Freedom is the absence of coercion or constraint in choice or action.
I believe freedom is the ultimate desired feeling. We all crave to be able to do what we want, how we want, when we want. But for survivors of domestic abuse, it is difficult to actually feel true freedom even after we've left the abusive situation. Once the source of the pain has been removed, the survivor's journey to freedom has just begun.
Pain and anxiety have taken up residence in the body. The body has become the container-it remembers the darkness, still feels the torment, senses the fear, and lives in the shame. Although, we're no longer in that abusive situation, shackles of fear, guilt, and shame remain. Personal power was relinquished; it was given away maybe without realizing it. Disempowering habits were created which led to a cycle of powerlessness.
I've been there.
I know what it's like to feel the enduring burden of gloom.
I know what it's like to be silenced.
I know what it's like to have not one ounce of dignity.
I know what it's like to make yourself so small so as not to disturb the ego of another.
I know what it's like to feel like you have to crawl out of the deepest, darkest, hole that ever existed.
I know what it's like to be enslaved by not only physical chains, but psychological chains.
Sometimes, the psychological chains are much stronger than physical chains.
For years after leaving the abuse, I lived in a haze of confusion and uncertainty. Not because I didn't know what I wanted but because I no longer recognized the person staring back at me in the mirror. That person in the reflection had given everything she had to keep her head above water and still felt as if she had drowned. There were no clear paths to wholeness, only remnants of a once vibrant little girl who desperately wanted to live her truth.
The road back was long but brought incredible awareness. The lessons I've learned are priceless. What we believe about ourselves, about our lives, about the world, about love, can inspire us to become more aware, experience profound expansion, or can frustrate and paralyze us. If we take the time to look within, we'll discover our desires never left. Our desires indicate the path we need to take to become who we want to be.
Wanting to stay a victim locks us inside the suffering. Suffering is not the same as pain. Suffering is the story we continue to perpetuate after an experience. Sometimes those stories may seem more important than freedom. But what we have to realize is no matter how deep or long we've lived in the darkness, in hell, it's never too late to move into the light, to choose something different.
We must ask ourselves what we need to be able to take that first step in the direction of our hearts.
Freedom is created when we:
Stop all forms of self-sabotage and limiting beliefs.
Brainwashing and manipulation are tools an abuser uses to destroy its victim. As a result, we adopt habits and beliefs that keep us locked inside our own prisons. We've put up walls of self-protection and suppressed our true feelings and desires. We've claimed a new identity, one that is unrecognizable to us. But, once we identify the behaviors that have paralyzed us, we can get to the root of those thoughts and feelings that are influencing those behaviors. We must be conscious of our daily choices and their consequences. We should also consider the limiting beliefs we've associated with these destructive behaviors. We have to understand these limiting beliefs are a misinterpretation of our pasts. The past does not determine the future.
We can replace disempowering beliefs such as...
I'm a failure
with the opposite...
We must challenge habitual ways of speaking and negative thought patterns, and take action to change what creates unhappiness in our lives. The change in our thought patterns won't happen overnight but with consistent effort, we will begin to feel better soon after shifting our beliefs.
Stop blaming others.
Accepting responsibility is one of the most important elements in our journey to freedom. We need to stop mourning for what could've been and accept responsibility for our part. Responsibility is making a conscious choice to choose our response in every moment to everything that happens around us. We are not responsible for the abuse, but we must own what we chose to do after the abuse.
When we blame others, we give up our power to choose differently in the future. Owning that we've had a hand in what has happened, we're accepting responsibility for finding solutions and making improvements in our lives. Accepting responsibility is a measure of one's self-worth and a true sign of courage and wisdom. By accepting responsibility, we gain the freedom to create the life we desire. In the future, we can choose for ourselves: what we accept, what we believe, and what we value. The only way to create a new story is to stop living the same old story. Instead of letting life happen to us, we can take responsibility so we can create our own path.
"When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone." -George O'Neil
Forgive others who have hurt us.
Forgiveness will free us, heal us, nurture us, and release us. Forgiveness will bring us into the light, fill us with compassion and empower us. In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. A fantasy or an idea of what we thought a situation was or should be, an expectation, an assumption or an illusion. However, along with that death, there is a rebirth, a new understanding, a realization, an enlightening, a healing. We develop a deeper sense of self. We free ourselves from the shackles of anger. Forgiving doesn't mean we have to trust that person again. It doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. It also doesn't mean we will tolerate any abuse or lack of respect in the future. We forgive others so we can be set free. Understanding the importance of forgiveness will open up our lives to more peace and freedom. We must remember, every difficult situation is an opportunity to learn and grow. Each lesson is an opportunity to strengthen our soul. Nobody has the power to make us feel anything without our consent.
Realize we're not our mistakes. Forgiving ourselves is essential to spiritual evolution and freedom. Separate the action from the self. We can't allow the feelings of guilt and shame to occupy space in our head; we must acknowledge them, feel them, observe them, then release them. Remember, what is causing distress now are the thoughts and feelings surrounding the event, which is in the past. We can feel guilt about something we've done or failed to do that wasn't in alignment with our moral compass, however we must also accept our humanness and vulnerability. We did the best we could with what we knew at the time. As we choose self-compassion and self-love over and over, new layers are revealed to allow for deeper healing.
Reclaim our personal power.
Personal power is the ability to take action, to make changes when necessary, and to make conscious, deliberate decisions. It aims at mastering the self, not others. It is understanding we are co-creating every experience we have. Personal power is taking responsibility for our truth. Creating our freedom can only be done without self-judgment, self-blame, and self-criticism. Instead of blaming ourselves for disharmony, we need to find the inner cause and shift it to create the desired result. We must stop asking for permission and begin making choices that realign us with our light. No matter what we do, some will never approve. We will be judged every step of the way, that is none of our business. It doesn't matter what others think of us. Freedom is realized when we are committed to falling in love with ourselves, to owning our story, and unapologetically living our truth.
A story is a powerful thing. Each word is an act of bravery. To fully own our story takes courage, but the only way to get rid of darkness is to shine a light on it, we cannot get rid of darkness. Darkness only appears to exist. There is only the presence of light and the absence of light. Shine a light on all that feels dark and you will begin to heal.
Remember, our story isn't over, we get to write the ending. The only way to get passed the pain is to move through it.
If you are currently in an abusive situation, you can contact:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) OR www.domesticshelters.org.
Crystal works with survivors of domestic violence. She is deeply passionate about her mission because as a survivor turned thriver, she truly believes when women personify a deep sense of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-belief, they become unstoppable and never settle again. She is offering a FREE Teleclass to those who are ready to embark on their journey to freedom after abuse. Join Here.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.