3 Regular Practices to Reframe Your Thinking
Recovery from any kind of trauma, including abuse in any form, is achieved in one square foot of real estate…one’s own head. While many of us fight a multitude of other battles—legal, no contact, health—the toughest battle we all fight is the one with our thoughts.
Abuse changes your thinking. It changes your worldview and your self-image. It leads you to believe things about yourself that aren’t even remotely true. Yet when it comes time to abandon these thoughts after escaping abuse, we all struggle with that de-programming process. Even talk therapy doesn’t always give us specific tools and techniques to get back to who we are. While I’ve worked with some awesome psychotherapists, one thing I developed on my own as an offshoot of therapy is a daily routine of mental practices. Even now, almost 8 years after my escape, these practices are a necessity when faced with continued challenges from Captain Crazy of the S.S. Melodrama.
Like any good change of habit, repetition is key. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The more you get in the practice of using these tools, the easier it becomes to revert to them in times of stress, crisis, or low-resilience. What helped me initially was to put sticky notes in places I saw them often, as little reminders that I was worth the effort.
“Is what you’re thinking really true?”
“You are resourceful.”
“You are beautiful.”
“You are smart.”
I wrote down things that in my heart I knew to be true, but were always at odds with what was in my head.
# 1. – Lather
Ask yourself if this thought is really true or if this is your abuser’s voice in your head. Check your own attitude and ask if this is the way you would want someone to talk to your closest friend or your child. If not, then call yourself out! Would you talk to your best friend the way you are talking to yourself? No? Then knock it off!
# 2. – Rinse
If this thought in your head is a lie, call it out as a lie, produce evidence to yourself that it’s a lie, and repeat the evidence to yourself until you’re past the initial thoughts. Did your abuser repeat a lie over and over to convince you it was true? That’s likely. It’s also likely that your abuser did this with the express purpose of justifying his or her own behavior. Rinse that away. You are not responsible for your abuse.
# 3. – Repeat
Do this as often as needed, with any topic or thought process, to develop the habit of debunking the false narratives that have been set up in your head. Are you a person who likes fact-checking? Do you use websites like Snopes or Hoax-Slayer? Think of the “repeat” process like being a sleuth, intent on finding the lie in what is presented as the truth. The more you repeat this practice, the more you begin to disempower those false narratives.
Recovery is a tricky process. Often we find we are continuing the abuser’s work for him/her long after that person is gone. That’s normal. The trick to finally escaping these thoughts is to develop a sort of mental ninja style that takes aim at this programming every time it rears its ugly head. It can be done, I promise!