The continued coverage of George Pell in the news may have triggered a mixture of emotions for us – and for many different reasons. Our professional team members have long borne witness to hundreds of stories of childhood sexual abuse.
We know the ramifications of such cruelty and the profound shattering of trust continue to echo throughout a person’s life, particularly if they’ve never been provided with compassionate and holistic support to enable their healing.
Our hearts are very much with everyone who feels traumatised by the reminding of their own sexual abuse from childhood. If you were abused, you’re likely to feel vulnerable, anxious, angry, upset and isolated – just as you were, when you were a child. Some people will feel like they’re right back there with all the horror and distress of what was done to them. Our hearts are with you.
Even if you weren’t abused, you may be feeling angry, shocked, saddened, disillusioned, let-down, or feel as though you’re sinking into a black hole of despair. It surely can feel like we’re living in troubled times.
HOW DO WE MAINTAIN OUR PEACE OF MIND?
How do we maintain our peace of mind and inner calm when there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the suffering we’re facing? Perhaps the first step is to recognise our own aching heart and extend compassion to ourselves and/or those who were abused.
It’s helpful too, to acknowledge and witness our feelings without becoming stuck or overwhelmed by them. Mindfulness and meditation enable us to witness ourselves experiencing the feeling without labelling ourselves as the feeling.
We are not our feelings; we have feelings
There’s a big difference between acknowledging the black hole of despair, feeling its impact on our body and mind and, not allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed or consumed by it. We can have the feeling without it having us!
IT’S OK TO FEEL ANYTHING
We may feel hopelessness, despair or impending doom, but it’s what we do with the feeling that matters. We can feel murderous rage, but we might not want to act on it. We can feel great despair but choose to witness the feeling rather than act from that feeling. I’m not pretending to say this is easy, but it is possible with education, support and practice.
It’s never ok to hurt yourself or someone else because of an intense feeling.
ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THESE FEELINGS EXIST AND GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO FEEL THEM
Make time for yourself, particularly if you’re feeling vulnerable and upset. You’ll never find the time to compassionately care for yourself; you’ll need to make the time by ensuring that caring for yourself is your priority.
PRACTICAL STEPS WE CAN ALL TAKE
There are practical steps we can all take so that we live in a state of inner equilibrium regardless of the outer challenges we may face or the traumas we have experienced.
1. CONNECT WITH OTHERS
If you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by your feelings, contact a support organisation such as Beyond Blue (1300-22-46-36) or Lifeline Australia (13-11-14).
Remember, you’re never alone. What you hold in your heart is flowing out to touch the lives of everyone else – we hear you and feel compassion for your anguish. The intensity of what you might be feeling will pass, even though it may feel totally overwhelming at present. Reach out for help.
For those of us who feel so much sadness, anger and distress about what has been done to children, be gentle with yourself at this time too. Perhaps consider making a donation to a charity which helps people recover from the trauma they’ve experienced as children.
2. BE MINDFUL OF HOW THE NEWS AFFECTS YOU — PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY
Consider limiting your, and especially your children’s exposure, to distressing images and news. This is particularly relevant to anyone already facing significant challenges. Being constantly confronted with suffering over which you have no control will only weaken and disempower you.
If you find the news distressing, turn it off!
3. DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE
Put a good deed back into the world. Thinking outside of our own personal desires and interests is one of the best ways to enhance our sense of wellbeing. Doing something for someone else, no matter how small, has the added benefit of making you feel better too. Is there something you can do for a neighbour, a friend or someone else today?
If you know someone who’s likely to be distressed at this time, reach out to them with a gentle word. It’s fine to say,
“I have no idea what you must be feeling at present, but I want you to know I’m thinking of you and keeping you in my heart”
– or whatever feels right for you to say.
4. KNOW YOURSELF
Become aware of your attitudes, beliefs and reactions. Be willing to be a work in progress. This gives you the chance to change your judgements of yourself and others.
Know what replenishes you and make sure that those things happen in your life. If music, nature, ritual, singing, dancing, reading, soaking in a bath, prayer, exercising, gardening or other activity replenishes or nurtures you, then make sure you’re including those things on a regular basis.
5. BE PRESENT TO THE BREATH
Awareness of the breath allows you to more easily respond rather than react to life’s challenges. We can’t always control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we respond to the things that happen. We may not be able to avoid becoming emotionally distressed, but we can control the intensity and duration of that upset and how – and if – we express it.
6. BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF
Practice compassion and kindness towards yourself and others as many people are feeling upset or distressed and your presence can uplift and encourage them. A gentle word or hug can help other people to feel acknowledged and understood. Providing comfort to someone else, comforts us too.
7. LETTING GO OF THE PAST
We can look to history to remind ourselves that despite dark times in this world, good ultimately prevails. The ‘peace that passes all understanding’ is that sacred space in which we’re no longer defined by our history, regardless of its challenges, traumas and griefs. This too, shall pass.
At a time when finding compassion might be especially difficult, we can choose to anchor our sense of self in that which is beyond change – our essential nature, which for some is their awareness, their consciousness, their soul or their spirit. A compassionate perspective enables us to embrace our suffering and feel its pain without losing our capacity to love.
HOW QUEST FOR LIFE CAN HELP
Quest for Life has hosted dozens of programs for people who’ve experienced sexual abuse in their childhood. This damaging trauma reverberates throughout a person’s life unless wise and compassionate nurturing is offered. If you need support in healing the past and building a better future, Quest for Life can assist through our residential programs and 1-day workshops.
Our 1-day Living Mindfully workshops provide a concentrated dose of what we deliver on our residential programs and enable Quest to take the programs on the road.
Join us at one or all of the Living Mindfully 1-day workshops and help yourself regain control over your life and move forward toward greater peace of mind and a deeper understanding of yourself and others.
Healing Your Life