No joke, we witnessed this up close when a person we love was shamed, blamed and yes, told they were being selfish for wanting healing. It was so shocking to us we couldn’t wrap our brains around it. Now we get it.
Check out Shannon Thomas’ book, “Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse.”
For yourself or someone you care about, you need to check out this video. It’s not very long but it contains a powerful insight concerning our need to care for ur physical self as we also care for our emotional self.
Here is a quote from the page:
“We need to tend to our bodies,” says Dr. Dan Allender in this video, part of our ongoing series engaging topics related to trauma, abuse, and the hope for healing. Dan invites us to consider how our treatment of our bodies might exacerbate or perpetuate the effects of trauma in our lives. “We are to go no further in the engagement of our past and the trauma of our story than we can care for our body in the present,” says Dan. “Your body cannot endure ongoing stress and trauma without certain levels of attending care.”
The other day, I was in the company of a teacher friend. Something happened and I got to thinking about all those kids she works with. I asked her, “Do you ever tell any of your kids that they’re gross?”
She was surprised that I would suggest such a thing. “Of course not, I would never say that to a child.”
Why not? Aren’t kids just a little gross? Runny noses and/or fingers in them. Poor bladder and bowel control. A general lack of hygiene. If you want a contagious disease like a cold, flu, or strep just hang around with children. Don’t forget parasites. Just thinking about kids with lice gives me the heeby-jeebies. On top of all that, they’re not very bright and they quickly go savage under the wrong conditions. It’s no wonder that a common horror movie trope is evil children; they freak us out.
In spite of all that, a good teacher would never call her children gross or any other terrible names. In fact, have you ever noticed when we witness someone putting a child down we are physically uncomfortable and that distress might linger for a long time. That’s our own past shaming experiences bubbling to the surface and gripping our hearts all over again. That’s why so often when we see or hear someone being bullied we freeze up even though we want to intervene to try to save the child from pain we can so easily relate to.
So she said, “Of course not, I would never say that to a child.”
What about kid so and so who has issues? What about the one whose clothes seem two sizes to small? What about the kid with the mental challenges or the deformity?
“Absolutely not! I would never call any child gross or any other name. It’s offensive that you would even ask that question.”
But you see, just a moment before I asked my question, she had glanced at herself in a mirror and I heard her tell herself something. I looked her the eyes with all the care and compassion I could and I asked…
“Then why do you say it to yourself?”
At a recent event I attended, a multi-Ironman triathlete shared his story about the colon cancer that has drastically changed his life. He was having multiple health issues and not sure why. Once he was finally diagnosed he was scheduled for surgery. He said that after surgery, the doctor said he has a cancer that’s not removable or curable. The only way he would live is if he followed a strict chemo treatment regimen.
I’m sure most of us would struggle with such news. He did too, but then he realized it was actually good news. He now knew what he had to do to stay alive.
Mental health struggles are like cancer. The affect us emotionally and physically – they eat us up from the inside out. Not only is the struggle itself difficult, it’s bathed in stigma leading to shame and even self-contempt.
The good news is, as we increase awareness and understanding of our mental health needs, we can hear the doctor’s orders as a positive – if we daily take our “medicine” we will stay alive. Of course, what the medicine is, varies person to person but treatment, good supports, and ongoing physical and mental self-care are key components. It’s not easy but the more intentional we are at taking our medicine, the more we can move forward with hope.
I just discovered Dr. Guy Winch. He emphasizes the importance of emotional first aid. After reading one of his articles and listening to his TED talk, I bought his book. Even though I am just getting into the book, my brain is buzzing from the first part about the emotional trauma from severe and/or chronic rejection.
I’ve been focused lately on the importance of love and belonging – how they provide security and empower us to be our best selves. I’ve been mostly seeing how shame degrades love and belonging but rejection is a huge piece of the puzzle. Shame and rejection seem to be related; shaming someone gives them the sense of being rejected. From what I can tell, rejection can happen independent of shaming – like being excluded even unintentionally from a group activity – but then it leads to us to dumping shame on ourselves. As Dr. Winch notes, “…rejections elicit emotional pain so sharp it affects our thinking, floods us with anger, erodes our confidence and self-esteem, and destabilizes our fundamental feeling of belonging.”
I was pondering rejection in my life. Two of my most persistent and painful memories from my childhood are rejection experiences with my dad. I was also considering rejection in lives of people I know who struggle with emotional trauma and also the damage rejection creates in the churches where I minister. I need to be more aware of rejection experiences.
While pondering all these things, it hit me. God repeatedly makes it clear that he has never rejected us. Seven times he says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” In John 14:18, he tells us, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” In Matthew 28:20, we are told, “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Even to those who ultimately refuse every effort made by God to rescue them, he doesn’t reject them but with tears simply gives them up to their hearts’ desire. Actually, when you look closely at God’s story, the only one who really gets completely rejected is God. By us, his children.
From God’s position, his love for you and your belonging with him, is never in question. I hope the truth of that brings you hope and peace.