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.
Radio Show Recording with David Pittman and Rachel Grant – January 29th, 2014
The Abused Addict: One Man’s Journey of Recovery from Sexual Abuse
Discovering the Correlation Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Substance Abuse/Addiction
We cover not only abuse and addiction, but also issues with sexuality, access to counseling, sexual predators grooming kids for abuse, churches that protect sexual predators, creating support groups in your local areas and so much more! Please set aside some time to listen to what I genuinely believe is valuable information for both survivors of childhood sexual abuse and those that love them.
This December 18th, at 6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET, I have the honor of facilitating a free teleseminar with my friend, colleague and fellow advocate, Rachel Grant.
Do you feel worthless, undeserving, unfixable, or unlovable? Are you ready to let go of the pain of sexual abuse?
If you are beyond sick and tired of feeling broken and burdened by the past, this 90 minute teleseminar is for you. You will be taught the three steps you need to take in order to let go of the pain of childhood sexual abuse. Rachel will also share with you her secret to becoming a ‘beyond survivor’.
You will learn:
• Why sexual abuse is akin to an unhealed wound and the steps required to healing that wound.
• How your brain processes experiences and how this affects your thinking, feelings, and behavior.
• To challenge the false beliefs that keep you disconnected from your genuine self.
• To develop new ways of thinking in order to shift your focus, listen to yourself, and to use affirmations that really work.
• 3 steps, rooted in science, which will lead you out of the pain of abuse.
If you are not able to join us live, go ahead and register and you will receive the recording.
This call is perfect for you if:
You are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and are frustrated because it seems nothing you do is helping.
You desire to reconnect to your genuine self in order to move on with your life and be the person you were meant to be.
It is my hope and desire for you to be able to make radical and amazing changes as you take back your life and realize your ability to make powerful choices about who you are and how you live.
Please don’t miss the opportunity to join us and gain this invaluable information. As I mentioned, Rachel is not only a colleague, she is also my friend. I know how much she has helped me and I know she can help you too.
The following is a post a friend of mine wanted to share. She has helped me realize that as survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we are just one set of the victims in this crime. I’m thankful for her sharing with me and pointing out that children, loved-ones and others also suffer the consequences of the abusers actions. Please welcome her writing and the willingness to open up her heart and hurt with us.
When you’re growing up, you look up to your parents for wisdom and to see how you are supposed to be when you grow up. Parents are the ones you’re with the most and they mold you into who you are today.
Parents aren’t perfect, even though when we are young we think they are. We tend to place them on a pedestal and never recognize the tarnish and wear, or what may be going on inside of them. Let’s face it, our job as children is to have fun and play and try to obey our parents because in our minds, we trust they know what’s good for us.
For me, childhood was probably a little more difficult than an average child. It seemed I could never do right. I couldn’t say the right things or be the right way. Yet, somehow inside me – I still would seek out approval from my mother. Call me a glutton for punishment, stubborn, hard-headed, etc., I’ve been called worse.
My mother and I were two independent, head-strong individuals and we clashed like most teenagers do with their parents, but then there were times when I would be on the receiving end of some pretty hateful comments. It wasn’t until I was older that I came to the realization of what was really going on.
Growing up constantly being told you’d never amount to anything isn’t easy to take, nor is hearing how I’m so pathetic. Thousands upon thousands of children hear this at some point in their life. I’m not saying that I’m that different just that I have scars from the verbal abuse I endured.
So why am I on a victims of CSA website and blog? Simply put, I’m a victim of a victim.
No, I was not sexually abused but I did suffer from the effects of CSA, the effects they had on my mother. Because she chose not face the things that happened to her when she was younger, this played a huge role on how she interacted with others. Her relationships with her family and extended family suffered.
On the outside and in public, she was a stunning, beautiful woman. Very intelligent and determined to become more – do more, no one would have ever thought she was battling with her own doubts. At home, she tended to be disconnected, cold and hard-hearted. I don’t remember a lot of hugs and kisses growing up. I sat back and watched as my friends had seemingly great relationships with their mothers and would envy their mother/daughter connection. It was hard.
Over the years, my attempts to reach out and share the events of my life weren’t received very well. I think the most intimate mother/daughter moments we shared were when I got married or when I had my child. It’s still hard – sometimes I mourn that lost relationship – the memories that could have been but never were.
In my early motherhood days, I found myself reacting to things the way my mother used to – quick to anger and disconnected. I came to realize a cycle was starting and not a healthy one. I realized I was turning into my mother and not in those funny, cute ways we joke about with our friends. This cycle of hatred at the world had begun and I had to do something about it to break the cycle or another innocent child would fall victim to this madness. Another relationship would suffer.
You see, during my late high school years, my mom had confided in me her deep dark secret. She was sexually abused as a child. I never really grasped how deep the pain was, how deeply it effected who she had become. I really don’t think the light bulb of that reality hit me until after I had my own child and knew I had to break the cycle of anger.
For those of you out there afraid to take the steps to get help, please realize, you’re not the only victim. How you react to the travesty of what happened to you can last for generations. I’m asking you to take the steps necessary to begin healing – If you don’t do it for you, do it for those you love, your wife, your husband, your children and even your grandchildren.
If you find yourself in my shoes – please know you aren’t alone. Reach out to Together We Heal or find someone you can talk to. Know you are worthy and don’t believe the words spoken in anger. I know it’s not easy to accept, but you can overcome this and break the cycle.
Please don’t ever forget – To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.
By Michelle Lea Anthony-Hopper
Michelle is not just a friend, she’s also the TWH web designer, webmaster and on the Board of Consultants. Much like she was unaware of my abuse, I was unaware of what she had been through until we started working together on projects for TWH. We are honored to have her as an integral member of the TWH team and family.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), I have been searching for sometime to figure out a way to summarize the challenges survivors face. But due to the levels of pain and varieties of struggles each individual confronts, it seemed like this wasn’t possible. That is until I was watching, of all things a tv show, when I had a moment of clarity. A young lady had been kidnapped and was all alone. While listening to the dialogue of the actors and imagining how a real kidnap victim must feel it hit me like a ton of bricks…
The loneliest feeling in the world…is waiting to be found.
And there it was. My own personal struggle was wrapped up in that one, simple but excruciatingly painful statement. Survivors of CSA know this feeling. We live in constant fear of people learning what we are currently going through or have been through. We live in perpetual terror that our deepest, darkest secret will be exposed. Our fear, shame and guilt is compounded daily in our hearts, it weakens our spirits and like a weight, its sits on and sinks into our thoughts – emotionally, mentally and at times even physically. It feels like an wrecking ball holding us down, preventing us from moving, from doing anything or going anywhere.
The tv show I was watching showed the kidnap victim left to die, held down by spikes in the desert, hands and feet bound to those spikes. She was all alone, in the middle of nowhere, with no help in sight. And during this time, she had no idea if she would ever be found, or if she would die alone, with this horrific secret.
And in that story is the analogous representation of the degree of despair felt by survivors of CSA. We have that same sense of abandonment, of being all alone, all the while, we need and we want more than ANYTHING, for someone, ANYONE, to FIND OUT and to FIND US!
In its simplest terms, what we need is much like the moment a child has a parent rip off a bandage from a banged up knee or elbow. When a band-aid is pulled off it hurts like hell, but then when done, there is this immense sense of relief. And the growing sense of relief is so much more powerful than the instant moment of pain. Thats not to say we don’t get that band-aid ripped off over and over again when we relive the experience by telling our story, or testifying in court or being deposed, but by engaging on a healing path, we can find a way to move froward productively. Just as a survivor feels extreme emotional trauma in the moments/hours/days surrounding the time people learn the truth about their abuse, once the initial pain subsides, the healing can begin.
I know I have said this before, and I’ll continue to say it until there’s no breath left in my lungs. If you are or have been a victim of CSA, reach out now. You are not alone. You may have been left in the desert, but you now have people looking for you and available to help you. If not with TWH, find someone, some group, somewhere. They are all around and willing to help you. And may we all find the peace we deserve.
I recently read an article from childabusesurvivor.net and in it they referenced a story from the Jewish Survivors of Sexual Abuse blog. It’s a story I had heard years before in a training seminar but as the author of the blog stated, “Sometimes we just need to be reminded!”
In the room filled with more then 200 people, a well-known speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill, asking, “Who would like this $20 bill?”
Hands started going up.
The speaker said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill.
He then asked, “Who still wants it?”
Still the hands were up in the air.
Well, he replied, “What if I do this?”
And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty and asked, “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.
The speaker stated: My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.
We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.
Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who LOVE you.
In the post, the author stated that, “The $20 bill is still worth $20, but once the speaker got done with it, it was different than when it started. Abuse does affect us, it does change us. It leaves scars, or dirt and creases to stay with the metaphor, but even with those effects, the value of the bill stays the same. It just takes some effort to smooth out the wrinkles.”
And I believe this is an excellent point that needs repeating. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), we often feel like that crumpled up bill. Like we’ve been run through the wringer and left out on our own. Which brings me to the point I really want to emphasize.
It’s a horrible word and feeling for survivors of CSA. We talked about it in our monthly support group meeting this past week. We went around and talked about how each of us, in our own unique but similar ways, experience the feeling of being “alone”. Not loneliness, but truly “alone”.
As we went around I heard words and phrases like “rejection”, “not believed”, “discarded”, “isolation” and one that really stuck with me, “I felt like my core was stolen”. It was that last one that I could entirely relate. As I laid in that bed, time and time again, as the abuse continued, more and more of me felt like it was disappearing, like the core of who I was, was no more. So as the years went on I tried to fill that void with things, substances and people.
The things being objects of desire, whether it be a simple knick-knack I called a collectible or a new car. The substances were narcotics that numbed me from the feeling of being alone and pain that permeated every pore of my body. And the people were a series of failed attempts to feel loved and wanted. But no matter what I tried, nothing and no one could fill that void, that feeling of being alone.
It wasn’t until I finally came to terms with what had happened, the crime perpetrated against me that I could even begin to have some sense of who I really was, what my core was made of. And I believe most survivors struggle with this. So what do we do? How do we move forward if you, like myself and others, feel that “core” is not what it should be?
The first thing you MUST know is that you are NOT alone. Right now in the USA, there are between 55 and 75 million survivors of CSA. And that’s just the ones we can count based on statistics of those who’ve come forward. So know you have many people that have been through what you have. In addition, there are now many groups established to provide the help, support and guidance that once did not exist. Whether its Together We Heal, NAASCA, RAINN or the many others out there, you have a place to go, so please reach out, and find one that will help you.
And finally, what I found that helped me begin to move forward was getting some professional help. Therapy, in it’s many forms, is available to you. For some, you might have the funds to pay for it, or if you have insurance, utilize it. And for those that have neither, there are now groups that will help you at no cost. So whether you have the funds or not, there’s no reason to not find a therapist or group that can help guide you on a healing path. A path that will help you find your core, a path to no longer feeling alone. So take a little lesson from that $20 dollar bill…reach out and find your worth. You are worthy and deserving of it.
Our needs are increasing for more therapists/counselors. Please read and contact us ASAP!!
My name is David Pittman and I am the Executive Director for “Together We Heal”. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides cost-free counseling/therapy for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Additionally we give presentations, workshops and seminars on how parents can better protect their children from sexual predators.
We already work with dozens of licensed therapists, counselors and life-coaches, who donate their time and talent in order to help survivors begin the healing process and work through the multiple mental health challenges they face. But that number still isn’t enough.
With ever-increasing healthcare costs combined with the limitations placed on mental healthcare providers, as well as the rising number of survivors coming forward, we find ourselves in greater need of more therapists/counselors willing to work with us to help survivors of abuse.
It is with these factors in mind that I come to you now asking for your generosity. We need more volunteers who are qualified in working with victims who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Below is a brief list of the variety of challenges these survivors face and we need for you to have experience in these areas.
Addiction & Recovery
Attachment and Abuse Issues
Depression and Anxiety
Panic Disorder and Phobias
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)
I know this is an unorthodox approach of reaching out to professionals, but we are in desperate times, and these survivors need us to take drastic measures. We are following the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital model, that no one be turned away because they can’t afford it.
We do not ask for or require any minimum time from any of our volunteers. Whatever time you are able to give, we are grateful for and appreciate. Even if you can help just one or two survivors, that would be a tremendous gift! And the need is not just in the U.S., we need therapists/counselors from all over the world as people reaching out to us come from all continents.
I know what I am asking is not easy, but I also know there are enough good-hearted people in this world who are willing to help these survivors. I know because I am a survivor of CSA and its because I had the good fortune of having such a therapist come into my life and help me that I am where I am today. It is to you I am speaking directly.
Please contact me at (754) 234-7975 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – Contact me anytime and I will respond ASAP.
When emailing, please send your CV, resume, list of certifications/degrees, or the life experience you’ve had that qualifies you to help others, so we can go through the proper vetting process.
One last point. We aren’t looking for cookie-cutter therapists and counselors. The needs of survivors vary tremendously and because of that, we have people from many types of backgrounds that work together with us. Being a survivor of abuse or having life experience can be just as important as a degree on the wall. What we need are folks that genuinely care for and want to help others. Please keep this in mind and allow your heart to guide you when considering becoming a part of this amazing team.
Executive Director, Together We Heal
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
Truth is truth, right? And if it is so, then whether we agree with it or not, it’s still the truth. You may not agree with the concept of gravity, especially if you’re like me when you step on a scale. But if you step off a second floor balcony with no net to catch your fall, you will discover a hard, cement-tasting truth.
Copernicus, Galileo, Bruno and multiple other thinkers were at one time called heretics. In the end, what they found to be the truth went against ALL popular “scientific” notions of the day, religious beliefs or merely values held at the time.
I say this to bring to light the following truth I’ve discovered in my own life –
“You must enter your past to fix your present. If you don’t, you will have no future.”
I know, I know, sounds like a psychobabble cliche, but just as we call something a “generalization”, there’s a reason, that’s because they are “generally” true. So this time, with a non-judgmental or preconceived notion, let me repeat and have you read it once more…
…”you must enter your past to fix your present. If you don’t, you will have no future.”
I admit it sounds a bit ominous. And while it may be hard to hear, I’m merely trying to make a point, emphasizing the truth I discovered in my own life. It wasn’t until I went back to my past; the acknowledgment of the childhood sexual abuse that I endured from ages 12-15, that enabled me to begin to work through the issues of the present of that time. Once acknowledged and beginning to heal, I finally, for the first time in almost 10 years, began to see the potential of a future that lay ahead.
Once upon a time, I was heavily addicted to multiple narcotics to numb myself from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. This led to three arrests, jail time, fines, no drivers license for a year, loss of tens of thousands of dollars in wages from a career I was genuinely passionate about. And in varying degrees, it cost me a relationship of five years, another of four and even an earlier one of six years. This “past” was destroying my “present” and if something didn’t give, my “future” was going to be even more limited than it already was!
But my story is not an isolated one. It’s not even unique and definitely not as harsh, from my perspective, as some others have been through. But that’s just from my life view. We all have a different one.
So how do we do accomplish this task? How do we get from point A to point B? That is to say, how do we look into our past, into that abyss, without falling back in? Then how do we take that information, apply it to our present so that we have the opportunity to move on into a more positive future? A lot of questions with multiple choice answers, I know.
Even if you’re not an addict or alcoholic, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “admitting you have a problem is the first step.” And with survivors of CSA, this saying has some weight as well, just with a different angle. It’s not that we have to admit we have a problem, we have to admit that a horrible event and crime was perpetrated against us. And this is not an easy or small task. In fact, in my case, I made numerous trips to the place where I knew I had to address my abuser. I drove past it, I stopped at the driveway, heck one time I even got out of the car, was walking up the door of the church, when I turned around and drove back home. In total, it took me 6 trips to finally be able to speak out against my abuser. To tell the people in authority above him exactly what he was, what he was capable of, and the danger he posed to the very children he was charged with protecting.
And that last thing i just mentioned was the real motivation behind what i had to do. More than just my own self-serving, self-healing desires behind the action I knew I had to take, more important than shedding the light on the past…even more at stake was the future of the lives of his potential victims.
I know now I wasn’t his first victim, nor was I his last. And how I wished, prayed and pleaded that someone had come forward before he got to me. So now it was up to me. Now I had the strength to face the cold, hard truth. I knew if the young boys he had access to were to have any chance of a future free from the emotional, physical and spiritual torture I experienced, I was going to have to step up and tell the truth of what this monster is.
If I was to have any potential peace with my own future I had to make sure, to the best of my ability, that no other little boy in his life would be molested, abused or raped. And so I did just that. I acknowledged my past, I took action in the present, and I know now I have done all I could within my power to help those boys have a decent future. And in doing so, my future too is one of peace and healing.
So do whatever you need to enter your past in a healthy way. Whether through one-on-one counseling, group therapy or any other professional help you require. Seek it out so you can begin to “fix” your present. And by that I simply mean whatever will help you begin to heal, I know from personal experience nothing gets “fixed” to what it was before. But in doing this, by beginning to heal, you will have a chance to take back what was stolen from you and to have a future and peace you deserve.
As a public advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I’m often asked to give interviews. I’ve done local and regional newspapers, local and online radio shows, heck I’ve even been on national T.V.! Whoop dee do, right?! My feelings exactly. So have mass murderers and folks with no teeth and no shirt explaining how tornados sound. (some of which were my relatives by the way!)
Even less talented folks get syndicated T.V. shows making hundreds of thousands of dollars an episode. So you ask, why do I tell you about giving an interview? Because every once in a while, when the planets are aligned and you tilt your head the right way. It all comes together and something good comes from it!
Such was the case this Monday, April 29th, 2013. I was asked by another advocate for survivors of CSA to appear on her radio show to do an interview. She wanted me to tell my story of abuse, teach parents how to better protect their children from sexual predators…the usual path for my regular interview. But this one turned out to be anything but ordinary.
I have grown to know and respect Trish McKnight over the last couple of years as we crossed paths several times doing similar endeavors to raise awareness for our mutual cause. But with April being Child Abuse Awareness month, she wanted to make sure her slate was full of folks that were either experts in the field, had been running organizations to benefit survivors, were survivors of CSA themselves or some combination of all the above. It’s been a pretty steady cast of folks I respect and admire, so when she asked me to be a part, I was humbled. As any survivor can tell you, we have a hard time accepting our own self-worth. And this for me was no exception.
But I deferred to her wisdom, and to benefit those who receive help from the efforts of “Together We Heal”, and said, “sure! I’d be happy to do the interview with you!”
It began as most do, she had an overview of what TWH does, who it benefits, how we help survivors, etc. And throughout, everything ran perfectly. We had callers, we had those with input from online. Trish and I had good chemistry on-air. And I genuinely enjoyed the entire hour and a half we talked. And we TALKED! Non-stop the whole time! It was great! We gave a lot of important information to help parents, we talked with a caller on how we could help their child. I’m telling you, it was perfect. Or so I thought.
After we went off the air. The emails, calls, tweets came pouring in! Folks were reaching out locally and from one end of an ocean to another. The U.K., New Zealand, Venezuela, you name it, we were being inundated with comments about the show, and ALL of them were positive. Which is exactly what you want. To reach as many folks as you can in an effort to help as many as possible. But not EXACTLY what you want when you are in the business to help people. Don’t get me wrong, those encouragements mean the world to me. They are a part of what keeps us going. But there was something missing, something major.
But then, as the calls, emails and tweets started to decline, there in the midst of them was IT. THE reason why myself, Trish, Rachel, Bill, Marci, Andrew, Margie, Blair, Patricia, and so many to name here its impossible to list them all, get up each morning and do what it is we do. A simple, short email stating…
…I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I need help. Can you help me?
Then shortly after that, a second email and a third, all asking the same thing. All with their own unique, yet similar stories. We have been sexually abused and we need your help.
I immediately responded and will be arranging for their individual needs over the next week. But that’s not the point. The point is that either they were listening to the show, or someone who cares about them was, made a point to get our contact info and then followed up, making sure they had the ability to reach out to us. That’s love folks. That’s people who care about their family and/or friends.
And that’s why we do interviews.
Because we never know when someone who desperately needs our help will be listening. The point – don’t EVER pass on an opportunity because you might not get a second chance. You’ve heard the phrase, either from the Robin Williams movie, “The Dead Poets Society”, or from Latin class if your old enough, Carpe Diem – Seize the Day. Make the most of every opportunity you have. It’s when you least expect it that you get that surprise. The opportunity to help your fellow man or woman. Don’t ever waste that moment.
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.
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?
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.