Coming into April—where our focus is on journaling as a healing tool—has inspired me to think about the reflection process that is crucial to deprogramming after experiencing abuse.
One way I like to reflect is to look back over my own writing. Yes, in my personal journals, but also by rereading the articles I have written on the SwanWaters website over the years. This is what I’ve been doing recently, and I love it. It’s giving me glimpses of how far I’ve come since I began the process of healing my heart and rebuilding my life. And it’s helping me to appreciate my progress. Like this for instance:
It made me realize how often victims are asked to empathize with their abuser, which is complete and utter $#!+ (sorry, but it is!). (from You Know What? This is About ME!)
I read the above and know that it is a fact: we are often expected to consider the painful experiences they may have faced to cause them to become the way they are—and there’s certainly truth to the saying that the abused become abusers. But when I look at the above quote now, I notice that I no longer resonate with the anger that I felt at the time I wrote it.
Did my parents hurt me? Did it take many painful years to heal? Have I been angry about what they did to me? Yes, times three. Anger over my abuse was valid and part of the healing process. I needed the freedom to experience it so that I could get to where I am now: freer, happier, and even feeling a measure of compassion for my parents.
I know my mother was traumatized. I know my father was trapped in an abusive marriage. But guess what? They are adults who made the choice not to do anything about that. It was their responsibility to change themselves and their situation. So that puts the responsibility for the abuse they paid forward to their own children firmly on them.
That does not diminish the compassion I feel for them. I know from experience how hard these situations are to navigate, and how difficult healing is. I understand that this was all they were capable of and that is okay. That doesn’t take away that there are consequences for their choices, like my choice not to have any contact with them. That is on them, not on me.
Life is easier knowing that other people are responsible for themselves, and I only need to be accountable for my choices. All this reflecting has helped me see that this is, in fact, how I live now. And I’m proud of it.