I have been ruminating on a certain idea. If a person survived a traumatic event or series of events, then what would be the first step towards healing? How does one move from surviving to thriving? Can that process be quantified into a series of steps? This is not an unusual idea. Alcoholics Anonymous has managed to create a powerful template for recovery from alcoholism with their Twelve Steps. What steps would one take to move towards a desirable life after having survived perhaps very undesirable events?
After much rumination, I propose that “Telling the Truth” is a good first step. For survivors of sexual abuse or any kind of abuse for that matter, truth may not be what we want because one cannot remain neutral in the face of truth. One either denies the truth or embraces it. We cannot do both. I’ll provide an example. As I’ve stated, I was sexually abused when I was a very young child by an intimate member of my family. When the weight of that truth finally fell upon me, I was crushed. I tried to broach the subject with my mother; as soon as I approached the subject she hung up the phone. Her reaction was telling–she knew. Not only did she know or at the very least suspect the abuse, she herself chose to do nothing. She did not take steps to protect me as a child. She chose denial. When I realized that her denial had caused me years of suffering, I was devastated. What I thought was true about my mother was, in fact, a lie. The framework of my reality was quickly crumbling. So, what then? What do we do with hard truths? What do we do with the: “I was raped.”, “I was molested.”, “My father violated me.”, “My mother did not protect me.”, “I feel worthless.”, “I was date raped.”, “I was neglected.”, “I was left alone as a child to fend for myself.”, “I was emotionally abused.”, “I was spiritually abused.” ad nauseum. What do we do with our truths?
My first step towards healing was simple but painfully difficult, and I would compare it with Step One in AA. AA’s first step is: “Admit that we are powerless over alcohol–our lives have become unmanageable.” Denial is very much like an addiction. It is a rut in our brains much like the rut formed by the ceaseless passage of a wagon wheel. It can run deep and border every painful truth that we wish to ignore–that we cannot absorb. Telling the truth provides an opportunity to form a new rut, a better way to choose. Truth shatters false paradigms and acts as a light in the dark spaces of our souls. A simple admission of truth is a good first step. What is your truth? What happened to you? What would you rather ignore, even deny? Are you able to admit to yourself that your life has become unmanageable due to denial? Are you paralyzed in any area of your life because you would “just rather not go there”? That’s denial. “I don’t have time to deal with that.” Denial. “I’m just too tired to deal with that right now.” Denial again.
Are you in denial in any area of your life? Are you surviving your life? Remember, thriving is the goal in every area of our lives regardless of what we have experienced in life. Start with one truth for one denial. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute, one second, at a time.