Monthly Archives

November 2015

Transforming traumatic memories

(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer)

“We terrorize ourselves with fears of reliving childhood traumas, but if we survived our childhoods – a time of fewer options and resources- we are surely likely to prevail as adults”

Alan Robert Neal

On November 7th, 2006, my ex-partner abused me so much that due to the abuse and stress it caused, my children were born 7 weeks prematurely.

For a few years after that, each year I would feel the same mix of emotions I felt on November 7th , 2006: sad because I realized that the idea of a happy family without violence with this man was just a fairy tale all along, disappointment because I felt like less of a woman because I didn’t carry the children full-term, disappointment because I had a C-section instead of birth in a natural way, anxiety about the well-being of the boys , fear for my abusive ex-partner, fear for what the future held, and, of course, the fears woman regularly experience when they become a mom (of twins). I felt so much shame towards my sons because I had brought them into a situation with an abusive father.

I felt also relieved because I knew that despite some setbacks and things I have to think about regarding the health of my children, they are mostly fine. And the emotional trauma they got due to the court order that they had to see their biological father whereafter he abused them, will pass in time I am sure. Sadly the physical trauma of one of my children will never go away.

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Mindset, Personal

How I responded after I was rejected by family after sharing my abuse experiences

family by blood

(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

What do you do when you are unexpectedly confronted with the family who abandoned you after you told them about being abused by a family member?

That’s a question I had to answer – within 5 seconds.

My mom and I made plans to eat with eachother at my moms house on a friday evening, a few weeks ago. And as we arrived I walked into the entrance hall, unaware of what was about to happen. As I was about to open the door towards the living room, my mom suddenly said: “watch out that the dog doesn’t escape.”

All kinds of alarm bells began to ring in my head because the only dog that visits my mother’s house is the dog of an uncle of mine. The children were walking behind me, waiting for me to open the door as I went deep inside myself to gather all the pieces I had within me as I replied: “Why? Which dog?”

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Abuse

Focusing on you instead of on energy suckers

Focusing on you

(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

If I could tell you one thing today let it be this:

Instead of focusing on the abuser; what he must be thinking, what he is up to next, if that last message he has sent was narcissistic or not, what he… whatever… just stop it and instead focus on what is right for you. What makes you feel empowered. What makes you feel loved. What makes you feel happy. What makes you stronger. What makes you feel alive.

You don’t have any control about what the abuser is up to next and your strength is not in what you can’t control but in what you can do to make yourself stronger. All else is wasted energy. The only thing you have any influence on is you and how you respond to things happening to you and to your life.

That’s sounds easy and it isn’t, I am aware of that. But if you want to become a stronger version of yourself you have to stop giving power away to things you can’t control and start focusing on you , your progress, and making your life the best as you possibly can.

Taking back your power

So if that means you have to block him on facebook and whatsapp to regain some sanity, do it. Actually, that is one of the most important things you actually can do. If you have children together and there has to be some kind of interaction; ask someone to do that for you. Give yourself time to become a stronger version of you without becoming confused because you are reminded of the person you once were and the power difference and inequality that has been in the relationship between the two of you.

Become aware when your mind is drifting of to thoughts like whatever he should have done, must do, has done or whatever… realise why you still have those thoughts (anger, fear?), tell yourself that you will release those thoughts/won’t act upon them and go do something totally different. If you don’t have something to do; do pilates, or yoga, or the dishes. If you don’t have dishes to clean, come to my place, do mine. You have better things to do in your life than wanting to change things that won’t be changed, to busy yourself with things you cannot change, to give power away to someone not worthy of your precious time and energy. You have better things to do.

Remember: you are A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

And you totally got this.

Abuse, Mindset

Infringing the rules despite the consequences

infringing

(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

My story

In every interview done on this planet (for example, in every interview I have done so far) are some mistakes (or some facts are removed), or there is some shuffling with the timeline to make the story flow better.

Usually that’s not a problem, but in a situation where our family is still (or can still be) under a magnifying glass, I have to represent my side correctly ever since I started doing interviews, to prevent misunderstandings.In order to tell my whole story once and shine a proper light on what actually happened in our life, I have written this blog.

First of all, I would like to clarify something. In this article I am very critical towards the Dutch youth care, the Council, family law and the legal system. Because I have talked to many youth care workers and aspiring youth care workers for LifeSurfer, I know that there are loads of good staff members who work in a ‘rotten’ system. But the unmotivated, uninterested, uninformed staff and the devastating impact they have on the lives of the families who have to deal with them, with all its consequences, while the staff member in question continues to another ‘case’, are put in the spotlight in this article, because they are the staff members that I unfortunately had to deal with the most.

fashionista-5

Entering an abusive relationship

I was 14, he was 21, when my ex and I started a relationship. In the very beginning of our relationship he was very nice to me on the one hand, giving me compliments and telling me he couldn’t live without me. On the other hand, he took my virginity by raping me and manipulated me from the beginning. For a while he kept up appearances with nice behaviour and presents, but underneath was the violent behaviour that I considered as incidents at the time. From the beginning I became more and more isolated because he was jealous and suspicious. However, I also considered this as some kind of compliment.  I didn’t realise that my world was becoming very small.

My pregnancy didn’t just feel like a miracle; it was a medical miracle. Since my thyroid functioned very badly, my internist told me I couldn’t get pregnant. When I was 33 weeks pregnant, my ex abused me during a tantrum, squeezed my throat, shouted, pulled me by the hair, pushed my face straight against the wall and ultimately threw me flat out on the ground, which caused the children to be born way too early.

Fleeing and fearing for our life

I could only leave my ex once the children were one year old. Agencies didn’t help me, or I didn’t get referrals. Without an alimony I didn’t get a house and without a house I didn’t get an alimony, so that was a big puzzle at first, because I lived alone in his house with the children, without an income or financial support. I can still see myself with two prematurely born children, sitting at the dole office and the housing office. When I got a house, I fled with the children. People came to help us move and we put my children’s and my stuff in the cars in one go and left.
One day he was suddenly standing in the middle of the living room, when he had “accidentally” taken my keys, which I discovered when he was suddenly standing in front of me. Afterwards, he would sometimes come in. I once found him under the shower. While I was looking at him with astonishment, he was masturbating. Despite all this, I still gave him the kids a few times when he wanted it, because I still wanted to try to stimulate a parent-child relationship.

Consequently, he would arrive at my mother’s house within half an hour because he said he didn’t know what to do with the kids. When my ex noticed that he couldn’t force me or push me to have sex with him anymore, it happened less and less that he would arrive unannounced at my house to demand sex or the children from me.

At the point when he had once again put the children, who were then almost three years old, under an ice-cold shower as a punishment, I told him I wouldn’t give them to him anymore. He would not understand that a shower with ice-cold water is pure abuse and that, apart from the pain the cold shower causes, such young children don’t understand why they are being punished that way. For years, they were terrified of the shower as a consequence.

After I told him he wouldn’t get the children anymore, he threatened that he would “take the children away from me” (literally his words) through Youth Care and started a lawsuit to request shared parental authority and visitation rights. After all, he wanted to get “his money’s worth” because in the meantime he had to pay child alimentation to Social Affairs. I had previously explained the situation to Social Affairs and begged them to never contact him or my old address. Here I found out that professionals often care more about rules and protocol, and don’t really understand how serious a situation is and what the result of their actions can be.

Visitation rights are easily granted. A woman from the Council visited my ex twice for an hour to see if he could control himself. Even though I had asked her not to leave me and the children alone with him, she did when I came to get the kids and walked to the car. Outside the car, my ex severely threatened me, but she consequently wrote in the final report that dad had had a friendly chat with me next to the car. She couldn’t hear what he said, because she didn’t accompany us to the car and stayed inside. Based on her behaviour during the Council’s “investigation” and her later report, she thought my fear was pure nonsense.

For such staff the easiest reasoning is the most pleasant one, so a situation in which there is domestic violence and child abuse is quickly discarded as a divorce battle in which two parties are equally guilty of every conflict or difference in insight that occurs. They don’t try to find out the truth and have no interest in it, because that makes the determination of visitation rights much more complex. A researcher chooses the explanation that suits her best and that she can emotionally and psychologically cope with, so she sees what she wants to see, hears what she wants to hear, and is literally and figuratively deaf and blind for what happens in front of her eyes in terms of intimidation and manipulative behaviour of an abuser.

I think the helplessness is the worst. You know your children are in danger.

You know they are not safe with your ex because of his tantrums and what he considers normal in terms of his way of “upbringing and punishing”, but those who are supposed to protect your children do the very opposite.

Judges and CPS

You expect that people of the Council and Youth Care have insight in recognising child abuse, but the moment you find out that they are working towards a conclusion, when they look at you with glassy eyes when you know more about different types of violence and different types of abusers than they do, that a reply is considered unwillingness in the context of a divorce battle… Oh, it caused so much pain and trauma at the time.

I would love to open their eyes, but experience teaches that many staff members of the Council and Youth Care are blind and deaf, (and literally copy each other’s reports, even when a year or more has passed and the situation has changed), so there you are. With empty hands, you are being accused of everything that isn’t true. The father can tell lies about you, and nobody, not even a judge, questions that.

Nobody wonders what father means with certain statements, such as that he is in favour of a strict and severe upbringing, what that implies to him, how that looks according to him. Nobody questions the father’s lack of interest in the children, nobody asks anything about that, while you have told them that he considers abuse a normal type of punishment. Thank God I knew that I wasn’t on my own and had people around me who helped me stay hopeful, because otherwise I would have gone insane from the helplessness, fear and loneliness this brings with it.

At one point the visitation rights were determined for 1 x a weekend every two weeks and half of all school holidays. At that point the children were already almost four. He cancelled the first two times, because the first time he wanted to go on a holiday and the second time something else was more important, even though he swore to the judge during the trial that he missed the children terribly. That ‘missing’ is something he still claims now, even though he has rarely shown any commitment in the past 9.5 years, and has never asked me or others for information about how they’re doing.

The blind eye of the judges and CPS

But in front of the judge or the agencies he pretended to be the victim, the nice, well-meaning father whose vengeful ex wouldn’t let him see his children whom he loves so much. His behaviour shows the contrary of what he claimed, but no judge wants to open their eyes or see it. It’s easier and more comfortable to go along with his story about being the victim. In that respect, judges don’t differ from staff members of the Youth Care and the Council.

Unfortunately, my experience and that of many other people is that (family) judges don’t make their own judgement in any case, but blindly follow the “professionals’” advice. That comes down to laziness and idleness of the legal system, which is shocking and almost unbelievable if it hasn’t happened to you that a judge says, even before the court session has started, that they will follow the Council’s advice either way.

If a criminalcourt tells you before a trial has even started that a verdict has been made he or she will be fired and rightly so. But in familycourt within the Netherlands this is allowed and even normal behaviour.

After their first curiosity, the children quickly became increasingly upset when they had to go to him. I have loads of voice tapes in which you hear me trying to convince the children to look at the visit positively. Apart from that, I had received 15.000 euros in penalties in the meantime, when I didn’t want to give him the children for the whole weekend. I didn’t, because after the first two times that they had been with him on Saturday and Sunday, they wouldn’t calm down anymore.

Three to four days before a visitation day, the children were upset, and three to four days after. When they had been with him for two consecutive days, that became two weeks. That made me refuse to let them stay with him for a whole weekend and made me change the visitation back to one Sunday every two weeks, so there was one week of relative peace in between.

The result was, thanks to the legal system, the refusal of all agencies (and even the judge) to believe me and recognise that the children couldn’t mentally and psychologically handle more than one day every two weeks (and even that with a lot of trouble and behavioural problems), that he can demand 15,000 euros at any point. This has been hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles for five years now. Considering his vengefulness and power play, it will remain there until he can cash in.

When he abused my children

During the visitations, my ex cut the children’s nails until they bled. He cut in the pink part, which they call ‘the life’ in the Netherlands. This is strange behaviour, which he also applied to me during our relationship. Even then he had some kind of tic with how long nails are allowed to be, which in his opinion, is very very short.
He used to sit on top of me so I couldn’t get away and, despite my begging, he then used to cut my toenails deep into the life, which caused me to walk around with painful feet for days. In other words, I have an idea of how my children felt and what kind of fear this inflicted on them.

Before going to him, they begged me to cut their nails, and according to them, it was never short enough.

When the children even stood puking in the corridor, because they had been forced to eat all kinds of food they aren’t allowed because of their early birth and reflux, because those irritate the stomach; when the children told me he mentally abused them by, for example, telling them they smelt bad so that out of fear for smelling they rubbed their whole bodies with deodorant; when they told me that Sem was punished very often and always had to sit on the stairs; that he was told not to cry when he was crying because he didn’t know what he had done wrong (he had replied honestly to the question if he thought his dad was nice – the answer was no, so he was punished), because crying isn’t “cool” (he was a four-year-old who didn’t even know the word “cool”); that he had gone for a ride with Tycho in the front seat, even though they had to be in a child car seat for their safety; and that Sem would maybe be allowed to go next time because Tycho had been so cool; etc.; etc.; this made our family go through hell, and nobody wanted to listen to us, nobody wanted to believe me and the children, or take us seriously.

But the final straw was when both children told me how their father had beaten Sem on his whole body, and Sem showed me how he had beaten him on both ears simultaneously, which caused him to be permanently hearing impaired in one ear. It was abuse my ex had also applied to me. It is probably superfluous to say that such abuse is extremely painful and makes your ears whiz for hours. It was and is indeed a method which, as he had mentioned in the police interview, doesn’t leave bruises (“if I had beaten the child like she says, he would have had bruises,” he claimed). He is smart enough to abuse without leaving bruises and broken bones.

Dogmatics

Of course I am angry at my ex for what he has done to the kids. However, I am even angrier at the agencies and all the so-called professionals who have been poorly trained and are so stuck in the dogmatics of youth care and the Council that they have become blind and deaf to a difficult and complex reality. You ring the alarm bell, with a cry for help, but nobody listens, helps or even recognises your worries. That may be the largest trauma. Every child deserves to be safe. Nobody believed me; whatever I tried to draw attention to in the interest of my children was dismissed as insignificant and unimportant.

After all, in the eyes of some of the staff of youth care and the Council, I was and still am the evil mother who only blames her ex so she could take revenge by taking his children away from him. Due to the limitations and the inability of these “professionals” to see the truth and not reason, based on the assumptions that suit them best, their blindness and the tunnel vision they suffer from, that won’t change. That hurt so much and made me feel so helpless.

You can’t defend yourself against what people think of you and what they determine are your intentions and your motivation. Again and again (to this very day), I have had to fight against enormous prejudice. It is a fight against windmills: completely useless, but you can’t escape it.

As long as children and mothers are the victim of this and have to go through the same things, I will continue to help women stand in their power. I won’t let them be belittled and insulted by a completely unjust and indifferent system that doesn’t respect their rights.

Feelings of guilt

For a long time, I have walked around with anger towards myself caused by feelings of guilt. It took time before I could forgive myself and understand that I had done the best with the knowledge I had at the time. I blamed myself for having let my children be acknowledged by him before their birth (it is a juridical procedure where he claims to be their father), even though he didn’t want it at all; for dreaming of a miraculous change in him once the children would arrive; for holding on to that dream for a while, even though the reality was the exact opposite; and for the fact that my fear, first of him, and then of the legal system and the power of the Council and Youth Care, had been stronger than my urge to keep my children safe so that he traumatised them with his abuse during visitation throughout a whole year.

The abusive cycle starts once again

After the kids had visitation, from shortly before their fourth life year until shortly before their fifth life year, they recovered well right after I had put an end to it. We had a period of 2.5 years of peace. My ex didn’t bother us and didn’t ask about the children. In the meantime he had a new partner and had a child with her, after which he moved to the other side of the country with them.

Unfortunately, he saw the opportunity to start playing his power games again, when I needed his permission as a parent with parental authority to stay abroad with the children for half a year for my studies. Even though he had no idea how they were, because he hadn’t seen them or asked about them for 2.5 years, he considered it irresponsible to take them abroad for half a year and didn’t give his permission.

On the contrary, he demanded that they would come live with them, because all that time I hadn’t respected the visitation rights, and that he alone would get the authority, as well as an increase of the penalties to 50,000 euros. Of course, the Council and Youth Care mostly went along with this, so I didn’t have the opportunity to finish my studies leaving me in student debt. Moreover, my children had to start going to a visitation centre to start seeing their biological father again, a stranger to them, whom in their eyes they had first got to know when they were almost four, and with whom they had no connection whatsoever and also hadn’t built one during visitation, but because of his behaviour, had developed an aversion to.

Applying heavy psychological pressure

Both children were obstinate in their refusal of renewed contact with the man they refused to call father. The fact that Youth Care can ruin more than you want became clear once more. They put extremely heavy psychological pressure on the children to get in touch with my ex-partner, which they refused more obstinately every time.

Even when three adults applied pressure, by asking them in turn whether “daddy” could play with them, they kept saying they didn’t want Alex (they called him by his first name, or A., and refused to call him daddy) to play with them.

The fact that the three adults started to tell the children they weren’t being nice, that they weren’t good kids, that they weren’t being fun, and making arrangements with the children only to break them from the moment I wasn’t around, etc., didn’t change their mind. I am proud of the fact that apparently I have been able to teach my children that you don’t have to do something against your will when you have good reasons and you really don’t want it. The only person who has the right to demand this from them is me, the parent they have known for their whole life and with whom they form a good and safe family.

They have acquired traumas from the pushiness and coercion of Youth Care and from having to see their father again. They are going to therapy for the aftermath, but at school they immediately made huge progress after the process in the visitation centre had stopped.

Visitation centre

In the visitation centre my ex-partner and I had to sign a contract. My ex-partner couldn’t commit to his part of the contract, because he indicated a new job would get priority over visitation with the children. He took a job that meant he couldn’t follow the contract anymore, and yet the final report states it is my fault the process failed. Even the fact that the children and I got in a bicycle accident while we were on our way to the visitation centre – the result of which was a hospital visit – was interpreted by them as obstructing the process. In the visitation centre our situation was dealt with as a ‘divorce battle’, but you can’t a treat a situation in which serious partner violence took place that way. Neither my ex nor I recognised ourselves in the treatment method as it was executed. That was one thing we had in common.

For the last year we have received a family guardian due to everything that happened before. This person seems to put the children’s interests first. You can tell from the way the children express themselves that it can take a long time before they will be ready for contact (let alone regular visitation) with their biological father. In the meantime the last contact moment was in May 2014. A lot of peace has returned since then, but they now distrust adults because the staff members of Youth Care lied to them during the process of the visitation centre. They don’t feel as safe as before, because their father can suddenly re-appear in their lives, while they are terrified of him and absolutely don’t want to see him.

The helplessness, as well as the dogmas, prejudice and assumptions used by the Council and Youth Care, the gigantic lack of knowledge and insight among these agencies in terms of abusers, both partners and parents, means you spend an enormous amount of time and energy in explaining, declaring, defending yourself, again and again, in front of people who couldn’t care less that their assumptions about you, your children and your situation are completely wrong and based on thin air. Unfortunately, it is not surprising that a child dies at least once a week due to violence – and that the perpetrator and bystanders get away with it.

Infringing the rules

I have chosen to infringe the law and the legal system that fails on every level in this respect (which is unimaginable for the civilised country the Netherlands think they are) because I refused, and will continue to refuse, to see my children reduced to an article in the newspaper as victims of a “family drama” (which I call murder). Not my children, not me! Because if that had happened, Youth Care, the Council and the legal system that causes this type of dramas, would have blamed each other (like they always do) and everyone would have pretended to be innocent, which is unfortunately how it always goes with every incident that is published in the newspapers.

Maybe it looks I found it very easy to infringe the rules, but believe me, it is everything but easy.

The consequences of opening up your mouth are severe and there was even a time when I was counting to have to finish my studies in prison (at the time my ex wanted 50,000 euro penalty payments and he wanted me be held hostage if I did not stick to the visitation rights). But I can not put my children at risk through ignorance of insufficient specialized staff, who are firmly convinced in their hearts that they are doing good, but simply lack the knowledge to make right decisions.

Of course there are good youthcare workers. I have met and spoken to them for LifeSurfer. But if you meet an unmotivated and for your case unskilled youthcare worker, things can go wrong, irreversible and very seriously wrong.

Infringing the rules because of the consequences isn’t easy. But it is a necessity. It is my duty. As a mom.

Abuse, Interview, Mindset, Personal, Speaking

Getting up when you’ve been knocked down

Getting up

(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

Recovery can be the most difficult yet most satisfactory part after abuse.

The long hours going over and over about things that you experienced or are feeling right now. Realization of what has happened, what you’ve endured, what your children endured.. The first steps of self love and setting boundaries. Facing the judgment of others. Maybe even losing friends and family.. Being on your own again maybe for the first time in a very long time, trying to get answers to so many questions that most likely will never be answered. The fear of things that might happen or have happened. Processing trauma’s, facing your deepest fears and your own monkey brain. Come to realization of what is real and what you have told yourself to be real.

It is not uncommon that even after years of hard work on yourself and your life you still feel some triggers you will have to work on.

I know it is hard and sometimes it feels that for every step you set forward you have to take a few steps back. And trust me, that’s okay. You will notice that if you are ready again to set a step forward it goes much faster, because you have already been there, deep down you know that you are capable to do it. You can do and be everything you want. Yes, sometimes it takes some time to figure things out. And you will have to hustle. Hard.

But the reward is enormous. The freedom, the joy, it is all worth it.

Believe you can do it. You have endured hardships, for god sakes you have endured abuse and you are still standing. Yes, sometimes you fall down on your knees, but you get up!
I have faith in you and I believe in you. Just move forward.

Abuse, Mindset

12 Positive Intentions to become a survivor: guestblog by Lisa Cybaniak

(This blog was originally written for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

Sometimes you meet someone and you reckognise a part of yourself within the other. I had the same with Lisa Cybaniak. Lisa is a survivor of 10 years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, by her ex step-father. She is a motivational speaker and blogger, helping shed the stigma of being abused. She is the founder of Lifelikeyoumeanit.com, dedicated to helping survivors of abuse survive well, having the life they deserve.

Although our past isn’t exactly the same, we do have many similarities in our story, but most of all, we do understand eachother’s emotions, opinions and experiences very well. So we decided to collaborate with eachother and we are both very enthusiastic about that. Today I am going to share one of her blogposts. She named this blogpost: 12 Positive Intentions to become a Survivor, and I believe that it will be a helpful post for you all.

-xo- Alianne

Living through any trauma is difficult, no matter your age. Living through child abuse has tremendous challenges. It is not just about surviving; it is about surviving well, about being a survivor.

What is the difference? One is living as a victim of the abuse, while the other, a survivor.

The Victim

A victim means you are still alive, just getting by. Perhaps you are functioning as an adult, with a job, friends and even a family of your own, but many of your relationships are unhealthy. It also means you are carrying the abuse with you every day, allowing yourself to relive it regularly. You are holding yourself back from having the life you truly deserve because deep down, you don’t believe you deserve it. If you truly feel you don’t deserve better, you will always hold yourself back. This includes your recovery.

Things happen to you. People go out of their way to upset you, or make things difficult for you – at least that is what you think. You are a victim of life, and you perceive everything in this way.

Stagnancy

What is the problem with being the victim? Well, all things in this world vibrate within a certain frequency, including you AND your thoughts. Vibrating with negative thoughts will continue to attract negative thoughts. You’ll surround yourself with predominantly negative people, which will make you feel safe and give you a sense of acceptance. Nothing will change.  As you continue to live with this victim mentality, you will get ever more disappointed with the struggles you have in life, feeding back to the negative mentality.

The Survivor

Living as a survivor means you accept the abuse and recognise that it has made you who you are today – a survivor. Yes, you were treated shamefully, but you survived it! You recognise that people who treat you poorly have a problem with themselves, not you. As I say, ‘That’s a you problem, not a me problem’. You know they are not sitting around in the evening, plotting the best way to hurt you. They are dealing with their own issues, and poorly. It has nothing to do with you. Even your abuser did not decide that you deserved to be treated that way. He or she was dealing with their own mess, in a horrible way. If you were not there, someone else would have taken your place. It was not about you.

Pride

You are proud of your accomplishments, including your ability to have a career and healthy relationships. You know your road to recovery is ongoing and welcome the chance for growth. You are vibrating with positive thoughts, always looking for the silver lining. This vibration is at a different frequency from the victim vibration, so you will attract other positive thinkers, which will support you in your journey to be the best, and have the best life you possibly can.

Shifting from Victim to Survivor

How do you shift from victim to survivor? Positive intentions are a great and simple way to begin shifting your mentality. You can begin by using one intention per day, repeating it while you get ready for your day. Eventually, you can branch out to finding time to meditate each day on several intentions. If you have instantly giggled at the thought of ‘finding time’ each day, then I’ll gently remind you that shifting your mind set begins with you. You are worth it, and you deserve this. People always make time for the things they want to do…

Here are 12 Positive Intentions that worked for me:

  1. I am a strong, vibrant man/woman who deserves the best life has to offer.
  2. I see the beauty in every part of my day, wherever I am and whomever I’m with.
  3. I feel safe and secure in my life. I will approach new experiences today secure in this knowledge.
  4. I have survived my past and am proud of my accomplishments. I honour past accomplishments and recognise new ones as they occur.
  5. I am worthy of success and abundance.
  6. I will recognise opportunities to grow, and take them!
  7. I surround myself with positive, supportive and loving people who mirror my own intentions.
  8. I am in control of my actions and reactions. I act and react in ways that will serve my highest good.
  9. I will take time to honour myself today.
  10. I allow myself to move forward today, and am open to seeing new ways to do so.
  11. I will find humour in my day, and appreciate each of those moments.
  12. I will remain positive today, allowing myself to flourish with positive thoughts and experiences.

These are all suggestions to get you started. As you begin with these intentions, you will gain the confidence to adjust them, and add to the list, to suit your needs. This is just a step along a path to shifting your mentality.

Want to know more about Lisa?

Lisa Cybaniak

Go to her website www.lifelikeyoumeanit.com for more information on the wide range of services Lisa offers.

Abuse, Mindset

5 Simple steps to create personal boundaries

Personal boundaries or guidelines are the rules we set for ourselves in relationships, friendships, and for ourselves as individuals.

They protect what we value, our personal identity, and is something we can hold on to when we face difficulties or they can be something to rely on while bouncing back. Boundaries are the guidelines for you to discover what is acceptable in your life and what is not. But after a period of abuse where your personal boundaries have been (repeatedly) trespassed, ridiculed, and broken, it can be hard to figure out what exactly your personal boundaries were or are. Because while you are figuring out who you are as a person after the trauma, your values might have changed.

It is important to discover, set, and protect your personal boundaries because otherwise people can take advantage of you:

“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.” –Dhirubhai Ambani

Or as I always say;

“If you don’t know what your personal rules and values are, others will sculpt you into theirs.”

It is needless to say that if you are sculpted into the rules and values of others, then you will lose or forget your identity, resulting in unhealthy relationships.

But how do you create a set of guidelines?

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Mindset

Trauma: 4 ways to deal with it

trauma
(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

Many women who have had a relationship with an abusive partner, battle with traumas.

Sometimes the traumas takes “merely” a few moths but sometimes I encounter women who have been struggling with them for years. It can also happen that the traumas reappear suddenly after being away for many years when, for example, something occurs that consciously or subconsciously reminds you of the time when you developed the trauma.

When I had just moved to my current house, I associated the cars passing by with the time when I had lived in my old house and my ex had been coming back home. With every car passing by (in the evening), I froze and held my breath until I was sure that nobody wanted to enter the house.

For awhile I had the same with angry male voices. I remember a moment when I was going to the grocery store and I heard a man shouting angrily. I froze and suddenly felt small and inferior and had the feeling that I just had done something wrong. This despite the fact that the man was not shouting at me, I had not done anything wrong and even if I had, I would not have to let anyone speak to me in that manner, or shout, to be precise.

How do you get a trauma?

Traumas can also arise even when you have not been physically or psychologically abused. An event can lead to an emotional or psychological trauma when for example:

  • It was an unexpected event
  • You felt helpless to prevent it or stop it
  • It happened again and again
  • Someone was intentionally mean
  • It happened during your childhood

As an example; one of the deepest fears I developed was through the experiences with child protection services. I know, right? In contrast, I could deal well with the traumas given to me by my ex-partner. I do not want to say that I could rationalize them and surely I have no understanding for what he has done to me and the kids, but I could place those experiences.

What I could not place at all was the behavior of child protection workers who literally put the lives of me and my children at risk, who literally brought us in danger. From them I learned how dangerous it can be when certain people are put in the position of power. And, in that light, also that very few people take responsibility for their own actions.

As you already know, I am passionate about psychology and two experiments that have absolutely fascinated me from the very beginning and simultaneously frightened me are the Milgram experiment and the Stanford Prison experiment. You can find two links to the documentaries about these experiments at the end of this post. Anyway, I am drifting away! Back to the topic of traumas.

What is an emotional or psychological trauma?

Traumas are the result of extremely stressful situations that destroy your feeling of safety and give you the feeling that you have no control whatsoever over your life.

The more scared you are and the more hopelessness you experience, the bigger the chance that you will develop trauma or become traumatized. Each situation in which you feel overwhelmed by what is happening can be traumatic; it does not have to include any factual physical threats.

Traumas can arise through single events such as a brutal robbery or a car accident; or for example through continuous stress such as living with an unpredictable abuser.

You are more prone to traumas if you experience a lot of stress or if you have already developed traumas before, for example through growing up in unsafe environment or when you were sexually abused in your childhood, respectively physically and/or mentally abused.

Possible symptoms of trauma;

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Feeling of disconnection from your environment or your body
  • Confusion and difficulties with concentration
  • Rapid heartbeat or hyperventilation
  • Quick startle response
  • Memory loss (or black holes)
  • Nightmares
  • Tense body, stiff muscles for example in your neck and shoulders
  • Difficulty with taking good care of yourself or others
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling nervous and tense with a lot of inner turmoil, restlessness

These symptoms may persist for a few hours or few days but sometimes they stay longer.

Along the way I noticed that I needed healing from one of the traumas which I had developed through the child protection services. I have no problem whatsoever with speaking in front of 180 people and with answering their most intimate questions about me, but when I spoke to a therapist a few years ago who I asked to help my children dealing with some past experiences, I closed off totally, became scared and barely managed to find my words.

Rationally seen, there is nothing wrong and there is no actual threat from this therapist towards me and my children; on the contrary and I even invited her myself. But because there were so many triggers attached to the contact,  my heart started to beat faster, my breath speeded up and I had to talk myself out of the trigger.

That is the moment I know I had work to do. I handle it in the following ways:

First of all;

I go outside and mix with other people. In the example above, where my children were supposed to talk with a new therapist, I went outside, to a local supermarket and then sat down on a bench next to an old man. We talked, and although he was suffering from dementia, he reminded me some of the wisdoms of life..

I know how to calm myself when I am tensed and how to bring myself into a different state of mind by, for example, being more aware of my breath,  walk a few blocks, give myself a peptalk, realise what the differences are between fear, threat and triggers and taking overall good care of myself. Through these actions I am less troubled by the triggers, but there still remains a little piece of healing that I must continue to apply.

Tips I have for you:

Mingle with people. Even though you do not feel like it at all. Even when you are afraid to go outside. You can ask them for help, but of course that is not necessary. Blending with other people is very important for your recovery. It is always good to share your feelings. Undertake activities that have nothing, but really absolutely nothing to do with your trauma. Go to a chess club (;-)) or something. Do something that is healthy for you and fun, just don’t do it alone. Find an empowerment circle. Somewhere you could drop by, even if you are not ready yet to talk about it.

Move!

Find a sport that suits you and for which you need all your limbs, so that you will not end up in a downward spiral. Go swimming, as the water has a calming effect on your body and you must stay aware so your head does not go under water; take surfing lessons (that is soooooo fun!), take self-defense classes….. It helps you get out of the state of increased physiological and mental arousal which can lead to anxiety, fatigue and decreased tolerance for pain. Because that ensures that you freeze in a way. Through movement you help your nervous system relax again, which lets the positive hormones circulate through your body and spread their happy wellness vibes.

Tip number 3!

Take good care of yourself and watch for your health. Food has a great impact on how we feel. Of course it does not matter if you eat unhealthy once, but the food we feed our body impacts our energy levels and, thus, also our emotions.

Get enough sleep. If you have difficulty falling asleep, you can for example choose to leave your telephone, computer or iPad outside of your bedroom. The blue screen light keeps your brain alert, and being busy on your mobile phone causes brain activity and disrupts our natural day and night rhythm.

Avoid drugs. Avoid alcohol. (I refuse to explain this:p)

Become aware of the way you breathe. If your breathing is troubled or rushed, try to get it under control.

And last but certainly not least;

Relax. You can do it, for example, by paying attention on your breathing. A guided meditation such as a body scan meditation can help you become more aware of your own body and, because you focus on your physical sensations, you will not worry about your past or your future. That gives you more control over your stress responses. I have attached one example of such meditation, but there are many more of these types of meditations to be found.

Another way that helps me relax is listening to the music. And then, I do not listen to songs that make me sad but I like to listen to something uplifting, for example to “Something Inside So Strong” by Labi Siffre or “Living In the Moment” by Jason Mraz.

It is important to take time to figure out what you really feel. We often want to push our emotions away so that we do not have to feel them, but in order to heal properly it is important to recognize what you feel without letting those emotions be in charge.

Learn to live in the moment. The past is gone and you cannot change anything about it anymore, apart from learning to look at it in a different way. The future is yet to come and you can only influence it to some extent by choices which you are making today… The now is the only thing you really have. It makes no sense to worry about “what ifs” because the chance is big that what you think will not happen. And if you notice that you have thoughts that do not make you stronger, replace them with a strong thought. Jason Mraz sings about it so nicely in “Living In the Moment”: “I can’t walk through life facing backwards” and this is exactly how it is.

And if you are not managing… look for help. Find a therapist or psychologist who feels right for you. Engage her or him on your own, especially if a child is involved in the situation. Take control of your own life and do not remain stuck needlessly in your trauma. You can find your way out by taking control of your thoughts, your feelings and associations/meanings you give to the happenings.

People react differently to traumatic experiences and there is no right or wrong reaction. But by applying some of the tips above – those which suit you – I hope to have inspired you to take steps to free yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqQiS9GF1JU&feature=youtu.be

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HcMWlnTtFQ&feature=youtu.be

Abuse, Mindset, Personal