WHY IT’S SO HARD TO WALK AWAY FROM AN ABUSER

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t going to be one of those pieces where an empath meets a narcissist.

It’s going to be little messier—not so neat.

It’s also going to go a little deeper, not only into the psyche of the abuser, but also into the psyche of the one who can’t walk away. It’s going to involve looking deep into our shadow side, and the workings of our psyche, which is always pushing us towards health.

Before we get to how our psyche does that, however, we need to understand trauma: Every single one of us who finds ourselves entangled in an abusive or damaging relationship is actually trying to heal trauma.

I know, it might sound backwards, but when we are in an abusive relationship, our psyche somehow thinks that we can heal ourselves.

The word trauma has dramatic connotations. We tend to think it refers to someone who’s experienced a serious train crash or the violent and unexpected death of a loved one. But in actual fact trauma is anything that makes up feel that things are unsafe or unpredictable. And the most significant trauma happens to us in childhood, when we don’t have the resources that grown-ups have to deal with it.

There are two major types of trauma a child can experience. The two major wounds, if you like, that set us on the path towards a search for healing.

These are Intrusion and Abandonment.

And they don’t have to be real, or literal. They need only be experienced or perceived to be real. They simply have to make a child feel unsafe. So, sometimes we’re talking about actual abuse—sexual, physical, emotional, psychological—and sometimes we’re talking about a sensitive child who didn’t understand that teasing wasn’t meant seriously. With abandonment, we might be talking about neglect or a parent leaving or dying, but we might also be talking about a parent having appeared to stop thinking about the child, maybe because of the birth of a new baby, a parent becoming depressed or going into the hospital.

Clearly, some of these are way more deeply traumatizing than others, but we’re talking trauma nevertheless.

So, how does our psyche try to help us heal our trauma? It uses the most effective way ever! It makes us repeat the experience! (Incidentally, if it resonates with you, for “psyche” you can read “soul.”)

For many reasons, we’re drawn like magnets towards people who will recreate for us the exact same circumstances that caused our original trauma. The most obvious reason is so that we can experience a different outcome this time, by discovering that we can think and behave differently, and so bring about a better outcome. In other words, we find a way to love instead of hate.

When we do that, we’ve done the healing our psyche made us set out to do.

However, that bit usually comes last. On the way to that place, we’re likely to have to face not only our own trauma, but also the demons that our experience of that trauma placed alongside it. And we get to face them, always, by being brought face to face with someone who will mirror them back to us, because they have them too.

And they have them too, because they’ve known them, just like us.

It’s a bit like having a twin. It feels so good at first! We’re seen and known in a way we never thought possible. And this person gets it so clearly, seems to understand exactly where we’ve been, because they’ve had parallel experiences. It’s bliss! Effortless freedom!

But then it starts to go horribly wrong. This person isn’t just mirroring the good bits anymore, they’re mirroring all the other stuff too—the stuff we’ve tried to be in denial about, the bits of us that horrify us.

But that also draws us in further. There’s a part of us that’s drawn to the drama of being free to act out the demons that appal us with someone who’ll let us do that, and who’ll act them out back.

And so they start to hurt us, abuse us—often in the exact same ways that we’ve probably hurt others. And so the drama that’s meant to lead to healing unfolds. Messily. Dirtily.

Suddenly, we’re into the Abuser/Abused Dynamic, sometimes known as The Drama Triangle: Victim/Rescuer/Abuser. Round and round we go, exchanging and interchanging roles. And instead of walking away, like everyone who loves us keeps telling us to, we forgive and excuse again and again. We can’t seem to let go.

We know and recognize these wounds and we feel compelled to protect and forgive. To rescue.

But here’s the thing. Here’s the crucial thing!

See, the whole thing is just a play staged for our benefit. This is our story. And we’re our own victim, rescuer and abuser. It’s all a mirror, an illusion, one mighty holographic mirror into the human psyche. And its primary purpose is to help us find our way back to the unconditional love we actually are. We’ve met our nemesis so that we can break free and soar to our zenith. Everything is exactly as it should be, and we’re doing exactly what we came here to do: tasting the depths and heights of being fully human. And we’re doing it so well!

And actually, so is our twin! They’re playing their part to perfection too, exactly as they’d agreed. Wow, what a play, and how well it’s been staged!

See, we only get caught up in that Drama Triangle when we forget who we really are, and what’s really going on here. We only believe that our abuser needs rescuing if we believe the story that something terrible is happening. That this other person really is helpless and in need of our salvation. And also, only if we’ve forgotten who we really are and why we’re here.

And if we cling to the part of us that is hurt and twisted by pain, rather than freeing it to heal.

Once we remember that we’re actually taking part, mutually and voluntarily, in a play that—if we will only let it—will lead to healing and compassion, we’re able to look at what’s happening with fresh eyes. We realize that this other soul is on a journey too, of their own making and choosing. And that we have agreed to be co-creators for a time, for a reason, but that for each of us to fully live our purpose, we now have to let go. At least for now. In this life time. We have to walk away.

We talk so often about encountering mirrors, we refer to synchronicities, but we often tend to think on a small scale. But it’s happening on a larger scale, too, all the time. And in that knowledge, if we allow it, lies our freedom and our permission to walk away. Being fully human is their gift to us, not just ours to them. And the drama that’s been played out will have encapsulated the themes we chose to explore in this lifetime. And if we want to resolve them, the drama must end. We don’t have to make it neat; it can stay messy. After all, we have eternity.

And, knowing that, we can—and must—walk away.

@ Janny Juddly 2016

HOW TO ACCEPT THE APOLOGY WE NEVER GOT

“Get over it!” People say.

“It was a long time ago,” they point out. “They probably won’t even remember. The only person still suffering is you.”

“You’ve got to let it go.

“Forgive and move on.”

“This is eating you up,” they say. “You just have to let it go!”

And we don’t disagree with any of this, but the trouble is, we don’t know how.

It’s so easy for others to say, isn’t it? They don’t know, they don’t feel it, they don’t have the constant reminders. They don’t live with the sense of injustice or hurt or outrage. They don’t know the damage, the destruction and disruption. They don’t get how it dominates our lives.

Or just maybe they do.

See, there are some things that have happened to us, each and every one of us, for which we crave “I’m sorry!” And often—mostly, actually—we’re just not going to get one. Ever.

And so, even if a sorry might have meant we could maybe start to let it go, that just isn’t going to be an option. So what do we do with that? How do we go forward? What does it take to be free?

How do we accept the apology we never got?

Below are the six steps that I, as a spiritually awakening human being who happens to have a psychotherapist in her pocket, have found to bring permanent release—if we do the work.

What I also know, without any doubt, is that forgiving does take work. But it’s totally possible, so here goes:

1. Release:

We have to start by allowing ourselves our full emotional response to what happened. No holds barred. This is a frightening thought for many of us. We dread that we’ll start and we won’t be able to stop. We fear it’ll make it feel worse, not better. And it will, just for a while. But we’re cleansing and releasing, we’re letting it all out instead of holding it all in as we’ve done for years.

So cry, shout, swear, accuse—all in the privacy of your own space. Let someone else help you if that feels right. It can help to have another validate everything you’re feeling. It’s soothing and strengthening, and can make the process deeper. Don’t be afraid to say the things you always wanted to say. This is your moment. Own it!

2. Understand why they did what they did:

This is the bit we resist. Some of us reading those words will already be on alert, resistant, saying, “Why should I?!”

If you’re hearing that, that’s why you need to do this. You want to be free, remember?

So why did it happen? Why did this person, or those people, behave that way? What part did their history and what they’d known play in it all? What did they have going on? What journey were they on?

And this is about our understanding of why. We don’t need their answers. We’re finding our own truth here. That’s all we need.

Even, if it’s appropriate and we think honesty and fairness demands it, what part might we have played? Be thorough, be ruthlessly honest here.

Go there, do the work. You’ll find some relief starting to happen as it all becomes a little more balanced.

3. Give up the hope:

Okay, now the work gets deeper. This step isn’t easy, but we can do it if we’ve done the previous steps thoroughly. Here’s what we have to do next: we have to give up the hope.

That means, the hope of how it should have been, how we’d have wished it to be, how they ought to have been, how they should have treated us. How they ought to have loved us properly, known better.

This gets in the way of our accepting the apology we’re never going to get more than maybe anything else. We’re so invested in how it ought to have been that we can’t accept how it was.

So we have to give up the game of hoping that it could have been different that we’ve been conning ourselves with for years. It was as it was. It is where it is. No amount of hoping will change it. So give up the hope.

4. Appreciate how you’ve grown from it:

Our task now is to focus on how what we’re wanting to forgive has benefited us. In a really balanced and measured way. How is the person we are now, the things we value and rate, at least partly a result of what we went through? No bitterness allowed. We’re past that if we’ve gone through the previous steps thoroughly.

Allow some appreciation, some gratitude even. For your growth, your learning, your development. See what’s come out of it. You’re wiser. You know stuff. You see stuff. You understand stuff. Good stuff. Celebrate that.

5. See all that’s happened from your higher perspective:

None of this was random. None of it was accidental. We’re powerful beings of light and love, here to have a meaningful and purposeful and complete experience of what it is to be human. And always, the purpose is to lead us back to compassion and unconditional love.

The bravest of us come for the toughest experiences. Because we’re up for it, because we want the adventure of it, the challenge, and because we know that our journey benefits the journey of every other soul on the planet and beyond.

That’s because we’re not just spiritual beings, but also energetic and vibrational beings. We’re energy, and energy always reaches out, touches, affects, changes and leaves its imprint.

If we could see how our transformation, through this process that leads to accepting the apology we never got, is already sending ripples of light and love out into the universe, we wouldn’t be able to stop grinning.

Try it! That’s what you’re doing right now, just by reading this and allowing the possibility of a different way.

6. Accept the apology:

What apology? There hasn’t been one, has there? Oh, but there has. Because if you came with a purpose, then so did the person or people you’ve been struggling to forgive.

Here’s the crux of it, the piece of the jigsaw that’s been missing. See, none of us could’ve had the experience we came for without the willing co-operation of everyone else who incarnated alongside us in order to make it happen. There are no accidents here. Nothing was ever going wrong here.

Once we can see that the person who never apologised was part of our own spiritual journey, just as have been part of theirs, the apology—if we still need it—becomes almost incidental. We all showed up as promised, we all did what we’d said we’d do, we all played the roles, the game, had the adventure.

And one day, in a space beyond time and place, we’ll all sit around laughing and chatting together about how it went and what we learned. And apologies will be willingly given for hurts along the way.

This has to have all been worth it.

Doesn’t it?

Janny Juddly 2016

The Therapist in my Pocket

“IF YOU’RE AFRAID OF YOUR OWN SHADOW, READ THIS!”

 

So let’s go there! That closet, the one we won’t open, daren’t open, can’t open, mustn’t open.

Shame, embarrassment, guilt, disgust, self-loathing—they find us all, don’t they? And we dread them! Oh, how we fear them!

They lurk in the shadows, waiting to pounce. Down dark alley ways or in rooms covered in dust and cobwebs or behind locked doors we don’t open anymore.

They are our demons, our denied acts and conveniently forgotten given-into temptations, our traumas, our envies and jealousies our rivalries and spite, our dishonesties, our mistakes, our imperfections—you name them, they’re all there.

They are the bits of us no-one must ever see.

So how come these things, these places, these parts of us must never see the light of day? How is it that they must be hidden from all eyes—even our own—and that we must spend a lifetime stuffing then into drawers and cupboards, attics and cellars, moving house again and again so we can leave them back there where the bad memories reside and just start again?

Well, that’s easy. We all know the secret answer; it’s just that nobody speaks about. You know why, just like I know why.

Want me to say it out loud? Want me to say it for you? Just the way it is?

Okay, here it is:

If anyone else were ever to see these things or know about them, they wouldn’t like us or love us anymore. And if we ourselves were ever to see these things or know about them, we wouldn’t be able to keep up the pretence that we were perfect anymore so we couldn’t even love ourselves anymore.

Woah! That’s pretty big, isn’t it? The fear and dread we carry around because of it? And you know what’s even crazier?

We’re all carrying the same secret but we’re all convinced that no-one else knows about it.

It doesn’t take us long, to figure out that the best way to be accepted is to do our best to hide the unacceptable parts of ourselves and to only show the parts we reckon are acceptable to the world.

We learn this early on in a series of don’t-be statements: “don’t be angry,” “don’t be selfish,” “don’t be mean,” “don’t be greedy.” We learn that to do any of these things makes us unacceptable. A bad person. When Carl Jung coined this beautifully imaginative and evocative phrase, many years ago, this is what he meant: everything that we perceive to be unacceptable and shameful belongs in our “shadow”—our secret, hidden place.

In reality, of course, we all have a shadow side, and, as a therapist, I spend my working life helping clients to accept and integrate what they feel is unacceptable about themselves back into their picture of themselves so they can feel whole. Only when we can accept all of who we are can we be healthy and free.

Here’s what happens when we push everything into our “shadow self,” into the closet, the attic, that locked room:

We shut down emotionally; we no longer know what we feel. To dare. to feel is to risk feeling bad things. We couldn’t survive feeling bad things.

Because we’re out of touch with what we feel, we walk around like a coiled spring of emotion and we feel out of control.

We lack awareness and so we’re liable to explode or collapse without warning when something triggers us into acting out the feelings we’re suppressing.

It also means that we can never feel good about ourselves because we spend so much time focusing on, and trying to hide, what we believe to be our bad bits.

Another consequence of pushing away all the ‘bad emotion’ is that we end up feeling flat and empty and hollow because we’ve inevitably pushed away all the ‘good emotion’ too.

Because we’re judging ourselves so vigorously and harshly, we end up judging everyone else in the same way and so we despise and hate in others what are actually aspects of our own shadow side. It is this we are referring to when we talk about being mirrors or reflections of each other.

We deny parts of ourselves only to perceive them and despise or attack them in others. This affects and colors our view of the whole world, since we project out into the world the disavowed parts of ourselves that we’re hiding from ourselves.

Therefore, not only do we see those parts in others; we decide that the whole world is this way. It becomes hard to see goodness anywhere. So the world becomes a bad place full of bad people all doing bad things while pretending to be good.

We blame everyone and everything else instead of taking personal responsibility, because taking personal responsibility involves accepting and admitting we’re less than perfect, which is unthinkable. We’ve put all that in the closet, remember? We’re always right and everyone else is always wrong because the cause of our unhappiness and discontent is ‘out there’ and not ‘in here.’

We also fall into the trap of ‘if only.’ If only this, or if only that, everything would be perfect and we’d be happy. We constantly look to escape what we perceive to be an imperfect existence. We can’t enjoy now because now is a reminder of how imperfect we are.

The reason for doing “shadow work” is to undo all this, to minimise the split between what we allow of ourselves and what we deny or push away. It helps us integrate what’s hidden from view and to become whole, to stop hiding from ourselves and accept all of who we are, with compassion and without judgment. To accept fully our humanity. To end our suffering from guilt and shame. And in doing so, accept our divinity.

As a therapist in training, exploring and integrating our shadow side was an absolutely central and essential aspect of the personal work we all had to do—there was nowhere to hide anymore. This is why therapists are so comfortable talking about difficult things and owning difficult bits of themselves so they can help others to do the same. The training and the personal and group therapy is rigorous and takes you apart in order to really get to know yourself—the freedom it brings is extraordinary.

Shadow work aims to do something similar. Once we stop hiding from ourselves, we can stop hiding from the rest of the world and let go of the illusion that perfection even exists. Instead, we can stand in the beauty of our perfect human imperfection. We came here to embrace and taste it all.

That is the adventure! Isn’t it glorious?

Those drawers and closets, attics and cellars aren’t holding what we think they hold at all! When we dare to open them, we find they all look the same—my closet looks exactly like your closet. And what you have in your attic is exactly what we’ve all got in out attics. Because what we’ve all hidden away, for fear that no-one else must see, is our common humanity.

Now we can see how big this is. Breaking the secret is the most empowering and life-changing step we can ever take, for when the shadow is transformed by being owned and recognized for what it truly is, it becomes love and compassion beyond measure.

That’s the path to healing and the shadow’s true purpose. That purpose is always to challenge us back to unconditional love. Every aspect of ourselves is a gift. Our shadow side is there to remind us that we are incomplete until we have remembered unconditional love, forgiveness, kindness, tolerance, compassion. Not just for others but for ourselves. Most of all, for ourselves, for that is the most difficult challenge of all. We can’t feel such emotions fully towards others until we can feel them towards ourselves.

Judgement of self will always breed judgement of others. Love and compassion towards self will always breed love and compassion for others.

Our dark side is only dark if we keep it hidden. When we bring it out into the open, we discover what an amazing and powerful gift we have unwrapped. And, joyfully, that there never was anything to fear. That it unites us, rather than divides and separates as we feared. And that deeply sacred experience always transforms us and, consequently, everyone with whom we come into contact.

Do you catch the wonder of that? We have to discover, own, accept and embrace everything we are, because that’s why we came. It’s our destiny to be whole; we’re more than deserving. We are worthy of love, and of our own self-love. We’ve never been unlovable, ever. We are deserving of forgiveness and compassion, of understanding and unconditional acceptance. Most of all, from ourselves.

We came for the adventure of tasting humanity in all its rawness and fullness, yes; but we also came to remember our divinity and to stand in our full power and purpose.

I wish for us all to dare to reach for the freedom that is our birthright and soul’s calling, and to be gloriously, joyfully free.

@ Janny Juddly 2017
The Therapist in my Pocket