NOTE: I am not a psychologist. This is not intended to be a substitute for personalized, professional care. I am merely posting these tips and exercises for anyone who may find them helpful.
Although these are excerpts from a book called The Nice Girl Syndrome, I believe much of this advice can be applied to both men and women. It is not my intention to alienate readers on account of gender.
For more information, check out the book and/or talk to your mental health care provider.
I have read several chapters of the book The Nice Girl Syndrome by Beverly Engel. This book was useful to me in that it provided writing exercises for those who have been abused and are still struggling with the past affecting their present. What I found especially insightful was the concept of giving back the shame.
Abusers often instill fear and shame into their victims in order to control them and prevent them from seeking help. This is what victims internalize: the concept that the abuse was their fault, and that they will be punished if they do something about it. It’s why children don’t run away from abusive homes, and why adults don’t leave their abusive spouses. So how do we unlearn these debilitating notions? Here’s one way: giving it all back.
If you believe it will help you, I recommend you do this exercise and then share your answers/results/etc. in the comments section. If this works or doesn’t work for you, you can say so. Share any changes or modifications you would make to this exercise. Remember this is an open forum.
The Nice Girl Syndrome, pages 118-121:
Remedy #10: Heal Your Shame (Especially Relevant for Those Who Were Abused, Neglected, Overly Criticized, or Shamed as a Child)
1. Accept the fact that you did not deserve to be abused.
2. Tell your story.
3. Place responsibility where it belongs.
4. Give back your parent’s (or other abuser’s) shame.
5. Allow yourself to be angry.
6. Expect others to accept you as you are.
EXERCISE: Give the Shame Back to Those Who Hurt You
1. Sit comfortably and breathe deeply.
2. Imagine you are looking inside your body. Find any shame or bad feelings you may have there.
3. Imagine you are reaching down inside your body and pulling out all that dark, ugly stuff – all that shame and self-blame.
4. Now imagine you are throwing all that dark ugliness at the person who shamed you or abused you, where it belongs.
5. Open your eyes and make a throwing motion with your arms. Say out loud as you do it, “Take back your shame. It’s not mine. It’s yours.” Do this until you can feel the truth of what you are saying.