Moving Past Sexual Abuse Group Starting Soon

Raeburn House, Auckland, New Zealand, is running another Moving Past Sexual Abuse group. In the past the group was organised as a support group in which participants would be surrounded by survivors who understood their experiences and sharing one’s stories and supporting each other was the strongest emphasis.

This new Moving Past Sexual Abuse group is about discovering ways of how to leave the abuse and the legacies of the abuse behind oneself. Rather than concentrating on what happened in the past the emphasis is on having a life worth living NOW, today, and the days to come.

You will be shown how it is possible to regain control and reconnect with joy, wisdom, and peace of mind. You will find that the capacity to live in wellness has always been dormant within you waiting for you to connect with it. The Moving Past Abuse group is geared to help you realise that potential!

You can expect that we will address how to deal with anger, difficult emotions, social connections, relationships with self and others, depression, perceptions, thought, and in general how not to be ruled by the past.

Here are the starting dates and details:

When: Mondays, 8 weeks, Starts 30 July
Time:·7:00pm – 9:00pm
Total Cost: $80
Facilitator: Gudrun Frerichs
Venue: Raeburn House, 138 Shakespeare Road, Milford

For more information contact Raeburn House, phone: (09) 441 8989 or emaillearning@raeburnhouse.org.nz.

Find more interesting groups run by Raeburn House by going to their website.

Right or Wrong?

My post about ‘Discounting the Past’ has generated  comments that got me thinking about the nature of human existence.  Let’s start with the biological fact that none of us is capable of experiencing a reality ‘out there’ that is shaped and made meaning of independently from what is already ‘in here’. “In Here” meaning our mental filters that consist of personal history, beliefs, values, gender, education, energy, and many more in addition to mental processes of deletion, distortion, and generalisation which our brain does automatically.

This means what’s real to me will be different to what’s real to you because you have different ‘stuff’ in your head. Hence the notion of different realities people operate from!

That means whatever we observe in the world around us can never be separated from the person that does the observing. There is no such thing as objectivity. Taking the example of doing research: the simple process of researching is already changing the subject that is investigated. Foucault did a great experiment that highlighted how people change their behaviours when they know they are observed. There is no such thing as objective research because choice of subjects, research design, way of questioning, way of interpreting the data etc. will already influence the outcome. That’s why there is no such thing as ‘research has proven’ because for every finding made there will be an equal amount of research that proves the opposite.

Does that mean that PTSD research is wrong? It may be, it may be not. It’s like the Dodo verdict from Alice in Wonderland: Everybody wins, everybody deserves a price! It all depends on where you stand. There is no right or wrong. Who am I to say that my reality is better or ‘righter’ than yours? I am simply sharing my truth – at this moment in time. The reader does not have to agree with me. If my posts have stirred up things, that’s good, I suppose. It gives people the opportunity to reflect on what this ‘being stirred up’ is all about.

Thinking about recovery from childhood sexual abuse within the framework of the 3 Principles of Mind, Thought, and Consciousness, whereby the focus is on the innate, unbreakable health present in each person that can be accessed once we become conscious of our negative thinking about ourselves and our lives and let go of that mode of thinking, makes a lot of common sense to me. It holds a lot of hope and the promise of regaining control of one’s life. Please, don’t take these 4 lines as a ‘treatment approach’, rather look at what my words are pointing at.

Is processing trauma for years better or worse than ‘leaving it alone’? Who’s to know. The proof really is in the pudding, as they say. If it works for the individual to go deeply into revisiting the past, if it makes life easier, if it makes people’s life more joyful, then there is your answer. If life remains difficult with numerous hospital admissions, suicidal thoughts, low self-worth, frequent anxiety attacks, long depressive episodes, isolation, and little joy it might be worthwhile to try on the ‘leaving it alone’ approach. See what happens when you take a holiday from your problems! The good news is that every survivor can find out for him or herself. There are several links in the sidebar of my website of sites that offer resources about the application of the 3 Principle understanding. Have a look around! If you like what you see and would like to explore this concept for your recovery, you can also contact me. 

A New Model Of Change

Many people want to make changes in their lives. It is obviously something very close to our heart because millions of people are making it their business to help others change: consultants, coaches, trainers, advisers, and therapists, to name just a few. Change can have many faces, but no matter what change people aim for, it’s always a difficult process – at least that is the commonly accepted view-point..

All throughout my life I have worked and been with many men and women who were desperate to change. They hated almost everything about themselves: the way they felt, the way they looked, their health, their behaviours, their thoughts, the way people treated them … the list could go on and on.

More often than not these people just couldn’t see what I saw: That they were nice, kind, caring people. The only thing that stood in their way of seeing what I saw, was their negative way of thinking about themselves.Years of habitual negative, critical thoughts about themselves and their behaviours. Most likely influenced by childhood experiences but nonetheless carried forward in life – indeed kept alive – by their own mental processes of thinking these negative thoughts over and over again.

The ‘traditional’ way of dealing with these situations is either to help a person to change the content of their thoughts or by exploring in-depth how childhood experiences have planted the seeds in the person’s head. Both approaches are fairly time-consuming and not that successful – I know that because I have been trained in traditional psychotherapy and worked for years according to these theories. If these theories were so effective, shouldn’t we have a planet full of blissfully happy inhabitants by now given the army of ‘change workers’ each day?

No matter how often I demonstrated to clients – with evidence – that they are likeable, good people with a good working brain and a good working heart, they never immediately slapped their forehead and said “Of course, you are right, thank you for helping me see it”. It often took year(s) for that shift to happen. These negative self-thoughts were like kikuyu grass refusing to be eradicated.The traditional way of change appears to be more like ‘the tail wagging the dog’.

Let me propose a new model of change. Who says that change is hard work? Aren’t there plenty of examples of people having an insight, or at the snap of the finger making a fundamental change in their lives? Human beings are so incredibly adaptable that they will move towards their innate health and well-being when they are shown how to leave their thoughts ‘alone’.

Thoughts, of course, are just thoughts. Positive thoughts, negative thoughts, judgemental thoughts, critical thoughts are just thoughts. They are not real, they are just some arbitrary thoughts a person has about what they think is real. Thoughts about something or someone are just like a street map people have about the city they live in. Useful to help navigate your way around, but nonetheless a map of Auckland is not Auckland. It’s not the real thing.

A new model of change involves taking a leaf out of Eastern philosophical traditions and learning to take one’s thoughts and perceptions not so seriously. They are just thoughts, nothing more. Where the trouble begins is that thoughts (we have between 50 and 100 thousand conscious and unconscious thoughts each day) lead to feelings and the stronger the feelings are, people feel compelled to take them very serious and act on them.

A new model of change involves showing people that they have easy access to their wisdom when they take their upsetting thoughts and thus their upsetting feelings less serious. When they are in a calm, quiet mind, they have access to their wisdom, creativity, and good ideas to help them deal with any problems at hand.

I have seen this change only take a split second. Change truly can be only one thought away!

If you curious about this model of change, contact me so that we can make a time to talk!

Messages From The Past

Messages from the past are a bit of a mixed bag, aren’t they? Remember the movie ‘The Goonies’, where kids are finding an old treasure map in the attic and get quite excited about the possibility of helping their parents out financially, ending up – after overcoming dangerous booby traps – finding an old pirate ship full of jewels and gold?  Happy ending, but a nail-biter in between. I suppose, one could say the message was a positive one, given that it evoked excitement and hope.

Other messages from the past are not so positive. Most people who read this blog have had a history of abuse and neglect. They struggle with old messages either given through hurtful words and actions or through neglect, the absence of caring and nurturing words and behaviours. In short these messages can be summed up as ‘you are not worthy of care, love, and protection. One can easily see that the later messages are negative ones given they can be emotionally crippling and causing symptoms (low/no self-confidence, lack of self-care, lack of emotion regulation skills) some people label as ‘mental illness’.

Most survivors, if I would be able to take them onto a journey into the past whereby we could visit a fellow survivor in her childhood and observe a situation when they are being hurt, would say without hesitation that the fellow survivor does not deserve to be hurt, it’s not her fault, there was nothing she did wrong. Indeed they would immediately see that the parent and/or abuser were accountable of their acts no matter what excuses they would utter.

How come that people carry these message for years and years in their hearts? Partially because there are strong painful emotions accompanying abuse and emotions act like glue, they make memories stick! Another reason is that abuse happens mostly in childhood when the kid’s cognitive development is mainly shaped by egocentrism causing her to believe that she ‘made’ it happen.

Looking back as adults, we can see easily the fault in such thinking. How then are we to understand survivors tendency to nurture these old negative messages from the past? Especially given that often the message sender was ‘out of his/her mind’? Given that what a person says or does has all to do with that person and with nobody else. Given that a statement such as “you are …. xyz” can’t possibly be true and accurate given that whatever a person perceives is filtered through his/her own history, filters, biases and subject to distortion, deletion, and generalisations.

I hope that survivors give some attention to the function of thought in human’s experience of creating reality and scrutinize their own thoughts about themselves. Thinking “I am not OK” or anything negative about themself can’t possibly be real because it does not take the whole person into consideration and completely ignores that thoughts are just thoughts. They are like a picture of a person but never the living person. A living person is more than a picture can ever convey.

I wonder what help my readers with putting their self-perceptions into perspective. If you want to know how understanding the processes of thought, mind, and consciousness can help you to have a better life, and if you want to know how to let go of a child’s perspective, follow this link and contact me.

I Can’t Trust My Memories

Upon the Sharon Armstrong post from a wee while ago where I talked about NLP and eye accessing cues that can indicate whether a person is remembering or is constructing a memory, I received an email from a reader asking whether there would be a way for her to know whether she is making up what she has been telling her therapist. I have heard over the years from so many survivors that they find it hard to believe that they have been abused.

Firstly, there is a difference whether you make statements to justify or explain the fact that you were recently caught with Cocaine or whether you talk about something that happened many decades ago in your childhood. Memories are not set in concrete like the content of a printer’s typeset drawer. They are subject to change over the years, some parts get ‘trimmed off’ and other parts get ‘added’ depending on what you do when you re-visit a memory.

Secondly, if you don’t believe that you have been abused, if you doubt your thoughts, wouldn’t it be a good idea to examine why it is important for you to know whether you have or have not been abused and to what extend? And thirdly, whatever the past trauma was, isn’t it important today to deal with the legacies of the trauma (depression, anxiety, stress, low self-confidence, poor social skills, dissociation, and overall poor self-relations) and re-build a healthy, happy, and balanced sense of self?

I think these are great questions to ask and work through with your therapist when you are not quite sure what it is that you are doing. Your therapist can give you an outside perspective that, together with your inside wonderings will hopefully form a picture that gives you peace of mind.

PTSD Viewed Through the Lens of 3 Principles

Those who have followed this blog are aware how intensive I have covered the issue of overcoming the legacies of abuse and neglect. The simple reason is because dealing with flashbacks, memories, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and a toxic self perception seems to be the tragic struggle most survivors have in common. Not only that, it’s also a struggle that seems to take many many years to overcome for a large number of survivors.

But what if it doesn’t have to take forever and forever to deal with the aftermath? I don’t know any survivor who wouldn’t want to shorten the time until s/he is OK again, having a peace of mind, being in touch with a natural sense of well-being, balanced life, and overall contentment and happiness.

I have found this blog post that offers a challenge to those approaches to therapy with traumatised people who focus on re-visiting the traumatic moment, catharting feelings and emotions, and re-interpreting past experiences. Instead, principle based psychology is resting on the notion that every human being has an innate sense of health that we can access through our thoughts. It is important to understand the connection between thoughts and feelings. If our thoughts are negative and/or painful (for example: “I am such a cot-case”) we will feel depressed or sad or anxious. Thus the quality of our thinking determines the quality of our feelings.

Sydney Banks, who first conceived the Three Principles said “The most important thing to remember is it’s not what you think – it’s the fact that you think. Thought holds the secret to all our happiness, all our sadness. Once you realize the power of thought, I guarantee your life will never be the same again. If you have a positive thought and you put life into it…positivity happens
and you start to live in a positive life”.

Hop over the blog and read the challenging article. I would be interested to hear what your opinion is! Read this fascinating article here!

Letter To My Younger Self

Today I came across a lovely blog post from a fellow blogger. The title is “Letter to My Younger Self”. I became curious to see what Rachel (the blogger) wrote. Those of you who know me will understand that: I hold the strong belief that a big part of the recovery journey  is to find a place of compassion, love, understanding, respect, and appreciation for the younger SELF who managed to cope with the abuse.

When I make this statement I hear frequently “Yes, maybe, BUT see how much I am struggling, see how much I am in pain, see how difficult it is to reverse the dissociation”. The way the younger Self coped is creating a whole lot of problems today.

My counter argument is usually: The younger You cope with something horrendously difficult and confusing the best thing s/he could. With the limited resources and understanding a child has; and often with barely any support. You can now, as an adult, make the necessary changes.

However, the first step is to give recognition to the child in the form of love, care, respect, understanding, appreciation. It won’t be long until one by one your problems will start melting away. I encourage you to read the ‘Letter to my younger self” by clicking on the link!

Self Criticism: Turning a Disaster into an Opportunity

Nike-800 Have you ever been consumed by thoughts like “I am useless, I am stupid, I never get things right”? I am sure you have. If we would research the prevalence of self-criticism, we would probably find that it exists in epidemic proportions. No matter how good your intentions were that motivated you to engage in a project, if it fails self-criticism of the above nature can become an uninvited guest.

Every person makes mistakes. Carl Jung is quoted to have said “(man/woman) …learns little or nothing from his successes. They mainly confirm him in his mistakes, while his failures, on the other hand, are priceless experiences in that they not only open up the way to a deeper truth, but force him to change his views and methods”.  Mistakes are the pearls that pave the way to greater knowledge and wisdom.

Continue reading

Can You Trust Your Feelings?

Emptiness A big part of recovery from the legacies of sexual abuse is getting to a point where you have a sense of control over your emotional states. That means not to be thrown around all the time – or a lot of the time – by feelings of hurt, anxiety, fear, panic, suspicion, envy, hopelessness,"self-loathing, and hate.

On one hand we are taught to trust our feelings and use them as a guide for the way we behave and interact in this world. "How do you feel about this …?" A common questions we are asked to answer, not only in therapy but also in all other areas of life.

Continue reading

A Hole in the Soul

Crying boy The summit last June has created quite a bit of ripples and has been noticed not just in New Zealand, but also overseas. The following post is by a survivor who would have loved to be able to attend. She offered her 'Hole in the Soul' story as a way of supporting our aim to empower and inspire survivors.

"Once upon a time there was a little boy. He had a terrible headache. He knew why he had a headache. There were people in his life who were very wounded. These people spread their pain wherever they went.

The little boy needed help, but no one seemed to understand. He was just a little boy. He didn’t know what to do. Fear, rage, pain, sorrow… it was too much for a little boy. He pushed it all deep inside. The deeper he pushed it, the more his head ached.

It would not stop.

Continue reading