For all the years I’ve been going through recovery, the main asset I have had has been my friend, Ann. There have been times I was so confused, wondering why I was like I was, and that’s very normal for survivors of childhood abuse. Keeping in mind that survivors often grow up to marry people who will create the same dynamics that the abusing parent caused, it’s unbelievable that most survivors don’t spend more time in crisis and confusion!
Ann, while being compassionate and understanding, always made me face the confusion, examine it carefully, and stop long enough to explore why there was so much chaos in my life – why I needed chaos. I was like the Carly Simon song, “Haven’t Got Time For The Pain” – used to be I needed the pain just to know I was alive.
It’s quite amazing how you can find yourself blindsided, no matter how hyper-vigilant, aware, and alert you might think you are. In fact, it is that confidence – that belief that you know exactly what’s going on – that may be part of the problem and a possible source for the cluttered perspective. Let’s face it: abuse can damage your ability to make good decisions – to have good judgment. One misstep at a time, small movements of miscalculation or misinterpretation can land you somewhere that can actually do more harm than good. And the irony is that you may not even be aware that you’re going nowhere! You are stranded. It was during those stranded times that Ann blessed me with clarity.
Abuse recovery 101 is learning to stop and observe. Observe what you feel, how you feel, why you feel the way you do. Unravel it, explore it, and analyze the who, what, when, where, why.
Take a risk and ask others who are not directly impacted by your chaos what they see. Ask with your defenses lowered and with the courage to hear what they may tell you. You don’t have to buy everything they see or think, but you do need to consider their perspective. Most of us need to bounce things off of others – to get outside of our own head and spinning thoughts. Ann was always there for me with her soft-spoken words of clarity and honesty.
Confusion on your abuse recovery journey is just like confusion when you’re on a trip. As humbling as it is sometimes, you’ve got to pull off the road and stop. You pull out a map, you ask for directions, and you look around to see if you can spot any landmarks that will help you to regain your bearings. Your confusion is like a flashing light on your dashboard. You can ignore it if you want to, but eventually the vehicle you’re trusting to get you where you want to go will just stall. When that happens – when the chaos gets too painful, when the circumstances are bizarrely unbearable – stop!
Look around. Get your bearings. Get directions from someone who knows the terrain a bit better than you do. If you’re lost right now, it’s not a character flaw to pause and take the time to ask what you feel, why you’re where you are, and what new directions might need to be followed in order to grow, mature, and change. When you do this, the chaos and confusion will serve you well. You can use these difficult experiences as a teacher – and if you listen carefully, you can retrace your steps and then reroute how you respond to your life circumstances.
Confused? Then stop! Look! Listen! Find the courage to ask for directions. Look for another route, another response, a new opportunity, or another perspective. Have the honesty to consider that you’re simply stuck – going nowhere. Risk the possibilities that there may be another way and then take proactive steps to find it. And a good, knowledgeable friend can only help.
(c) 2007-2009 April Lorier