Abuse Recovery: The Journey From Victim to Survivor

I deleted a thread in which I wrote about sexual abuse victims becoming survivors because I did not do full justice to this complex subject, and want to do that now.

In 21 years of successfully guiding sexual, emotional and physical abuse victims into healthy recovery, the word victim has always been a point of challenge. There is a strong movement to do away with the word, as many feel that the word itself is degrading and encourages a person to see themselves as weak. Others feel that the word can instill a sense of shame, deformity or stigma upon someone who needs more than anything to feel good about themselves.

I am deeply sensitive to this perspective. Indeed, I have engaged with many, many abuse clients who come in very unwilling to see themselves as victims even though they are in a lot of emotional pain and their lives and relationships are not working as well as they need to. Many have worked with therapists and counsellors who have discouraged them from seeing themselves this way in a well-intended effort to strengthen that person’s self-esteem, self-image and overall ability to function in their lives.

Yet they come to me because something is missing in their healing. They have heard from friends that I do a deeper level of work and that my clients achieve real healing. And what I am going to share with you is what I share with my clients.
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What Is Emotional Healing, Part 1

The need to find emotional healing awakens in a simple truth: I am in pain.

When I meet a new client, sometimes they will say exactly that to me. “I am in a lot of pain in my relationship and I can’t resolve it. I need some help.” As they speak, their body is usually animating the pain for me in gestures and movement. Other times, a new client might talk all around and over their pain because they haven’t yet allowed themselves to feel their emotions, usually out of self-protection, and when I guide them inward to see that they are in pain, their body connects with the feelings, and that person starts to come into focus inside of what is really happening in their life.

However someone begins to feel this awareness in themselves – whether they are a mentally focused, tightly controlled person just starting to allow vulnerable emotions to move inside of them, or they are a deeply expressive emotional person waking up to a new level of feelings they didn’t know were in them, or they’re a person somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum of emotional self-expression – the emerging feeling that there is inner pain that needs relief is the place where everyone begins to seek healing.
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