The Best Advice for the Healing Journey by Christina Enevoldsen

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Horsetail Falls, Columbia River Gorge

I am excited to welcome Christina Enevoldsen, founder of the popular blog and facebook page “Overcoming Sexual Abuse” and published author of the book “The Rescued Soul” as my guest writer for Emerging from Broken. Christina has a wonderful message and I am thrilled to have her voice on my blog this week. I hope you will help me welcome Christina and please feel free to share your comments with us. Darlene

 The Best Advice for the Healing Journey by Christina Enevoldsen

At the beginning of my healing process, my pain oozed out of me. I didn’t seem to have a shut off valve to contain the memories and emotions that were surfacing. Consequently, without intending to talk about my abuse, words or tears would leak out before I knew what I was saying or feeling.

My friend, Claire, had been abused as a child and had been raped as an adult. At the time, I thought someone who had been so wounded and violated would be a good source of the understanding and compassion that I sought (without knowing that’s what I was looking for).

Unfortunately, that’s not what I found. While I sat across from Claire, crying and trembling, she cited scripture and told me I needed to put things in God’s hands. She believed that if I applied my faith to my abuse, I wouldn’t have to waste my time being so sad or negative.

The way Claire dispensed her rational information left me feeling like there was a barrier between us—like I had shown up at her doorstep with a contagious disease and she reacted by throwing her religious rhetoric out on her lawn, quickly slamming the door behind her, hoping I would go away.

Claire didn’t want to hear about my past or about my pain. She wanted me to put a smile back on my face and to be “fixed”. I was left feeling empty and frustrated. Sharing my pain with Claire only added more pain.

I know that Claire was trying to be a good friend and was only passing on what she truly believed. Coldly offering me that empty advice, the same “wisdom” she tried to live by, was all that she had. The trouble was, her advice wasn’t even working for her. Her own life was a huge struggle.

Around the same time, I met Julia, who had also been abused. She also considered her faith to be instrumental in dealing with her abuse, but she didn’t consider her faith to be a replacement for facing her past or as an excuse to bury her feelings.

Julia listened to me, empathized with me, cried with me, and embraced me. She poured out her own stories with her pain and fear and anger.

Telling my story to Julia was the gateway to feeling compassion for myself and to acknowledging the depth of my loss. I finally felt heard. When I saw her response to my experiences, I believed that what happened to me really was that bad and that I wasn’t making a big deal out of nothing.

Julia didn’t offer advice to me, at least not in the form of “You need to…” or by telling me what was best for me; she offered information that had helped her—books she’d read or techniques she’d tried. Mostly, though, she shared herself. She shared her presence. Julia was there for me.

I learned a lot from Julia. She modeled the value of “feeling what I feel” without judgment. She showed me that shouting obscenities can be really good therapy. Mostly, she created space so I could learn to find my way back to me.

Many years of my own healing process and reaching out to other survivors of abuse have only confirmed what I learned from those two friends:

  • Only those who have dealt with their own pain can help me deal with mine.

 

  • When people reject me for sharing my pain, it’s because I remind them of their own pain, but that doesn’t mean I’m a pain.

 

  • Their rejection doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve comfort; it means they can’t offer it. 

There’s a greater lesson that I learned from my two friends: As lost as I felt in the beginning of my healing journey, I didn’t need advice. Living in abusive power and control dynamics throughout my childhood and most of my adulthood, I had very little power over my own life and decisions. I didn’t need one more person to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do. I needed the freedom and encouragement to sort through my feelings and then to decide for myself without guilt or pressure.

Love doesn’t say, “You need to listen to me because I know what’s best for you.” Love says, “I’ll listen to you so you can figure out what’s best for you.”

Part of my healing has been the transition of being directed by others to being directed by me. The healing process has revealed my own inner wisdom and I’ve learned to trust in the answers I have for my own life. I’m open to wise counsel from people I trust, but I have the most trust in myself. It’s been a process to get here, but I started to learn that when I was finally heard and validated.

 No, I didn’t need advice. Opinions or information aren’t what healed me. Human connection was where I found healing—connections that encouraged me to reconnect with myself—my own experience, my own emotions, my own expression. The best advice isn’t advice at all: it’s the permission to merely be by being with me.

Christina Enevoldsen is the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. She’s the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for hope, inspiration, encouragement and tools for healing. Christina’s passion is exploring new ways to express her new life and freedom. She’s recently discovered the joy of waterslides and peach and basil salads. She and her husband live in Scottsdale, Arizona and share three children and six grandchildren.

109 response to "The Best Advice for the Healing Journey by Christina Enevoldsen"

  1. By: Annalyse Posted: 23rd November 2015

    I have been NC w/ my mom for 5/6 yrs now. She called a few weeks ago to announce that she was moving. I was caught off guard by her & ended up saying she could phone to see how I was doing & gave her my email address. Just last week she sent a second email saying she’d tried to phone & here’s her new address/ph #. Talking as though everything was normal. But it is not normal. She is not normal. The whole reason for NC was that she & her new husband bathed with my 9 & 6 yr old kids in their home while babysitting. I sent a hard email back, short & sweet telling her not to call & email only for necessity. Have another relative phone in case of emergency. I know it is the right thing to do, so why am I sad & crying about it. I don’t want contact with her whatsoever. I really don’t even like her. What the heck is wrong with me.
    I keep reading the posts on here & I am so frustrated b/c I know I was brought up not healthy. That she is the cause, & yet I don’t have any clear memories why. I have always seen my mother as “black” as in bad. But I cannot remember why. She would talk to me as though I was a wonderful friend to support her. But she was no friend to me. We were not close, it was a bunch of bull. I left home ice cold. As in unable to even express emotion. The only feeling I had was depressed. Sad. I had a beautiful baby & good husband & all I could feel was sad, bad. It took 8+ yrs to even start to feel good, like I was valuable to anyone. It took a good 4 more to cut off contact with the toxic people.
    I guess maybe I just feel guilty. Like I should reconcile, after all… look how good she is, how innocent. I must just be exaggerating the situation, being unreasonable. Mean. It is like my mind knows I must disconnect, but another long ago part of me is wanting to please, to be good. As though it is the safer thing to do. They just never go away for good, do they. In some cases there is not anything left to salvage, is there.

  2. By: Naomi Posted: 14th December 2015

    Thank you. This is just what I needed to hear today. I have lots of people who want to give me advice. It just hurts. And my mom always wants to point out how if I handled my pain differently we could all move on. Neither of those “supportive” processes actually help me at all. You summed it up so beautifully. What we need and want is simply human connection that encourages us to be present with ourselves and with others… honestly and authentically. It is sometimes terrifying and overwhelming to open up and to share the depths of what we feel and experience. But that’s where the healing is. As long as those that we share with are safe and willing to equally show up.

    I recently broke up with a boyfriend who was so supportive in many ways. He helped me to confront my childhood abuser and was very willing to hear my memories. He wasn’t supportive of some of my life goals, however. It has been incredibly painful to not have him in my life anymore. But he was trying to convince me that we would be happier without children… and I have a strong desire to be a mom. Sometimes I feel so guilty for having this desire. I feel like if I could make this desire go away then I could be with this sweet man. It’s just back to that old cycle, though, of believing that something is wrong with me. If I could just “fix” myself I will be “ok” with the rest of the people in my life. I wish that it were easier to find myself and to find those who want me just as I am. But it’s not.

    I appreciate you sharing this article. And I appreciate this community. I find so much strength and comfort here. Even though it’s not always easy.
    Naomi

  3. By: Naomi Posted: 14th December 2015

    I am also struggling with dealing with positional power. Both of my parents were teachers when I was a kid. My dad was the assistant principal of my middle school and alter became the principal. My mom was my 5th grade teacher, pre-school teacher, and kindergarten music teacher. My mom is now my boss. She has a business that I have worked for on and off for over 10 years. It has been incredibly difficult to differentiate from my parents and to stand on my own two feet. I always feel like I am dependent on them and can’t take care of myself. It has been particularly difficult because my dad was sexually, emotionally, and spiritually abusive. And my mom left home when I was 13. I have a lot of anger at both of my parents and shut my dad out of my life a year ago. I want to stand on my own two feet and to quite working for my mom but I have a pattern of feeling like I need support. I want to separate and haven’t succeeded yet. I know that I thrive when I am surrounded with supportive people. I also know that I have lots of ability. But I have incredibly low self-esteem when I am around my mom. It’s like I believe that I deserved for her to leave me… and that she somehow was helping me by making a better life for herself. Anyway… thanks for listening. Life is so confusing and complicated sometimes.

  4. By: Belinda Posted: 21st June 2016

    Oh…if ONLY the myriad numbers of UNINFORMED and ignorant family, friends and so called therapists understood this….I kept looking for that unforgivable, unredeemable flaw inside…the one they said they saw so clearly but could never quite define so I could just change and fix it so I would be loved and respected. I gave them love and respect and put them so high above me …. I wanted to believe in anyone BUT me. Oh I wish I knew what I know now then.

  5. By: Melinda Posted: 30th October 2017

    @Naomi…kudos to you for doing what’s right for you! I am married to a very sweet, wonderful guy who is a lot like you describe your ex-boyfriend.
    My husband doesn’t want children either, which really hurts because I am now in my 30’s and starting to feel like I’m shifting into menopause already.
    He won’t talk about it and has never once asked me how I would feel about not having kids.
    When I try to talk about starting a family, he changes the subject or says “we ARE a family” and that’s that.
    I have to confront the idea that I married somebody who is a great person but in some ways, might not be the right person for me…it hurts to even say that because in many ways he’s so supportive and so loving, truly a diamond in the rough.

  6. By: Melinda Posted: 30th October 2017

    Since 2014 I’ve had a setback on my healing journey that has me feeling broken, depressed and discouraged all over again.
    But I’ve learned some things these last few years.

    1. To distance myself from anyone who hurts and mistreats me with no remorse.

    2. To identify harmful people/situations and protect myself from them.

    3. That I am not the false and damaging labels others have placed on me since childhood…I am NOT “stupid, ugly, lazy, crazy, fat” etc.

    4. That who I am is more than enough no matter what others might say.

    5. That I can be resilient even when things fall apart.

    6. That I have worth and value like everybody else does.

    7. That much of my experiences were not my fault; this doesn’t mean not taking responsibility for when I HAVE done wrong, of course.
    But it means that I need to stop beating myself up for mistakes I made and instead, to understand that I was young and confused and going through a lot in my life.

    8. That I matter, my life matters, my voice matters, my feelings matter.

    9. That I am beautiful but like a flower without enough water and sunlight, my beauty was diminished by my environment.
    I am not “ugly” like so many people have said.

    10. That I don’t have to accept the cruelty of others, nor believe their lies about who I am as a person.

    11. The importance of learning to accept changes in life even when it is extremely hard to do.

    12. To appreciate life because it is short.

    13. To be thankful when I meet truly good people because they are rare, and to cherish the few good people in my life because they won’t always be here.

    14. To stand firm in my truth.

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