A good friend, a kind and loving young woman cried in my arms recently. “There’s just something about me, I am different than everyone else, But I really don’t understand why! I feel like an alien!” This young woman appears to have things going her way. She is amazingly beautiful and kind, she has a job she loves, a loving fiancé, relatives in the area — and yet she instinctively knows that somehow she doesn’t see the world quite like everyone else.
A lot of survivors of abuse can relate to that feeling – just an underlying sense that in some way we are fundamentally different from the vast majority of people around us. There is a simple reason for that: we are different. It is this “otherness” that drives our search for answers on the path.
Maybe I Am an Alien
Imagine you were born on an alien planet. A planet where the grass, plants, rivers and oceans contained sharp, hard-to-see slivers of glass that pain you, injure you at every contact. A planet where the sky is always gray and foreboding. Where lightening could and did strike without warning and with catastrophic consequences. Tornadoes of chaos rage through your days while you are watched, no — surveilled — constantly to make sure that any refuge you might devise could be destroyed before completion. Imagine a planet where privacy of even your thoughts is not an option; a planet of horrors where escape seems impossible.
“The daughter of an unloving mother —one who is emotionally distant, withholding, or inconsistent, or even hypercritical or cruel—learns different lessons about the world and herself. The underlying problem, of course, is how dependent a human infant is on her mother for nurturance and survival, and the circumscribed nature of her world. What results is insecure attachment, […] teach[ing] a child that the world of relationship is unreliable; […] [or] set[ting] up a terrible conflict between the child’s needs both for her mother’s love and for protection against her mother’s emotional or physical abuse. Early attachments form the internal templates or mental representations we have about how relationships work in the world.” (From: Daughters of Unloving Mothers: 7 Common Wounds by Peg Streep)
Escaping the Hostile Environment
Survivors of toxic relationships have in essence been lost on an alien planet of horrors. Over time, we may have learned to be cautious, fearful and suspicious of all relationships. Some survivors become isolated by the dysfunctional chaos around them, and continue to feel that escape is an insurmountable feat. Connecting with people who understand what you are going through is key to escaping. By comparing experiences and sharing lessons learned along the way, we can all learn to see the true world around us. It is not normal for danger, drama and chaos to lurk in every moment of your life! One of the first victories of the journey to healing is in finding (or re-finding) faith in new friendships and relationships. It is vital to have this kind of support along your journey.
But even after the euphoria of that wonderful realization that we are not alone, the Whirlpool of Depression awaits – threatening to destroy our new found joy. It’s understandable and even tempting to give up and sink back into the old familiarity of our alien planet. After all, it was harsh, but you know the rules there! You know how best to avoid the many tiny slices the glass shards cause, and how to flatten and hold to ground when tornadoes and lightning rage. The whirlpool of depression is dark, it’s hard to see the calm waters ahead. What is a survivor to do in the dark, when toxic familiarity beckons?There is another fundamentally simple answer to that:
Hold on. Hang in there. Keep your chin up.
Those words may seem cliché’, but the journey of healing is a process. Like any journey, if you give up and go back home the first time darkness falls, you will not get far from where you started. You will just end up in the same place over and over again. Because on any journey, darkness will fall. It’s just a question of when and where you will be when it happens. It may seem like doom and gloom to think this way, but how else can you prepare for darkness? If you are prepared, you can make sure you are in a place with lights to guide you, where supportive voices call out to you from ahead and behind you on the path.
“The beautiful journey of today can only begin
when we learn to let go of yesterday.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
Travel With Support of Others
At SwanWaters, we try to accentuate the positive aspects of the journey. New information, friends and moderators on the chat and forum can become your lights in the darkness, your companions on the path. In time, your light can become a beacon to others as well.
We are shining all together, holding darkness at bay.