I am excited to welcome Christina Enevoldsen, founder of the popular blog and facebook page “Overcoming Sexual Abuse” and published author of the book “The Rescued Soul” as my guest writer for Emerging from Broken. Christina has a wonderful message and I am thrilled to have her voice on my blog this week. I hope you will help me welcome Christina and please feel free to share your comments with us. Darlene
The Best Advice for the Healing Journey by Christina Enevoldsen
At the beginning of my healing process, my pain oozed out of me. I didn’t seem to have a shut off valve to contain the memories and emotions that were surfacing. Consequently, without intending to talk about my abuse, words or tears would leak out before I knew what I was saying or feeling.
My friend, Claire, had been abused as a child and had been raped as an adult. At the time, I thought someone who had been so wounded and violated would be a good source of the understanding and compassion that I sought (without knowing that’s what I was looking for).
Unfortunately, that’s not what I found. While I sat across from Claire, crying and trembling, she cited scripture and told me I needed to put things in God’s hands. She believed that if I applied my faith to my abuse, I wouldn’t have to waste my time being so sad or negative.
The way Claire dispensed her rational information left me feeling like there was a barrier between us—like I had shown up at her doorstep with a contagious disease and she reacted by throwing her religious rhetoric out on her lawn, quickly slamming the door behind her, hoping I would go away.
Claire didn’t want to hear about my past or about my pain. She wanted me to put a smile back on my face and to be “fixed”. I was left feeling empty and frustrated. Sharing my pain with Claire only added more pain.
I know that Claire was trying to be a good friend and was only passing on what she truly believed. Coldly offering me that empty advice, the same “wisdom” she tried to live by, was all that she had. The trouble was, her advice wasn’t even working for her. Her own life was a huge struggle.
Around the same time, I met Julia, who had also been abused. She also considered her faith to be instrumental in dealing with her abuse, but she didn’t consider her faith to be a replacement for facing her past or as an excuse to bury her feelings.
Julia listened to me, empathized with me, cried with me, and embraced me. She poured out her own stories with her pain and fear and anger.
Telling my story to Julia was the gateway to feeling compassion for myself and to acknowledging the depth of my loss. I finally felt heard. When I saw her response to my experiences, I believed that what happened to me really was that bad and that I wasn’t making a big deal out of nothing.
Julia didn’t offer advice to me, at least not in the form of “You need to…” or by telling me what was best for me; she offered information that had helped her—books she’d read or techniques she’d tried. Mostly, though, she shared herself. She shared her presence. Julia was there for me.
I learned a lot from Julia. She modeled the value of “feeling what I feel” without judgment. She showed me that shouting obscenities can be really good therapy. Mostly, she created space so I could learn to find my way back to me.
Many years of my own healing process and reaching out to other survivors of abuse have only confirmed what I learned from those two friends:
- Only those who have dealt with their own pain can help me deal with mine.
- When people reject me for sharing my pain, it’s because I remind them of their own pain, but that doesn’t mean I’m a pain.
- Their rejection doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve comfort; it means they can’t offer it.
There’s a greater lesson that I learned from my two friends: As lost as I felt in the beginning of my healing journey, I didn’t need advice. Living in abusive power and control dynamics throughout my childhood and most of my adulthood, I had very little power over my own life and decisions. I didn’t need one more person to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do. I needed the freedom and encouragement to sort through my feelings and then to decide for myself without guilt or pressure.
Love doesn’t say, “You need to listen to me because I know what’s best for you.” Love says, “I’ll listen to you so you can figure out what’s best for you.”
Part of my healing has been the transition of being directed by others to being directed by me. The healing process has revealed my own inner wisdom and I’ve learned to trust in the answers I have for my own life. I’m open to wise counsel from people I trust, but I have the most trust in myself. It’s been a process to get here, but I started to learn that when I was finally heard and validated.
No, I didn’t need advice. Opinions or information aren’t what healed me. Human connection was where I found healing—connections that encouraged me to reconnect with myself—my own experience, my own emotions, my own expression. The best advice isn’t advice at all: it’s the permission to merely be by being with me.
Christina Enevoldsen is the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. She’s the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for hope, inspiration, encouragement and tools for healing. Christina’s passion is exploring new ways to express her new life and freedom. She’s recently discovered the joy of waterslides and peach and basil salads. She and her husband live in Scottsdale, Arizona and share three children and six grandchildren.