Today I am pleased to welcome guest blogger Patricia Singleton from the blog “Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker” writing about the importance of improving Self Worth on the journey to wholeness. Please help me to welcome Patricia and feel free to leave your comments and contributions. Hugs, Darlene Ouimet ~ founder of Emerging from Broken
Self-Worth Gives You Ability To Say No by Patricia Singleton
“When you are taught self-worth, you can’t be controlled by the abuser. You will say, ‘No’ which they don’t want to hear. You will tell others what is happening to you because you know you don’t deserve to be treated badly. The abuser doesn’t want you to do that. Abusers don’t abuse children who might talk.”
The first time that I said “No” and meant it was when I was 17 years old. That is when the physical part of the incest stopped. I knew, in some small part of me, that I didn’t deserve how my dad had treated me for the six years before that. I had said “No” so many times before that day but wasn’t strong enough or courageous enough to stick with my decision. I really wanted the incest to end but didn’t know how to make my dad honor my decision and leave me alone.
I didn’t know it at the time but that small burst of courage came from the survivor hidden deep inside of me. All I knew was that I had just about reached my limits of how much stress I could handle without totally losing who I was. I knew that I couldn’t be pushed any further and continue to hold on to my sanity. I didn’t say it out loud but I had reached the point that if my dad hadn’t left me alone, I believe that I would have told someone about the abuse. I was that desperate, feeling an emotional break near the surface of my control. My dad must have sensed what I didn’t say. He accepted my “No” finally.
At that point in my life, it wasn’t self-worth that gave me the courage to say “No” to the incest. It was a need for self preservation. Sometimes I think that self preservation was the only thing that kept me going through the fog of pain that was the incest. Some part of me simply refused to quit.
I was still many years away from feeling my own self-worth, from really knowing that I didn’t deserve to be abused, from knowing that I didn’t cause the incest. Finding my self-worth was a long, gradual process that didn’t really start until I got into 12-Step programs starting in January of 1989.
In those 12-Step meetings, I met other survivors. I met people who were talking about growing up in alcoholic homes and its effects upon them as an adult. I learned about healthy boundaries, co-dependency and the disease concept of alcoholism. I learned that the control that I thought I had to have in my life was me being out of control and so afraid of life and people. I was able to recognize and step away from people who just wanted to abuse and control me. I learned that I had done some abusing of my own with my weapon of choice—sarcasm. I also learned that I could stop the sarcasm when I recognized that it was an unhealthy and destructive way to release my rage. I could make amends to those that I loved.
Probably the most important thing that I learned was that the only way out of the pain was to go through the pain. I could feel and I wouldn’t die from it. I could love myself and take care of my needs which I had never recognized that I had before. I could be the real me as soon as I found out who she was and people wouldn’t hate or blame me for the incest. People could love me for who I was. Being authentic was not only okay but preferred. I could trust people and they wouldn’t hurt me. I could trust myself. I could trust God. The abuse wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t God’s fault.
Self-worth starts with learning to take care of yourself and learning to love yourself. How did I learn to love myself? Respect myself? I built a support system of people who loved me until I could grow to love myself. I stopped questioning their love for me as I saw that their actions followed their words. I learned to trust my own intuition or gut feelings that told me who was safe to be around and who wasn’t. To love myself, I had to learn to feel all of my feelings. I had to learn how to let go of all of the rage, hurt and sadness. I had to let go of it because it was hurting me, causing me pain and health problems.
I learned that I had inner children in me who were wounded by the abuse and needed healing too. I had to learn that I could nurture and love those inner children instead of hating them for causing me so much pain. You see I had blamed them for their own abuse—my abuse. I found out that I was so afraid of others blaming me for the incest because inside I blamed these inner children who were me for our own abuse. It was easier to blame them and me that it was to blame either of my parents because I depended upon my parents for my survival. I had to work with and talk to each of these inner children. I had to get them to trust me which wasn’t easy because I had abandoned and hated them for so long. In learning to love and nurture them, I learned to love and nurture the adult me.
I had to grieve. I had to let the tears flow freely. As long as I was carrying around all of the rage, hurt and self-hatred, I had no room for self-love. Grieving was the longest part of the process of recovery from incest. I had so many tears hidden inside of me—tears of rage, tears of hurt, tears of sadness, tears from abandonment, tears from neglect, tears from the physical pain of incest, tears from the emotional abuse, tears of hatred, tears of self-hatred. My fear of allowing myself to grieve was that once I started to cry, I would never stop. I went to 12-Step meetings and cried for over a year before the tears started to slow down. Looking back, I don’t know why I was so afraid to cry. As a child, I was told that crying was a sign of weakness. I was determined to be strong so I couldn’t cry, at least not in front of anyone else. The truth that I found out was that tears are cleansing and healing. The flood of tears that came out of me left room for joy and laughter to come back into my life.
As a child, I wasn’t taught any of the things that I learned in those 12-Step meetings. I wasn’t taught self-worth by my parents. I doubt that they were taught self-worth either. I have found out with a little bit of genealogy research that abuse in many different forms has been a generational thing in my family. Rage, domestic violence, alcoholism, incest, family secrets have all come down my family lines for several generations. The present generation can stop the abuse from damaging any more children.
I was easily controlled by my abusers when I was a child because I wasn’t taught that I had any value except as a sex toy for men. My dad wasn’t my only abuser but he was my main abuser. Because he was my parent, he is the one that I have the most issues with. His betrayal was the worse.
I never learned, as a child, that I had the ability or the right to say “No” to my abusers. They were adults who had all the authority to tell me to do whatever they wanted. My parents told me to respect all adults and to do as I was told. Please teach your children that they can say “NO” to anything that doesn’t feel right to them, to anything that feels uncomfortable to them. Children can say “NO” to any kind of touch or attention that they don’t like. And tell them you will believe them.
I was afraid to tell anyone about the incest when I was a child and even when I was a young adult. I was afraid that I would be blamed for the incest or called a liar. I know many of you can relate to this fear. I was also afraid that my mother would shoot my dad and kill him if she believed me. If she shot him, she would be arrested and my siblings and I would be left without parents and it would have been my fault. Today I know none of this was my fault but as a child, I believed that it was all my fault.
Because I didn’t have any self-worth, I went along with what my abusers wanted and kept the secrets of incest. I was silent until I was 38 years old and found 12-Step meetings. When I heard other Adult Children talking about the abuse of alcoholism and drugs, I decided it was safe for me to talk about the incest. In talking about my own incest issues, other Adult Children felt free to start to talk about their own issues from sexual abuse.
In opening the door for myself, I opened the door for other incest survivors to be able to speak about and heal their own issues with incest. Now I share my experiences with incest and with healing and recovery on my blog “Spiritual Journey Of a Lightworker”. Talking about your abuse and your healing from abuse is not only okay but it is a necessary step to take if you are going to stop any more children from being abused. I have taken this step in my own life. I hope you will take this step in your own life. Secrets can harm you and your children.
Patricia Singleton is a 58 year old incest survivor who chooses to share her journey through incest and recovery by writing the blog Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker and by participating in the blogs of other survivors. She calls herself a Lightworker due to the healing that she has accomplished in her own life and because of the ripple effect that her healing has on others. By sharing, she hopes to light the way for others in their own healing. She has a passion for others to know that healing and recovery is possible and necessary if we are to protect our children from being abused.
Patricia is a wife, grandmother and so much more. Today, Patricia loves life and is thriver, which is so much better than just surviving.