Breaking Free from Family Trauma and Drama
In a recent episode from my radio show, Uplift Your Life: Nourishment of the Spirit, my guest Jodee Prouse and I delve into the difficult and often painful topic of abuse. Please listen in order to become empowered and begin letting go of destructive relationships. In today’s blog, in addition to my tip of the week and my silver lining story, Marian Stephens shares how she is using the information in this episode to change her life. All my previous blogs are on my website, paulajoyce.com, and the first two posts with Marian’s Story went up last week. Be sure to check them out and follow Marian’s progress.
Dr. Paula’s Tip of the Week
One of the most difficult answers to give in life is often: NO. Sometimes our inner voice whispers “no”, sometimes it bellows “no”, however it is often our nature to disregard our first instinct. Use this tip to begin to take control of your needs and wants; doing so will only bring you closer to your higher self.
Your tip for the week from my e-book, 33 Tips for Self-Empowerment. I wrote this book because when you are self-empowered, you are connected to your limitless higher self, your soul, your intuition, your gut feelings, your guidance. Our limitless higher self is the wiser part of ourselves, the part that knows the Truth of who we are. Our logical mind is so loud, however, that it often drowns out the whisper that is trying to guide us on our authentic path. As you learn to listen to the still small voice within, you will begin to feel at peace. Because your limitless higher self has direct access to the Divine, it is through this connection that miracles occur, like unexpected healing, healthy relationships, peace and wealth. This connection gives you an inner foundation of love, which eliminates fear. It is through this love that you can heal the planet and yourself and make the shift into the 4th dimension. Our higher self helps us find safety and even save our own life and others’ lives. We must train ourselves to trust our higher self and never go against it. Don’t talk yourself out of something that feels right to you or let what others say or think influence what you do. Please use these tips. Strengthen Your Boundaries: Learning to say NO to what you do not want in your life is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself. Avoid acting when you hear the words “I should” and “I must”. Take action when you hear the words “I want to.” Many of us, especially women, have been raised to believe that we are responsible for everyone else’s happiness and success. We have been taught to put our own needs and desires last. To do anything else would be selfish. I remember watching my mother take her food last and to only refill her plate after everyone else had eaten their fill. I learned to do the same. No words had to be spoken. I observed what a mother was supposed to do. I also watched as she and her sister enabled their two alcoholic brothers. Neither sister was able to face the truth of their brothers’ alcoholism. One brother died of cirrhosis of the liver, although my aunt insisted that his death was due to bad medical care. The other brother was a binge alcoholic and during his sober spells, my mother would be convinced that he was not an alcoholic even though he always went back to drinking. The sisters cooked for the brothers, took care of them and put up with the rage and abuse thrown at them because that’s what family does. I learned from them to put up with way too much for way too long in my own family. I learned to live with false hope until I finally realized that if I didn’t take care of myself and set boundaries, nothing would ever change. I acknowledged that I couldn’t save them, but I could save me. That became my new goal. I vowed to change the family pattern by changing myself and showing the rest of the family, by example, that they, too, could make different choices and save their own lives. This was not a selfish choice in the negative sense of the word. It was a hard choice that was not welcomed by the other family members. Some stopped talking to me and others are still angry with me after 13 years. Breaking dysfunctional family patterns takes courage, strength and commitment. What keeps me going is the joy of the life I have now and the hope that my choices will inspire others to break away and create the life they deserve.
Dr. Paula’s Silver Lining Story
Abuse is an epidemic in the United States – a crime against humanity. By shedding light on the dynamics of abuse, empowering survivors with good self-help tips, and pointing survivors towards professionals who can help heal the damage they have endured, the cycle of abuse can be stopped in its tracks.
The legacy of abuse is a hard one, and at least half of the population has or will experience abuse in their lifetime. Sometimes it’s one incident and sometimes it’s on-going. The challenge for the victim is to wake up to the truth, give up false hope and expand the compassion they have for everyone else to themselves. Some of us are so busy trying to save other people that we don’t notice that we are the collateral damage.
My silver lining is that having gone through this process myself, I now get the joy of helping other people shed their pain and old ways of thinking and reacting and move to a place of self-love and healthy boundaries. This week one of my clients reached the point where she was finished being present for her family’s abuse. She has accepted that nothing she says or does will change their behavior toward her. The healthier she became and the stronger her boundaries became, the louder and crueler her family became until the entire extended family rallied around her abusive brother, shunning her and making her out to be the abuser. Her silver lining is that it got so big and outlandish that she was able to see the truth and remove herself from the drama. Now she can refocus her energy where it belongs, on herself, letting go of the pain, healing her heart and creating a life with purpose.
Marian Stephens’ Story
I anticipated this episode would be difficult to listen to because I am a survivor of domestic violence, but, instead, I found myself uplifted with a renewed sense of purpose. I was not in the abusive relationship for a prolonged period, but long enough to be life altering. The details are unimportant, but leaving the relationship meant moving myself and three (soon to be four) kids in with my parents. While I have done a great deal of healing, I still struggle with guilt. The guilt I feel is multifaceted and, at times, endless. I primarily feel guilty I exposed my kids to abusive behavior. Even though I know guilt is toxic and not truth, I still let it weigh heavily on me. I think if I can allow myself to let go of the guilt – maybe by transferring the feeling of guilt to one of regret as proposed in the episode – I can progress in my healing process.
In this episode Dr. Paula asks listeners: Think about something you are doing that you feel you “should” be doing but is actually hurting you. I feel like I should be able to do everything for my kids. I attempt to, and it is detrimental to my health. It is also hurting my relationship with my children. I feel beholden to them, and they feel resentful when I drop the ball. I realize after today’s episode I have felt so guilty that I am compensating by assuming most household responsibilities. As if I can erase what happened by making their lives as easy as possible.
A theme of today’s show is that each person is responsible for their own life. Even children. This helps me see that I am doing a disservice to myself and my children by denying them responsibility. We are in our own home now, so this is an opportunity to correct this imbalance. I want to empower my boys – to teach them how to navigate life with confidence. In trying to make them feel completely taken care of, I am stripping them of their ability to learn and grow – their autonomy. I can begin to give them each more responsibility and watch them blossom.
I regret that my kids and I had to endure such a traumatic experience. But, I want, need, to break free from the guilt. My purpose is to ensure that my boys grow into adults that would never abuse another person or repeat the behavior they saw. Forgiving myself for all that happened is no easy task, but to not is to never truly move past it. The support Dr. Paula gives her listeners gives me the courage to continue to find forgiveness for myself, to become more introspective, and to make real change.
Dr. Paula’s Response to Marian
I’m impressed with your self-awareness and commitment. When you feel guilt or regret, you can release that energy by:
- asking yourself: What did I learn? How have I grown? How do I do things differently now? How can I do them even better next time?
- focusing on self-respect for the courage and strength you have to leave abuse and be a good role model for your children.
- having self-compassion and forgiveness for the younger you who didn’t know any better. Love yourself.
Remember, we are all here on earth to learn and to grow in love and compassion, including self-compassion.
For more shows on healing from abuse, and trauma, please listen to:
- Healing Familial Trauma with Beilah Ross
- From Charm to Harm with Amy Lewis Bear
- Yes, Boys Must Cry with Gus B. Kaufman, Jr.
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