Week 8, Session 2: Reflections and Goodbyes
Welcome - to our final session of Bloom’s course for coping with domestic abuse. If you’re reading this, that means you’ve made it to the end of our sessions. It almost feels like a bit of a toast is needed!
You matter, endlessly, to this community of survivors. And you should be beyond proud of yourself for all you’ve overcome - just by pressing play.
We can’t stress enough that making it here truly is an achievement that you should take pride in. Your natural inclination might be to downplay this success. You might be thinking - ‘well I just read some documents, ‘I didn’t do all the homework’, ‘I didn’t pay full attention all the time’ or maybe ‘it took me a really long time to get through some of the sessions so it’s not a big deal’.
But, if you’ll allow us to challenge that Automatic Negative Thought for a moment - this honestly is a big deal! You are working through these sessions while managing your own busy lives, intrusive thoughts, fears - and you are being introspective, just by being open to listening to what we’ve presented. This took courage and it took strength. You’re doing great things for yourself and you're worthy of our praise.
The goals for this session are:
- To review our 4 key facts about abuse.
→ Do we finally see how and why they’re all true? Do we REMEMBER what those are two months later?
- Celebrate the successes of the course and how far you have come.
- Accept the ending of the course.
- And also, and most importantly, to anticipate new beginnings.
Let’s start with our final grounding exercise of the season...
Describe the steps in performing an activity you know how to do well and that you love. For example, how to ride a bike or cook your favourite meal or recipe!
Fun question: What is the most interesting fact you know?
We’re at the end of our course, but to start off our content for the week, we want to take you back in time to when you first joined us here at Bloom. Do you remember those 4 key facts that we mentioned, that very first day, as we all prepared for the journey ahead?
If you’d like to try and refresh your memory before we go on, and maybe try to answer this last-minute pop quiz, we’ll let you pause your reading for a moment and write down your answers in our ever-familiar thought diaries. Ready?
1) You are not to blame for your abuse - your abuser would be abusive with anyone! Abuse is a CHOICE. Abusers mistreat, disregard, and take advantage of the body, being, and/or feelings of the person in their care - because they want to separate themselves from their own feelings of fear or shame. They decide that it is better to deflect and reflect what they are afraid of in themselves on to someone close to them, to someone who is vulnerable to their criticisms and influence - and they create the conditions to exert this force
2) Anyone can be abused - this is a societal problem that impacts us worldwide, and it is never about what you deserve as an individual. In definition, whether physical, sexual, emotional, financial, in neglect or honour-based violence, abuse is: “the repeated, random, and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner or family member - regardless of gender or sexuality.” It occurs in any relationship where one person must change how they act, what they believe, or how they think to match the wishes of another because of intimidation or fear. When we’re made to tiptoe around the moods of the person we’re with to prevent them from hurting us, getting upset, or lashing out, that’s abuse.
Abuse is about control, and it is reflected in the communities who are at greatest risk to be used by those in power; but we can all be hurt and manipulated, and we should not be responsible or ashamed for the actions of another.
3) It is not your fault when you stay - some of us cannot leave, and we also psychologically and traumatically bond with our abusers; that attention is ADDICTIVE, as abusers use tactics that fall within a cycle of control, coercion and fear to keep us dependent; these are the same methods of control that work on soldiers during war! We are never returning because we are weak, stupid, or wrong.
Coercion is powerful. Coercive control - the subtle implication or violation, humiliation, or shame - is absolutely abuse. Threats and fear-tactics do not have to be direct or obvious to be effective, as they often make us feel crazy, and create chaotic environments. It makes us feel silenced, and less likely to reach out.
In coercion, we are Threatened, Isolated, Humiliated, and Exhausted in compliance.
And it is not wrong that we have the instinct, in every relationship, to want or to seek out love - to be loving, forgiving, or valued.
4) The ways you feel or behave are all adaptations you’ve made to keep yourself alive. This includes our lessened sense of self-confidence and self-esteem. The behaviours, reactions, and feelings that are hard to deal with, that make you feel terrible, have actually been keeping you safe in your home. You adapted them inherently because you are smart and brave. You have foresight. You have used survival techniques to cope with abuse and protect yourself from harm, and live the best you can in a toxic space. You have been making the right choices to be well, in the ways that you can.
But there are still ways you can attend to yourself, feel better, and reaffirm your dignity.
We wanted to explore the concept as we move forward into the future together, that “beyond the course” moment - that great unknown.
To do so, let’s look at a quote: "Human beings are the animals who tell stories."
As people, when we try to make sense of who we are, we look to what has happened before. We construct narratives of past experiences. When we've survived trauma and abuse, it makes so much sense that we ground our sense of self and reality is those things that have happened to us: as they've shaped so much of how we've lived, behaved, and been. And what is unknown - like the future, and who we are in that future, or who we are with - feels impossible to picture without our past, or the important people in it. It’s the same way it would be harder to read the middle of the book without the beginning.
When it comes to healing from trauma and building resilience, so much of the work comes in wondering how we can build a life that isn't in the shadow of that story of pain we know. How do we shape our identities outside of our history, when we organise our identities around that earlier start?
It feels like being in that dark night of abuse - everything blank and unknown and uncertain.
In response, we talked to you about language. Although we don’t all come from the same cultures or regions of the world, in many Romance-based languages, such as English, we treat the past as something that is "behind us". And this structure of wording in our brains is related to how we think, as this type of metaphor and thought structure disregards the ways that our past is not actually "behind" us - it is actually the only thing we can properly see. The past is what we know. It's actually what’s in FRONT of us. Our memories are what we understand, as well as the people within those memories. They’re what we see, know, anticipate. It's the future that’s really “behind” us, in that it’s out of sight, impossible to imagine away from our beginnings.
It’s a bit of a weird science fact, but we can think further about the way our brains work, not only in language but in the placement of our eyes. Because we have two eyes at the centre of our heads, we are also better at looking at what is immediately in front of us. Unlike animals who have eyes on the sides of their skulls to look out for predators, with their peripheral vision, we zoom in on what is in focus. We get rid of room for anything else - just what we see.
It is easier for human beings to think about and feel and know that same “darkness” that might be clearest. It’s how our minds work and filter information.
That’s why, as we consider our own stories outside of abuse, a survivor’s job becomes to:
1) Accept that we are not defined by our past, it's just the part of our life that we can see the most clearly - it’s what is right in front of us; we shouldn’t blame ourselves for the moments we feel weakened by it. Instead, we should be active and mindful of surrounding ourselves with what is good - so we can see it, and take it with us into that “future”.
2) Not exhaust ourselves. Just put the work in with small steps, day by day. Move into that dark, even in fear, by using the tools we’ve learned to stay grounded, surrounding ourselves with kindness, and practising this kindness in ourselves.
Although what is unknown to us is scary - because the future is hard when it's different, and our fight-flight-and-freeze response naturally kicks in! - we don’t have to stay in the story of what happened. We aren't actually in a book, even if it's easy to think of our lives that way. We can decide what our stories are, and what they mean for ourselves. We are not defined by abuse or our abusers. We are someone in ourselves.
As we move beyond Bloom together, remind yourself: “I am not bound to any history, even if that history is the one I know.” Also, “I can be curious and explore and build towards things that feel right to me, and cut off what or who feels wrong. I have ways to keep myself safe. I can name what is wrong and what is good for me.”
There was actually a quote in a story that sums it all up nicely and neatly - as we talk about this great metaphor of darkness, in an article by a woman named Nora Feely. It was about sickness and healing from fear of her diagnosis, but it applies well here. She said: "I named what terrified me and dragged it all into the light."
So, what are those 4 key facts we always want you to drag into the light, no matter how foreign they can feel at times? What did our course teach you?
We aren’t going to say them aloud for you this time. Instead, repeat them to and for yourself. Drag your fears and unknowns into that light - through the stars in your dark sky - and not only remember, but feel, value, and know inherently - in every part of your person - that you are - have been - and will always be incredible.
Instead of our 4 facts, we’re going to go back over our Bill of Rights. We want to share this together - and to reassure you of what you deserve. To everyone on this course:
You have the right to say ‘no’
- You have the right not be abused
- You have the right to express anger
- You have the right to change your life
- You have the right to freedom from fear of abuse
- You have the right to request and expect assistance from police and social care agencies
- You have the right to want a better role model of communication for your children
- You have the right to raise your children in safety
- You have the right to be treated like an adult, and with respect
- You have the right to leave the abusive environment
- You have the right to be safe
- You have the right to privacy
- You have the right to develop my individual talents and abilities
- You have the right to prosecute and get protection through the law from your abusing partner
- You have the right to earn and control your own finances
- You have the right to make your own decisions about your own life
- You have the right to change your mind you have the right to be believed and valued
- You have the right to make mistakes
- You have the right not to be perfect
- You have the right to love and be loved in return
- You have the right to put yourself first
- You have the right to be you
You matter. You have worth. An abuser’s inability to see it is because they are blind, not because you are insignificant.
All we hope to have done is to help you get to a place where you can feel better, be safer - or understand your own brilliant qualities - with the tools and information to cope along the way.
It's time for us to say our goodbyes.
From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank you for being a part of this course. We are honoured that you’ve chosen to have this experience with us - showing up to heal, grow, learn, and challenge yourself in staggering ways.
Now, get your rest! Take your time to process everything we’ve talked about and don’t be hard on yourself if these things continue to feel difficult. Remember that healing does not have an expiration date. Or as one of our participants wrote to us, it can feel like recovery has an ‘imaginary deadline’. It doesn’t. And it is not a marathon, either. Things may go slowly, and sometimes backward, but trust in yourself that you will make it forward at your own pace.
Know that we are over here celebrating you so please make sure to celebrate yourself!
Stay informed, keep empowered, and be well. We will continue to cherish you, our wonderful community.
What have you learned that is most valuable from our course. What sticks with you? What do you remember? Put those answers in your night sky, and keep those lights shining against the unknown dark.
We’d also encourage you to keep on with your thought diaries. Still! They are valuable tools to keep yourself oriented in your own story.