Black Humour = helps hide our pain, keep people away emotionally. Behind every joke is a grain of truth. Humour helps control the pain inside. Keeps people around, which makes us feel good - until the humour gets so sick they go away, proving we’re “unworthy.”
Being a Sex Object = treating ourselves in the way our abuser(s) treated us. Being an object keeps us distanced from our painful feelings, our real self and others. Wearing revealing or tight clothes, stripping, working as a porn star, posing as a sex goddess are all part of this. Helps us avoid intimacy. Survivors’ self-esteem and identity are often caught up totally with sexuality - especially if we were sexually abused from a very young age. What other way do we know how to be except as a sexual toy?
Shutting Down Sexually = keeps us safe.
Sexualizing All Relationships = avoids real intimacy. Hides who we really are.
Avoiding Relationships = no one can hurt you.
REMINDER: Figuring out your personal coping skills is hard work. You deserve a special treat. Maybe an ice-cream or a fruit.
Muffy in a box
Cats know about fight or flight but they don't use the brilliant coping skills we dream up in order to survive. Not sure that I can come up with a list of literally 101 but I'll give it my best shot over the next couple of blogs.
Rationalization = we excuse or explain away the abuse. For example, “He was drunk.” Or, “She couldn't help it.” Sometimes we say, “I was a bad child.” Or, “I deserved it.” Or, “I should have known better.” These excuses protect the abuser we thought loved us, and protects us from the horror of the truth.
Minimization = keeps the pain way. We don't have to admit the abuse was really as awful as it was. For example, “It wasn't really that bad.” Or, “It didn't really affect me.”
Denial – or what I call Emotional Pepto-Bismol = pretending the abuse never happened. Makes life more palatable and is perhaps the best protector of all.
Wearing Masks = Hides your real self. Acting one way while feeling another. Anything from wearing too much make-up, bizarre dress, layers of clothes, your hair all over your face, sunglasses, etc. so people can't see how ashamed and bad you feel.
Performing = You get noticed. You may get negative attention but any attention is better than none at all. Or maybe you try to conform to what you think is expected of you. You get some needs met but you have to make sacrifices.
Controlling = You're in control so you feel more powerful. Bossiness, talking non-stop, calling the shots, talking when others are speaking, manipulating. Sometimes keeps others away. A good thing if you don't want them close, but what d'you miss out on?
Acting Out = Surefire way to get noticed, defy authority, test to see who gives a damn. Destructive behaviour, accident-prone, aggressive, tough, cynical, feigning indifference. Makes you feel invincible, powerful or may be a cry for help.
Read these through and see if you can identify any you use or have used. Sometimes coping skills such as those above really annoy us in other people. When I reflect on why those traits in others piss me off so much I find they're the same traits I use to cope. Like I can't stand control freaks. Guess who does that one really well! Me -- even though I've tried hard to tone it down.
Once you begin to identify your coping skills you can choose when and if you want to moderate or change that behaviour.
Reminder: Don't try and do it all at once. This isn't a race or a competition.
Fun with toy boat.
Know that you earned the title 'survivor' if you have come this far. Used and abused as children, some never make it to adulthood. Likewise, some adults never heal. Their lives have no quality or they end prematurely.
The trouble with most survival skills is that while they got us through the abuse, they become part of us and sooner or later work against us.
You may feel shame about some of the ways in which you survived. Forgive yourself. If this is difficult, ask your counselor and/or group for help. You will probably discover, especially if you're in a group, that other survivors have similar secrets to share.
You have the power to change. Do it from a place of acceptance. That's what this work is about. You will need a plan of action and lots of support.
Some of your survival skills may still be useful. These you may want to keep for now. You decide.
It cannot be emphasized enough that the healing journey, although sometimes excruciatingly painful, is worth taking. At times you may wonder if you should continue. If any of you are moved to write about the pot of gold at the end of the healing rainbow, please do. It would be of service to others struggling along behind you. Your emails are completely confidential. Absolutely no one sees them except me. And if I put a list on my blog on why healing is worth the effort, I won't use your name, initials or anything else that might hint at who you are.
Reminder: Don't kill yourself or your abuser(s) wins.
Even a 5-minute walk round the block can clear your head and help you feel better.