Healing and Learning to Be Assertive - Chat Transcript
The Pandora's Aquarium chat room welcomed Rachel Grant on March 30, 2013. Rachel holds a master's degree in counseling and works with survivors of trauma, and she spoke to members on different aspects of healing from sexual assault. You can visit Rachel's website at: http://rachelgrantcoaching.com/
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Mod 1: Hello and welcome. We are pleased to welcome back Rachel Grant as our guest speaker for tonight's chat. Rachel holds a master's in counseling and works with survivors of trauma. The first part of the chat will be questions that were previously submitted. The second part will be questions submitted throughout the chat. We will try to get to all questions, however there is a time limit so it may not be possible to answer all questions. Rachel please type // when you have
finished answering each question. OK, let's begin.
Mod 1: One of my friends treats me with kid gloves all the time and as lovely as it is that they really care about me, I'd really like to be able to reassure them that I'm still me. Yes, it was a terrible thing to happen, yes I do struggle with flashbacks and anxiety, but I'm still that bright, funny, fun-loving person that they've known since I was a kid. I really don't want to offend them
but I'd love to hear of any ways I can try to get them to understand that support is great but this
over-protectiveness really doesn't seem to be helping.
CoachRachelG:Sometimes people who are in our lives are just a bit unsure of how to support us. Often times, they offer the kind of support that they would like to receive (imagining what they would feel if they were in your shows and what would make a difference for them. The trouble, as you can guess, is that they are giving what they need, not what you need. (By the
way, next time you offer support to someone else – check in and ask, “Do I really know what they need, have I asked them, or am I just offering what I would want?”) So, the next step is then to clearly communicate what kind of support you want.
A clear request has four parts:
- Get clear about what you want: this is so valuable in that it helps us truly identify and get clear about what we need before we even start to communicate. Example: I would like to talk by phone; I want to meet in person.
- Get even more specific—day, time, how often. Example: I would like to talk by phone once a week on Tuesdays at 12 p.m.
- Ask for confirmation/agreement: a great phrase to use is “How does that sound?” or “Would that work for you?” Example: How does that sound? Would that work for you?
- Negotiate. Based on the person’s response, you may need to adjust the details or you may have to hear them say “No, I can’t do that” and not fall into meaning making as a result.
CoachRachelG: Let’s practice making a clear request. Who would like to volunteer?
Chatter 1: I've been feeling kinda lonely and pushed to the side, would it be possible to meet once a week for drinks? (soda or whatever)
Chatter 1: That's how I've been feeling in my offline life
CoachRachelG: Essentially, the idea here is that we in some ways have to let go that others should just "get it" and we can help them by giving them complete information about what we need. (Btw, I know asking for what we need can be scary, but just use the steps to help make doing so a bit more approachable).
Mod 1: I'd like to work on ways to be able to communicate when I'm angry, rather than sulking in silence but feel like I'm caught in this pattern of get angry, sulk, withdraw and then venture out of my shell again. How do you work on letting people know you're angry in more healthier ways than this? I know some of this relates to when I was little and any time I showed any anger I'd end up getting hurt even more but there's got to be better ways of dealing with things rather than this sulk and retreat - it's not doing me or anyone around me any good. I'd love some help working out how to deal with this.
CoachRachelG: Allowing ourselves to experience the feelings related to the abuse, particularly anger, can sometimes prove to be very challenging. We spend much of our time burying them, avoiding them, or looking the other way. We fear that we will just explode, like a volcano, if we express these feelings. Also, we may believe we will not be able to cope or manage if we allow ourselves to really feel these emotions. If we try to approach the feelings, we experience another very powerful feeling: anxiety. My intuition is that you’ve not given your permission yet to fully feel and express your anger about the abuse, and so are stuck repeating this pattern. We have to process and express the “true” anger before we can begin changing our behaviors and responses to anger.
Let’s just practice this a little – here's an opportunity in a safe space to give voice, to express: Is there any one thing about the abuse that makes you feel particularly angry?
Mod 1: Well for me it was not having anyone notice or if they did notice they didn't care enough to do anything about it
Mod 2: I'm angry that he ruined my favorite movie (I know, it seems a bit childish)
CoachRachelG: Okay, so now express that fully -- "I am angry because no one noticed what was happening."
Mod 2, don't discount your anger -- you just canceled your self-expression. I encourage you to try again without stepping away from it, if you can.
Chatter 1: As for what happened with the physical therapist, it's that he made me mistrust so many male authority figures in my life (teachers) for so long
CoachRachelG: Good, Chatter 1... now say, "I am angry because... See how we even shy away from even just typing the word!
Mod 2: I'm angry that he ruined my favorite movie
Mod 1: Ok, .I'm angry because no one noticed what was happening and I felt like nobody cared about me.
Chatter 2: I'm angry because I feel I'll never able to trust anyone again.
Chatter 3: why does naming it help?
Chatter 1: Ok, I'm angry because B made it hard for me to be comfortable in my own apartment
and made it hard for me to trust my current landlord.
CoachRachelG: Good question Chatter 3. Two things happen when we say things directly. First, language is extremely powerful. By saying, "I am angry" we are truly getting in touch with the emotion and experience. As opposed to "I'm upset .. I didn't like ..." The second is that we can begin to notice that to name and express anger
1) doesn't cause us the world to stop.
2) doesn't mean we have to take action but can just acknowledge the feeling
3) breaks the cycle of hiding.
CoachRachelG: For more work on anger, you can also check out this lesson on anger to do further thinking and reflection: http://rachelgrantco...cks-you-dry.pdf You may also want to check out The Anger Workbook by Les Carter & Frank Minirth.
Mod 1: I've been with my therapist for a couple of years now and one of the things we're trying to work on is keeping engaged in the here and now and with the therapy. It's pretty difficult though as we can be making good progress and then it's almost like as soon as anything "dangerous" comes up that I just shut down. It seems like part of me really wants to work though
these things and part of me just wants to box it all up. I'd really like to know how I can keep things moving rather than going through this stop-start-stop all the time. Do you have any suggestions?
CoachRachelG: Think of the brain as being comprised of a bunch of islands. Some areas are warm and inviting – the Tahiti of the mind. Others are more like the levels of pain in Dante’s Inferno. What is happening to you is a biological and neurological response. Let’s use a somewhat light example to explore this… Say the experience (what happened) was that your father spanked you. The brain immediately goes into protection mode, determining how big the threat is and how to respond. Furthermore, the brain sets up a little island with sign, “Danger Spankville – Danger!” Now, five years later, you want to return to the memory (which is simple activating the neurons in Spankville and the brain has no sense of time so there is no separation of spankville in reality and spankville in remembering). So, your response is “Get me outta here!” So, what we have to do is retrain the mind, teach it that Spankville no longer exists in reality. There is nothing to be afraid of. You can get a sense of how to do this here: http://rachelgrantco...ut-a-neuron.pdf . That will at the very least get you started. By the way, I
would also speak to your therapist about exploring more cognitive-behavioral approaches if he/she is well-versed in them.
Mod 1: Ever since I started dealing with the abuse I experienced I find it really difficult to be around people. Even when I'd really like some help and support I keep pushing people away. I feel I need to start letting my walls down a little bit more and letting people in but it's really hard because I have so much difficulty trusting my own judgment as well as other people. Can you share any tips that could help with this?
CoachRachelG: Many of us struggle with trust. It is not surprising given that our fundamental trust in another person was shattered as a result of abuse. In fact, it is hard for some survivors to remember ever trusting anyone. As we think about trust, we often focus on determining if a person is trustworthy or not. To be sure, this is very important. However, trusting ourselves is actually the first step! If we do not have the confidence that we can make good decisions, judge others with wisdom and clarity, and set the boundaries that are necessary when others violate our trust, then thinking about trusting others will prove to be an empty and meaningless endeavor. Let’s do a little reflection:: How did you finish the statement, “I do not trust myself because …”
Mod 2: I didnt trust my intuition when I should have.
CoachRachelG: So, just to rephrase a bit Mod 2, try on "I don't trust myself to be tuned in and aware." does that feel right?
Chatter 2: I'm afraid I won't be able to protect myself if something goes wrong.
Chatter 1: I didn't either. And when I tried to get him to leave, that's when the nightmare began
Mod 2: Yes Rachel, that's right
CoachRachelG: Chatter 1 try on, "I don't trust myself to be able to influence others." does that feel right?
Chatter 1: Ok, I don't trust myself to be able to influence others. Sadly yes.
CoachRachelG: This is great news!
Chatter 1: It is??
CoachRachelG: First of all, I'd like to encourage both of you to consider and be open to the possibility that what caused the abuse, rape, whatever your experience was had nothing to do with your ability or inability to either follow your intuition or be influential. The only thing that caused what happened to happen, was the choice of the other person. Even if it's hard to get
there, we can start looking for ways that you can renew or develop a trust in yourself in these areas. How will you begin trusting yourself today? What are some small steps you can take? What things are happening in your life that challenge the belief that you can't influence others or that you don't trust your intuition?
Chatter 1: I'm starting to realize that, my brother told me that it wasn't so much the fact that I let him in, but that he came back to my apartment alone after only meeting me once.
CoachRachelG: That still puts the responsibility on you though. So, if you'd brought him home after three dates instead of one you'd then be allowed to blame him? Just really take that in for a moment ...
Mod 2: im learning to listen to myself more when im unable to handle the way things are going, So I suppose that is listening to my intuition.
Chatter 1: Yes?
CoachRachelG: One of the most important steps we can take is to place the blame where it belongs. To understand that we can be responsible for all sorts of choices, but we can never be responsible for the choice that another person makes to harm us. Being grounded in who we are, confident in our ability to make good decisions, and able to set and keep boundaries are critical components of trusting others. Begin here, once you’ve grown in this, you can then more fully
take on trusting others.
Mod 1: I'm such a harsh critic of myself and can end up with negative thoughts swirling around my head. I'd like to know of ways to stop this and also try to understand why I can be so cruel to myself but would never dream of talking that way to other people.
CoachRachelG: Intercepting the runaway false beliefs can be done in a number of ways, but I’ll give you a quick exercise that you can do. First, remember that what is happening is that an “island” has been activated (all of the sights, smells, feelings, ideas on that island also start jumping around). Our job is to switch islands. In order to do this, we essentially have to force the brain to calm down and see the beautiful island just across the way. We can also use this exercise of asking ourselves “What did I have for breakfast?” as a way to interrupt the brain from continuing on its usual path whenever we notice we are falling into these patterns of thought. As to why we can be so cruel to ourselves, well, that’s a much bigger question. It is usually related and tied to the beliefs we have about who we are though. Do you believe you are beautiful, valuable, precious, amazing, courageous. Or do you believe you are worthless, inadequate, useless…
We become more and more gentle and compassionate with ourselves as we tune in to the truth about who we are – which has nothing to do with the lies we were told during the abuse.
Mod 1: I'm at the point now where I've dealt with a lot of issues related to my rape but I still struggle with my appearance and any idea of dressing up seems so alien to me these days. It's odd because it's not like I've had any victim blaming and shaming statements about what I was wearing when I was raped - I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, hardly what anyone would call glamorous or revealing clothing - yet I'm really stuck on this one, it's like the idea of being visible, me being attractive scares me. The last time I tried wearing lipstick (I was in my home) had me panicking even though I wasn't going anywhere and there was no one there with me. I really want to work on this though because I'd like to wear more dressy clothes again. Do you have any ideas of attempting this? Even just a little move forward would be good.
CoachRachelG: Okay, let’s do an exercise. Fill in the blank: If I wear make-up or dress up, it will mean that I am ________________.
Mod 2: Being provocative
Chatter 2: Men will look at me
Chatter 1: Being positive
Chatter 2: that I am seeing attention from them
CoachRachelG: And if I am [fill in with what you just answered], it means I _________________ will happen.
Chatter 1: If I'm being positive, I think good things will happen
Chatter 2: If I am seeking attention I could get caught in an uncomfortable situation
Chatter 1: I worry about that too
CoachRachelG: So, what's happening is that we are collapsing cause and effect. Makeup = uncomfortable situation. Wearing dresses = attracting attention = being attacked. Our first step towards breaking out of these associations is by noticing that, in fact, one does not cause the other. This is just a snapshot of the thinking error that happens. If you'd like to delve more deeply, feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Mod 1: My therapist keeps telling me that I have value despite what I have been through but I just don't believe him. How can I find the value that he is telling me I have and where does it come it from?
CoachRachelG: A belief is simply something that we declare to be true. Value is not a feeling. Does a $100,000 car “feel” valuable. No, it just is. It is the essence. Our value is the same. It is not something we feel, discover – it is something we declare. So, how do we declare it? “Right speech. We begin now to reach down and take hold of the switches that control our lives. Language is the first. Language does two things: it furnishes both an indication of our character
and a lever for shifting it.” Check out this article for a deeper explanation: http://rachelgrantco...hat-you-say.pdf
Mod 1: We are actually going to end the chat here. But as Rachel said she is happy to answer questions via email. Rachel can you please give us your email address?
CoachRachelG: Thank you everyone for sharing yourselves so openly, being open, and getting the support and care you need to move on in your recovery! It's been a pleasure speaking with each of you tonight.
Mod 2: Thank you so much for being with us tonight Rachel!
Mod 1: We would like to thank Rachel for coming tonight and chatting with us. I hope everyone
found this chat to be helpful
CoachRachelG: goodnight all and see you again soon!
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