Creating my revival identity

 

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When I was swept off course and thrown into a hole, it took every ounce of effort to simply survive. I refused to call myself a victim and instead I became a survivor.

A victim sees something has been done to them beyond their control. Someone else is to blame. The situation is unfair. A victim’s reactions are that of flight, fight or freeze (running away, retaliating, or doing nothing). Although these reactions are normal in the heat of a crisis, there is the danger of the mistreatment becoming part of you and seeing yourself identified with bad treatment, brokenness and weakness. This is victim identity.

As these flight, fight, freeze reactions are accompanied by intensely painful feelings of guilt, anger and fear that I wanted to avoid at all costs; an alternative response that worked for me was survival. In other words I focussed on self-protection. I did not want to see myself as a victim and so I channelled my energies into making sure that I never became one again. I created my survival identity of building up courage, stability and comfort.

Some time ago I read that the term ‘survivor’ is simply another label for ‘victim’. If you identify yourself as a survivor, you are still focussing on the event that happened rather than focussing on how to get out of the hole, heal and recover. Despite my brave stance at seeing myself as a survivor, not a victim, I was still seeing everything through the hurt inflicted upon me and trying to avoid more pain.

Over the past six months, I have been working through a process in a book (see below) which describes breaking away from victim or survivor thinking by creating a healing identity. To create a healing identity, you focus on your strengths, your values, your modes of resilience and a desire to improve your life. By creating a healing identity you overcome victim reactions of blame, retaliation and resentment. Many of the techniques suggested in the book have truly worked for me and especially looking beneath my pain to my unmet needs and striving to find new ways of fulfilling them.

One of the lingering aspects hard to overcome has been my survival comforts that I have used to ground me and protect me from further hurt. When I try to break out of my comfort zone I often go into panic zone and retreat.

Recently I read a blog-post by Ian from Leading Essentially that described how the two zones of comfort and panic can lock you out of expanding your horizons. He described one technique to break free from this mentality is to develop an understanding of your unique capabilities that you may draw on when you get out of your comfort zone. I took that to mean strengths and attributes that have aided me in past achievements, or resilience factors in weathering past adversities. In other words I could venture out from my comfort zone knowing that I had those attributes to fall back on, if needed. I decided to work on this by really thinking about my strengths and my resilience attitudes.

I see this as creating my revival identity as a bridge between surviving and thriving, whilst still in the process of some healing. Here are some attributes of my revival identity –

My education and life experiences provide a stable base for future achievements.
My thirst for knowledge and learning will give me the courage to improve and grow.
I am creative and inventive.
I can draw on my analytical and problem solving skills to get me through any challenge.
I will live by my core values of courage, fairness and kindness.
I will act only for protection, connection, contribution, and appreciation.
I have a new purpose to find my voice and promote human welfare.

While focussing on creating my revival identity, getting ready for my new life, some remarkable things happened.

I stopped thinking about the hole I was supposedly in.
I stopped thinking about being wronged.
I stopped thinking about the pain I was suffering.
The pain stopped.

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ImageCourtesyOf[Africa]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You may want to read ‘Living & Loving after Betrayal: How to Heal from Emotional Abuse, Deceit, Infidelity and Chronic Resentment’ by Steven Stosny

Adjusting my vision

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After my joyous birthday celebrations and pronounced optimism for my future, I had been dragged down again. Having to deal with the practicalities of the property settlement made me feel lonely and resentful. Lonely because I am alone in this process. Resentful because my glorious vision for my future was seemingly put on hold. I wanted to move to my future and I was stuck dealing with the past. I wanted to be done with the past.

Then during the week someone said to me, ‘what would it do for you, if you could re-frame what you are doing as a step towards your future?’

Clunk.

A somewhat obvious, yet not so obvious solution.

The less obvious part was accepting that I could not go directly from my old life to my new life. There is a ‘transformation’ phase in the middle. This is the phase of letting go of my old life in preparation for the new; and at the same time exploring options for the future before I actually begin. However, it is still moving forward. It still holds the steps towards my future. I am indeed in this middle phase of transformation. I am not yet in my future.

Having accepted I am in a phase of transformation, the obvious solution to my distress was to then put those activities required for the property settlement into that phase with me. Thinking of those processes as part of my transformational phase (rather than a limbo state, or back in the past) has been a crucial step for me this past week. The processes have now become crucial and important steps towards my future.

Suddenly the weight on my shoulders has lifted, replaced by a sense of urgency and focus. Instead of resenting having to do them, I am ploughing through the processes from a drawn-up checklist and ticking the boxes as I go. I have discarded feelings of isolation and resentment. I have re-affirmed my code for this divorce process which included that I would at all times act with grace and dignity. Grace being respectful of others. Dignity being a command of respect for myself.

Result:

  • I am more accepting of this transformational as a phase and I am in it.
  • I have now stopped asking myself ‘are you there yet?’
  • I have moved forward by completing several small steps in “the process”.
  • I have written down an action plan for getting through the rest.
  • The action plan includes an air of goodwill and respect for all concerned.
  • I have achieved something; something for me, something for my future.
  • I have remained true to my values.
  • I feel good about myself.

 

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Image courtesy:[Tao55]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

UNWANTED PASSENGERS ON MY SHIP

“it not matters how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the Master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul.”
William Henley

ID-10055232. Stuart Miles

If you imagine my life as a ship, with me the Captain of my ship; then I have control of my ship. It is up to me to steer my ship in the correct direction and to ensure at all times that the ship does not sink.

Some time ago my ship ran into a hurricane. It was necessary to shelter in safe harbours for a while, undergo required repairs and maintenance and, as it was completely blown off course, set a new safer direction. Now the storms have passed, I have stocked up my ship with supplies, boarded my passengers (kindness, empathy, fairness, optimism, courage, wisdom) and have once more set sail.

I have discovered that I have picked up some unwelcome passengers on my ship:

1. Unwanted feelings of sadness, pain, fear and disillusionment
2. Negative thoughts of “I do not matter”; ” Something else will go wrong”, and “Its not fair”
3. Confusing memories

In the past I have dealt with these ‘passengers’ by various methods:
a. Worried
b. Ignored them
c. Distracted myself.
d. Engaged in meaningful beneficial activities
e. Thought positively. .
f. Called on one of my support people and talked things through.

Most of these methods (except the first two) work a little. Some of them work a lot. Indeed, I managed to rid myself completely of guilt, bitterness, desire for revenge, feeling like a victim and ‘what did I do wrong?’. As for the others, if I engage in positive activities and spend time with my loved ones on a regular basis, it seems that they disappear. That is why I felt it safe to continue my journey. However, after an unexpected trigger, here they are making an appearance again. I have come to realise that these methods are important activities for making me feel better, relaxing, enjoying life and distracting me. However, they do not rid my ship of unwanted passengers. .

What I believe now is this:

In life things happen. Sometimes these ‘things’ can be catastrophic or traumatic. Occasionally one catastrophic event can pile up on top of another. This is what happened to me, with the ending of my marriage coming on the back of several fairly major life-changing events in the years prior.

For over two years I tried to rid myself of the negative memories, thoughts and feelings surrounding the ending of my marriage. I wanted them to disappear. I willed them to disappear. I worked really hard to make them disappear. Yet they are still there. Sometimes they remain in hiding. At other times they come out and cause havoc by becoming unruly and obnoxious. Occasionally they try to get me to change directions.

I can wait no longer. I must continue on my journey and accept that I have to carry these thoughts, feelings and memories with me. I do not have to listen to them or pay them attention, but I need to accept they will not go away. Just as people who need to live with chronic pain, disability, or illness; just as a person tending a loved one with a deteriorating disease; just as those who have lost loved ones and must carry that loss for the rest of their lives; so must I accept these passengers. I too must carry these thoughts, feelings and memories with me.

Despite their presence, I can still take my life in a worthwhile direction. What is important now is not to waste any more time or energy in trying to get rid of my passengers but rather deal with them in a graceful and dignified manner whenever they surface. While they will come and go in uncontrollable waves, they cannot hurt me.

I am the Captain of my ship. It is only me who can make the strategic decisions as to where my ship will sail. It is only me who can act and If I do not act on unwelcome thoughts, feelings and memories then they cannot hurt me. If I do act on them, I can make sure that I act in a positive manner.

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Image  courtesy [StuartMiles]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dancing The Transformative Grief Of Divorce

Playing with the black dog of grief yet seeing the light

– Wrestling The Black Dog of Grief –

Sometimes I still feel low and I was wondering what that meant. Was this a normal part of the transitional stage of divorce or did I have a problem? I decided to do some reading. Here are some definitions and explanations that I found.

Grief – A grief is a loss of something you cannot get back no matter how hard you try. It can be felt after any loss such as after the death of a loved one, divorce, losing your job or dreams or your youth or your security. Psychologists(1) describe stages denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance with the predominant symptom of sadness. Symptoms come and go, eventually running their course to a state of resolution.

Trauma – A trauma is a distressing event which feels unreal. You may suffer flashbacks to the event and the predominant feeling is of terror. You may see yourself as a victim and develop a distorted self-image.

Depression – Depression can be a temporary low mood after a loss or stressful event or it can be an illness (‘Clinical Depression’). In clinical depression the predominant feeling is a pervasive one of hopelessness. There is a loss of enjoyment in pleasurable activities and a chronic feeling of low self-esteem.

Complicated Grief or Traumatic Grief – If suffering remains six months after a loss or there is difficulty reaching normal functioning, then you may be suffering complicated grief or traumatic grief. It is more common when there have been several losses overlaid upon each other or a trauma complicating the loss. In complicated grief there can be a terrifying feeling of loss of self. Treatment focuses on processing the loss, as opposed to depression where the focus is often on treating the symptoms. Sometimes depression may overlay grief and treating both may be required.

Grief After Divorce – It is recognised there can be grief after divorce. Many symptoms of complicated grief (intense pain, intrusive thoughts, confusion over identity, inability to trust, difficulty moving on, prolonged bitterness or anger) apply equally or more to divorce than after a death.This is especially true if the marriage ending was traumatic, sudden, or the divorce processes have been distressing or prolonged. There is difficulty reaching closure as the person you are grieving is still around and in the case of abandonment or betrayal, there is a massive attack on your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. 

Trans-formative Grief – People can get stuck in grief in trying to get back to ‘normal’ rather than accepting the old normal is gone. In trans-formative grief the focus is on using the loss as a catalyst for positive change and growth. Trans-formative grief recognizes the multiple levels of change that have occurred, and focusses on finding a new ‘normal’ with meaning and fulfillment in the new changed world. It is not time that heals but rather living in an actively healing way. Instead of remaining stuck as a victim of a tragedy or trauma the person makes their own choices and becomes the creator of their new life.

My Dance

I recognised grief after divorce was a transition, but the suffering continued to drain me. Reading about complicated grief sparked changes in my thinking knowing my suffering did connect back to my losses and that there had been complications in my situation of a traumatic nature. This gave me a reason for my continued pain but no solution.

Reading about trans-formative grief provided that solution, of using grief as a way to transform my life. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Forming a deeper connection with my inner soul
  2. Artistic expression of my pain by writing about it
  3. Having a greater compassion for myself and others
  4. Personal empowerment to live my life to my full potential
  5. Reaching out to and helping others less fortunate than myself
  6. Becoming actively involved in a cause I feel passionate about

I am now ready to take first step to mark the beginning of my transformation, of letting go of my old me.

Let me try my Dance of Trans-formative Grief

Dancing The Transformative Grief Of Divorce

Dancing The Transformative Grief Of Divorce

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(1)Kubler Ross
Images courtesy [vlado]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Responsibility

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“Look at the word responsibility – “Response-ability” – the ability to choose your response. Highly pro-active people recognise that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behaviour.”  Stephen Covey. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This is my first post from a series of posts on ‘My Responsibilities’.

I wrote previously how I struggled with addressing my needs and wants because of my overwhelming feeling of being responsible. All my life I made sure that I put others first and did the right thing by my husband, my children, my family, my work, and our community. I did what I thought was expected of me. If something did not quite go right, then it was up to me to find a solution to the problem, and to fix it. Even though being ‘responsible’ often brought with it negative feelings of over-work, obligations, loss of freedom and dullness; and even though sometimes I ended up exhausted with everything becoming a struggle; I still felt I had to keep on keeping on. That is what I did. That was being responsible.

There is a flip side to this. It is hiding under the excuse of ‘others’ or ‘my genetics’ or ‘circumstances’ or ‘my responsibility’ to never really having the courage to do what is in my heart. These are the excuses coupled with an overwhelming feeling of thinking that I would be selfish if I ever did what was best for me – ahead of others. I have been using these excuses for not taking responsibility for my own self and my own future.

That was until I had my epiphany, the bolt of lightening that shook me out of the ingrained attitude of mine that I simply have to keep on keeping on. At that point I realised that I had a choice. Part of that choice was to take responsibility for me and my own well-being. It was my responsibility to recognise myself as an individual with my own needs and wants, my own opinions, a right to be treated fairly, and a right to a wonderful future. It was my responsibility to shake my core belief that I was not good enough. It was my responsibility to instill in myself a new belief of my own worthiness for a happy life which did not include continuing the way I had been, slaving away in fruitless endeavours trying to fix things.

In various posts I have written about varying goals of mine to get myself back on track, looking after myself regarding diet, exercise, and having quiet moments of reflection. I had missed the underlying voice within me, probably because it was hidden underneath all the confusion and turmoil I had been thrown into after the separation. I had also been clinging onto what had been my ‘normal’, and not wanting to make any more huge changes to my life on top of the huge emotional upheaval that I had already endured.  The voice within me now was questioning my reason and purpose for doing what I was doing and denying myself a better and less stressful life. I realised that I had been working the wrong way round. I had been plodding along doing what I had always done trying to find a purpose in it, rather than working out what my purpose in life was and then planning towards it.

It may not be my highest calling, yet I know that one of my innermost desires is to find true inner peace and harmony. To get myself truly back on track to that calling will involve going in a completely different direction in life. That will mean massive change. That is daunting.

It will require much courage to strive to this goal despite the apprehension and fear that I have on the challenges involved in getting there.

However, it will be done. It will be the best outcome for me and my long-term health and happiness. I will do it for me because I am worth it. It is my primary responsibility.

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Image Courtesy [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My attitudes # 9. Resilience. Bouncing back

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Nelson Mandela.

Thanks for pointing that out to me 🙂

I thought there was supposed to be a rainbow at the top of the mountain? Is that another mountain to climb, or have I been thrown back down into the valley?

To recover from set-backs, one requires an attitude of resilience.

Resilience is more than keeping going, resilience is more than climbing a mountain, resilience is more than not quitting, resilience is more than recovering from set-backs, resilience is bouncing back.

I thought of all the ‘mountains’ I had climbed in life and have felt many times that I was over climbing mountains. I was sick of being thrown back down into the valley. I wrote about this in a very early post “No More Mountains” when I was faced with what seemed insurmountable obstacles and turmoil. In that post I resolved that instead of climbing mountains I would go along tackling things one step at a time. I would find an easier path, around the mountains. Looking back now, 18 months into the drama of this separation, I realise that I have already climbed some of those mountains that at the time seemed unconquerable; the mountain of the emotional turmoil of the separation (most of the time), the mountain of the abhorrence of the divorce process (almost), and the mountain of learning to live my life all by myself. Only one of the four mountains I wrote down that day remained – getting my finances as a single person back on track. Step by step, mountain by mountain, I am gradually getting there.

This is a list I have compiled as to the character traits that I have read help you bounce back after set-backs:

  • Positive outlook
  • Resistance in the face of failure
  • Firm moral convictions and code of ethics
  • Ability to plan ahead and problem solve
  • Ability to see adversities as challenges to overcome rather than obstacles
  • Belief that one’s own effort can change things
  • A lifetime goal or interest in developing a talent

Like the lamb in this video clip sent to me by a fellow blogger;

Yes, I think my bounce will come.

“More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resilience of a pillow, where
foam returns over and over to the same shape,
but the sinuous tenacity of a tree,
finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns to another.”
Jane Hirschfield.

My attitudes # 2 – Next comes Optimism

My attitudes # 2 Optimism

“The goal we seek, and the good we hope for, comes not as some final reward but as the hidden companion to our quest. It is not what we find, but the reason we cannot stop looking and striving, that tells us why we are here”. Madeleine Albright

In my recent post on hope I wrote of that first spark, that first light, that vision of what you desire will eventuate. Optimism, whilst similar, is different.

Optimism is the capacity to look on the bright side of life, of making the best out of any situation.
Optimism is accepting some things will not change and learning to dance despite them.
Optimism is seeing the change that you want, and propelling yourself towards it
Optimism is seeing life’s adversities as challenges to overcome, rather than as hindrances getting in your way.

In our everyday life we have set-backs. When it is raining; you can grizzle and moan; you can hope for the rain to stop; or you can bake cakes and smile. Which do you choose?
If you are kept waiting for four hours because your plane is delayed, you can shout at the stewardess, you can hope they put on an earlier plane; or you can sit and be glad of the extra time to chill. Which do you choose?

I believe looking at the brighter side of such inconveniences prepares you for larger set-backs. Optimism is a huge asset when confronted with difficulties – death, divorce, disease, disablement, displacement, distress, or disaster. In these situations optimism is more than seeing a brighter side, optimism is more than anticipating the best outcome; optimism is a confidence in oneself to be able to chart a course of action, and to propel oneself to overcome the challenges set before you.

Three weeks ago I returned from a wonderful holiday then was hit with the reality of what I am soon to face; running a business on my own, with a reduced asset base, huge debt and risk. How could I cope?

Firstly, I found hope.

Then a post on overcoming FEAR Face Everything And Respond” gave me a clear optimistic vision, with a kind response by the author Ian to a comment I made that my metaphoric vision of seeing myself wading through mud was me positively seeing adversities as challenges to overcome rather than being frozen in an “it’s not fair” mentality.

I thought back to signs of this optimism in me the past sixteen months. There was evidence. I learned to enjoy each day. I looked on the value of my extra space, rather than seeing emptiness. I embraced solitude. There was my vision overcoming my fear of a mountain to climb by finding an easier path, and proceeding along that path step by step.

A poem posted by Dr Bill Wooten (copied below) earlier this week was a signal to me, a call for action. A similar sentiment was expressed in a poem by Clarabelle of finding the belief within yourself. I was now set. I knew that I had to face what I had to face. I knew that I had to do what I had to do.

So this week I have had meetings with my accountant, commercial lawyer, bank manager, and financial advisor. I have spent evenings feeding numbers into spreadsheets, making business plans, devising budgets, plotting a course of action. I believe I will overcome this challenge. I will survive. I will take the necessary steps towards and reach my own financial security.

Today you can

“Today you can choose to count your blessings
or you can count your troubles.
Today you can live each moment
or you can put in time.

Today you can take action towards your goals
or you can procrastinate.
Today you can plan for the future
or you can regret the past.

Today you can learn one new thing
or you can stay the same.
Today you can seek possibilities
or you can overwhelm yourself with the impossible.

Today you can continue to move forward
or you can quit.
Today you can take steps towards resolving your challenges
or you can procrastinate.

You see today the choices are up to you
in deciding what you do today.”

~ Catherine Pulsifer