Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. We provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal. We work to expose sexual predators and their methods of getting into our lives.
At Together We Heal, we wanted to share with you something our Director, David Pittman, has been working on with a friend of his, pastor Mike Leake. It’s going to start with David and Mike having conversations about Abuse, Trauma and Justice. And our understanding is they will have others begin to participate.
We would encourage you to follow, subscribe and participate in the discussions. We believe the topics are important and timely.
As recovering addicts and/or survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we often compare what we went through to that of others. It’s human nature. We think to ourselves, well what they went through was so much worse than myself, what gives me the right to complain. Or conversely, we look at another and say, oh come on, that’s all? We constantly do this.
I remember sitting in my first few NA rooms, listening to story after story and thinking, I’m not like these folks at all. I’m no crackhead, walking the streets, selling my body for a $10 high. Or I would rationalize, I’ve NEVER shot junk in MY veins or shared a needle with a disease-riddled body. Then one day I heard a story not so different from mine. It’s what therapists and sponsors call “your moment of clarity”. It’s when you finally come to terms with your own addiction and figure out, an addict is an addict is an addict. It doesn’t matter what the drug is, or the background your come from or even what you’ve done to get high. It’s when you acknowledge that you have no control over the drugs that control you.
And being a survivor of CSA is no different. It doesn’t matter who abused you, how often it happened, what they did to you or they made you do to them. A survivor is a survivor is a survivor. One case is not “worse” or “lesser” than another. To illustrate let me share a story a trusted friend told me many years back. He asked me to answer what appeared to be a simple question.
First, a teen about to go on their very first prom date when, BAM! A huge zit appears at the very end of their nose. With no way to conceal and no time to heal, panic and anxiety set in.
Second, a young man has just been told by the Dean, his academics did not pass this semester and will be on probationary suspension for 1 term. How does he begin to explain this one to mom and dad? And did I mention, he’s on scholarship because they have no money to send him to college.
Third, a couple just received a $30,000.00 bill from the IRS. Evidently their CPA was didn’t file properly and no matter what, they are now liable for all monies, plus penalties. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it, they MUST pay and they don’t have enough savings to cover it. And oh yeah, their daughter just came home pregnant from college. Another two mouths to feed and bodies to keep warm and safe inside their home.
So the query is…which one is “worse”?
Being the bright young man I was at the time, I told him, oh this is easy! I’ve already had a “zit moment” that totally embarrassed me in high school. He or she will eventually forget all about that nonsense! As for the young man in school, I could relate. Got into some trouble in college and had to “sit out” a semester myself. No biggie! I went to Florida for that term, worked for my dad and when I’d “done my time and penance”, I reenrolled, finished up and graduated from the University! So the answer was clear, the couple with the 30k debt to the IRS. What a horrible position to be in. With no foreseeable way to pay, with a child and a grandchild returning “home” in need of mom and dads support, both emotionally and financially. This was a no-brainer.
Turns out, I was the only one with no brain! You see, we each “see” the prism of crisis through our own life experience. If we have already been through an event, we understand what lies on the other side. What potential outcomes there may be. Even what variety of options are available to us. But to each and every one of those folks, the situation before them was the “worst” they had ever faced at that point in their lives. With NO idea of how they were going to get through it. It’s truly relative when it comes to situational crisis. There is no such thing as a “bigger or lesser” problem. To whomever is going through what they are going through, at that moment, it’s the biggest challenge they’ve had to face.
So keep this in mind when working with others or when addressing your own struggles. Remember to be compassionate to those around you. And don’t forget to give yourself a break too. We all need some sympathy and empathy in our times of trials and tribulation.
One hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. –Anonymous
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!
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.