Turning A Corner & Walking a Fine Line

Although my last post published just a few days ago, it has been a year since that post was written. At the time of this writing, it has been a year since I left my blog and podcast in search of deeper healing for myself. By the time this publishes, it will have been a year and a half.

I have learned a lot in that time. It is in the act of re-building this blog and podcast that my former self held up a mirror for me today. Now I can see what happened. This vision comes into focus even clearer because a physical cause for many of my symptoms has been discovered and corrected.

I can see that in search of my own healing and in an effort to authenticate my victim experience through creative expression, my victim/helpless emotions amplified themselves to the point that I could no longer see how I could continue this work. I had gone so far down the rabbit hole that I couldn’t see light.

I was wrong. I needed time and space to get correct perspective.

self reflection

With a new perspective (based on the relief of physical symptoms that have troubled me for a lifetime) I understand a few things differently.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned after a year’s hiatus and a heart procedure:

– The appropriate time for digging deeply into difficult feelings is when those feelings lead to behaviors that don’t serve you well in your life. Many therapists dig into old trauma with clients thinking that telling the story and getting the emotions out will lead to relief. While that can offer the temporary solution of “unloading a burden,” dwelling on those emotions can swallow a person whole. Why not just wait for the body to tell you when it is time to uncover the mystery of the feelings behind actions or words that aren’t what you wish they would be?

– Just because uncomfortable feelings reveal themselves, there is no injunction to do anything with or about them. Know they’re there. Don’t ignore. But a feeling isn’t a commandment. Not everything we feel has to be expressed. Again. Expression for the mere sake of expression can lead to overwhelm: like a sea of ocean waves that are exhausting and serve little purpose besides sucking life out of the person who chooses to swim in water that is too deep.

Saying this, I had written two “performance pieces” that I’ll post in written form here. They expressed deep, poignant emotions that moved the audience. And brought the observation that I was “still a victim.” I thought the woman who told me “when you stop being a victim” had missed the point. But, maybe not. Shortly after that observation I shut down my blog. And quit the work. I believed it was too Spiritually draining. Even though I felt a soul calling that has nagged at me – even over the past year – while I tried to make sense of things.

While allowing myself to “delve deeply” for the sake of connecting with my blog followers and other survivors of trauma I also created an emotional tidal wave that I believed I could only escape through quitting.

The problem wasn’t the work. The problem was that I lost sight of the delicate balance between experiencing feelings and moderating them so that they don’t take over my life. Honest mistake. Makes me ever more empathetic for anyone who sits with a therapist that believes that expression of feelings is a panacea.  Interestingly, the others I’m working with (at the 2bsisters blog) shared the same experience: burn-out from too much focus on describing the victim experience.

self reflection human

It has its place. But, after D.V. there is a time when it is appropriate to turn the corner. Once you are safe and know you are capable of staying safe and healthy, the focus on feelings should be more casual – a background process informing your decisions in the here-and-now. Staying in the feelings too long empowers the victim experience to direct your life as a silent puppeteer.

The healing process requires balance between paying attention to and dealing with the feelings and healthy distraction using activities that move your toward a stronger healthier you.

In this episode Tamara Bess LMFT discusses when delving into feelings is a useful practice and when it isn’t. She describes becoming overwhelmed by feelings leading up to the close of the podcast a year ago and the new direction toward self-empowerment for this and future episodes.

For more of Tamara’s work, please visit www.2btru2you.com. For a listing of podcast episodes, please visit www.2btru2you.solutions. Tamara’s podcast can also be found on  iTunes.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.

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I Became The Walking Dead To Survive Abuse

Healing from abuse is a journey. Everyone who escapes abuse looks back on the road they traveled and, unless they have the support of a compassionate other to help them keep perspective, they often criticize themselves heavily for where they have been. You must remember that what you did to survive abuse was successful. You survived!

Healing comes from identifying choice-points and really understanding the available choices and having a sense of forgiveness for ourselves for the decisions made. Healing begins with deep understanding.

I am in the process of deep exploration of my own abuse history. Along the way, I am discovering truths about what that experience was for me. I am sharing a little piece of what I discovered with you today because when we can see into each others’ journeys and find commonality we feel just a bit less alone with where we have been.

All along the way in my journey to freedom from abuse in my life, I shut myself down the way you do when you decide to swim across a pool on just one breath. You decide to give up oxygen in trade for the accomplishment of being able to say you can do it and you take one big breath and start swimming as hard as you can after a forceful push off the wall. Under water, moments of truth confront you as your lungs scream for air and your initial momentum from pushing off the wall has given way to your power to use your arms and legs to save your life. You feel the pain in your lungs and you have the choice to give up your goal or to move forward with your decision that breath and life are less important than this one goal. You risk in favor of victory over your life and your need for survival and you strain against the growing pressure and pain in your lungs to be able to say that you made it to the other side without breathing. There is an end and, victoriously, you take in a great gasp of air on the other side. Breathing in life, you revel in your victory.

How much are you willing to give up as you struggle to survive abuse?

How much are you willing to give up as you struggle to survive abuse?

Abusive relationships are like that because pushing against our lungs is the pressure to continue to hold our breath just a minute longer in hopes that holding our breath will change how another person treats us. For me, living with my first husband (13 years) and the next man (5 years) and in the Mormon Church (40 years) was a marathon of holding my breath long enough to swim to the other side of the pool of being pleasing enough to others. The problem was that the other side of the pool – reaching the goal and filling my lungs with air and then relaxing and being myself – kept being extended. And I continued to make the choice to hold my breath. The wall at the other end of the pool: love and acceptance and self-esteem and confidence and freedom from anxiety. But I never reached the other side while I was still in the pool.Every time a choice point came for me, I chose to strain against the pressure to take a breath and continued moving forward, trying to reach the other side of the pool. I did this for a long, long time.

When you hold your breath long enough, you become the walking dead.

Becoming the walking dead to survive abuse is too high a cost

Becoming the walking dead to survive abuse is too high a cost

I took my first steps out of my Walking Dead status when I realized that trying to please this man or that man or the Church were never going to bring me the relief, acceptance, self-esteem and love that I so desperately needed. No. Those things had to come from me. I had to stop looking outside of me to fix what was broken. I started with me.

I had to stop running away from what was inside of me. Once I began moving toward me, healing began. Healing continues.

 

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2015 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited. Tamara’s website where she provides podcasts and posts dealing with all aspects of healing from domestic violence can be found at http://www.2btru2you.com.