Real, Feel, Heal
I have a philosophy about dealing with life’s problems. It’s called Real, Feel, Heal. Let me give you some background on that. No one can avoid adversity in life. I don’t care who you are or what you do, one day you’ll lose a job, have marital problems, experience the death of a loved one, feel the pinch of financial difficulties, suffer some kind of abuse, be diagnosed with a serious illness or endure a painful disappointment. How you handle it illustrates your character. What you learn from it develops your character. The Buddhists have their own philosophy on how to handle this. They call it the Four Noble Truths. In varying degrees of difference they are primarily:
1. Life means suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
3. The cessation of suffering is obtainable.
4. The path to the cessation of suffering.
I agree with the first two truths. I’m a bit dubious about the third and the fourth truth illustrates what you need to do to end the suffering. As Shakespeare so eloquently put it in Hamlet:
“Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?”
I agree with Shakespeare.
How shall we take up arms? Since we all must suffer something at some time shall we drink or take drugs to overcome our disappointment, should we become ogres and hold others responsible or shall we muddle on doing nothing and hoping that life will make all of the disappointments go away? Or shall we draw on our intestinal fortitude and reach out with both hands to solve our own problems? I discovered, while in recovery (most of my major discoveries have been while going through recovery) that the first thing one needs to do when encountering a difficulty is to make the difficulty real; that is to define it in open and honest terms. In Twelve Step programs this is known as, “admitting we are powerless over (fill in the blank) and our lives had become unmanageable. In REPAIR it is known as “Recognize” (and accept that your adult problems stem from childhood sexual abuse). In this particular Philosophy class we will call it “Real”.
Webster tells us that ‘real’ means occurring or existing in actuality. You wouldn’t think this would be a difficult step to face. An Afghanistan vet doesn’t always recognize that his depression and thoughts of suicide, his inability to return to normal life needs to be defined as a product of his years in Afghanistan and all of the horror he saw and was a part of. Just as an adult who suffers from nightmares, drinks too much and is unable to have a healthy relationship often cannot identify that this has something to do with her grandfather sexually molesting her. After all her mother told her not to pay any attention to him; that he was just a dirty old man. What is wrong with this picture? An abuse is an abuse is an abuse. Whether sexual, physical or emotional you cannot call it by any other name. First step? Validate and affirm what actually happened to you. I’ve heard people say, “He only raped you once didn’t he?” Good Lord! What is wrong with our social system when grown men and women cannot bring themselves to label something exactly what it is.
Once having arrived at this truth we will begin the painful journey of tears, sadness, despair, anger, rage and hopelessness. This is the “feel” step. No matter how painful, no matter how repugnant, no matter what label you place on it you must grieve. Someone has robbed you of your innocence and it will not return. It is gone forever. Someone hurt you, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Do not feel ashamed of tears. They are the cleansing part of our nature. They wash away the pain. Cry, cry and then cry some more. Every tear you shed, every shred of sadness and grief you feel must be released. Cry until you have no more tears left.
Now begins the Healing part. You can’t arrive at this until you have gone through the first two steps: Real and Feel. Slowly, one day at a time, you will learn who the real villain is and it isn’t you. You will feel your own personal power returning. You will learn to forgive yourself for anything you did which was a product of your sexual abuse. You will learn that your abuse had nothing to do with you. It had everything to do with your perpetrator.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep moving towards total well-being. I recommend getting a copy of REPAIR Your Life and follow the program. You might also join a 12 step program and consider working the Twelve Steps. This is the new you, being reborn, becoming healthy and stable and happy.
What are you waiting for?
(I apologize for the lateness of this blog. I have been on vacation. Thank you to all of my readers for following me.)