I am part of a therapy group for trauma survivors; I have been for about a year and a half. I know that therapists often tout the benefits of group work for survivors but it is only recently that I really saw it for myself. This week I had an “aha” moment witnessing and offering words of encouragement to a troubled group member and the effect was profound for me.
My group therapist is fond of stating the benefits of telling one’s story to other “hearts with ears”. And no doubt I have healed some from having others listen to me; but I found that it was in seeing myself (as if in a mirror) in another group members situation that drove home a point that I was not internalizing before.
This week, one group member was struggling with profound feelings of self harm and hopelessness. She does not see the intrinsic value of her being and doesn’t want to continue safeguarding and nurturing herself. I offered words of caring for her – just as she is – and found myself telling/asking if she could go through the motions of taking care of herself ‘as if” she did believe herself worthy. I assured her she is worthy and someday, if she continues nurturing herself now, she will also come to see that. It is her tremendously battered sense of self that is incapable of seeing what was never validated for her.
As I sat back, hurting for her and listening to her despair and self loathing, I was struck with how ironic those words of encouragement were, coming from me. For I am also currently struggling to believe in my intrinsic worthiness. My struggle does not center around keeping myself safe and alive but rather mine is around my worthiness to attract and maintain the love of another all my own. And like her, I have resigned myself to manifesting less than desirable results.
I learned at an early age that I was to be a secret. Incest is all about secret relationships. As I grew, I evolved into a woman that profoundly questions whether monogamy is viable or possible and I also found myself in situations in which i was a secret and/or not the single love interest of another. Married men, swingers, polyamourous types – these were who I settled for. I have been doing deep work trying to figure out what it is that I truly want insofar as a love relationship. And I am coming to the conclusion that it is looks fairly typically monogamous. Why then, did I settle for non monogamous, taboo relationships? Simple. the answer is because I did not believe I deserved or warranted better.
I am not so different from my group member that feels like giving up and hurting herself. I have been giving up and not even looking for a love all my own. Just as she feels that that is her bad luck in life to be born so mistreated and unworthy; so was I accepting an erroneous premise that it was ‘just not in my stars’ to find a monogamous love all my own that treats me respectfully and celebrates me. I accepted being the side dish, the mistress. My peer feels unworthy and so do I. I need to take my own advice. No matter that my therapist had told me as much, it was not until I saw myself in my group members words and attitude, that I recognized the faulty lie running the show for both of us.
I made these connections earlier this week and today acted on it. I set a boundary with someone I had engaged with sexually that was not offering what I wanted in the long run. And a good discussion ensued. The other person agreed that perhaps we were not going about things in a correct way and we agreed to take things down several notches and just get to know each other platonically for now. It was great to have seen that we were kind of thinking along similar lines. I am proud of myself for safeguarding my wellbeing and implementing boundaries for emotional and sexual safety. Major props for stepping up. And much gratitude to my group member whose openness in sharing how she was struggling, helped me make this connection.