Own Your Destiny! I met Maggie Kanzki, fellow author [...]
In this Thriver Blog, Danielle Ratliff continues to share her path to healing with ideas around how you can quiet your inner critic. We would love to hear which ones speak to you. Here's to Thriving!
Everyone has an inner critic. You’re probably familiar with this voice – it’s the one that doles out doubts, fears, and limiting beliefs. It’s a normal part of being human. However, this voice can grow exponentially after a traumatic experience. It tells us we are broken and permanently scarred, that it was our fault and we deserved it. It says we aren’t worthy of joy, love, and fulfillment. We may not speak these thoughts out loud, but they play on repeat in the background.
Although it can be as quick as a few minutes, a traumatic event, such as sexual abuse, has harmful ripples that extend out decades and even generations. If the deeper struggles aren’t addressed, brought to light, and healed, each survivor will pass on the proclivity for poor choices and destructive relationships to the next generation. Sadly, I know this firsthand as my family has suffered multiple generations of trauma and sexual assault. Starting with my grandmother, and cascading down to most recently, my beloved daughter, the women in my lineage have been and are survivors.
I never thought my family would be a part of a statistic. The Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape in their lifetime. 1 in 3 female victims have experienced it between 11-17 years old. (1) I just didn’t think it would happen to my daughter. As the parent of a teenager who was raped, I thought I had taken all the precautions to safeguard her from sexual assault. Understanding the statistics, taking an active interest in her friends, and creating a safe space for important conversations, we discussed sex, intimacy, and safety. My daughter was encouraged to come to me with any concern. I was vigilant! I monitored relationships, supervised time with friends, all to protect her. Hell, I was the poster child for the helicopter mom.... and yet it happened. Right under my nose! She was silent about it for months, and the assault kept happening. When she finally worked up the courage to tell me about the ongoing rape and abuse from her church youth group boyfriend, I was shocked. Not only did it bring back vivid memories from my past, but as a sexual assault survivor myself, I was floored that I had failed to shield her from this horrific trauma. All my carefully crafted protective parenting didn’t shelter her from this terrible assault.
Earlier in the series, we discussed the impact of nonsupporters or individuals who are only capable of passive support. We now turn our attention towards individuals who are better equipped to provide more active methods of support. Our hope is that you can discover ways of better engaging these support systems to provide you a more impactful form of support, as well as discover ways you can learn to become a more mindful supporter to people and causes you hold dear to your heart.
A term that is currently pervasive, this person offers support in a more active way that examines the many facets of an issue and serves as an empathetic ear to facilitate improvement.
Ally is a prominent buzzword today. It conjures up close friends and family who you can call in a trying time. You trust this person will create time to listen to you and provide you a sense of peace and safe haven that helps you formulate a game plan to solve your most pressing issues. The following exercise will help sustain healthy relationships with the allies in your life.
Support can mean many things to people, but a commonality is a desire to feel included and valued by those we love and society. When we feel pain or fear, it is human nature to crave love and encouragement. People with a history of trauma are in greater need of external sources of empathy to help jumpstart our own abilities to cultivate that loving-kindness for ourselves. Sadly, the depths and complexity of our experience can make it difficult for people, even those to whom we are most bonded, to understand and subsequently assist us during our hardship.
At the beginning of the month, four types of support systems, and one nonsupporter, archetypes were highlighted ranging from the most passive type of involvement to the most active. When you understand the mindset of someone who you might be seeking advice or support from, you can ensure that you set healthy boundaries and expectations. This will be essential for you to maintain thriver mindset and continue your path in reclaiming your going-forward story. However, it is always helpful to have a few tools to assist you in navigating these relationships. In this blog, we will cover a few exercises to help you gain more clarity and peace on how to interact with each of these supporters who might be involved in your life.
One common thread in my survivor story is feeling alone in my journey. I was told during my years of abuse that no one, even those closest to me, would ever believe my claims. Like many sexual abuse survivors, I have a community of people around me that love me and actively work to “support” me. Yet, the concept of support and people’s ability to provide that most loving of care is seldom understood. It is this lack of understanding at the level one might hope for, and require, that prevents proper exploration of the issue.
Currently, 2020 is acting as a magnifying glass in the sun towards communities seeking greater support from society. America is struggling with Covid-19 impacts that cause heightened levels of anxiety from coast-to-coast. In the wake of multiple murders by police, Black Lives Matters is demanding the world address systemic racism including America’s need for health and policing reform. In late June, an international movement exposing sexual assault in the wrestling industry (a global sport where men and women compete side-by-side) was created with the hashtag #speakingout. This newest sexual abuse movement is still evolving, but driving conversation about sexual abuse in the workplace, gender bias in sports, retaliation, lingering effects of trauma, and how words matter.
From listening to the news, interacting with loved ones and reading social media, I’ve noticed four types of supporters. There is also a type who is incapable of support, or ostrich, which consciously or subconsciously ignores an issue. By investigating each one, you may identify people in your life, what they are capable of handling, and how to maintain healthy engagement. The next blog will offer tips to improve communication and interactions with each group.
Expectations, although often helpful, can have a shadow side that can produce unnecessary stress and pain. At the point of creation, an expectation can serve to facilitate our self-growth. Yet, with time an expectation can become unreasonable, and therefore unattainable, causing profound disappointment and difficulty in one’s life. People with a history of trauma like sexual abuse, are especially vulnerable to these swings in perception. We can ruminate over unmet expectations, amplifying our limiting beliefs and lingering pains. Enduring trauma can cause a person to become obsessed with maintaining control in their life. When control eludes us, we can face a debilitating crash that negatively impacts our self-worth.
To better understand the root of our expectations and whether they still may benefit our growth, we must be able to listen to them. To listen to them we must cut through the clutter of noise that surrounds us both internally and externally. This means creating periods of silence and silent reflection into our self-care routines. Explore the following three exercises to better understand how silence is or could be helpful in your journey towards Thriver mindset.
Expectations, we all have them. But how healthy are they really to our wellbeing? We aspire to a life filled with health, joy, and success. We can place lofty goals to spur our self-growth, but what happens to us when we fall short of these big dreams? What was meant to challenge us, can actually cause greater difficulty and disappointment. This can be especially true of survivors of trauma like sexual abuse, who yearn to break free of our limiting beliefs and our lingering pains.
As we enter June, we are entering into a month typically filled with graduations, weddings, and social gatherings. However, in 2020, we are remaining in the era of Covid-19. This pandemic has held a mirror up to expectations and the pain we all face when situations beyond our control prevent us from obtaining this envisioned scenario.
The hard work of the class of 2020 and important transitional milestones aren’t able to be celebrated together. Weddings must be held either virtually or postponed indefinitely. Loved ones remain physically separated and gatherings must stop for the sake of our health.
But this devastating virus is merely a communal amplification of collective grieving unmet expectations. In reality, we all must tackle the ramifications of unexpected situations every day. From illness, job loss, relationship hurdles, accidents, delays or cancellations, to even death – every day we must find ways to make the best out of our situations. When we are unable to navigate this process successfully, anxiety builds and our feeling of self-worth can plummet.
The first rule of when you get yourself lost during hiking is to stop walking. The next is to take a deep breath so you can slow your mind down from racing. Only then can you begin to formulate an action plan. Finding yourself suddenly in an unstable time is very similar. You might have thought you were doing everything right, for it all to go horribly awry in a matter of moments.
Panic robs us of our abilities to think critically and objectively. It forces us into such heightened states of anxiety that we not only fear, but believe, the worst possible situation could occur. This phenomenon known as catastrophizing amplifies the normal triggers and limited beliefs, we bravely tackle every day. This is particularly true for those of us who have suffered traumatic events in our lives like sexual abuse.
As the world is currently facing panic due to the grips of Covid-19 we all benefit from strengthening our abilities to ground ourselves during precarious times. Please explore one or more of the following exercises to help you rediscover your sense of stability and reclaim your power to enjoy life as a thriver.