Each of us who has experienced abuse has found our own ways of coping and getting through our days. I have used many different ways, some effective and others not so much! I spent many years stuffing my anger, believing I was a horrible unlovable person, and just surviving. In fact it has only been recently that I allowed myself to feel my anger in a way that has allowed me to finally deal with it. Before then it did not seem safe to talk about my pain and anger. It has taken me many years to finally let my genie out of her bottle.
Sometimes I meet people who are in such horrible pain that it oozes from them but who has such incredible fear of letting the pain out of their genie bottle that they hold it within them with fierce determination. Meanwhile, they are so unhappy with themselves, those they are in relationships with, and their lives that it is wonder they can get through their days. They are petrified of what might happen if they let their genies out of their bottles. Will they hate themselves more, find they are the horrible person they think they are, discover that they need to leave their spouse, find their children hate them, and the list goes on. The unknown is terrifying! Even though the pain they are holding on to is destroying them they fear that the unknown will be even worse.
But keeping the genie in the bottle takes a lot of energy and control. To keep it there they may need to take control over every aspect of their lives. Recently a woman who is going through this told me that she has to control everything to ensure that she can deal with whatever happens. For her Christmas was made up of horrible memories (like for many abuse survivors) that were so overwhelming that they immobilized her. She could not allow herself to ask her husband or children what they might like to do as part of their Christmas celebrations because if she allowed their input then she might have to do it and she was afraid she would not be able to. So she planned the celebrations in detail and kept the details to herself. That way if she is not able to follow through nobody but her would know.
When I tried to talk about the possibility that life might actually be better if she let some of the pain out she was sure I was lying. Many people had told her that before but no one had been able to help her find a safe place to work on her genie. So she came away from each therapeutic experience more convinced than ever that she had to keep the pain inside her where she felt it was ‘safe’. How incredibly sad!
So here I am wondering how to help someone bottling their pain up to feel safe enough to start letting their genie out of the bottle even just a little bit. I know from my own experience and hearing many of yours that life can be so much better once you let the genie out. There is a life beyond the pain but telling someone that who is terrified that becomes just words.
Help me find ways to let people feel safe enough to deal with their pain.
Give me the patience to let people let their genies out on their own time lines.
Give me the wisdom and ability to assist each person in finding their own ways of coping with their genies in ways that work for them.
Give me the time to walk beside them on their journey instead of feeling like I have to pull them along their paths.