begin to separate yourself from your emotions of hurt and anger and your negative thoughts. You are not your feelings nor are you your thoughts.” + “Pay attention.” . . . .I love that, especially the “Pay attention” part. Shouldering responsibility and attempting to work to remedy your issues and learning how to pay attention is the path to healing. It is very hard because life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards. . . . . How do I try to do that? Very, very imperfectly. I start by *always* asking God for true wisdom and then I try to discern that which is truly important and I learn to pay attention to those things. ―Also, I have a group of similarly minded people and a mentor, and a counselor, and et.al. to help me grow and develop. . . . .I say to myself: Get yourself together, Aleea. Transcend your suffering in Christ. See if you can be some kind of help to others less fortunate, even in the smallest of ways. Find people in worse situations than you and help them anyway you can. Be thankful and make the suffering in the world less! That’s the way forward, as far as I can tell; if there is any way forward. ―And that is the very thing that is under assault by the postmodernists who want to turn everyone into a victim. . . .Life is suffering. Love is the desire to see unnecessary suffering ameliorated. And the truth is the assistant of love, and dialogue with people, like we do here, is the pathway to truth. ―And humility is recognition of personal insufficiency, and the deep willingness to learn. ―And to really learn is to die *voluntarily* and be born again and again and again, in great ways and small ways. . . . .We cannot be protected from the things that frighten and deeply hurt us, but if we can identify with the part of our being that is responsible for transformation (the Holy Spirit), then we are always the equal, or more than the equal of the things that confront us.
Leslie, thank you for such a beautiful article on self-care and healing. I just have a question about one section that stood out to me. You wrote:
“You are not your feelings nor are you your thoughts. Your thoughts and feelings are real and powerful but they are not you. They are just what you feel and think…”
I have been very confused by this concept lately because it is precisely the thing that my husband uses to justify abusing me. For years he has shut down, diminished, criticized, corrected me every single time I express a thought or feeling. I’ve stopped expressing myself altogether because of it. And he justifies it, saying, “I am not attacking your personhood or identity… I am just correcting your harmful thoughts, ideas, and feelings that are leading you astray from the Truth.”
I have come to believe that he actually is shutting down my personhood… because aren’t we all made of mind and heart at our core? Don’t our thoughts and feelings come from mind and heart?
See the comment about Coercion Control by Dr. Stark. Your husband is abusing you. It sounds like he has had too much counseling and has not become pathological. Stick with Leslie’s Advice, she is right.
now become pathological
That’s true, but so often what is in our heart/mind is based on lies we believe. That’s why we need to allow the Word of God to infiltrate our soul (mind, thoughts) and bring us into the light. We are called to be those who walk in the light of God’s truth. What Content shared above is about allowing the Lord to bring His truth into the depth of your being, the painful places. Then we can begin to live in that truth, and our interactions with others will be in that light, too.
Maybe I am just so happy to be free, that thankfully, I haven’t had many ruminating thoughts. Here are some of the fun things I have done for self care: bought new clothes (yucky memories with so many outfits, worse memories for undergarments-those things had to go!), Got an excellent hair cut and did a consultation at the make up counter, decreased my carb consumption, increased my exercise and got into some slow old fashion cooking (the kind that makes the whole house smell great).
The writer speaks about not having a childhood. I would suggest it is never too late to play. I would ask her what did she dream about as a girl? Horses, ballerinas, riding her own bike? Whatever it was you loved, it is not too late to enjoy some aspect of that dream. Yes, it has to be modified to adulthood and in the writer’s case, arthritis, but dreaming is free and dreaming gets us closer to actually reaching the goals we dream about!
I also have done some crazy stuff that was thrilling. My girlfriends and I (grown women really), climbed up the side of a river bank with the teenagers and jumped into the freezing water from the rope swing! We wondered if it might hold us and we were scared the whole time, but it sure was fun! Do you have a rope swing type adventure where you live?
I would also say, that if you start small that counts. Do the slightest bit of anything and be good to yourself. Someone who has been abused as long as you and I fit that description to may feel very uncomfortable doing things for yourself. So I say, start small, buy the luxury food item, use extra hot water, savor your favorite chair and read that book you have been meaning to read.
Seize the day ladies! There are no dress rehearsals. This is life! Today is the youngest you will ever be again. Use it or lose it. 🙂
This is making me smile reading this….
Things I’ve enjoyed…
Paddleboarding and kayaking after years of wanting to do so
Starting swim lessons (I can swim, but I’ve always been fearful and need to learn some better skills….I’m ready to face those fears and get more comfortable in the water)
Going to the beach by myself for a night or two and doing whatever *I* want to do
Buying a different brand of toilet paper than we always bought (yep, somehow that registered in my mind as freedom, haha…and it wasn’t that I would be yelled at for not buying the correct toilet paper or anything, it was just this weird background idea that I should always buy whatever my husband had decided was the right thing)
Dancing a lot in my living room
I could probably go on and on – those are the things that come to mind.
I agree with Free, though….those steps for myself started small. For me, it was things like deciding not to cook for the night when we were still together because I was emotionally and physically depleted. I remember feeling like I was being authentic in those moments. Going outside to watch storm clouds gather or to watch a beautiful sunset. It started small.
It is so good to be me!!
You are an inspiration to us all, Content. Thanks.
Our family went to Colorado for our summer vacation, and I went with them all on a white water rafting adventure. Much fun!. My arthritis wasn’t a hindrance at all, as others were able to use the oars. Sometimes just watching the grandkids play, without feeling that I had to “do something,” is a gift to myself.
I am laughing, Free. Thanks for that!
Thank you for your very well thought out explanation for how to let go of hurt and anger. This is just what I needed. I’ve been dealing with those feelings for months after finding out I’ve been lied to from the beginning of my marriage for 15 years on top of all his emotional abuse towards my 3 kids and I. It’s hard to move on past those emotions of hurt and anger when your whole world has been shattered. For me, divorce is a must (since we’ve already separated in the past with little progress) and now my kids and I live separately. I still find myself suffering from depression and anxiety on top of the toxicity he throws at me and the kids. How do you heal from that Leslie? How do you get well when you still have to deal with this person due sharing kids?
I couldn’t agree more however that we must take one step at a time to get well! Thank you Leslie. All those out there suffering just know God does have his plan for us all!
My ❤️ goes out to you!!! This is my story exactly. I pray my Sister that we both can find our peace again.
Thank you Sunriseisland for your support. I too stand with you and pray for your peace and healing. Isn’t it amazing but scary to know that there are many of us suffering the same abuse. What pains me the most is that our children are smack in the middle of it all. Even though we are suffering for the time being I do have peace knowing that my kids will be out of the destructive cycle and will know what healthly looks like.
I hope that you can get counseling for the children. They will need help to heal from the abusive lies they have been told. Be sure that they feel safe and cherished by you and others. Take care of their tender hearts.
I like all you have said, Aleea. And, I like the part of your conversation, at the end where you say ‘we are always the equal’ through the Holy Spirit. We are equal ‘to’ the task at hand with God’s help. He will never leave us nor forsake us, we just need to remember the mercies of the Lord are new every morning, great is His faithfulness to us.
Absolutely many years . . . .and even if we are faithless (—but let’s try to hold down on that, however), He remains faithful —for He cannot deny Himself. If we fulfill our obligations everyday, we don’t need to worry about the future. Let’s be willing to bear the weight of our true responsibility, that’s where real meaning is found.
My life was so similar in many ways! 30 years of marriage, constant use of pornography and lust on my husband’s part. Two years after the divorce, I can finally say most if the feelings if hurt that I was unloved are gone I moved 2000 miles away, found a new church, new friends, new job, new home. I pray and meditate every day. I attended Divorce Care and still read their daily emails! I have read all of Leslie’s books and attend her webinars. I surround myself with loyal, safe friends who validate me but who also encourage me when I’m off track. Most of all I wake up every morning determined to give God the glory + praise for giving me life and for loving me. It’s hard! But be determined in your prayer life keep your “hand to the plow”, and anticipate all the great things He will accomplish and is even doing so right now. 2 Tim 1:7!!
I am enjoying these stories of hope. I used jigsaw puzzle during high stress days negotiating my separation. I didn’t know why, but the concentration calmed me. I would have a few sermons on podcast and listen whiled I puzzled. I recently learned that doing jigsaw puzzles uses the right and left side of the brain. This activity can overcome anxiety and secrete dopamine. It sure soothed me.
You reminded me of something. Many years ago, while I was hospitalized for psychosis, I found such comfort in doing puzzles. After I was released, I spent so much time doing them. I couldn’t turn the t.v. on- it was too stimulating. I could sit for a long time working on them. it was such a soothing experience.
I am so glad that you are doing so well after all you have gone through. It is very encouraging.
“Friend, what specific steps did you take to let go of negative emotions that were keeping you stuck?”
Here are a few things that have helped me. The first was realising that I just couldn’t do this forgiveness thing, as much as I tried. I struggled with it for over a year and was even googling how on earth to do it. I came across Corrie ten Boom’s testimony of forgiving her former prison guard (she was a WW2 concentration camp survivor) and that she couldn’t and had to ask God to do it for her and in her. So, I did the same. Confessed to God that I couldn’t, and honestly told him I actually didn’t want to because I was still so mad, and that I didn’t even want to ask him to do it in me (cos I wanted to hang onto the anger because the treatment was so unfair), but that I knew I needed to forgive and could he please fix my messed up heart? And, he awesomely did! I woke up the next morning and felt like a load had been lifted. I didn’t realise what a load I was carrying until it was gone. God is so good!
A second thing is that I’ve been asking God to mould my heart and mind so that my thoughts and attitudes about, and towards, my husband would be godly, because I just don’t know how that looks or how to do it, taking into account the fact that he isn’t emotionally safe to speak to. [I do still need to write on account of logistics about the kids and finances. I’m just over a year separated]. I keep praying that regularly and I have been noticing a change gradually happening.
And third, I was telling my counsellor that it was so hard to stop the negatives thoughts when I get triggered by new things that come up in the texting (the signs that his way of thinking hasn’t changed) and my counsellor told me that it’s all very well to keep trying to throw those thoughts out of our minds but we need to replace the gap with good thoughts. About that time, God had begun to bring good worship songs across my path in various ways and I found that playing those often, and being mindful of the words I was singing, had a very powerful effect to lift me. And to re-image my picture of God. That was also something that needed healing from years of spiritual abuse. This process has been awesome too. I’ve heard and known in my head for years that God loves us but somehow my heart has never been able to grasp that. It was coming across the verse in Psalm 147, where it says that God takes pleasure in us, that blew me away and I see that as a big milestone too. So, yes, that re-imaging of my God picture has made a big difference in being able to keep crowding out those negative thoughts and feelings. I have a special playlist to play when I feel myself sliding.
And I can’t finish without mentioning what a blessing the Psalms have been on this journey. The last 4 years, I have been in them everyday. And I continue to feel God’s comfort, and grow in appreciating him in them everyday. I often read until a verse or phrase catches my attention for that day, and then try to bring it to mind during that day, to remind myself of God’s love and goodness. That really helps to remind me that all the other awful stuff pales in significance, compared with His goodness.
“Confessed to God that I couldn’t, and honestly told him I actually didn’t want to because I was still so mad, and that I didn’t even want to ask him to do it in me (cos I wanted to hang onto the anger because the treatment was so unfair), but that I knew I needed to forgive and could he please fix my messed up heart? And, he awesomely did! I woke up the next morning and felt like a load had been lifted. I didn’t realise what a load I was carrying until it was gone. God is so good!”
I love that! I have found that to be very true over and over in my life. Everytime I’ve tried to do something in my own strength (even thought it was the “Christian” thing to do), I failed. It is only when I reach the end of myself and am honest with my incapability of doing it myself that God comes powerfully through. He will not share His glory! 🙂
The best place to be is to be brokenly aware of our utter dependency on Him for everything He asks of us….
Whatever He asks of us, He is the answer. The legalistic mindset or the old flesh mindset looks at his commands and tries to muster up the strength to obey. But, all of His commands are only able to be obeyed by His own life in us. And His life is released in us when we realize we have nothing to offer and it’s all Him.
That last paragraph is os very true. Once that becomes our reality, our life changes.
Healing in Him,
I relate very much to what you’re saying – especially the effect that the spiritual abuse has on you.
This reminds me of a powerful freeing revelation the Lord gave me recently in Sunday school. (I’ve already shared in it here before), but just it goes along with what you’re saying: In Sunday School, I often use my phone for following along in scripture reading. I had just discovered a translation I liked called The Voice so that’s the what I already had Bible Gateway.com set to on my phone. My Sunday school teacher said we were going to read out of the Gospel of John Chapter 15. It’s the scripture about Christ being the True Vine and abiding in Christ. I followed along and when got we got to verse 7, my heart was touched. Here’s how it reads in The Voice:
“7 If you abide in Me and My voice abides in you, anything you ask will come to pass for you.”
Now, answered prayers are awesome, but that’s not what touched me. It’s the thought that HIS Voice abides in Me.😊💕
I remembered Aleea saying she had internalized her mother’s hurtful, abusive voice. I thought about the all the scolding, condemning, and abusive voices we listen to that just in our heads 😔. Spiritual abuse does that. It plants THOSE voices in your head. But that morning in Sunday School it was like Christ said: “I’m putting you OTHER voices on eviction notice. It’s time to leave. She won’t be listening to you anymore!” How free, and loved I felt! ❤️
Wow, Ruth, that’s beautiful! (I didn’t see that the previous time you shared it). Yes, we want to hear His voice, not all the other lying and hurtful voices.
Lord, may we all be tuned in to Your voice every day.
My sister-in-law shared this with me the other day and when I read your story, Ruth, I remembered it. Maybe it will bless someone.
. . . . .And it is so, so hard because the abuse becomes such a part of you, step-for-step, breath-for-breath. You keep living it over and over. . . .I have my abusive mother internalized and she is like a cancer spread to my whole body. Dr. Meier, my counselor always says: Aleea, everyone becomes your mother to you. . . . .I never get all the way across the emotional bridge unlike you have Ruth. I get so far and keep rushing back to the other side. . . . .Maybe grief and love and loss are so conjoined, you don’t get one without the others??? . . . No tree can grow to heaven unless its roots reach all the way down to hell??? Someone wrote me recently: “Are you even aware of the massive growth of the ‘organic’ home church movement in the USA? They are primarily comprised of those Christians who have suffered significant ‘spiritual abuse’ within the ‘organized’ churches of which those like The Vineyard Christian Fellowship Movements may be sadly included.” . . . . .No, I am not but it sure sounds like a church I would join because it would feel just like home given my abusive mother. It does highlight to me that if these issues are not top of mind, the same things just happen again, just in smaller groups. Abuse, to me, feels like coming home and so comfortable (—but totally destructive). One thing Dr. Meier (my counselor) told me early on was . . . .she stopped me at one point and said “You want me to start yelling at you, —don’t you? —Because that is what your mom always did? Aleea, I’m not going to yell at you but you still have your mother internalized and she is yelling at you constantly, isn’t she?” . . .The issue is that I am “occupied” and not even by an updated version of my mother but by the childhood version. . . . My mother can abuse me anytime she wants because I have internalized her. How do you get non-physical internalized relationships out of your head? It seems pretty straight forward to get a divorce from someone. How do you divorce someone who you have internalized in childhood trauma even though you never see them anymore?
. . .I have gotten many insights into those barriers and removing them but I am not completely across that bridge yet. But I can see that, most probably, the battle is won by awareness and I am so much more aware. . . .Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to such a deeper understanding of ourselves. Those things point to what is still wild and unhealed inside us and why (—secondary gains, 💡 et.al.)
Re: Spiritual Abuse
. . . . Mind control is built on lies and manipulation of attachment needs. . . .I think all Christianity, in the limit, has the potential of just being seriously abusive, no matter how many scriptures are cherry-picked and reworded. The non-cherry-picked passages scream as loud as war. Re: The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority. Pastor’s quote the Bible like it fell fully written from heaven, not making probability statements but making knowledge claims with absolute certitude. . . .Never telling anyone about the last 275 years of structural and factual issues in: the manuscript evidence, archeology, textual contradictions, textual variants, interpolations, redactions, textual alterations, unverified authors, subjectively canonized books 😯 —you get the idea.
. . .I’m so, so thankful that God gave us *anything* to work with but never shut off / shut down the logical, rational, reasoning abilities God gave you to spot issues, especially in the church where so little critical thinking is taking place (—and I’m naturally a really lazy thinker, it is very hard for me too! I really have to force myself to think deeply. For example: How can women be in the image of God if God cannot be imaged in female form too?) . . . .Oh, and I always ask God for wisdom because we know so very, very little.
. . . .What is your friend? The things you know, or the things you don’t know. First of all, there are massively more things you and I don’t know than we “know” (—or think we know). The things we don’t know are the birthplace of all new Spiritual growth! So if you make the things you don’t know your friend, rather than the things you know, you’re always looking for new information in the off chance that somebody who doesn’t agree with you will tell you something you couldn’t have figured out on your own! It’s a completely different way of looking at the world. It’s the antithesis of opinionated.
Friends, A sister has been on my mind….I think it’s Robin? Who lost a child a couple of mths ago?
I may have the name wrong. I wanted to just see if anyone knew how she is doing or to say to her here in case she’s reading that you have not been forgotten. Praying for you and trusting that God is carrying you in His arms through this valley.
Robin has also been in my thoughts and prayers.
Yes, and prayers for ‘Hurting in Texas’ also
Prayers for all who have posted on Leslie’s blog here.
And thank you to Leslie for her continued insights, suggestions, and positive spiritual reinforcement for moving forward in our progress out of the bondage of our angsts, abusive pasts, and worries. God is the God of all comfort.
Leslie’s response was good. Everyone’s response above was great also. So, there’s not a lot for me to add for the original poster but I want to say I am so sorry for a life full of abuse and betrayal.
How hard it must be to trust the Lord, when you’ve been hurt at every turn. Even if you don’t consciously blame God for your suffering, In my experience abuse created UNCONSCIOUS issues with rejection, trusting that God REALLY loved ME, shame,and cowering. Now, I KNEW the right answers so God had to REVEAL it to me that I had these issues. I go to a church where everyone says: “I’m more than a conqueror!” And “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” So, my head knew the affirmations but apparently my heart didn’t believe they applied to me. 😔
I sporadically struggle with depression which bothers all 3 of my older siblings. I took a small dose of an anti-depressant which was helpful but I had to stop it bc it plus my new migraine preventative medicine were making me have heart palpitations.
Original poster, I can sympathize on how discouraging health problems can be. Chronic pain, brain fog – it’s like it’s own PTSD. Heck, I SOUND like the man by the pool of water. It’s so easy to get discouraged and depressed and stop having HOPE and faith. But God won’t let us sit in that heap for long. The good thing is – when it’s time for you (or me) to get up from the ash heap, God never scolds. God is like the father watching for the prodigal son. The father stood watching looking down the road. He looked everyday. One day he saw his child. With JOY, the Father ran to meet and prepare a RESTORATION party for his special child.
God wants to restore what the abusers stole from you. He will restore 10 fold.
For me, I had to real with Him for healing to start. I am not finished yet.
I highly recommend the book “Mending the Soul” by Stephen Tracy. It would be perfect for the original poster and really I think anyone who’s been abused would benefit from reading it.
I’m currently reading “The Body Keeps Score” Its a new book about trauma recovery; it speaks highly of the therapy Sandra was referring to EMDR.
I also found Mending the Soul to be very helpful. The awesome thing was that a few months before I found that book, God had begun to re-image my picture of Himself, and then I read in the book how that is one of the things that gets damaged by abuse and how it needs healing. It was so awesome to recognise that that was what God had begun to do in me!
After reading and sharing my previous post, I read from Isaiah. I started chapter 50-something and it was all good, but wow, when I got to the familiar chapter 61 – I was SO BLESSED. I read it like it was God talking about ME.
It’s also awesome if you read the next 5 verses of chapter 62; it’s about Jerusalem but God can apply those healing restoration words to You too. 💕
Here’s chapter 62:1-5
Thank you Ruth for the direction to the book of Isaiah. What a positive affirmation its is for us to also want to help and inspire those who need this uplifting ‘good news’ to the souls of those who are afflicted with life’s trials and sufferings. To boast ourselves in what the Lord can do mightily for us.
I think it is beautiful too that the words of Isaiah can be applied to us in the fact that God has anointed us with his Holy Spirit, so that we can understand what God’s Word has to say to us. As I do believe you are saying for us to apply Isaiah 61 to ourselves, receiving the anointing of our own hearts to help to lift the despair and ‘to bind up the brokenhearted’ and ‘to set the captives free’.
Like you said ‘it was like God talking about ME’ and TO us, and FOR us, ‘God can apply those healing restoration WORDS to You too.’ Thank you and blessing and prayers to you for this healing encouragement.
I imagine the scripture references come from the heart, but sometimes the quoting of scripture in these discussions seems like I am being preached at.
Maybe I am completely off the mark but, It seems avoidant of the issues being discussed. Scripture and its’ revelation is such a personal thing between us and God, I am never really interested it what someone else thinks I need to hear from the word. Not to be harsh, but I think sometimes the scriptural talk is just pontificating and spiritualizes issues rather than addressing them.
So to answer the question about how to deal with the hurt, I would say it is important to live in the reality of your situation. Be careful not to pick through scripture to get it to say something you want it to and be sure you still have one foot on earth rather than fantasizing about heaven.
Do you mind me asking what Scripture references specifically you’re talking about here in your comment? Are they the ones in Leslie’s answer or the ones that Ruth mentioned?
It’s ok if you don’t want to answer; I was just curious and thought maybe we could discuss this issue. I think I might know and understand a bit where you’re coming from (although I’m one of those who is greatly encouraged by the promises of God; however, I *am* ,like you it seems, highly sensitive or on guard against Scripture being quoted when it seems to be used “against” me, if that makes sense)
For me, all the scriptural references apply. Everyone is different. I also do not enjoy the references to hymns. Just me I am sure. I think my point was that we can hide in spiritual jargon and miss reality.
Hi, Rebecca…I’m a little confused. Do you go by Rebecca and Roxanne?
Anyway, I’m sorry you feel preached at when people share scripture on the blog.
I am a little curious…how did you find Leslie’s materials? Leslie’s materials seem unapologetically Christian-based with lots of references to Scripture and understanding the heart and mind of God in these matters. For myself, I was happy to find a strong believing woman who was writing on this topic because it helped me sort through the confusion I had with trying live in this dynamic in a God-honoring way.
Anyway, I know that my best bet with public forums is to just get to a place where if there is a post or comment I don’t like or agree with, to just decide not to read that and realize that someone else will maybe benefit from it, but it won’t be me at that time. Does that make sense?
You mentioned that it seems like we might miss reality if we’re hiding in spiritual jargon.
Speaking again for myself, I can say that if I didn’t have the solid foundation of trusting in the sovereignty of God and His unfailing love for me, I would be a mess right now at this time in my life. For me, I am convinced those two things are the most true (reality) things in my life right now.
Knowing that He can lead me specifically through each situation as it arises and give me the wisdom I need and keep me from bitterness, etc. Knowing that He will never leave me or forsake me and can meet the deepest needs of my heart, as well as my physical needs…..I don’t know. I just know that many of us here have found a much deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through the pain and suffering and it would be impossible for me not to reference those things in my comments.
(However, I do understand and respect your personal feelings and understand that you may not wish to read or want to reply to my posts or others who are more in that same frame of mind as I am).
Hope you are well and finding peace in your struggles and hurt.
Amen! Content, thanks for blessing me.
Aleea, you said, “How do you get non-physical internalized relationships out of your head? It seems pretty straight forward to get a divorce from someone. How do you divorce someone who you have internalized in childhood trauma even though you never see them anymore?” Might I suggest a Gestalt technique of imagining your mother sitting in a chair “away from you” and telling her, out loud, what you want from her, how you feel about her abuse, giving back to her all the abuse and anger she gave you, and finally telling her to get out of your head. This was a powerful thing for me when my therapist had me do it. Someone previously on this blog talked about getting all the other voices out of our head and listening only to the Lord’s voice. Again, that is best done out loud, where you can hear it and the enemy can, too.
Praying for you.
. . .Thank you so, so very much JoAnn, I appreciate that insight and in counseling we have tried things that are similar, lots from the Berlin School of experimental psychology and von Ehrenfels, Koffka, Carlson, Heth i.e. . . . . .however, I think I will try what you suggest again. . . .re:Telling her, out loud, what I want from her (—really her love not abuse), how I feel about her abuse (—it shatters my heart), giving back to her all the abuse and anger she gave you (—we do that exercise in counseling often and we do it by refusing to accept the tray full of snakes she keeps delivering to my table), and finally telling her to get out of your head (—I’ll try it a number of times).
“Praying for you.”
Thank you so very much JoAnn!!! This one may only come out by prayer —if you know what I mean. re: Mark nine: “. . .After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.” Thank you so much for the gift of your prayers. . . . I know I say it a lot but I really believe that God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them. God makes astounding promises to prayer and I am so trusting Him for real healing and praying for you too.
“I never get all the way across the emotional bridge unlike you have Ruth. I get so far and keep rushing back to the other side. . ”
You’re going to make it across one day soon, Aleea! I believe that. It’s coming…
Hang on and continue trusting in Him for deeper and deeper healing. The good thing is you are not band-aiding this and you are being completely honest about where you are which is the best place you can be. When the healing comes, it will be full and deep healing.
I so appreciate that Content. Thank you and I am sorry I didn’t see your note sooner. . . . . .And I am trusting Him as best I can. In fact, I am hopelessly in love with Jesus Christ. I just don’t understand Him or know what marks warm devotional feelings as Jesus of Narereth? ―Anyways, I’m never going to get over Him. He makes it impossible to get away from even sometimes when I feel that maybe Christianity is just overhead that is keeping me from really healing. The core/ the center of Christianity, it is so, so beautiful . . .praying, caring, loving, sharing, gentleness. . . That is the power of the cross. . . .I have never found real answers to my questions about the why of so many of the teachings in the first place, maybe no answers exist. . . . .One thing I have experienced is that the cleaner I can keep my heart, the more of God’s love I can experience. . . .Heart as clean as possible; broken before the Lord, thankful, grateful and humble. That is where I want to be down low where the Grace of God can find me.
So true that his problem is his problem. That has always been my problem … being too nice and accommodating even when others don’t deserve it. I need to toughen up a bit, huh? Thanks for the advice!
Aleea, as I was reading and considering your reply some thoughts came to me that I’d like to share, and you can do with them whatever you want….this may be from the Lord or not, I can’t say. Your writing tells me that you are a very intelligent and intellectual woman. That caused me to wonder if you might be using the wrong “organ” to deal with these issues about your mother. Let me explain: our mind is one thing, and is different in function from our brain. But there is something even deeper, and that is our heart, which according to scripture is the spirit plus the mind. So I’m wondering if these efforts to get your mother out of your head need to be more focused on getting your mother and her voice out of your heart. That’s a deeper thing. A child experiences abuse mainly in the heart, if you can get my point. So that’s the part that needs the healing truth from the Lord. Notice where in your body you feel it when you remember your mother’s abuses, and work from that place.
Just something to consider and perhaps discuss with your therapist. Grace be with you, Dear Sister.
Thank you JoAnn. . . . that’s a brilliant distinction. I don’t know if I fully understand it. I have always thought (maybe wrongly) that the greatest potential we have for opening our hearts lies in the opening of our minds. In Paul’s writings you see the use of heart and mind, Paul using mind as synonymous with heart. . . . but I think I understand the importance of what you are saying even if I don’t understand the nuance of implementing it. That is, I don’t know what the difference between my heart and my mind really is. . . . Except maybe to say that deep in our “hearts” is a conduit to the transcendent: to God, to Christ, to the Holy Spirit. There are times when my mind comes into direct contact with that Truth with a capital ‘T’, but the finite parts of myself are obviously not equipped to handle the infinite. To me, to grab hold of the transcendent, even for a brief moment, is like grabbing ahold of a live wire. But when I have, the difference is that the pain I feel is something. . . .something beautiful, like the charring and burning of spiritual impurities like rust off my soul. So I happily search for that place again and again because I want to live in that moment forever. All I know is that the Truth tastes sweet to my mind *and* my “heart”. . . .but I still don’t really know the difference.
“Notice where in your body you feel it when you remember your mother’s abuses, and work from that place.” . . . .in my back where my mother used to hit me, a lot. . . . .Are you saying these types of issues are not solved (by the mind), but dissolved (by the heart)? . . .We don’t overcome these problems by any deep exercise of thought? But isn’t the “heart” just all the feelings? The heart governs our minds when we are in love while, in all other life situations, it is the mind that takes precedence over our hearts? So, I need to think with my heart??? I don’t know, maybe that is right. . . .
Anyways, that’s really nuanced but *really* worth thinking about. I will. . . .Thank you JoAnn. . . . .One of the marvels of the world must be the sight of a soul sitting in prison with the key in her hand!
“This process is hard, and sometimes painful, but keep working at it. You’ll get there.” . . . .I so appreciate that JoAnn. One of the most important things we can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone and to encourage them to go on. Thank you so much.
“Little Aleea” (arrested development Aleea) is the one holding on to those things and yes we work hard on that in counseling but I am really kind of dumb . . . .Things really take time with me. . . . .“Your writing tells me that you are a very intelligent and intellectual woman.” . . .ha, ha, ha. . .Oh my, I apologize but that’s so, so funny. . . . . JoAnn, please, I’m the one pushing on the door that clearly says “PULL” . . . .Honestly, to be educated is to really realize how very, v-e-r-y little we all *really* know. To me, the fear of the LORD is the beginning of all knowledge, all wisdom. The only true wisdom is in knowing you know so very little. . . .I always pray: Lord God, I *seriously* lack wisdom but You said “. . . .if anyone lacks wisdom, let them ask of You, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given. . . .” Help me Lord God, please give me wisdom!
“. . . .The heart embodies the emotions and the spirit, as well as the mind.” It may very well be the case but I have no idea how we really know that because isn’t the heart really just the brain? “. . . It is possible to approach things entirely with the mind, avoiding the emotions.” . . . .I don’t know if that is true except in DSM-style cases [the interpersonally exploitative, emotionally unavailable, devoid of empathy persons].
. . .Anyways, I understand a little about the different parts of the brain and I have seen the work on the amygdala vs. prefrontal cortex vs. the thalamus (Grand Central Station of the brain), etc. I understand the role of the amygdale is to attach emotional significance to situations (you know form those emotional memories) . . . .It seems we are the descendants of very frightened people. Early humans whose amygdale reacted over the top to potential dangers and produced a strong fear response were most likely to behave in very cautious ways which meant they were more likely to survive and pass their genes (and frightened amygdale) on to future generations. . . . .That research frightens me because it totally deconstructs the way the Bible says we got here. . . . .Honesty. . . . .We appear to be the products of vast evolutionary processes (with all kinds of vestigial organs like that stinking amygdale) . . .When we were in the stages where we only had the amygdale, we had very primitive responses. Now, thanks to the influence of our cortex, we can decide not to physically fight our boss or husband if we feel we are in danger of being “fired”, or choose not to run away when we hear exploding fireworks (like animals do).
“inner child” work . . . . .We do that. I hold her until the sobs have subsided entirely. I love you, I tell her. It will all be okay (I don’t know it will be okay but I guess it’s okay to say that). . . .Anyways, I listen to that inner child, I let her whisper in my ear. I understand that my inner child needs to be loved in order to heal my complete self. When I do practise self-compassion, I feel that is looking after myself just as though I was nurturing a small child. In fact, a major part of grieving (my original pain work) was to re-parent myself and reconnect with “Little Aleea”. . . . But I still feel like an emotional archaeologist because I keep looking for the roots of things, particularly the roots of behavior and why I feel certain ways about certain things. . . . .and the answer that could never be found: που αποφασίσαμε να αφήσουμε τον Χριστό μέσα (. . . .the moment we decided to let Christ in!)
I’ll try to explain a little. The heart embodies the emotions and the spirit, as well as the mind. It is possible to approach things entirely with the mind, avoiding the emotions. This uses different parts of the brain. I think we mentioned before that survival issues and trauma issues are primarily stored in the amygdala, and the only way to access that part of the brain is through the emotions. The part that is responsible for rational thought is the prefrontal cortex, a very different place, and it doesn’t have a direct connection to the amygdala, so we really can’t reason away the traumatic memories. The connection can be rather haphazard, but you will get there eventually. This process is hard, and sometimes painful, but keep working at it. You’ll get there. Have you done any “inner child” work? It might be that the “Little Aleea” is the one holding on to these things.
I am curious to hear from anyone who’s been delivered from anxiety and fear of sexual intimacy how that played out for you.
My H and I were not physically involved while we’re doing separate marriage counseling. About 4 weeks passed then the counselor pressured me ‘about the Bible’s clear guidelines about not withholding sex from your spouse’. I told him that I had never drank alcohol but sex was so traumatic for me. I hated it so much that I wanted to be drunk to get through it. I said every other time my husband and I reconciled and I finally gave it and gave him sex – bam! My H went right back to his abusive ways! The counselor said: “I won’t support that.” But at that point, I was thinking, it doesn’t matter, what you say to me Mr. Counselor bc I’m not coming back next time to be coerced into offering up my body as a sacrifice for what feels like rape.
Good for you, Ruth, setting a boundary even with your counselor. 🙂
It sure seems to me that you could use the help of a female counselor who can help you get to the bottom of what’s causing you so much pain. We all can feel your pain through your writing and are praying for you. The Lord is with you.
Ruth, there is nothing wrong with your sexual response. What is wrong is what has happened to you. Just your counselor’s hint at such scripture is irresponsible, destructive and ignorant. Time for a new counselor, ASAP!
I meant to say: ” every other time I GAVE IN and had sex with him he went right back to his abusive ways…”
So, I probably need counseling. I won’t go back to that counselor; he was too rigid, almost obtuse. Even my H wasn’t pressing me as much as that counselor.
I’ll put myself out there for diagnosis. I’m an anxious type person. I get overwhelmed and overstimulated. For example, going inside Goodwill where every SINGLE item is different. A different color.
A different pattern.
A different texture.
A different style.
That overwhelms me.
I can’t stay long before I want to leave.
My H touches me too much. He smothers me. He makes me feel like I’m going to drown. He tells me he loves me but I think sometimes it’s only to force me to say it back to him. I feel the noose tightening around my neck.
What if I don’t WANT TO SAY IT BACK?
I’m tired of a lifetime obligatory reciprocation.
My H was never cruel or thoughtless during sex. But he pressured me to initiate sex which was ridiculous bc I NEVER desired sex. I only used sex as a means of keeping him in a better mood.
During the first 19 years of our marriage, I had mainly surface level methods dissociation, hurt, anger, and let’s just get this over with as quick as possible with mentality towards sex. But around year 20, the hurt has become so raw and powerful.
My H used to badger me. Many times our fights were at night when the kids were asleep, I would go lay down on the couch to get away from him. He would come into the living room over and over and over to keep verbally attacking me. Usually these late night fights were bc I didn’t initiate sex. My anxiety would escalate; I would beg him to stop. My heart would race. Even after he would stop and I could hear him snoring, I couldn’t fell asleep bc of the stress.
That badgering did something to my fight or flight response security system. My H has never been physically abusive but my heart classified him as dangerous and unsafe. During our last big fight, I was walking the dog at night on a dark section of the street. I was already anxious bc H was mad at me. H wasn’t trying to scare me but bc he was impatient and couldn’t wait to get one more thing off his chest he walked up behind me and started talking with his angry tone [in the complete dark] I shrieked! There was someone murdered on the street a few months before. At that point, I blocked him on my phone, got my emergency bag, and left to spend the night somewhere else. Now, a month later a Christian marriage counselor says I OWE him sex after that? I feel broken. How feel I know when I’m ready?
My H has had massive breakthroughs. I’m happy for his progress. But I’m not sure if down inside of ME there’s not a Powderkeg of anger for the abuse that I’ve just plastered a phony smile over and it’s just waiting to blowup.
I’ve also been struggling horribly with sadness for the past 2 days. I don’t know if it’s menstrually related bc I’ve had the Depo shot to stop my period bc of migraines (not bc of fertility) I’m peri- menopausal.
I can relate to a lot of what you’ve described: The overstimulation, startle reflex.
I guess what comes to mind is; coupled with your husband’s progress, should come an increase in his sensitivity to your needs, and an increase in his willingness, and ability, to respect your boundaries.
I spent many nights curled up in the fetal position in our bed, facing away from him for ‘no reason’, and many more – in the same position- on the living room floor, also for ‘no reason’. It was the only position in which I could feel safe. Notice how ( I apologize if this is too graphic an image) this is the complete opposite of a woman’s body position during sex.
Please don’t push yourself Ruth. Allow him to do the work to rebuild your trust. The question of ‘when will I be ready?” seems to be suffocating you.
If you were geographically separated, sex wouldn’t even be on the table. Is it time to increase your boundaries? By separating, or maybe by just giving yourself a window where you won’t even consider sex – a year?
It is great that you are not going back to this counsellor! What a twit!
I am praying for you, sister.
It seems odd to me that your counselor says that you owe your husband sex. Shouldn’t he be trying to help the two of you reconcile before that? God made sex to be enjoyed by husband and wife. It seems twisted that one spouse should give into sex when there are so many negative feelings and unresolved issues. Having sex when there are so many unresolved issues will only lead to resentment and probably bitterness, in my opinion.
Ruth, the lack of desire you sex just is a litmus test that shows how sick the marriage is. I too have had those terrible all night fights when H coerces sex. The truth is sex isn’t supposed to be like that. The marriage is dead for far too many other reasons. Your body and mind know that. Allowing the rape dehumanizes you.
If he is better in one year, he will be better in ten years. Don’t hurry back. Give it lots of time. Start your new life without abuse today.
If I can give my 2 cents worth — you deserved NONE of that mess from your past. Your story is similar to mine. I’m excited because in reading your story, you sound strong. You’ve been through THAT and lived to tell about it! All you need is to refocus your focus. Learn from Leslie because she’s an expert. You need love and especially need to learn how to love, and love yourself. Learn how to recognize what love is and what it is not. It’ll take time but if God gives us 100-120 yrs. on earth, then YOU HAVE TIME. Create a vision board; make a list of your needs/wants and work with the Holy Spirit to bring Godly things into your life. Medi-Share is a Christian based healthcare. Go win!
Re: head vs. heart in healing
. . . .So I have been thinking and praying a lot more about this. . . . .The ﬂip side of controlling from fear is commanding from love?, which overrides and transforms fear? So, and I am sure this is too black and white, but let’s say control is the left brain ego mind and command is from the heart (or right brain, intuitive mind). —So it is still all just your mind. We speak of someone “having command” of a situation. It is so much broader and comprehensive than saying someone “has control”. With control you get the feeling of great strain to hold things together that could fall apart at any second. But with command there is a peace and security that every contingency is covered, and that all will be well in the end.
—So, while my left brain is filled with memorized songs and Scriptures about God’s unconditional love, my right brain (my heart) experienced perverted, highly conditional “love” in childhood. That leaves me with fear and shame. If my wounded heart (right brain) believes I was a victim—I think like a victim. The head (left brain) might know better, but it’s the heart (right brain) that believes. . . . .And our thoughts don’t mirror what we have learned as fact as much as they expose what we have come to believe through experience? That’s why my attempts to simply wrangle my negative, painful thoughts to the ground and just change those thinking patterns haven’t always worked. They are in that lizard eons old brain part.
So neuroscientists are saying it is coming from evolution with the emotional side (right brain) being much older, and therefore more deeply rooted in our psyche. The fight—or-flight, —or-freeze instincts, which was the key to the survival of early humans, and one of the oldest emotional responses we have. But as civilization has evolved, so has our ability to apply reason and logic to our circumstances as a counterpoint to our instincts. Our brains use both of these parts—the head and the heart—to process information. . . . .So, hmm, say a teenage driver hits a patch of ice on the road and starts to skid. Her initial heart response (lizard brain) is panic, which causes her to slam on the brakes, making it far worse. As her mind steps in to take over, however, the teen remembers to ease up on the brakes, steer into the turn, and downshift—actions that hopefully save her from a crash. . . . .
So, the heart (the right brain) can be good but also a huge stumbling block, bent on corrupting the good decisions made by our more logical, rational self. Our emotions, when left unchecked by logic, reason, evidence, can contribute to very poor choices, but our heart (right brain) is absolutely necessary to making our most intelligent (—integrated?) decisions. That’s why people at church believe unspportable things, because they are only thinking with their heart. That said, simply thinking with your head leads you to nihilism, which amazingly is as dangerous as just believing things on insufficient evidence. . . .So, fear and anxiety affect decision making in the direction of more caution and risk aversion (the lizard, right brain). . . . . When you have been traumatized, you pay more attention to cues of threat than other experiences, and you interpret ambiguous stimuli and situations as threatening, leading to even more fear-driven decisions. So, for me, with an dissociative disorder, certain parts are compelled to focus on the perception of danger and it is like living in say trauma-time, those dissociative parts immediately perceive the present as being just like the past and emergency emotions such as fear, terror, etc. are immediately evoked, which compels impulsive decisions to engage in defensive behaviors (—freeze, flight, fight, or I guess there is even a fourth: collapse?). When those parts are triggered, all my rational and grounded parts are just overwhelmed and unable to make effective decisions. So like everything else, balance is the key. We need one foot in order and one foot in chaos to have a meaningful life. The primitive part of our brains are where the trauma has been stored hmm, without words. Healing is about collecting as many pieces as possible. . . . finding words for what we are seeing and feeling —even when it sounds just crazy. . . . .So my abusive mother didn’t give me the gentle, encouraging nurturing I needed. But I’m an adult, I can give my inner child the kind of loving empowerment that will help me. I’ve got to let go of what I wished I could have experienced and embrace the possibilities of being my own best parent ever. . . . .Wow, that’s emotional.
Interesting thoughts, Aleea. What you said reminded me of my counselor saying that the right side of my brain is on fire, or all lit up. I’ve mentioned several times in the last week about EMDR and this is one of the benefits of EMDR. It settles that part of the brain down and brings more emotional balance.
My counselor wouldn’t even start EMDR therapy until she had gone over some of the brain science (which your comment also reminded me of).
Anyway, so far I’ve found EMDR to be very helpful. I’m excited to continue and see how it goes
Have you ever looked into EMDR? I’m going to put some links in another comment after this (I’m on my phone and bike wasn’t to do it from my regular computer).
Hmm, messed up that last sentence, haha. Don’t know where bike came into it and meant to say that I wanted to add the links from my regular computer.
O.K., so here are a couple of links. The first is a youtube video that my counselor had me watch on EMDR.
And this is just an interesting transcript of an interview about trauma by Dr. Van Der Kolk who recommends EMDR. I haven’t even read the whole transcript, but found what I did read highly interesting. (For whoever chooses to read this, I’m not necessarily endorsing everything he says). Aleea, I think you’ll enjoy reading.
Thank you so very much Content. . . .that was *a lot* of really good insights to read and think about! I especially liked his points about getting more sleep, especially REM sleep: “. . . .And so sleep is a very important way in which we restore ourselves. And that process of that restoration that occurs during REM sleep — dream sleep — is probably an important factor in why traumatic memories do not get integrated.” . . . .I simply don’t get enough sleep: too many time zones, too many new hotels, too many planes. . . . I admit that EMDR, i.e. the therapist wiggles fingers back and forth across the patient’s field of vision and the patient tracks the fingers while “holding in mind” the traumatic memory. . . .well, it seems crazy but maybe it does enable one to process their traumas so that they pass into memories and stop invading the present. I know we have to get to those sealed-off pockets (swamps of pain) and drain those swamps. We can’t just pave over them or everyone would already be healed. Those traumas are buried alive and keep haunting us until we turn those ghosts into our ancestors. . . . . Van der Kolk says he came to the technique as a skeptic. “It’s this weird treatment,” . . . “You ask people to remember what happened to them, and you wiggle your finger in front of their eyes and have them follow it. Crazy.” . . . I would think the same thing: lack of rigor; small sample sizes (there were just 88 people in his 2007 study of EMDR) and I would think that anyone is going to tell their therapist that they’re doing better if they like their therapist, you need independent assessors; also, oversimplifying neuroscience by dividing the brain into distinct regions — rational and emotional — that are “not all that connected to one another” when the vast majority of neurobiologists say the so-called rational and emotional brains are *much more* integrated than his model suggests. . . . .But, . . . .but, it is very interesting that the MRI scans show that when faced with a trauma —or in the case of PTSD, with a traumatic memory — the prefrontal cortex becomes muted, the speech center becomes muted and the amygdala becomes hyperactive.
. . . .Notice in the role playing, Van der Kolk is using as his epistemology the Socratic Method. He really has hard words for the two of the most widely employed techniques in treating trauma: cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. Calling them “among the worst possible treatments” for trauma and saying “. . .[they] work less than half the time, and even then provides no lasting/true relief; desensitization is not the same as healing. He holds a similar view of cognitive behavioral therapy. . .] . . . .The thing I can’t understand is his statements that “Trauma has nothing whatsoever to do with cognition, it has to do with your body being reset to interpret the world as a dangerous place.” That reset begins in the deep recesses of the brain with its most primitive structures, regions that no cognitive therapy can access. It’s not something you can talk yourself out of.” . . . . .Wow, wow, that is a huge paradigm shift, there goes your “talk therapy” in all it’s variants. “A new psychological truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Oh my, that is even harder hitting. . . . .one lives and analyses data within a time frame, totally unaware that the solution is most often just outside of that frame. That’s why we need Christ to help us transform. That really makes me think. I should never underestimate the depth of my subjectivity re:psychotherapy vs. EMDR . . . .If you want to, can you tell me how did you (and do you) become/stay “ContentinChrist”? What is that process/ methodology? ―van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma he says “Notice that” and “What happens next?”. . . . In other words, to awaken (and it all seems to center on awareness) I have to abandon the desires of my ego (left brain) and enter into the silence of my heart (right brain). . . .I don’t fear being alone or finding myself alone, so why don’t I find myself (awaken)?
Hi, Aleea –
Limited time lately, sorry for the late response. Actually typed a long response to this several days ago and it got lost (maybe everyone should be relieved, haha).
Short answer to your question about staying content….
For me, it comes down to a few things:
Really believing, resting and relying on God’s love for me.
And, woven in with that, really believing, resting and relying on what God has done for me at the cross and who He says I am now.
So against all my feelings, I choose to believe that I am a saint, no longer a sinner. I choose to believe that I am dead to sin, that the old me has been crucified with Christ on the cross and that I am alive in Christ, joined with Him and we are in perfect unity — only because of what was accomplished at the cross by our Savior. There is no gap between myself and God anymore. It has been taken care of.
Just believing Him and His promises and His Word. Against all the evidence of this physical life or my feelings or whatever.
Resting in His love for me and resting in the knowledge that He is perfectly satisfied in me and that HE is the one that will do the work to complete what He has begun…..
I know I didn’t address much else of what you said, but I need to go for now.