By Sallie Culbreth, M.S.
Founder of Committed to Freedom
“I shouldn’t be thinking this.”
Do those statement sound familiar? The mental, emotional, and spiritual back-and-forth that most abuse survivors go through is exhausting. It can also be shaming and counter-productive to your journey beyond abuse.
It’s remarkable how much energy we can spend pretending that feelings and thoughts don’t exist. But here’s a simple fact that will serve you well in abuse recovery: If you DO feel something or DO think something, then you DO! Once you acknowledge that a feeling or a thought is in your personal landscape, then you can address it honestly with yourself.
It’s as if I was in a room, alone, and a friend (I’ll call him George) walks in. I have two options. (1)
I can acknowledge George is in the room (“Hey George!) or (2) I can ignore him. If I ignore him, it doesn’t make him any less there. Either way, George is still in the room.
In abuse recovery, TRUTH is the gold standard. That’s because denial can only hold a fantasy together for so long. The delusion will eventually rupture, leaving you less functional, less healthy, and stagnant (or worse) in your journey beyond abuse.
To complete the opening statements in a healthier way, consider this progression:
“I shouldn’t be feeling this way, but I do.”
“I shouldn’t be thinking this, but I am.”
Acknowledging your true emotions and feelings gives you the freedom to roll up your sleeves and strategically address them. Your energy is re-focused on reality so that you can honestly deal with your inner world.
One additional thought about the “shouldn’t’s” and faith. Part of the shame-evoking that comes from certain thoughts and feelings is how you measure them against your belief system, particularly your religious belief system. Sometimes we secretly believe that if we ignore our true, inner struggles with thoughts and feelings that God will somehow be kept in the dark. When we estrange God from these vitally important struggles, we alienate a powerful ally in our journey beyond abuse.
Since you’ve not been struck dead because of them, it’s a pretty good indication that God’s love for you is unshakable. There’s a partnership that Jesus spoke of (Matthew 11:29-30) when he gave the invitation: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus offered to share the weight of “shouldn’t.”
The enlightened path beyond abuse requires honesty. Honesty with your thoughts and feelings doesn’t mean that you indulge them, but that you strategically unpack them. When you do, then you’re empowered to address them in a healthy, mature way that leads to balance and reason.
Category: Roadside Assistance - Weekly Articles