How Survivors Can Safely Feel and Accept Negative Emotions

All survivors of child abuse and trauma are afraid to feel, accept, trust, and appreciate their uncomfortable or negative emotions. And there is a reason.

We fear and avoid these emotions because we never had a positive role model to teach us how to express sadness, grief, overwhelm, anger, pain, and anxiety in a healthy way.  Instead, we got hurt when the adults in our life felt these challenging emotions. So we have no reason to believe that there is a safe to feel them.

However, developing the ability to feel, accept, trust, and appreciate all your emotions (the good, the bad, and the ugly) is a vital step on the healing journey. It’s impossible to heal if you skip over feeling the bad ones. You can't selectively numb feelings. When you numb the bad, you are numbing your ability to feel the good too.

So where do you start?

Feeling begins with awareness. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it's not for survivors. The human brain is programmed to avoid pain at all costs....

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Why Starting Each Day With Love and Gratitude is So Important

No matter how bad it gets or how dark you feel, you can always find something to be grateful for. Hey, you’re still alive, right? You’re able to take one breath after another. That may be all you have to be grateful for in this moment, but it’s enough to get you through to the next moment.

That is how I got through some of the hardest parts of this journey. And now I've gotten even better at practicing gratitude and I begin each day by focusing my thoughts on what I am thankful for, focusing on who I am TODAY, and accepting myself without judgment.

Because I have experienced what you are going through, because I have faced my fears and accepted my broken parts in these dark places, I can now look anyone in the eye and tell them, "I see you, I know who you are, and I know what you are. You are just like me, learning how to accept yourself. I will never judge you."

So if you’re struggling right now, be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself.  Put...

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Life is Constantly Trying to Teach You, You Just Need to Listen

Life will constantly present you with situations in which there is a lesson to be learned, a feeling to be acknowledged, a truth to be set free. These situations come in many different forms, like a bad relationship, a bump in your career, a triggering memory, even just a casual conversation with someone that brings up an issue for you.
 
It might feel like there are no breaks from these situations, it might seem like you are constantly battling these tough moments. And you might be exhausted from them, feeling frustrated and annoyed that these things aren't going your way and it makes you dread the future, having to deal with more and more.
 
But the truth is, with each challenge you face, you are developing an important strength. You are developing resilience, something we can't develop without real life experiences to practice, grow, and gain wisdom. These bumps in the road are completely necessary for your healing, for gaining life experience, for...
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The Secret to Pushing Through the Discomfort of Change

Life is all about change yet we struggle with it and resist it for most of our lives. Change is especially hard for adult survivors of CSA because we need to feel safe and part of feeling safe is having control and knowing what to expect. 

As we go through the stages of change, there is one stage that we especially need lots of encouragement and support with. 
The stage I am referring to is the stage when you become aware of something new about yourself, something that you did not know before. For example, when I finally realized how big the impact of being abused as a child was, I also realized that I filtered everything about myself through the belief "I am bad" or "I am not worth it." I became aware that I had learned to be this way and that now, I could learn to be different and learn to feel better about myself. But what kept me stuck in the stage of change, (by stuck I mean aware of the new information but not able to process it and turn it into action yet,) was shame,...

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Your Negative Self-Image is Holding You Back

Once I started to work on myself and recognized how my body was responding to trauma, how the tension in my body was feeding my need to defend and protect myself, I realized how that fed into my beliefs that there was something wrong with me.
 
There was something wrong but there was nothing wrong with me. What was wrong was that I had carried a negative self image for such a long time that I did not see how it made me feel about myself. It had become the lens through which I saw the world.
 
As I worked to help my body let go of chronic tension and find balance, the defensive side of me would flare up, showing up in how I approached my relationships, expecting the worst and defaulting to self-sabotage. But as my body began to finally feel safe, a new awareness of myself emerged. 
 
As I learned to be present in my body and connected to the present moment, I started to hear my own thoughts. It was a bit shocking in the beginning. All this time, I thought others...
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The Only Way to Get Rid of Shame

This past week in the online group we have been talking about shame. It is always a challenging topic but it is crucial for victims of abuse to understand in order to feel free from shame. 
 
The feeling most people avoid feeling is shame. I love Brené Brown's work around shame and her research, books, and Ted talks shed a light onto what she calls the master feeling because when we have internalized shame, it becomes the lens for how we view the world and ourselves in it. And it isn't until we understand how it impacts us, that we can consider the possibility that there is another way to see and feel about ourselves. 
 
Survivors of child abuse develop toxic shame because of the lack of support they get from caregivers and family to process what was done to them. Trauma becomes internalized without support soon after the abuse happened. The child feels and experiences abandonment and extreme confusion when they are hurt by someone they know and love,...
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Why Self-Acceptance is Necessary for Healing

Self-acceptance is a process. 
 
Do you find yourself in the category of almost healed, but not quite? Let me start by telling you, you are not alone. So many survivors of child abuse or trauma find themselves stuck in this very frustrating place and they don't understand why. 
 
Most of the people that I work with and the survivors that I know were abused for a long time. The longer we suffer in silence, without telling our stories, the harder it becomes to start. The hardest part will always be in the beginning of any change. You have lived with the past for so long that you know how it feels, you can manage and deal with it. But with something new, it is scary because you don't know what to expect. But chances are at this point, you are just tired of it all and really want some change and are ready to do what ever it takes. 
 
There is a way out of the "almost but not quite healed" phase. It takes time, it takes commitment, and it takes...
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Why Mindfulness Is So Important

I just got home from a beautiful retreat on trauma and compassion in Nashville, TN. It was very well organized by the hosts and a very diverse group of people attended. We heard from researchers in the field of trauma and compassion and then spent 2 days immersed in learning about and experiencing compassion through meditation, sharing, and journaling. 

I came away from this experience feeling very moved. I even found myself in tears more than once on the plane ride home as I reflected on the experience, the learning, and the deep authentic sharing that I experienced in the room, both from the presenters and participants. Nothing makes my heart sing like hearing people speaking courageously from their hearts. 

What struck me over and over again, during the many breathing and meditation exercises, was how profound the human experience is in feeling and expressing pain and sadness, even joy and beauty, and what I kept hearing and seeing throughout the weekend was the hope,...

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The Healing Journey Can Be Filled With Uncertainty

So much of the healing journey feels like a break down rather than break through. We hope for things to feel better but often, things just feel worse.

Stepping up to heal your life is an uncertain path at first because what we really want is something or someone to tell us exactly what to do, what to expect, and how to make it through. We want to know what the steps are and exactly what we can expect going through them.

Unfortunately, since survivors are all so different and our experiences are so varied, no one can give you that certainty of exactly how your healing journey is going to unfold. All anyone can tell you is what you can expect and what to do when things get hard.

However, there are certain things, universal things, that all survivors need and that will make it easier to heal:

1. A safe place to tell their story

2. To be believed and validated

3. To be educated about the impact of abuse

4. To be educated about the steps of healing

5. To be encouraged with hope

6. To be...

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Living Out of Your Truth

The trauma from child abuse disconnects us from the truth we feel in our hearts.  The healing journey is about finding your way back to your truth. Being able to feel again is how you do that.  It's one of the incredible blessings of the healing journey.    

We spend a lot of time learning how to safely feel and release our negative emotions like fear, shame, pain, and loneliness.  But there comes a time when we need to learn how to feel positive emotions, too. Why? Because these emotions are our truth.

What is your truth?  It’s the same as mine:

  • Love
  • Kindness
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Compassion
  • Goodness
  • Patience
  • Gratitude

Slowly work your way down this list and practice “feeling” each of these truths. Allow them to saturate your heart, soul, body, and spirit until they become a part of you.  

Actually, these truths have always been a part of you. The trauma of child abuse simply disconnected you from them. When I began to feel these...

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