“Why can’t you just move on?” I can’t count the times I’ve been told this statement or heard it said to others in conversation. And the truth be told, the proper response to that question is, “I don’t know how.”
Have you ever tried to break a bad habit or establish a new one in your life? It’s difficult and with certain things, darn near impossible. Habits and ways of being are deeply rooting in our subconscious and many times operates on auto pilot. I call it my “default” setting.
Over the past five years I’ve become more and more aware of my default settings, and better still when I am operating in them. All of us have them, but to be aware of them is an entirely different matter. One, we have to know what they are and two, we have to be aware when we are using them. But this is only half the battle. The other half is changing them and that’s where the hard work comes in.
I didn’t realize for decades of my adult life that I was living in default settings meant to help me survive. You see, as a sexual abuse survivor, I had developed ways of coping when the original abuse happened, that carried right on into my adult life. Survival skills like denial, cowering, betraying myself and my body to appease an abuser and a myriad of other survival techniques and coping mechanisms.
Understand, I had been to therapy and counseling sessions for decades to heal from the abuse I suffered as a young girl and had heard these terms for all those years. I could hardly grasp them. I imagine now, because I was steeped in denial and had not come to the point where I could accept certain things. Not about the abuse, but about how deeply it impacted me. I knew I had suffered abuse and even exposed the abuser, but the deep impact of those moments remained hidden. I believe I was not ready to deal with that impact and all my work seemed very superficial, not impactful at all.
This caused me to experience a tremendous amount of guilt because I thought I was making a mountain out of a molehill, but my soul knew different and continued to haunt me for decades. It was an on and off thing. But because I committed it to so much prayer and seeking God throughout those decades, he was the Master of my healing and knew when I was ready to deal with things. He’s so patient and gracious.
I had hands laid on me and prayers more times than I can count for various maladaptive ways I experienced life, love, marriage and being a mother. But all those “defaults” came out of one place; those deep childhood wounds. I believe God heard every one of those prayers and was continually working to bring me to a place of freedom.
Human beings are such complex creatures. Fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Ps. 139). Only Jesus has the power to touch and heal those deep places of brokenness. Rarely do other human beings, except those who’ve been there, have the capacity to understand the road victims walk much less assist them to a place of healing. I’m not saying that as a negative at all, but as a reality that I’ve experienced. Many well meaning and wonderful people have come along side me to walk this road, and I’m appreciative of that. However, few are able to truly tap into that deep well of pain.
When God begins to dig out the pain, shame and puss in that well so that fresh water can flow again, in my experience, it’s excruciating. The reason being is, the pain is not only from the original wound but from all the choices that we make to “save ourselves” and survive from that point until the present. Relationships have been damaged, wounds we have inflicted on others out of fear and anger, ways we’ve betrayed ourselves to be loved and accepted by those that only wanted to use or exploit us, etc. The list goes on and on.
This is what grief experts call “secondary grief”. We not only grief the loss of a loved one, but all the areas that are impacted by that loss. Parental, companion loss, financial hardship due to funeral costs, loss of relationships that no longer thrive without the deceased and the like. These are secondary losses.
In abuse, we grieve the original wound in additional to all the ways that wound has impacted our soul, our lives and relationships and every part of our existence. It’s a mammoth impact, which is why many find it nearly impossible to open the door to healing.
So, you can see the complexities of “moving on”. It’s not as simple as all that. Time nor space allows me to write about this subject. However, I broached it for one reason; to let you know that I’m cheering you on in your healing process. And to encourage you to move on in your time, at your pace and as God leads and opens up your soul to do it.
He is very acquainted with our infirmities and weaknesses and only He can walk with us in love, patience and the gentle spirit that is needed to bring healing. He knows us intimately and is well able to uphold us through the process. Trust in His unfailing love. He’s got you!
My Christ be glorified in all,
[If you have experienced childhood abuse of any kind, please be prayerful about visiting a mental health professional, pastor or friend to help you navigate the healing process.]