I am often asked how I can work with trauma victims all day without it leaving me completely void of energy, or worse. Particularly, victims of sexual abuse, hearing the stories, so different and yet so much of the same, over and over again. What’s most interesting to me though is that my job often supplies me with, rather than depletes me of energy, hope, empathy, and compassion.
Recently the #MeToo Campaign struck a chord with me personally, as it has with many women and men throughout the country and probably the world. I have thought back to my own experiences, which include sexual assault and sexual harassment, and I have thought about how different my life is, how different I am because of those experiences. While I’m not convinced this is the time or place for me to share some of my own personal experiences, I will share something that I have learned and has easily had a great effect on who I am now, including the career path I chose.
I have seen firsthand the effects of sexual abuse. I have seen what happens when a woman (and this is the same for men as I’ve seen through my work), goes through abuse and picks up a negative belief about themselves. With sexual abuse and sexual assault, this belief could be about safety, it could be about a person’s worthiness or the belief that others care or willingness to listen to them. I’m not worthy of love and belonging, I’m not safe, I’m not good enough, etc.
These beliefs in and of themselves are bad enough but the problem I continually encounter in my job as a therapist is that many people take these negative beliefs and they find ways to continually validate them. Maybe they put themselves in bad situations, date people who treat them badly, decide they have nothing to offer so they give up on their dreams and settle for a life that is less than what they deserve.
Dealing w/ My Trauma
Several months ago I had dinner with a few of my former classmates and their spouses. While we ate we joked about how each of us deals with trauma (yes even us therapists), on a somewhat regular basis. As a trauma therapist who specializes in a technique called EMDR, I find this therapeutic technique allows my clients to work through these negative beliefs and eventually insert positive ones in their place. It’s such a beautiful thing to watch as people begin to change this belief and learn newer, healthier ways of dealing with future trauma.
#MeToo is about providing awareness. Awareness that people are bullied, harassed and even abused and assaulted regularly. This intimidation, this bullying is not okay. This movement is about taking back our respect. Taking back these negative beliefs and (hopefully) replacing them with something better.
We deserve more than to be victimized, bullied and abused and the best way to fight back is to change these beliefs first with our own selves. If we all felt that way about ourselves then these abusers, these bully’s, would not be able to find a victim; so, take a chance that what you have to offer, that who you are is so much more. Love yourself enough to do what is necessary to make these changes because you deserve it and you can be part of the change.