December 11, 2013

How to Break the Cycle of Isolation

Hi all, today Susan Jacobi continues her series. This week Susan shares some strategies for breaking out of our "ruts" and ending isolation.

We all isolate ourselves at some time in our lives. In a busy, stressful world isolation is often necessary for regrouping, getting our work done, or just to nurture ourselves.  But for the survivor of child abuse, isolation is not always a positive, useful thing.  The child abuser often uses isolation as a tool to control his victim. As adults, we are very familiar with the feeling of isolation, while dealing with depression, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorders, and we may even compound these conditions with substance abuse. Isolation becomes a comfort but it is still controlling us.

Our brain is made up of neural pathways.  When a pattern is repeated for years or decades, the neural pathways become ingrained and produce predictable responses.  Just as a truck that gets stuck in the mud goes back and forth, creating deep ruts, our old habits and defenses keep us from getting out of the rut.  The great news is that we really can reprogram our neural pathways, form new habits and free ourselves.  

I work every day to reprogram my brain. When a thought comes to mind, I remind myself that I have choices and I can do something different.  Do I want to go to a coffee shop to meet a friend? Sometimes I do, but sometimes I think about hiding under a blanket, waiting for the day to end.  I find that when I force myself out of isolation and go, I am rewarded by feeling better, nurtured, more confident and accepted!  Making new choices creates new neural pathways.  I have learned how important it is to "make" myself interact with people.  Over time the ruts fill in and my actions, as well as my habits become healthy ones.

We are all human beings and while our stories, like our hair, eyes and skin color may be different, our emotions are universally felt: love, joy, happiness, hope, pain, anger and sadness, to suggest a few.  An abuser will do or say anything to convince his/her victims that he/she is alone within her horrible circumstances.  Take baby steps to reprogram that lie.  Start by telling yourself that that was a lie.  It was a lie told to you so your abuser could take what he wanted.  

Try this for a few days and you will begin to notice how your thinking is changing.  Write down your experience so you will be able to reflect on the new power you hold.  Writing down examples of your experiences will show you that the isolation rut was planted in your brain by your abuser and was an attempt to control you.  

Whether or not you believe that the Bible is the word of God, it is a book filled with lessons of love toward others and yourself. Bible verses bring me comfort. They give me a connection with something bigger than me and my abusers. I use the verses as my private back-up, reminding me that my abusers were wrong--that I AM worthy of companionship. One verse that helps me when I am feeling isolated is from I Corinthians 12:14 (Chapter 12, verse 14): For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

I believe we all have the power to reclaim our lives.  I know how hard it can be; how defeating and even hopeless the journey can sometimes feel.  But I also know how rewarding it is to take back your life, your thoughts.  I want this for all of us.

Next week, my final post will address Trust. To rebuild broken trust can take a lifetime... It amazes me how easily it can break and how hard it can be to reestablish in our lives. Throughout my healing journey, I have learned that it all comes down to self-trust and self-love.  


Susan Jacobi is a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual child abuse, who advocates for all survivors of child abuse. Susan is a coach, author, speaker and host of Conversations That Heal, a weekly blogtalk radio show. You can learn more about Susan and her mission to support adult survivors of child abuse at

Join her facebook page, Healing Hearts from Child Abuse for daily encouragement on your healing journey. Her book, How to Love Yourself: The Hope After Child Abuse, is available on amazon

To contact Susan you can reach her at

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