Put your sound on for this post - voices of others are included to inspire you!
When we leave an abusive ex, there is a hope - a need perhaps - to feel like this is the end of it.
As a coping response, we want to avoid thinking about our past - to close the door, to feel free and in a new chapter.
This creates problems and the need to face recovery is just that, a need... here's how to get started.
Avoidance of the past
For many people who have left an abusive partner, we can be confident that they have left having experienced trauma - on repeat. Trauma can be experienced from violence, but also from humiliation, control, invalidation and such. Our ability to realise this is also confused, by the invalidating experiences in abuse that cause us to feel self-blame (gaslighting, cycles of drama, love-hate emotional cycles etc).
When we live in abuse, we try to avoid the abuse itself and also learn to avoid the memories and feelings that go with past abuse. We have to... to cope. We can grow numb to the past or simply invest heavily in pleasing our partners, with no space to think about the past. We over learn this approach - it becomes our primary way of coping.
We become, as a need to survive, experts in avoiding our own memories and feelings.
When we leave - we avoid
When we leave, this doesn't change overnight. In fact, it gets worse. We are often met with the reaction of our ex, childcare needs, sometimes a divorce and always the emotions that emerge on the other side of abuse - confusion, fear, shame, guilt and those crazy urges to go back or to make contact (for some of us).
So... we lean on our old friend - avoidance.
Just don't think about it.
Just be positive.
Just think about the future.
The most common outcomes for people after abuse are to be isolated, to go back or to find another abusive partner. Why? Because they don't seek to understand the past and to heal from it. They don't stop avoiding.
The foundation of all therapy - is exposure
All therapy models bring us to our past. Counsellors and therapists talk us through our past and support us to connect with it. It's the foundation of ALL therapies that work, and there's good reason. The brain cannot transform trauma emotions into memories, without us processing them and understanding what happened - and that we are not at fault, the fear can stop, the guilt is undeserved and the shame is unnecessary... and... we can feel totally different, we can feel self-worth.
Getting started is the toughest step. We are pushing to do something we have trained ourselves not to do - as a coping system - we are pushing ourselves to face into the thing that is most painful.
Guess what, we often don't.
Our Psychology surges up and rescues us every time.. more avoidance. Although, over time - this actually sabotages our ability to heal. But we can't see it at the time, as it feels like a relief to avoid.
To get started, we have to realise that this desire to avoid feels like coping, but prevents healing.
8 Tips for getting started
So, what to do about it... here are some tips that connect to the GOGL programme and also why we created it:
Take baby steps. Just set aside 15 minutes and listen to the first guide. Then stop. Put it in the diary. Set an alarm. Promise yourself to try.
Trust the process. Realise that the programme is to be taken at your pace and you can stop / start at your own will. No consequence. Realise that we created it with you in mind ... there are hard parts and there are kind and nurturing parts, and these often come after each other. When we think you will be shaken, we help you to self-care... meditiations, self-compassion.. kindness. You learn to self-love alongside repair. Trust is such a hard thing for us all, after abuse. But, to heal - we have to place trust somewhere, to learn how to trust again. GOGL is here, we built it for you - and others have confirmed it is just that. Trust yourself to try it and trust yourself to quit it if it isn't what you need.
Reward yourself. Plan to do something positive after each moment in the programme. Reward your efforts and connect the work to being there for yourself. It's not punishment, it's a journey to healing.
Buy a lovely journal and pen. This is not a joke. Treat yourself. Look forwards to spending time in this book and enjoy how it looks and feels in your hand.
Read our testimonials. Let others reassure and guide you that you are not alone and the programme helps people who are hurting, as much as you are.
Tell a friend. Tell a friend you are working in the programme and talk to them about it, when it gets tough. Lean on others, its ok :)
Expect discomfort, but realise that is healing. Expect some discomfort but realise that it is much less than the abuse itself - and through retelling your past you will be able to pack it away. This is what recovery feels like.
Reach out. If things feel too hard, reach out to a charity or health service. Don't feel ashamed. For some, this is what the journey involves.
Recovery starts with putting avoidance aside, perhaps just 20 minutes a day or even a week.
We help you to do that in a structured way, so that the discomfort you might feel is used most effectively to support recovery. The programme is a journey, and the longer you are in it - the better it will feel.