New Year's Soul Excavation Exercise: Confronting Your Pain

I am full of adrenaline right now.  I hate this feeling.  It makes me feel sick all over.  It's not anxiety, per say, it's more of an adrenaline surge, due to the fact I just did something I have been terrified to do for a long, long time.  What did I just do? 

I just wrote to the family of my old neighbor and told them what he did to me.  In actuality, I just sent them a Christmas card explaining what happened on Thanksgiving in 2014, when her uncle, also my next door neighbor, who happens to be a Catholic priest, used his leg to grope my leg under the table.  And when I pulled away, he pushed his leg forward and did it again.  All the while just chatting to everyone at the table like nothing was happening.  Now that is the act of a predator.  Even though it was something so seemingly benign, he knew it would make me horribly uncomfortable and not only did it anyways, he made it known to me that he was doing it on purpose by moving his leg to do it again when I pulled away.  I was sitting at the end of the long side of the table, with my husband next to me on my left and her uncle at the end of the table on the right.  

And now I feel lighter knowing that at least she knows what happened.  That it's not a secret anymore.  That I sat there, at the table, he did what he did, I ran away from the table (we were all super squished in together) and went to the bathroom, and then came out and sat on the couch instead with my youngest son.  And afterwards, in the weeks to come, for some insane reason, I still waved at that fucker, like he hadn't done anything wrong.  I was so conditioned as a child to just pretend like bad shit didn't happen to me, or to reason it away, that I was horribly triggered into doing the same as an adult.  I felt humiliated every single time I waved.  I felt sick to my stomach every time I petted his dog as he walked by.  Not from the dog, but that I even gave him the time of day.  I felt that there was something wrong with me for doing so.  That I was broken in some way that couldn't be fixed.  But by sending that holiday card, I felt that I finally stood up for myself.  Because before, I just couldn't.    

I cannot confront my uncle who I think molested me as a child.  And I cannot confront many people who have hurt me, but I can still confront this pain of that episode, because all of those people are still living.  And even though it was out of the blue and for no apparent reason, it was the right thing to do for me.  Because it's not fair he get away with it all because, what?  He's a priest?  A narcissist?  Some kind of old man asshole who thinks he can do whatever he pleases to those around them?  I am not the first person he did this to, nor would I be the last.  And I am sure what he did to me was so much less worse than what he did to others.  But now at least his niece knows the truth.  And I don't have to carry this by myself anymore.  

Plus, right after I sent that card, I wrote to my rapist's ex-wife to tell her he raped me when I was fourteen (she did not care) and to the guy I used to babysit for when I was fifteen who grabbed my ass, though he ended up being dead, so I wrote to his daughters, who are the girls I used to babysit (who also did not care).  But whether or not anyone cared wasn't the point.  The point is they now know it happened and I've said my peace.  I am no longer the only person from that situation who knows the truth anymore.  Adn now, if someone ever commented about me from those times and these predators made up stories about me, now they all know that those stories are not true.  That my truth has now been heard.  And that's all that matters.  

Confronting your pain is about having your truth be heard.  

Now there is some confusion in the world about the term "my truth".  As though it's separate from the real truth.  It's not.  The reason we say "my truth" or "your truth" is because there are so many lies out there about these types of things, lies about what actually happened, lies about us, etc. that we have to make people understand this is our side of the story.  

AND it's about how the real truth is personal because it happened to us.  A rapist may not see what they did to us as rape.  Their truth could be something like "I had sex with this woman.  She didn't say no, so it was sex, not rape."  And the issue is that unless they get an enthusiastic yes from us, and we don't want it to happen, it feels like rape to us (because it is rape).  I have woken up to a man "having sex" with me, but I was asleep, so I did not give consent, so that was rape (not only that, this man also knew that I wasn't wanting to have sex).  But to him, he was just doing what he was doing, and never once thought of it as rape.  So, I had to explain my truth to him, which is the actual truth, and he then realized what he did was wrong and how it was rape.

AND it's also about finally admitting the truth to ourselves, after not realizing it or denying it or sometimes not remembering it for a long time.  

Sow when people say "my truth", they do not mean something deceitful.  It means the actual truth, just when cut through the misunderstandings and lies.  

So, if you're in pain, you most likely need your truth to be heard in order to start healing.  And that means we need to confront our pain by expressing it.  

You don't have to do what I did.  You can be anonymous about it, like sending a postcard to Post Secret or posting on an anonymous blog.  Or you can write your memoir (I highly recommend this).  You can scream it at a holiday party (but this one may get you some flack).  You can write the person a letter and then throw it away or burn it.  You can confront the person about it directly.  Or you can write about it in your journal.  Sometimes, all it takes is just getting it out of your head and either onto paper or into the world in order to figure out how you feel about it and to work towards healing.  

Your pain could be from an argument, child abuse, spousal abuse, sexual abuse, being stabbed in the back by a friend or family member you trusted, being cheated on, financial abuse, gossip, or any other myriad of things that can happen.  It can be huge or small.  Some people I carried residual pain from I confronted directly, because the issue wasn't huge.  And all of those times turned out really, really well for both me and the other person.  Not that it will always turn out, as many people are narcissists and refuse to accept responsibility for their actions.  You don't always know if the other person will be responsive to your words.  But if you know for a fact they won't be, sometimes it's still worth confronting them, but sometimes it's worth just writing a letter and either sending it or throwing it away.  Though I will say if you write a letter, write the angry one first, throw it away, and then write another one that's more peaceful and send that one, if you decide to send one at all.  You can also put your pain into a song, poetry, art project, or story.  You can draw your pain, sing your pain, rhyme your pain, perform your pain, or fictionalize it.

The idea is that you need to confront your pain by not only digging deep to realize where your pain is actually stemming from (maybe your pain isn't from the other person at all, but from a deep wound inside of you that's being triggered), but also you need to express it.  Whether to yourself, others, or the person who hurt you, it doesn't matter.  But letting it only reside in your head and body means that it will take up long term residence and create long term problems for you.  So, confront that shit by expressing it.  Don't give it space to settle in.  Instead, let it out into the world where it can dissipate into all the other energy in the universe and spread it itself so it can't hurt you as much anymore.  

There's that saying that goes "sharing is caring", but in reality, sharing your pain is caring about yourself.  And by sharing you are helping others know they are not alone.  

When you confront and express your pain by whichever means you prefer, the key thing you need to remember is that you have to let it dissipate a little more each time you do it.  If it's a big thing, you may only need to do it once to start healing.  But usually, if your pain is great enough, you have to do several things in order to really start your journey towards healing.  Like journaling, expressive arts, letter writing, talking to a therapist or a wise friend (who mostly listens).  You just have to stop keeping it in and hoping it will get better.  It won't.  It will fester until you do something about it.  And every time you express your pain in some creative way, visualize it releasing its hold on you, and feel your energy become lighter as you do.  Because the point is to release it, not just express it for the sake of expressing it.  Which is something I think we've all done at one time or another.  

Remember: revenge is not a healthy way to deal with your pain.  And even though in the moment you may feel great, afterwards, it won't relieve your pain.  Then you have to deal with what you did and what they did.  That just adds more to your plate to heal from.  So don't do it.  No matter how temping it is.  

Real healing comes from inner work.  Your job is to heal you, not fix what they did to you.  So, make this new year be about healing as much as you can.  But also make time for doing what you love and spending time with who you love, and don't wallow in your pain (you know if you're wallowing if it's making you irritated or depressed or angry or other negative emotions), which is so easy to do.   When we want to work on actively healing ourselves, a lot of the time we can get stuck in that pain rather than releasing it.  To combat this, make sure you're spending time each and every day that nourishes your soul.  Mindfulness nourishes mine, as does watching mindful videos on YouTube (like The Cottage Fairy, Malama Life, Heal Your Living, etc.) and using visualizations in my meditation.  Oh, and using my Body Groove DVD's (you can see some on YouTube, too).  

You deserve your truth to be heard.  You deserve to be given the chance to let that shit go.  And you can't do that until you've fully expressed it, understood it, and dealt with it.  Sometimes expression is the last step on your healing journey, as it was for me with my rapist, the neighbor priest, and the guy I babysat for.  Or it may be just the beginning.  Wherever you are at on your healing journey, know that the world is better off when you share what happened to you.  We all heal a little bit more knowing we aren't alone.  I know that I have been healed by all the other stories I've read, listened to, seen, and watched over the years.  To know that I am not alone means we are all in this together.  And we are.  Even if you feel alone right now, know that you aren't.  

Use the comment section below to share your pain if you like.  Or share links to your blog or art projects or music or whatever you like.  This is your safe space.  And I thank you for being open to share your stories with us.  

I hope this new year is going to be your year for healing.  But know, it takes time and it's okay if it doesn't happen right away.  It's perfectly normal.  I'm still healing from things that happened decades ago.  We all have our own timetables.  But I do hope you find something that does help you move in the direction of healing.  And with that, I thank you for reading and look forward to another year of taking this journey with you.  

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