A reader of last week’s blog about secrets and sexual abuse responded with a powerful question. And it might just be a question you share with him…
Being human isn’t always a walk in the park, is it? It’s so easy to look around at others and feel convinced that you are the only one struggling with the feelings, experiences, or thoughts you have. Yet this tends to be far from the actual truth.
We ALL have feelings we don’t want others to know we have. We’re ALL insecure in different areas of our lives. We’ve ALL done things we wish we could take back. We’ve ALL experienced things that leave us draped in shame and confusion. We ALL have an inner bully who lives inside our heads and loves to rip us apart.
This is exactly why I share in such a real and vulnerable way in my blog. I want you to know you’re not alone. I want you to feel there’s space for hope to come alive in you. I want a sliver of curiosity to be born that allows you to turn towards the possibility that you’re more wonderful than you ever knew. And that your imperfections are a part of what make you so lovable and human.
One particular reader of last week’s blog about secrets and my own sexual abuse responded with a powerful question, which I share below:
"I have a very similar story of sexual abuse and I know well the effects it can have. Here is a question for you. What advice do you have for those people who have a secret and finally get the courage to tell others? Yet when they do, they are told, 'We don’t want to talk about it.' How do you not see that as a vindication of your brain’s natural tendency to defend itself by staying quiet? This is my experience and I’m sure I share it with many people."
(If you missed last week’s blog, here’s the link: https://dremilycolwell.com/is-your-secret-preventing-you-from-being-your-authentic-self/)
What a REAL question he poses. And he is right that this is an experience many share.
For some, they finally share their secret and it’s met with, “We don’t want to talk about it.” For others, it’s, “How dare you accuse your dad, grandfather, uncle, family friend, priest, teacher, etc of this? You’re lying!”.
How can responses like these NOT trigger age-old reactions in you as your lungs fill with grief, your heart fills with despair, and your mind once again doubts your own truth and beckons you back into shame and silence?
And here’s my answer.
These moments are a real reminder that we have no control over other people or their reactions, feelings, and defences. And boy, can that feel crappy!
When I hear someone say they don’t want to talk about it or immediately reject the validity of another’s experience, I can know that this person has their own secrets and shame. And they were never helped to know how to navigate the feelings that come with this.
Here’s the thing. Our thinking minds are convinced that protecting the secrets and hiding the shame is what we need to do to stay alive. These aren’t really conscious thoughts we have. It’s more of an underlying feeling and belief that take hold.
I know how painful it can feel to find the courage and strength to finally share your secret and have it met with, “We don’t want to talk about it” or “You’re a liar!”.
But the truth is that their responses have everything to do with their own fears and beliefs that talking about it will destroy them, make them fall apart, convince them they’re worthless, or in some cases even make them feel like they will die.
Here’s the beautiful thing I’ve discovered, though. Going through an experience like sexual abuse let alone any other trauma, it can feel easy to believe that our healing is dependent upon other people showing up for us and supporting us. And yes, that is ALWAYS a gift when it’s possible!
But it turns out that THE. MOST. POWERFUL. HEALING. becomes possible when WE show up for those parts of ourselves that have needed to be seen and heard for so long. No joke. This is an absolute game-changer.
Yes, we have an outer family. But we also have an inner family of parts that we’ve accrued over the years. And for some of these parts, we have no trouble having them show up in our lives. But other parts, oooooh, those are the ones that we try to send away as soon as they show up! We don’t even realize we’re doing it.
As I connected with a young part inside me that had formed through my abuse and subsequent secret about it, I discovered she felt so alone, sad, afraid, unheard, and unseen. As I got to know her, something began to change. I was able to show up for her in a way neither of us had experienced before. And you know what it turned out she’d needed all along? Not to be fixed or changed, but to be seen and heard by ME.
This may sound woo woo. It’s also life-changing.
I spent micro-moments of time being present with her. We didn’t always talk. Often it was merely me noticing her presence because those feelings of sadness, vulnerability, fear, shame, etc. would surface. And this was often a clue that she was present.
I’d whisper, “Oh, hi. I can feel how upset/afraid/sad…you’re feeling right now. And I’m right here with you while you’re feeling this. I’m right here, honey.”
And guess what started to happen? It was like she could take a deep breath and exhale with relief. She would soften. And so would the feelings.
For those of you for whom the people in your life are not able to meet you in a supportive way that would feel so healing, I am sorry. It is a true reflection of how terrifying it is for them to go there and how little they believe that they can handle their feelings around this. And it sucks 🙁
But it turns out that WE are the ones who can bring this healing to the parts of ourselves that are aching to feel seen, acknowledged, and heard. And giving this to ourselves is often the most powerful form of healing we can experience.
If this feels impossible for you to imagine doing, I want you to know that it once felt impossible to me and many of my clients, too. There are so many ways to move toward this. And it’s important to honor what works for you.
The Micro-Moment Reset is one of the many tools that I use in my mentorship with clients. It‘s one of the first ways that I dabbled with coming back home and showing up for myself. It was a starting point and it might just be for you, too. Give it a listen and see what you find. I’d love to hear. ❤️
So here’s to coming back home to ourselves and our inner family members and showing up for us and them in ways that ultimately bring freedom, relief, security, healing, and LOVE!! ❤️
P.S. If you’ve been enjoying my weekly blogs and are itching for more daily inspiration, friend me on Facebook (Emily Colwell) or follow me on Instagram (dr.emily_colwell) or check out my video’s on YouTube. I post frequently and humor leaks into most of my posts!
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
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