I saw the new Wonder Woman movie. I sat in the theatre with my family and cried at the end. I quietly pondered the words, “Only love can save the world.”

Years before Wonder Woman was brought back as a badass movie with killer stunts, I was a fan. I watched Lynda Carter take down bad guys when I was 9 years old, lying on my living room floor with my Dachshund, and eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes. I imagined what it would be like to be able to deflect something as dangerous as a bullet with just the flick of a wrist. I felt powerful watching her. I imagined that a strong woman could stand up to anything, and that the Lasso of Truth was a real thing; Wonder Woman was within us all, that alter ego who came out when the going got tough.

Then I was taught to think that I was wrong about all of it—by the one person who arguably should have been my staunchest ally. But that was back when I judged him by the title “husband” and not the accurate label of “oppressor.”

Rediscovering My Inner Wonder Woman

When I finally made my permanent escape, I struggled with the same things all survivors do: trying to detoxify my thinking, and rediscover who I really am. Like many other survivors, I also had to do this while still being forced to have contact with my oppressor—who was not at all willing to give up his role. At every turn I was alternately “hoovered” then threatened, most times in a way that others could not clearly see. But I could. I knew that if  he emailed me from New York (while I was in Georgia) with an offer to call the lawn guy because the grass was too long—it was not an offer of help. It was his way of letting me know that he was having me watched.

As time went on and I developed skills for mentally deflecting the sometimes overwhelming barrage of messages from Captain Crazy, I had to also employ visualization. Since my battles were rarely direct—and most often in my head following an email, letter, or text message—I needed ways to  go to battle psychologically. I could picture myself as Wonder Woman deflecting his b.s. with my golden cuffs. I would think, “Oh, no you don’t!” And I can neither confirm nor deny that I might have made noises like “kapow!” I got really good at fighting these battles with the fierceness required to truly love myself.

But then I saw the new Wonder Woman movie. I sat in the theatre with my family and cried at the end. I quietly pondered the words,

“Only love can save the world.”

Then it hit me that only loving myself could change my world.

Yes, we hear it so much it becomes cliché, but the truth is, healing is 100% governed by how well you can learn to love yourself. Learning to bounce those emotional bullets off our imaginary cuffs, I realized, was an act of love toward myself. Practicing with my Lasso of Truth meant forcing him into a corner where no lie would stand unchallenged and no battle would end without full transparency. I became much less a “keeper of the peace” and more of a superhero protector of myself and my daughters.

It was glorious. It was powerful. It was 100% in my own head.

The point is, you can be your own superhero. In fact, you should be. You deserve your own protection as much as anyone. It’s true that only love can save the world, and the first act of love should be you loving yourself.


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Aubrey Cole

Aubrey Cole

I survived a quarter century of psychological, emotional, economic and sexual abuse. When I got out, I vowed to help others do the same and founded the Emotional Abuse Survivors Network project in 2012. Now, I offer hope and healing to others on their journey as they rediscover themselves. My forthcoming books, Bodies in the Basement and Define Winning, chronicle my experiences, escape, and recovery. There is nothing so special about me that others can't emerge and thrive.

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