Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Abuse and the Spirit

A recent comment on another blog got me thinking about something that I hadn't really been able to put my finger on properly before.

Emotional abuse, at its core, is the systematic destruction of a person's self confidence. Whether it is by ridiculing and name calling, or by more subtle comments made over the course of years, the effect is to weaken a person's ability to trust themselves and their perceptions.

An abuser must destroy this self-confidence because it softens the recipient of abuse for what will come next: the exploitation of self. By the time the exploitation occurs (physical violence being one of the most flashy forms of exploitation, though by no means the only one), the recipient is convinced that they either deserve what is happening to them, or they are unsure that it is happening at all. Usually, it's a strange combination of both.

The horrible aspect of this, especially for members of the Church, is that loss of self-confidence also means loss of ability to listen to the Spirit. The abuser's methods quite effectively cut a recipient off from the Spirit and the Lord before the recipient is even aware of what is happening.

And the effects can last a lifetime.

This is important to understand for any member of the Church seeking to help an abuse recipient through recovery. Often in decision-making and healing processes within the Church, the Spirit is appealed to as a source for inspiration. For a person trying to heal from abuse, the suggestion to follow their heart or follow the Spirit does little but cause frustration, desperation, and increased feelings of worthlessness.

It is vital, therefore, to help a recipient first learn to trust themselves to feel the Spirit again. If that broken relationship can be healed, the rest will come in time. This takes constant reassurance and validation. Try not to lose patience. There are changes being made that you won't be able to see for a very long time.

If you are the one recovering from abuse, you must expect that those around you who care about you will not understand your need for validation. They may get frustrated with it. Remember that they love and care about you or they would not be trying to help in the first place. They may just not know how long your road to healing is, nor realize that you are making progress that seems vast to you, but small to them.

Learn to validate yourself. Praise yourself for every time you try to listen to the Spirit, and for every step you make in overcoming fear. No one else knows what you need as much as you do. It will be frightening, terrifying to make decisions and take action based on little more than the hope that the impressions coming into your head are from the Lord. But it is vital that you do so. Start with little things, like going up and talking to someone or simply smiling at a stranger.

In time, you will be able to reforge that bond of trust in yourself that you so desperately need.

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