The time between Thanksgiving and New Years can be triggering and painful for those of us who have been sexually violated:
- We may have to see our perpetrator at events or gatherings
- We may not have family to celebrate with because of unhealed dynamics related to child sexual abuse or incest
- We may be with our families, but feel more alone than ever because they don’t know about, or acknowledge, our violation
- We may be triggered because our kids are the age we were when we were abused
And on top of it all, we may judge ourselves for not feeling the joy that we “should” feel this time of year, heaping shame upon our already hurting hearts.
But there’s a tool we can use during the holidays – and always – to shift our perspective and find joy in the moment, no matter our past. I call this tool The Lens of Joy or Judgment.
You see, life happens – either to us (someone hits my car) or through us (I move to another city). It is HOW we view life happening – whether through a lens of judgment or a lens of joy – that determines our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
For instance, imagine a good friend tells you she is spending the holidays with her large extended family in a beautiful condo in the mountains. They’re going to ski and sled and create wonderful family memories. If I’m wearing a Lens of Judgment – which I have, many times – I see this experience through a negative past/present/future belief system:
My past is SHAME-FULL: “I am not enough, worthy, accepted, loved.”
My present is POWER-LESS: “There’s nothing I can do about it.”
My future is HOPE-LESS: “Things will never change.”
These thoughts directly impact my feelings, actions and presence in the world.
If I am not enough, I hide. I don’t let people experience my authentic self.
If there’s nothing I can do, I do nothing. I take no action.
If things will never change, I feel sad, depressed, angry, resentful, jealous, and bitter.
This becomes a negative feedback loop in my life. Because of my inaction, nothing changes, and the Lens of Judgment stays firmly in place. Life happens to me rather than through me, and I am convinced that my perspective is the “truth.”
The same holds true for our sexual violation. A crime was committed against us – life happened to us. If we see ourselves through the Lens of Judgment, we may settle for the crumbs of life, thinking that’s all we deserve because: the past is shame-full, the present is power-less, and the future is hope-less. So we survive, and no more.
But there is a path from surviving to thriving – if, even for just a moment, we trade the Lens of Judgment for the Lens of Joy:
My past is SHAME-LESS: “I am enough, worthy, accepted, loved.”
My present is POWER-FULL: “There’s always something I can do about it.”
My future is HOPE-FULL: “Things can always change.”
This creates a very different feedback loop – one fueled by self-empowerment:
If I am enough, I let people see and experience my authentic self.
If there’s something I can do, I discover or create it, and I take action.
If things can always change, I feel expectant, excited, curious, and passionate.
We move forward, we engage, opportunities arise, and we feel and see the positive. Again, our perspective becomes the “truth”: Life is good, even when it’s hard.
Imagine if we could view our entire heroic journeys in the aftermath of sexual violation through this positive lens? Could we thrive, even as we heal? Could we move through the effects of being violated with more ease and freedom and peace? I believe so – especially with the right support around us. We could be our own heroes, committed to healing and thriving because we are shame-less, power-full and hope-full.
So, what about that friend’s dream holiday trip? Rather than depressing us, it now inspires us: We get to choose our own adventure, and take hopeful, empowered action to make it come true. If we can’t afford a condo on the slopes, we can create a cozy Christmas film fest with popcorn and hot chocolate. Life happens through us.
So, I challenge you today to practice this tool. If you are struggling to find the Happy in the Holidays, practice exchanging the Lens of Judgment for the Lens of Joy – and see how a difference in perspective can empower you to take action in the world.
And please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like support on your heroic journey. You are not alone. During the holidays, and always, remember: You are beautiful. You are free. And you can shine again without shame.