Week 1, Session 1: Introduction & 4 Key Facts
Hello everyone! Welcome to our very first session of Bloom - Chayn’s trauma support group! The hardest part is over. You’re here with us. You've signed up, shown up, and started the work towards recovery. Now, together, we’ll be guiding you through the dynamics of domestic abuse. This is Week 1, Session 1.
Abuse is about making someone feel small, that we’re somehow undeserving of attention or love, or of a bigger world than what our abusers or our traumatic experiences have set out for us. With this course, we hope you’ll begin to see otherwise: to know, no matter how you’ve been treated, what you may have been through, that you are worth more, and there is always an explanation for the ways that you feel - and always a way to move forward.
It will take some work and effort, and won’t always be easy, because we’ve been conditioned to think so poorly of ourselves - but don’t feel you’ve failed if this change doesn’t happen overnight. Just by being here and reading along, you can begin to trust your own voice. (It’s about practice, not perfection.)
We go through a grounding exercise at the start of every session. Grounding exercises are a set of strategies that help us when pain or difficult memories overwhelm us - our first “trick” toward wellness! They’re designed as techniques to stay “present” when we feel ourselves “dissociating” or as though we’re outside our own bodies. If, at any point, you feel uncomfortable while reading the session (or anywhere, in your home or on the go), you can use one of these techniques to bring yourself back and away from hard emotions or physical sensations.
If you can, please join in.
Today’s first grounding exercise will be…
To slowly inhale, then exhale. If it helps, you can say or think “in” and “out” with each breath. We invite you to feel each breath, too, as it fills your lungs, then note how it is to push the air back out. Do this 5 times.
Remember: everyone is different. A grounding exercise that works for someone else may not work for you. That’s totally fine. We’ll be going through a different exercise each week, so we can find the ones that work best for us. If you don’t feel able to do one, that’s ok. Just sit back and continue reading, or step away and come back another time.
The goals for this session are...
- To learn the 4 most important things about abuse we want survivors to remember through this course → It may seem like a big number, but don’t worry, they’re all linked!
- To start our thought diaries and grounding exercises
Fun question: We also like to start out the first week of our sessions with a fun question. As is appropriate for our programme’s name: What’s your favourite flower or plant?
We want to dedicate this first session to myth-busting: by sharing the 4 most important things we want survivors to know throughout this journey.
The first is that you are not to blame for your abuse or for the actions of your abuser (or abusers).
No one deserves to be hurt, humiliated, or shamed by the people they love (or those who say they love them). Whatever someone’s past, or beliefs, or ways they themselves might have been treated, or their current stress, it is never an excuse to threaten the safety, identity, or the freedom of another human life.
We are all accountable for our decisions and actions. Especially when those actions are destructive. It is a choice for an abuser to abuse.
And they would choose to be abusive with someone else if it was not with you. You are never to blame for who they choose to be.
The second thing we want you to remember is that anyone can be abused - it has nothing to do with your supposed flaws, weaknesses, or a failure to make the “right” choices.
According to the World Health Organisation, when looking at women alone, 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced intimate partner violence or sexual abuse - and this is without including the ways men, women, or non-binary people have suffered at the hands of families. About 25% adults also report they were abused as children (1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men). Domestic abuse is a global, societal issue.
Absolutely -- Statistically, there is no possible way that these billions of people each, individually, deserved this level of harm. Your abuse is not because of you.
Thirdly, it is not your fault if you stay or have returned to your abuser. Some of us don’t have the choice to leave, because we have nowhere else to go or we’d put our lives at greater risk in our communities. For those of us who are told that we “can” leave, or should feel like fools for going back, there are powerful psychological reasons we bond to our abusers so strongly - which we’ll be discussing later in the course.
Lastly, the ways you may behave or the things you might criticise yourself for are actually strategies you’ve developed to keep yourself alive. Many survivors often punish themselves for not feeling stronger or having enough self-confidence to think better of themselves, when - in reality - these behaviours and bad feelings are adaptations we’ve developed to keep ourselves safe. They’re survival techniques we survivors have modelled to cope with abuse and protect ourselves from danger, and to live the best we can in a toxic space.
You should never feel ashamed for how you feel or how you feel about yourself, because of the actions of another person. Those feelings and behaviours have been there for a reason - now, we can decide if we’re in the place to let them go.
Just remember, as we do this work: 1) You are not to blame for your abuse; 2) Anyone can be abused - this is a global crisis and not a personal issue; 3) It is not your fault when you stay; and, 4) The way you’ve felt or are feeling has kept alive. You have been making the right choices to keep yourself safe in the home.
The only real step for us, as we begin our work towards recovery, is to remind you of the ways you still - and will always - have power. We may teach you the tricks to cope and give you info you haven’t had before. But you are, and have been, and will always be, in every way, incredible.
The homework for this week is… to begin your thought diaries! By writing thoughts down, we become aware of the content of our minds and the feelings in our bodies. It often feels scary at first, but as we write things down and make sense of our own thoughts and our stories, we can begin to know ourselves again, to feel in control of our own lives, and even find pockets for joy. For many in abusive situations, they can also uncover that many of their negative opinions were planted by their abuser(s).
To start the course, we want to start by writing what we already know about ourselves – something solid to carry us through: facts that can keep us safe, almost like good luck charms. Write down 3 stories or 3 facts about yourself that you know. Keep them with you - and, as you write through more challenging feelings, you can go back to them, to remember things about who you are, what you love, and what will always protect you. These feelings and stories are yours; they belong to you and cannot be taken away.
You can write your journal somewhere safe online; buy a notebook to write in, or even just use some scrap paper, or a post-it, or the back of an envelope.
Remember, this is an investment in your own journey to recovery. Give yourself the best chance to build resilience. You can do this.