December 18, 2013

How Do You Trust After Abuse?

Hi all, in this final piece today Susan shares with us her journey to self-trust, which ultimately leads to self-love. If you've enjoyed Susan's series be sure to let her know or visit her website to learn more!



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The trust process begins when a child is born, for some, even before they are born. There is an unspoken trust, a bond that they are safe with their mother/caretaker. Trust builds as the newborn grows. Ideally, trust is nurtured and it supports the child as s/he matures.
It is rare that any of us go through life without experiencing some kind of trauma or incident that compromises our ability to trust. For the adult survivor of child abuse, trust becomes something to be rebuilt, but it can be a hard road sometimes.
The impact of  betrayal is felt in all aspects of the survivor's life. For me, rebuilding trust is a daily test. Three areas in my life where I can see rewards of my work are:
  • Trusting people. It took years before I could trust my therapist and even then I challenged it frequently. I learned to base my reactions to her from our relationship and how she showed up in it, not to resort back to experiences that I brought into our discussions. The truth is those past experiences had nothing to do with our relationship. Taking this lesson into my daily life is an ongoing exploration.
  • Trusting God. While I was growing up, I remember how it was a given that the family, extended and immediate, were Christians. We went to church, I even taught Sunday school when I was 18 (a little known fact about me). There was little discussion about what it meant to be a Christian in our home.  My relationship with God was definitely on automatic. As I grew into my adult years, before my first flashback, I found myself becoming angrier with Him. Really angry. Not until I had many examinations of trust with my therapist, did I realize I didn’t trust God. Now, 15 years later I am confident with my relationship with Him. I trust God. I also see how patient He was, waiting for me to process my (healthy) anger and make the decision for myself.
  • Trusting myself. Over time I learned that trust is not about trusting the other person. It comes down to trusting yourself to make the choice that supports you now. I have learned to trust myself even if it means I am making a decision that is going away from the ‘norm’. Maybe I’m wrong in going out on my own, but maybe I am not. Maybe down the road that one decision to trust myself will have a significant, positive impact on my life.

My message to another survivor of child abuse is that self-trust can be learned. It is a choice and the truth is that some days the choice may be harder to make than others. Making the decision to trust is a lesson in self- trust: trusting that you are making the best decision for yourself with the information you have at the time.
Honoring your feelings the same way you would honor yourself when you have the flu or a cold is part of the process in nurturing your self-trust. Feelings are an easy excuse for not accomplishing a task. One can use feelings to support non-productive choices, just as one can use physical ailments to avoid responsibilities.
As I practice self-trust, I notice how it is connected to self love. Self-trust is part of having compassion for yourself. Trust is a human right. Yes, the abuser(s) stole your right. However, with practice and beginning to use your trust "muscle", you will learn to strengthen it.

Thank you Rachel, for the opportunity to share my insights on compassion, isolation and trust. I will admit that sometimes it is exhausting to reclaim your life. Along the healing path, a sense of self-pride starts to grow. You begin to realize how much you have accomplished, despite your abuser’s attempt to silence you. Talking about survivors' experiences is the lifeline to those who are suffering alone. So much is stolen from the adult survivors of child abuse. Rebuilding takes commitment. It is a choice. A sense of self-pride and joy from your accomplishments gives you the energy and passion to move onto the next experience. You will gain confidence in knowing you are capable in reclaiming your life from child abuse. Don’t forget that it took years for the survival patterns to become habits and a way of life. Honor those patterns. They got you to this place in your life. It will take time to restructure your choices. Be gentle with yourself.


Visit my website for updates on Conversations That Heal, a blogtalk radio show dedicated to having conversations that empower us and help us recover  from childhood trauma. I invite you to sign-up for my free e-book, 100 Tools to Happiness and the bi-monthly e-zine (newsletter), Healing Hearts: A path to loving every part of you.

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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 http://conversationsthatheal.com

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 susan@healingheartsfromchildabuse.com.

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.  


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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 http://conversationsthatheal.com

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 susan@healingheartsfromchildabuse.com.

December 4, 2013

Compassion for the Adult Survivor of Child Abuse

Hi all, today we begin a series by Susan Jacobi, survivor, coach, author and amazing woman! In this series, Susan will be sharing with us about her organization, Healing Hearts from Child Abuse and her personal journey of healing from abuse. In this post, Susan shares some statistics about abuse and, importantly, how we can have compassion for ourselves as we heal. I know you will be moved by Susan's story, and I am so thankful to be able to bring her to you! 

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I am grateful to Rachel for inviting me to introduce myself and share my passion and mission with you.  I am the founder of Healing Hearts from Child Abuse. Healing Heart’s mission is to support adult survivors of child abuse in reclaiming their life from their emotional, physical and/or sexually child abuse history. The struggle affects personal relationships, employment, social interactions and virtually every aspect of daily life. We focus on women from 35 to 65 specifically, which allows us to serve this group efficiently and maintain clarity on programs. 


In this age group, it is common for women to experience their first memory of child abuse that they may have repressed until now. There are two reasons women have this experience: the first is that memories are commonly triggered while giving birth and secondly, memories come back when a woman's child reaches the same age the victim was when the abuse began. 


Whether a survivor embraces her past or not, it is almost certain that her trauma will be reflected in her choices and actions. Historically, adult victims of child abuse turn, at some time, to alcohol, drugs, food (eating disorders), acting out with overspending, gambling, self-injury and many more addictive behaviors. The memory is stored in the brain. Yet making the choice to voice it, feel it, and heal it is where the decision to reclaim one's life begins. 


One in three girls and one in six boys is sexually abused by the time s/he turns 18. I am one of those girls. While my abuse history put me in the top 5 to 10% of child abuse severity, the reactions and consequences are universal to all survivors. My first memory is from the age of 4, my last 18. My abusers were my father and his mother. They were involved with a sadistic, ritual cult. Again, statistically the odds my father was not a victim of the same rituals that I was used for would be so low it would be hard to believe that he wasn’t. Maybe my paternal grandmother was used for a victim in her early childhood, as well. I will never know. The fact remains whether they were or were not survivors of the same horrors that I was subjected to does not excuse them for their choices in continuing the cycle. 


According to childhelp.org, 30% of victims will become perpetrators. Men and women are equally equipped to continue this staggering cycle, although men tend to dominate the cycle. It has always amazed me how two victims from the same family can make drastically different choices as adults. One can become an abuser and continue the cycle while the other can turn his/her pain from the trauma into love and learn how to nurture themselves and their children (or other children). 


Knowing the patterns of physical and sexual abuse helps to bring an element of compassion into the adult's life. As a survivor reclaiming my life, it was so difficult to believe and understand that I was not at fault. It was easy to say, to hear, to know intellectually but feeling it in my heart and releasing myself from the pain is a whole other ball game. There is a mountain of painful feelings--guilt, anger, shame, betrayal, abandonment--that must be climbed before accepting the simple phase ‘it wasn’t your fault.’ And yet, that is exactly where compassion towards yourself begins. No matter if your story consists of one violation or 18 years worth, compassion is a lesson that can be self-taught. It will replace the lies the abuser left on your soul. Like a baby learning to walk, it takes one small step at a time. Allow yourself to fall, see what you can learn from that fall like the baby falling after a few steps. You cannot, will not, be able to instantly believe in your soul that ‘It wasn’t my fault’ until you embrace the truth and embrace the compassion and gifts you have to offer your loved ones, friends and all who cross your path. 


Jack Kornfield offers a mediation I find comforting. At first, I noticed how very foreign these words seemed to me. Over time, I learned how much the words bring comfort to me. I want to share his mediation with you: 


May I be filled with loving kindness. 

May I be well. 
May I be peaceful and at ease. 
May I be happy. 

In my book, How to Love Yourself: The Hope After Child Abuse, I write about common struggles we face. Knowing how similar we all are gives us permission to have compassion for our story. If you can’t have compassion for yourself, then have compassion for the child who is being abused as you read this. Have compassion for the 20 year old woman struggling with her anger, right now. We are all that child, that 20 year old. Along the way you will find your compassion for your child self, your 20 year old self, and your adult self. 


Take care of yourself especially in this holiday season. Putting yourself first is an example of self compassion. You are not being selfish, you are practicing self care and nurturing your soul. 



Rachel has invited me to return next week. I will introduce the topic of isolation and how it is used by the abuser to keep control over his victim. While child abuse is more widely talked about now than ever before in human history, victims carry the isolation with them into adulthood. 



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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. 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 susan@healingheartsfromchildabuse.com.

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