Betrayal and abuse robs victims of their sense of self-confidence. Many victims feel lost as they try to navigate the difficult journey of rediscovering their sense of self.
Giving Yourself Grace
“Give yourself grace to know that that’s the boat you’re in right now, and it doesn’t always have to be that way. Just because you’re there right now doesn’t mean you’re always going to feel that way. Or that if you do feel that way, you’re always going to feel powerless about it.”Michelle Donnelly, Agape Moms
Many victims struggle to practice self-compassion because their abusers conditioned them to be hard on themselves.
Victims can begin the process of giving themselves grace and practice self-compassion by practicing radical self-care, including:
- Staying hydrated and fed
- Resting when tired
- Taking intentional breaths
Abusers condition victims to feel isolated. Many victims lose friends and family when they come forward about the abuse.
Though victims may feel that there is no support available to them, support is available. You are not alone.
“There are so many wonderful resources, wonderful people that can help you in your journey. You’re not doing this all by yourself.”Michelle Donnelly, Agape Moms
Prioritize Your Safety
The single most important thing victims can do to begin their journey to rediscovering their self-confidence, is to prioritize their emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual safety.
Boundaries are essential to this process. Boundaries are not ultimatums, requests, or statements: they are courageous actions that victims take to separate themselves from abusive behaviors.
BTR Is Here For You
At BTR, we understand the pain of losing your sense of self and the confusion and loss that comes as you try to find it again.
You don’t have to do this alone. Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group and find the community that you need as you begin your healing journey.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
Our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, called BTRG for short, is a daily online support group. Our daily online support group has more sessions than any other support group out there. We have over 21 sessions per week for you to choose from. You don’t have to wait for an appointment, you don’t have to leave your home, you can join from your closet or your parked car in your garage. We are here for you. We’d love to see you in a session today.
Michelle Donnelly and I are going to finish up our conversation today. If you did not hear our last two episodes, make sure you go back and listen to those first, so you’re introduced to Michelle, and you’re brought up to speed with our conversation. We’re just going to jump right in.
Finding Confidence After Abuse
Anne: One of the things that victims of abuse, who have pulled themselves out of the depths of abuse and they’re making their way to safety, feel not very confident, right. Because a lifetime of abuse or years of abuse has really kind of messed with our brains and our psychology. Just the amount of doubt that we have in ourselves from emotional and psychological abuse is pretty extreme. And so, we’re learning to trust ourselves again, we’re learning to trust our intuition again, there are so many things that as a victim of abuse you’re learning to do either again or for the first time. So, in what ways can moms be confident in raising their kids even in a less-than-ideal situation?
Michelle: Yeah, I love that you pointed to the fact that there’s just a whole lot of doubt. There’s a whole lot more than is normal for moms to experience. There’s the normal, like oh, my goodness, am I messing it all up that every mom experiences and then with abuse, there’s this added layer on top of it, and it’s the inability to discern sometimes what is even going on, and sometimes it’s paralysis of not knowing what to do.
Find Confidence By Giving Yourself Grace
The first place I feel towards getting confidence is giving yourself grace to know that that’s the boat you’re in right now, and it doesn’t always have to be that way. It doesn’t necessarily, just because you’re there right now, doesn’t mean you’re always going to feel that way. Or that if you do feel that way, you’re always going to feel powerless about it. There are so many wonderful resources, wonderful people that can help you in your journey. You’re not doing this all by yourself. And for me in climbing out and figuring out how do I raise my kids with this different life, this life I didn’t intend for us. I had such wonderful people that were just dropped into my life that had walked the road before me, that could show me what this thing was supposed to look like. It didn’t mean that everything was going to be exactly cookie-cutter like okay, well they just did this and so I can do that.
You know, sometimes it’s reading books or, you know we have a private Facebook group through Agape Moms called Beloved Collective and it’s moms sharing the things that they’re going through, it’s sharing their legal troubles or discipline issues or whatever the case is, but in that you realize, oh, I am not alone. I’m not the only one who feels like this. I’m not the only one whose kid is doing this or whose ex is doing that. And so much confidence starts to come when, number one, your experience is being validated and you’re being heard and you see that many people are going through similar things. But number two, when there are just so many ideas around things you could do or avenues you could take. That I think is so empowering to say there’s actually more than one way to walk through this, that though I may not get it perfectly, we’re all in this together kind of thing.
Find Confidence By Coming Out of Isolation
I think one of the things that happens when you’re coming out of this kind of situation is you feel very isolated and sometimes you’ve been isolated. So self-isolating is kind of a normal thing, and forcing yourself back out and learning how to trust people can be hard. But I’m so thankful. You know, we’re in this digital age where we’re sometimes depending on these virtual groups, which is not good because it’s not really the connection we need, but sometimes it’s also possible to sort of hang out in a private group or something like that, or hang out in a community. And even if you’re not contributing all that much, you can still learn a whole lot from what other people are contributing and what they’re going through.
So, when you think about what is the practical step, how do I start to do this? You know, I’ve talked so much about working through your own healing journey, and that is a big piece of that. God brings the ultimate transformation for us as we walk through these things with him, but one of the very practical ways that we experienced that is with other really wonderful, safe people around us.
Prioritize Your Emotional, Sexual, and Physical Safety
Anne: We’ve seen that a lot at Betrayal Trauma Recovery and in Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. It’s awesome because there’s no one right way to do it. There are principles that are true principles, right, using boundaries to detach and keep safe, self-care, a network of support. Anyone who’s worth their salt in recovering from abuse will tell you those things. I mean, those are really important tools, but sometimes implementing it is hard and how you’re going to implement it in your own life is hard. And so, being part of a group and hearing how other women are doing it or even hearing other women and realizing oh, that doesn’t sound like it’s working. You don’t have to say that out loud, but at least you can hear and go oh, okay, I don’t want to try that. It’s really cool just to be able to share what’s happening with you, hear what’s happening with other people, and then also have the freedom to choose what you want to do. Because at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we don’t recommend any particular life decisions. What we do put as the top priority is safety, emotional safety, sexual safety, physical safety, and how you go about doing that is up to you. And I think women need the support of a community without the dogma of the community. Does that make sense?
“Recovery Is About Finding Your Own Voice”
Michelle: Yeah, I think the thing that is so critical about what you’re saying is, I think of this as like, the style points, you know. It’s like, well, she did it this way, and that doesn’t really fit my personality. But she did it this way. And there’s just so much in recovery that is about finding your own voice, and you’re making choices for yourself and making a path. So many of these things we’re talking about, like as you said, boundaries for example, it’s the perfect example. Boundaries were so hard for me, and I didn’t realize that I didn’t have any. Or not any, but I didn’t realize that mine were so porous, you know. And I would look at other women and be like oh, no, that’s so abrupt and I don’t like the way that they’re doing that. And in the midst of getting to know different people though it was like oh, but you know, that style kind of works for me. It’s rediscovering, and actually, I don’t even like to say rediscovering because I don’t know if we ever really knew ourselves to begin with.
Sometimes with these things, it’s discovering in the midst of this, who you are, what your unique voice is, and how you’re able to assert yourself in these instances. It’s just so empowering. I’m feeling juiced up as I’m saying this. You know, just to start to recognize how much agency that you can have in these situations. And that’s what makes a lot of these things as we’re talking about emotional distancing and gray rock and you know, all these different other tactics. It’s what makes them come to life when you start to figure out your own voice.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
Anne: I am going to take a break here for just a second to talk about my book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which also has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama, is a picture book for adults. So, it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it, it’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations, as well as infographics at the back.
And now back to our conversation.
When Faith Communities Harm Women
Your podcast is titled The Christian Single Moms Podcast, and from a Christian perspective here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery we’re interfaith and interparadigm so we have atheists who listen, we have agnostics, and all different denominations of Christianity, Jewish women, everyone is welcome here. Can we conclude with talking about some of the Christian myths I would say or some of the unhealthy cultural ideas in Christianity that harm women and keep them stuck in abusive relationships?
Michelle: Sure. I think one of the things we have to separate out, and is not just when it comes to the topic of abuse, but there are so many different areas are not always do people reflect the heart of God perfectly. People, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can hurt each other with the banner of the gospel being what they are using to justify their choices or their behaviors. And we have to piece that apart from the heart of God and recognize that there are some things that maybe a woman’s been told, maybe she’s witnessed, maybe she’s experienced, she’s been raised up in systems, you know, all these kinds of things that don’t necessarily reflect the heart of God.
Women In Faith Communities Can Take Comfort In Knowing That God Hates Abuse
I think one of those things is so often there is this sense that whether the husband or ex-husband, partner, whoever he is, the abuser, that so often women are receiving advice, and sometimes it’s really well-meaning, but sometimes the advice is, you know, you just be the best that you can be and this person will change. And biblically, the Word says that God hates abuse. He hates it. In Proverbs 6 you can go read through there and it says that there are seven things that God hates, and it lists off lying lips and hands that shed blood and you know, all these things that if you really look at them, they are the behaviors of an abuser.
Anne: Adultery, right. Lust.
Michelle: If you look at it there’s a passage, and I’m going to mess it up right now because it’s not sitting in front of me, but I believe it’s in 2nd Timothy 1. But Paul says to Timothy, you know, in the last days, people are going to be lovers of self, they’re going to be abusive. They’re going to look like they have Godliness, they’re going to portray Godliness, but be totally lacking its power, and that we should avoid such people. And I think that’s what a lot of people misconstrue, you know. When we see it, how do we practically live this out as Christians versus what’s in the Bible? There shouldn’t be a versus, you know. If we’re reading what the Bible says, those are pretty clear statements to say that you need to get away from somebody who’s abusive, someone who is using spiritual means to manipulate other people.
“The Intentions In Our Communities Should Be To Offer Safety & Vulnerability”
And Paul thought it was so obvious and so dangerous that he thought to write to Timothy about it before he passes off his ministry to him, and so we should take that same warning, and we should understand that this is something. That a community of believers can be a place where there’s great healing, but with that there’s vulnerability. And with that, then comes great manipulation from people who would use it for selfish gain. And so, the intention in our communities should be to offer safety and vulnerability and to make sure that we are very clear about rooting out what would seek to come in and take advantage of that. And I think that’s one place where that’s not always the message that people receive that are in, you know, abusive type of circumstances.
Anne: I think it’s in the church when you talk about evil, right? Or you talk about wolves in sheep’s clothing or something like that. You’re thinking about someone outside the church who’s trying to lure you away from the church or trying to like influence you to not live the commandments or something like that. And it’s so infrequent that anyone addresses evil in the church or in your own home, right?
Finding Abuse In Our Own Homes Can Catch Us Off-Guard
Michelle: Yeah, and the Bible says that Satan will masquerade as an angel of light and so we need to recognize that yes, can there be people from the outside trying to come in and infiltrate the inside? 100%! But do they also exist on the inside out? Also yes, 100%.
Anne: Right, and it might be in your own home, right?
Michelle: That’s right. And so, we have to recognize though and Jesus goes through the steps in Matthew 18, that we are called to see it, call it what it is, and address it. And if it’s not going to be met with real genuine repentance and change and remorse that we’re called to move ourselves away from that and to get to safety. That is a completely biblical way of handling an abusive situation and all of that is designed to keep you, your life is precious to God, and keep you very much fixed in the center of His love and His protection for you. And that this person then is also accountable to God at that point. That there’s only so much you can do in trying to walk with somebody and when they are so resistant and they don’t want to see the truth, then we’re called to move ourselves away from that so that they can go off and walk in their own path, and that God has a fully separate experience with them. That may involve all sorts of consequences and those kinds of things, but God does desire safety for his people, does desire for them to flourish as he had designed them to be. He desires each woman in this instance to become the woman that he had designed her to be and not sacrifice that for the sake of a person who’s not willing to turn their lives over.
Victims Can Choose To Stop Sacrificing Themselves To Their Abuser
Anne: They’re essentially sacrificing it to evil almost, which is sad. And women think of it as sacrificing themselves for something better, right? Because they’re trying to protect their families, but the reality of it is, they’re not sacrificing themselves for something better. They’re sacrificing themselves to abuse which is not the better way.
Michelle: And calling it evil is so important. If the Bible says God hates it, we should hate it. If it says it’s evil, we should call it evil. It’s not bad behavior. It’s not bad manners. It’s not a short temper. It’s not any of those things. It is a method of evil. All of these things are considered abuse.
Anne: The scriptures don’t say abuser, the scriptures use the word wicked. I’m loving that word.
Michelle: Right? So, in Proverbs, very often you’ll see the word wicked, mocker, sometimes fool. But if you go through, Proverbs uses a handful of different words to describe people who do these things, but in all of these instances, it says to get away. It says if you rebuke a mocker, that they’re going to abuse you. So that says you’re not always going to have the ability to have a reasonable conversation with this person. Sometimes your separation, your distance, your movement away from this person is the communication. That if they are going to open their ears, that is meant for them to be the thing that changes it, but if not, then it’s certainly meant for you to gain some distance and some safety because it’s much more likely that they’re going to influence you then you are going to influence them.
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Anne: Well, and we know that victims of abuse, we really are and can suffer from betrayal trauma, which changes the way we think, it changes our brains, it changes the chemistry in our bodies. So many women are suffering from health problems and depression and other things. It’s a really serious issue and I’m so grateful that you came on today’s episode to talk about this.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Until next week, stay safe out there.