It’s not the load that breaks us down–heaven knows if we could see it all at once we might just shift our hips and find a better way to carry it–no, it’s the shrapnel of life that keeps turning up in our relationships or the gloom we feel when we’re alone due to the painful reality of a heart being torn out and left bleeding on the couch.
It’s not so much the shape of the matter as the absence of love–like a hole left behind when one piece of scripture is wantonly ripped from the Bible and taken out of context. It’s not the big things that tear us up, it’s a million little rocks in the soup of life that ruin our meals. It’s not the actual mass of the load as much as it is the way a thousand little things stick to our back like ornery burrs on a dog’s coat.
This is why recovery can’t happen all at once or even as fast as we hoped. Have you ever sat in slivers and had to get help in taking each piece out one at a time? That’s basically what recovery from abuse looks like. There ain’t no hurrying what cannot be hurried.
For those who are on this survivor’s journey, you’ve probably discovered healing is a continuous process. Now that we’re awake, we’re always learning new ways to heal and deal with in life. So what can we say to our friends who ask if we are over it yet? The first thing I want them to know is this is still me with a few scars. Like the skin horse in the Velveteen Rabbit, I’ve survived some rough handling, but I’m still here and I am myself now more than ever. I’ve also just read a new book that can help lighten the load.
The book is titled Healing from Hidden Abuse and I’d like to tell you a little about it. The author is a Christian counselor named Shannon Thomas. Her writing style is comforting. Thomas understands what it means to be abused, (I won’t give away her story here) and that might be why this book seems like a like a conversation with a good friend.
At the beginning of the book, Thomas reminds us that abusive people are everywhere—at work, at church, in the family, etc. It’s not enough to get safe from our abuser, because part of our healing is learning how to recognize unsafe people and maintain our boundaries to avoid future abuse.
In the last three years since I learned about narcissism, I’ve read at least a dozen books about abuse and I can tell you this is one of the best. Healing from Hidden Abuse especially hits the mark for ACoNs and those who have dealt with the hidden abuse of narcissism.
The first part of the book is very validating. For many of us who grew up with abuse, it’s been hard to recognize and name this abuse because what we lived through seemed normal to us at the time. I appreciate the way Thomas defines the difference between psychological abuse and emotional abuse. She says people can be emotionally abusive due to drug addictions, alcohol, etc. yet still have empathy for other people, whereas psychological abusers will abuse others because they get some sort of thrill from it.
Regardless of why such abuse happens, one of the most puzzling things for a survivor is the secrecy and clandestine nature of the abuse. When no one else sees what we’ve gone through or the abuser questions us like we are the abuser, it sometimes makes us question ourselves. If this is happening to you, this book will help you realize this is a form of gaslighting.
One of the most healing truths I discovered in this book is that our good points—resilience, empathy, and compassion actually made us targets for psychological abusers who were looking for people like us so they could milk us dry. I have often thought it was a flaw of mine that caused the abuse, but reading this book, I discovered it was not my flaws, but my strengths that allowed me to be targeted by the abuser. If you are the type of person who likes to make lemonade out of lemons, this is truly a book for you. There is nothing wrong with making lemonade–but we need to learn who is safe to share it with.
This book is easy to read, yet it packs a lot of information. I found myself marking the book and going back to re-read pages again. Sometimes I wondered if I would end up marking the entire book. It’s not only a validating resource, but it is also a great reference to have when issues or situations flare up again.
The first section examines patterns of psychological abuse. This book grew out of an online survey as a research project. If demographics are not your thing, just skip that chapter because it basically just affirms why the rest of the book is necessary and why Thomas’s six stages of healing actually work.
Thomas explains many terms we use in recovery community such as flying monkeys, hoovering, smear campaigns, love bombing, etc. I’ve written blogs on many of these topics before, but I found Thomas’s in descriptions informative and fascinating. I learned a few things here and I am sure you will too.
My favorite part was the recovery section. Thomas reminds us that the word survivor means to carry on despite hardships and to outlast and persevere. She points out the goal of surviving is to remain functional and what last half of the book is about.
This book is packed full of practical suggestion to help you overcome the emotional pain in your life. One of my favorite tips for those who are struggling with no contact is to put a photo collage of all the good things in your life on your phone. This is a reminder of what is going well in your life and why you need to protect your heath and the relationships that matter to you and not waste your time arguing and being emotionally attacked by your abuser.
This book describes in detail six steps of healing from psychological abuse. These are solid and easy steps to understand and follow. And it also includes understanding the ways we have contributed to our own abuse. Yes, we are responsible for the ways we have allowed other people to treat us, but this is not a shame walk, it’s a freedom walk. It’s a place to learn how to avoid landmines in the future.
When I read Thomas’s six stages of healing, I recognized these different stages in my own journey. I am sure you will too.
Here are the Six Stages of Healing
- Despair: The realization that life has become unmanageable.
- Education: Learning the specific methods of psychological abuse.
- Awakening: Awareness that other people have had similar experiences and recovery is possible.
- Boundaries: Implementing emotional and/or physical distance with an abuser.
- Restoration: Living purposefully to restore what was lost during the abuse.
- Maintenance: Returning to earlier stages to heal at a deeper level and maintaining recovery from abuse.
The book gives in depth tips for getting through these stages. If I’d had this book years ago, it would’ve taken the shame away of being scapegoated by my abusers and fast forwarded my healing, but I am grateful to be one of the first to read it now.
I recommend this book to anyone who has suffered any form of abuse and for those who have friends or family in abusive situations. This book is full of tools and wisdom to change lives. Reading it has filled me with clarity and peace.