Together We Heal

Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse. We are here to provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal, give direction to those seeking guidance and to expose sexual predators for what they are and their methods of getting into our lives.


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I’ve Got Abandonment Issues

This week we conclude our 3-part series with Rachel Grant as she provides insight on the topic of abandonment. Whether you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse or not, this is a subject that many folks experience at some point in their lives. If you have or know someone who has, you will benefit from her wisdom. Thank you so much Rachel for blessing us with your words and your spirit.
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Abandon: to leave completely and finally, forsake utterly, desert, to give up, discontinue, withdraw from, withdraw protection or support

When it comes to abandonment, we are very much driven by a fear of the unknown. We do not know if the people we are connecting to may one day withdraw their protection or support. They may “forsake” us, and not just a little, but utterly. The greater the connection, the greater the risk, because we have more at stake should the person choose to walk away.

In an effort to alleviate this terrible sense of “not knowing,” we will often do a variety of things. We will over-control, seek constant reassurance, or be on high alert for anything that looks like withdrawal. Worst-case scenario, as soon as we start to feel close, we will push away and sabotage the relationship.

The fear of abandonment is extremely common in those of us who have been abused. We have experienced very real and tangible abandonment, the loss of protection by those who were supposed to care for us. Unfortunately, we then begin living as if this is going to be the case with everyone we come across.

For quite a long time, I had the false belief that “people always leave.” As a result, guess what, people around me often didn’t stick around for long, because I would pretty much act in a way that ensured they would not want to! It is hard to acknowledge, but we have to be straight about the role we play that leads us to re-create the experience of being abandoned over and over again.

Earlier, I gave you just the first part of the definition of abandonment. Here is the rest:

To give up the control of, to yield (oneself) without restraint or moderation

When I read this, I thought, “Hmm, maybe I need to abandon myself to abandonment!” Our relationships can thrive if we are willing to shift our focus and energy away from trying to prevent the withdrawal of others and enter into an open, free space, where we are present to the fact that they are here with us right now, in this moment. Instead of maneuvering to try to get some guarantee that they will always be here no matter what, we can appreciate the person for being here right now.

The point is, that fear of abandonment keeps us so focused on the future “what ifs” that we miss out on what is happening right now. Another, and more tragic, outcome is that we behave so poorly as a result of our fear, that we pretty much guarantee that things will fall apart.

There is no getting away from taking risks in relationships. We can, however, learn to take calculated risks. This means we have to get out of the nasty habit of connecting to others who are so high risk that we are pretty much setting ourselves up for failure.

One client, intent on maneuvering to get some guarantee that his girlfriend would never leave, would text her every couple of hours to keep tabs on her. If he did not get an immediate response, his meaning making machine would immediately kick into gear, leading him to thoughts such as “She must be with someone else.” As we worked together to challenge his false beliefs, he first had to acknowledge that, while it was possible that she was with someone else, it was unlikely given all of the experiences they had shared. Furthermore, her actions time and again indicated she was committed. The risk he was taking in trusting her therefore seemed well calculated. We then decided that he must hit the pause button (no meaning making) for four hours after sending a text and would limit his texting to three times a day. Over time, his fear and anxiety gradually abated and he was able to form a deeper bond based on trust and respect rather than fear and anxiety.

We need to practice giving up trying to control the future and remain in the present moment. We also need to give some thought to the types of risks we are taking—are they measured (even if still daring) or just playing with fire?

REFLECTION
1. Who abandoned you and how did they abandon you?
2. What have you come to believe about people and relationships as a result?
3. What do you do to protect yourself from being abandoned?
4. How can you shift your focus from trying to control future outcomes to what is happening right now?
5. How do you know if you are taking a calculated risk or not?

Rachel Grant is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Trauma Recovery & Relationship Coach. She is also the author of BeyondSurviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse. With her support, clients learn to identify and break patterns of thought and behavior that keep them from recovering from past sexual abuse or making changes in their relationships.

Rachel holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. With this training in human behavior and cognitive development, she provides a compassionate and challenging approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models. Rachel is a member of the International Coach Federation & San Francisco Coaches.

Learn more at http://www.rachelgrantcoaching.com


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Healing From Abuse – Roads to Recovery

Today, Joanna and the other good folks at The Good Men Project featured an article we posted on “Roads To Recovery”, therapies for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. If you hadn’t had the chance to read it before, please take this opportunity now. In it, we present everything from traditional to experimental methods. The main purpose is to find one that works for you and to show survivors ways they can move froward in their healing process. Please share with any who might find help and hope.

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/hesaid-healing-from-abuse-roads-to-recovery/


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Learn To Trust Others

Today I am happy to present Part II of Rachel Grant’s discussion of “Trust”. Last week there was an overwhelming response on how she addressed “Trusting Yourself”, and I know this week will be no different as she covers “Trusting Others”. Continue to be inspired by her words. Listen with an open spirit and heart. Thank you Rachel.

The last time I wrote, I shared some thoughts on trusting yourself. Now, let’s turn our attention to trusting others. You may still have some work to do to trust yourself, but there is no time like the present to begin transforming your relationships!

For me, the impact of not trusting others was that I walked around guarded all of the time. It was as if I was operating behind a piece of gauze; I remained fuzzy to others and others remained fuzzy to me. I was never able to experience real connection or intimacy.

To move you along toward breaking out from behind your walls, veils, protections, let’s start by simply exploring what it is you think it means to trust someone in the first place.

To develop an ability to trust others, we must learn how to determine who is trustworthy. One of the biggest mistakes we make when determining who is trustworthy is looking for the qualities in others that we ourselves lack. Consider, for example, that we have a very hard time getting projects done on time. This is a quality that we would say a trustworthy person would possess. So, when working with others on a team, we label the woman who is able to get things done on time as trustworthy. Never mind the fact that she cheats on her taxes. The point is we are so focused on the qualities that we lack that we misjudge the character of another person whenever they possess those qualities.

As a result of abuse, our “trust meter” is a bit off balance. We have it tilted way over to not trusting, trusting too easily, or remain apathetic about it, never really connecting or pushing away others. So, how can we give our trust meter a tune-up and rebalance it?

First, we need to challenge our general understanding of what trust is. Regardless of what you have thought it means, I want you to try on a new understanding of trust.

• Trust is not about judging the character and quality of another person.
• We do not come to trust a person as a whole.
• Rather, we come to trust the person to honor a specific commitment.
• No one is 100 percent trustworthy.

Remember the example of the team member who finishes her work on time, but cheats on her taxes? She is completely trustworthy when it comes to completing tasks on time. She is not trustworthy when it comes to dealing with the IRS. For any given person, there is always some commitment we can trust, but there is always another we cannot. This is why trust is not about judging the character or quality of a person, but rather judging and evaluating the commitments you can trust the person to honor.

When relating to others, we should seek to know the difference between commitments likely to be honored and those that likely will not. We want to understand what sorts of commitments a person follows through on more often than not and hope that these line up with what is important to us. This will vary by person and by commitment.

Our job then is to decide whether or not to trust someone by considering their behavior and speech as signals of their beliefs, values, and intentions, which are all indications of what commitments they are willing to keep, how often, and for how long. Keep in mind that behavior is a much better indicator than what people say.

Let’s bring this all together with a familiar example: the friend who always cancels at the last minute.

You have just begun a new friendship with Greg and he seems like a great guy. Friendly, down-to-earth, smart, and the two of you just seem to click. You have gone out a few times and really enjoyed yourselves, that is, when he manages to show up. Though Greg said he was really looking forward to dinner tonight, he just texted to say he can’t make it. This is about the fifth time this has happened.

Can you trust Greg to keep his commitment to show up for events? Nope.

Can you trust Greg to be present, fun, and enjoyable when you are together? Yes.

Can you trust Greg overall? It depends on what you value more. No one is 100 percent trustworthy, but the scale can tip in one direction or the other. For one person, Greg canceling is in such contradiction to their own values that the scale tips toward untrustworthy. For another person, the quality of the time they have when they are together is more important, and so the scale tips in the other direction toward trustworthy.

Moreover, we must come to understand that trust is not an all-or-nothing deal. We can trust someone in a few minor ways and still enjoy them. We may have others in our lives who we trust more deeply and for a greater number of things. It is important to move away from the trap of thinking that each person in our life must be trusted at the same level.

Once we have developed a healthy trust meter, we will be able to determine where someone falls on this spectrum based on which commitments we come to believe they will keep and relate to them accordingly.

Oh, and the bad news is…
In case you missed it, there is no such thing as a 100 percent trustworthy person, which means there is no guarantee that people will not let us down, hurt us, or behave terribly.

But, the good news is…
We do not have to judge the person as a whole and give them a badge of trustworthy honor. Instead, we can prioritize our beliefs, values, and intentions, and judge to see if the person can commit to those things.

You see, trusting another person is not about saying “You’re good, you’re safe”—it is about saying “I know that, in these areas, I can count on you, and I acknowledge and understand the areas where I can’t.” If we continue striving to prove that someone is “good,” then, as soon as they show a flaw, we will cut them off, deem them untrustworthy, and continue our cycle of being closed off and disconnected.

By the way, this also applies when thinking about our own commitments and trustworthiness!

REFLECTION
1. On a scale of 1-10 (1 never; 10 too easily), how would you rate your willingness to trust others?
2. What has been the impact on your life of not being able to trust others?
3. I can trust myself if I keep my commitments to …. even if I am unable to commit in other ways.
4. I can trust a person if they keep their commitments to …. even if they are unable to commit in other ways.

Next week Rachel will conclude her 3 Part Series with insight on the issue of “Abandonment”.

Rachel Grant is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Trauma Recovery & Relationship Coach. She is also the author of BeyondSurviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse. With her support, clients learn to identify and break patterns of thought and behavior that keep them from recovering from past sexual abuse or making changes in their relationships.

Rachel holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. With this training in human behavior and cognitive development, she provides a compassionate and challenging approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models. Rachel is a member of the International Coach Federation & San Francisco Coaches.

Learn more at http://www.rachelgrantcoaching.com


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Learn To Trust Yourself

I am honored to present the first of three articles from my friend, author and all-around amazing person, Rachel Grant! Rachel will be talking about matters of “Trust” and “Abandonment”. These are topics that all of us as survivors of abuse can benefit. Please be sure to check in over the next three weeks. I promise you, she will provide insight and guidance to help. I know because she has helped me already.

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Learn to Trust Yourself

Many survivors struggle with trust. It is not surprising given that our fundamental trust in another person was shattered as a result of abuse. In fact, it is hard for some survivors to remember ever trusting anyone.

When I first thought about trusting others, I felt a huge knot in my stomach. I did not want to rely on the integrity or character of another person. After all, I had relied on the character of someone, and he abused me. I also had a very hard time believing that people would not always leave, let me down, or harm me. I was in a terrible loop of being out to prove that no one could be trusted, and I was succeeding.
There are a couple of layers involved when we think about trust: defining trust, trusting ourselves, trusting others and determining who is trustworthy, and, the biggie, embracing vulnerability. For today, we’re just going to think about trusting ourselves.

As we think about trust, we often focus on determining if a person is trustworthy or not. To be sure, this is very important. However, trusting yourself is actually the first step! If you do not have the confidence that you can make good decisions, judge others with wisdom and clarity, and set the boundaries that are necessary when others violate your trust, then thinking about trusting others will prove to be an empty and meaningless endeavor.

To begin trusting ourselves, we need to figure out the answer to one very important question:

I do not trust myself because …

Once we identify the beliefs that are holding us back from trusting ourselves, we then need to do the work to challenge these beliefs.

As in all things, start small. Setting a goal that focuses on just one area where you want to begin learning to trust yourself is a good place to begin. I also encourage you to read more about challenging false beliefs directly using a few simple steps.

Too often we strive to be open to others, to trust, but find ourselves pulling away, making a mess of things, or being hurt by our choices. If you find yourself over and over again struggling to trust others, it is possible that your focus needs to be shifted from outward interactions to inward reflection and growth.
Being grounded in who you are, confident in your ability to make good decisions, and able to set and keep boundaries are critical components of trusting others.
Next week, I’ll share with you some thoughts on defining trust in a new light and learning to trust others.

REFLECTION

1. On a scale of 1-10 (1 never; 10 too easily), how would you rate your ability to trust yourself?
2. In what areas of life do you trust yourself to make good choices?
3. In what areas of life do you doubt your ability to make good choices?

Next week Rachel will present Part II – “Learn To Trust Others”

Rachel Grant is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Trauma Recovery & Relationship Coach. She is also the author of BeyondSurviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse. With her support, clients learn to identify and break patterns of thought and behavior that keep them from recovering from past sexual abuse or making changes in their relationships.

Rachel holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. With this training in human behavior and cognitive development, she provides a compassionate and challenging approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models. Rachel is a member of the International Coach Federation & San Francisco Coaches.

Learn more at http://www.rachelgrantcoaching.com.


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The Abused Addict – Roads To Recovery *Updated 2013*

Over the last few weeks as a guest blogger on Rachel Grant Coaching, we have talked about childhood sexual abuse as it relates to addiction, depression, anxiety, abandonment, PTSD, the impact it may have on our DNA…Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!!! I only make a joke not to make light of our situation as survivors, but rather to bring a little levity to a situation that for some of feels like the sky is falling and we are being attacked on multiple fronts by creatures that can devour us. So with all of these potential pitfalls and problems seeming to lurk around every corner, what do we do?

Having done my usual research and even stepping into waters just being tested, I have come across both the usual suspects of therapy and a couple not so well-known. It is my hope that no matter whether one of these specific therapies helps you or a loved one or not, you find one that does, because what I do know is that healing from abuse is not something that happens naturally. It takes help, it takes time and it takes work. So please do whatever you need to reach out and find the help that is available.

Under the category of “usual but relatively proven” therapies we find Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Group Therapy, and Self-Help Groups.

Psychotherapy consists of a series of techniques for treating mental health, emotional and some psychiatric disorders. Psychotherapy helps the patient understand what helps them feel positive or anxious, as well as accepting their strong and weak points. If people can identify their feelings and ways of thinking they become better at coping with difficult situations.

Psychotherapy is commonly used for psychological problems that have had a number of years to accumulate. It only works if a trusting relationship can be built up between the client and the psychotherapist. Treatment can continue for several months, and even years.

Some people refer to psychotherapy as “talking treatment” because it is generally based on talking to the therapist or group of people with similar problems. Some forms of psychotherapy also use other forms of communication, including writing, artwork, drama, narrative story or music. Sessions take place within a structured encounter between a qualified therapist and a client or clients. Purposeful, theoretically based psychotherapy started in the 19th century with psychoanalysis; it has developed significantly since then.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors. CBT is commonly used to treat a wide range of disorders, including phobias, addiction, depression and anxiety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is generally short-term and focused on helping clients deal with a very specific problem. During the course of treatment, people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior.

The underlying concept behind CBT is that our thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role in our behavior. For example, a person who spends a lot of time thinking about plane crashes, runway accidents and other air disasters may find themselves avoiding air travel. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to teach patients that while they cannot control every aspect of the world around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment. Because CBT is usually a short-term treatment option, it is often more affordable than some other types of therapy. CBT is also empirically supported and has been shown to effectively help patients overcome a wide variety of maladaptive behaviors.

(Note from Rachel Grant: As as little aside, the Beyond Surviving program she developed for adult survivors of abuse draws upon many of the techniques used in CBT.)

Delivered in a group of people, Group Therapy and Self-Help Groups are for people who have experienced abuse and can be an extremely cathartic experience. Individuals who feel different, ashamed, or guilty as a result of the abuse will benefit immensely from discovering other people who have lived through similar experiences. Although not limited to groups like SNAP and The Lamplighters, they are certainly organizations that have proven themselves to be helpful for survivors of CSA.

(Note: Rachel Grant leads an Adult Survivors of Child Abuse support group every month in San Francisco http://www.rachelgrantcoaching.com and I am the South Florida Area support group leader for SNAP-Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests- http://www.snapnetwork.org – Additionally, Together We Heal helps to provide counseling for those in need. Be sure to contact either of us and we can tell you more).

Next we have some relatively newer therapies, with regard to years of experience in the realm of psychology. TRE (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises) is one. TRE is a simple technique that uses exercises to release stress or tension from the body that accumulates from every day circumstances of life, from difficult situations, immediate or prolonged stressful situations, or traumatic life experiences.

TRE is a set of six exercises that help to release deep tension from the body by evoking a self-controlled muscular shaking process in the body called neurogenic muscle tremors. The uniqueness of this technique is that this shaking originates deep in the core of the body of the psoas muscles. These gentle tremors reverberate outwards along the spine releasing tension from the sacrum to the cranium.

Another is by a former associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s educational and counseling psychology department, Kate Chard and it centers on Cognitive Processing. “It was the first NIMH-funded treatment outcome study on childhood sexual abuse,” she says. This three-year study of women (Chard has done an equivalent study with men) took adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse through a 17-week, manual-based program, with individual or a combination of individual and group sessions.

“What you think affects what you feel, which, in turn, affects what you do,” Chard says, summing up the basic theory behind cognitive therapy. “We build on this by saying that due to the traumatic event, the ability to process cognitively has become impaired. Biologists can look at the neurotransmitter connections in the brain and actually see differences between people who’ve been through traumatic events, such as childhood abuse, and people who have not.”

Another option is coaching. While still fairly new, coaching is a great option for survivors of abuse who are ready to move into the final stage of recovery. If you would like to learn more about coaching, you can of course give Rachel a call or email her. She’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about how coaching works.

While these are by no means all of the potential therapies out there, the point I am hoping comes through today is that no matter which type of therapy you seek as a survivor of abuse, the point is that you indeed seek one, and don’t stop until you find the one that works for you. As I mentioned earlier, it is of the utmost importance that you find professional help. Just as a police officer or military person is required to see a therapist when they go through an extraordinary time of trauma, so we as survivors of childhood sexual abuse must get assistance. What we have been through is beyond an extraordinary event, it’s beyond the pale. And seeking help does not mean we are weak, it shows no signs of lacking anything. To the contrary, it means you care enough about yourself and the ones that love you that you will take the necessary steps to ensure your continued growth as a person. Let me say this again, you aren’t weak, you are human, it’s ok for others to help you.

***UPDATE***

I had a reader ask me if I had heard of any therapy for survivors as they related to the use of animals, they spoke specifically of horses. And while I did not find any with horses, what I DID find was some exciting news. I discovered the following article and subsequent foundation that uses dogs to help survivors of all types of trauma, and other therapeutic needs. While its not specific for CSA, I have no doubt that it has the potential to help both children and adults, as it does with other forms of trauma. So please look into it if you are finding that what you have tried has not been successful for you. As I mentioned in this article, the main objective is to keep trying until you find what works for you. We are all different and what works for one might not work for another. But I know you can find something that WILL work for you as long as you look.

http://www.safehorizon.org/index/get-involved-14/volunteer-8/pet-therapy-helping-child-abuse-victims-187.html

http://thegooddogfoundation.org/

And thank you to the reader that brought this to my attention. You may never know who all will be helped with this knowledge…but you can rest assured that someone will benefit from it. Thank you!

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal