How can I change ?

Is change possible for me? How much change can I realistically expect ? How can I change, particularly if lack of time or money is limiting what I have access to ? Can I do it on my own, or do I need professional help ? Is there hope for me ?

These are the questions I grappled with at the beginning of my recovery. I believe most of us do – wether we call it recovery from an addiction, from anxiety, from depression, from a traumatic past, from complex post traumatic disorder, or sexual violence (sometimes an unfortunate combination of all of the above).

In hindsight, I did change a lot, and I’m still changing. Some traits I believed were innate, like introversion, disappeared. Some traits, like assertiveness, emerged from the depths, together with this previously unknown feeling, anger. My self esteem shot up. Thanks to my new found self esteem and anger, relatively solid boundaries appeared.

Explaining how I changed, though, is a tough challenge. And some problematic aspects did not move at all. Why? I don’t know.

So I recruited help, as usual, this time in the form of a podcast : Why don’t we get better ? by Forrest & Rick Hanson. This podcast seems to be a very promising source of insights and reflexion by the way, so I subscribed. It may well be a nice addition to my very short list of useful podcasts. I’ll keep you posted.

But back to our topic of change: as a very experienced therapist and author, Rick Hanson’s thoughts are much richer and more structured than mine. However, I was glad to see I agree with a lot of what both father and son (isn’t that sweet ?) say here.

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Fight, Flight, Freeze

No need to be a psychologist to know the “fight of flight” phrase. It has been pretty much everywhere, from tv programs to magazines to blogs to online psychology courses. Usually it comes with the example of a cave ancestor faced with a saber toothed tiger.

Threat ? Fight or Flight.

This “Fight or Flight” has been around since the 1920’s, initially describing the instinctual response of animals to danger. With time, it was discovered humans have the same hardwired reaction to threat, and that it can lead to us being traumatized.

Unfortunately, this idea that there are only these two possible reactions to a threat is shaming for us, survivors of sexual trauma. Because of course, when we disclose what we were victims of, or even in the privacy of our own heads, there it goes: “when it happened, why didn’t you fight? Why didn’t you flee?”.

Indeed, most of us did not: instead, we froze.

This can, and very often does, lead to unfair self blame later.

It can also be used by malicious or uninformed people as a proof of consent. I think you know, but just in case: not fleeing, and not fighting, is not a proof of consent. Unpressured explicit consent is a proof of consent. As for children, informed consent simply does not exist.

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Signs you are depressed

Depression from the inside

Most of us spend a lot of time and energy criticizing what we believe are our character traits (along the lines of : stop being so sensitive, lazy, procrastinating…), not realizing that they are classical symptoms of a disease.

And it is true the distinction is difficult to see especially when we have been living with depression for a long time, sometimes from early childhood.

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Recovery: where to start

Me too : Recovery works

I do consider myself in recovery for more or less 25 years. Yes, it is a long time, and I realize it can seem discouraging.

It does not need to be. I started to feel better relatively quickly – granted, considering the state I was in, it does not seem such a feat.

But still, it was important to see my situation improving. It created the space for a lovely feeling: hope. One day, I will be fine. And sure enough, one day I was just fine. Not “happy ever after” fine, but fine most of the time.

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Me too: what is sexual violence ?

Stranger violence

My friend Sara always stayed in her home country, France. For reasons she never articulated, she did not like the idea of travelling abroad. It was not a real problem for her though, and she organised her life around it.

One day, Sara was promoted. Part of her new responsibilities included travelling abroad. Before her first trip, anxieties mounted to an almost unbearable level. When the day came though, her business trip web very smoothly, and she came back relaxed and satisfied.

This episode triggered some self reflexion: why was it initially such a problem for her ? She remembered that as a yound adult, she travelled to North Africa with a few other friends. The whole time, the group of girls had been harrassed by unsolicited, insistent and intrusive male attention. Some nights, it was impossible to sleep because of the never ending ringing at their doors. Sara realised that her anxiety at the idea of travelling appeared after this unfortunate first experience.

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