What about the “victim mentality”?

The term ‘victim mentality’ is one I don’t use, because I have found the true ‘victim mentality’ is an incredibly rare phenomenon. I would dare to say that what we often call victim mentality is the aftermath of dreadfully under-acknowledged terror and trauma, rather than some notion of ‘wanting to stay there’. (More on what drives this being stuck in trauma later). In 9 years of interacting closely with them, I have watched most victims of abuse move ‘beyond survivor’ to truly thriving, with few exceptions. This includes those who were my clients, and many who were not my clients but stayed in close contact as they worked through their stories with other mentors and counsellors.

At least a percentage of these individuals would have been classed as having a ‘victim mentality’. Always needing sympathy or affirmation — or both — and seeming to feel ‘poor me’ at every turn with everyone around them always being out to do them harm, no one ever understanding them, and ever being on the fringe of an emotional crash (including threat of suicide etc).

Along with this there was, for some, the need to have somewhere between 6 and 8 people at any given moment whom they would hold on emotional string, as I call it, that they could yank at any moment to have people running from every direction to ‘save them’ from themselves. This is exhausting for everyone.

Sometimes we call it ‘victim mentality’ because we are tired, so that we can remove ourselves from the suffering, which is not productive. It is a sign of deep wounds that need healing. And those who have no concept of offering healthy support, make things worse by accommodating every yank of the string. And yet, ignoring them is not the answer; these victims do need support.

What has happened is that their boundaries have been brutally violated in the same act that left these victims of abuse so emotionally/psychologically, sexually, spiritually and often physically devastated. They, therefore, do not know how to respect healthy boundaries, and when their pain surfaces, for many the only survival skill they have is drawing emotionally from others.

We judge them for it, when the reality is that their suffering has never been acknowledged, and no one has ever said, “I’m so sorry. May I just sit with you in your pain, and love you where you are at?”

When we do that… When we stop judging their neediness… When we stop defining their place of suffering as ‘victim mentality’ …. When we pull up a chair at that preschooler’s table – or that pre-teen’s or teenager’s …now that young woman or man – something beautiful happens. They begin to heal.

To offer this support well requires having boundaries. Set specific times to meet. Have a limit on how many texts, emails, phone calls etc, and set time restrictions on how long those calls are. Or you will be consumed, and they certainly will not heal. We enter into their suffering, but must do so with wisdom.

Then, when we have been there with them, in that dark place of their suffering, only then have we earned the privilege of being invited to speak. It’s not a right. It’s a privilege. And the best gift we can give, when we do speak, is an invitation to walk together. An invitation to share with them the Love of One who gives us life and hope. Not an invitation for us to ‘fix’ them. Or for us to help them arrive where we are. But an invitation to meet the One who is our life and hope. The One who defines us.

When we are given permission to speak His life, His hope and His purpose over them, they grow. They learn to trust. They learn to forgive. As we care, they become stronger. They heal. And when they heal, they no longer see only their own pain, but the pain of others.

Some fear healing. It isn’t that they don’t want to heal, most of them. But a few are terrified of healing. If they heal, who will be there? The only connections some have ever had, have been linked to their trauma and need. If they heal, who will be there? If they heal, will they be alone… lonely? And who will they be? They’ve never been anything other than in pain and suffering? What if being whole demands things they are not capable of. More than one survivor of trauma has admitted these fears to me.

It is easy to judge from a distance. It’s easy to say those fears are not reasonable. Yet they are very real for many survivors of terror and trauma. The shift from fear to thriving happens with recognizing we have something to give, that our need doesn’t have to be the source of our fulfillment.

When, having sat with them in their sorrow, we have earned the privilege to speak… And when, having earned the privilege to speak, we have encouraged, and believed, and spoken life and purpose… Then we can ask the hard questions…

worm to butterfly

What if healing didn’t mean you would be alone? What if healing meant that you could be there for others? What if healing meant that you would be more fulfilled than you ever imagined you would be or could be? What if…?

And when they dare to embrace that challenge, a courage rises up, and they reach out. And in reaching out to others, they are healed. Again. And this doesn’t mean they will never struggle. Tomorrow might be a hard day. Next week they might call their counsellor because they feel lost. Next year they might need someone to ask again, “What if healing doesn’t mean you will be lonely, or alone? What if you keep reaching out to others? What if…?”

It isn’t a victim mentality. Not usually.  And we do a lot of damage when blithely we write it off as that. Mostly it is fear. It is the aftermath of deep trauma. It is a failure to thrive because there has been a failure in those of us around them to sit with them patiently in their suffering, and acknowledge it. And it is a journey. A rising and falling. And rising again.

Only when we have walked through deep trauma, or dared to entered into the suffering of others can we grasp that battle.

***

When we reach out to others in hope and healing,
our healing comes more quickly.
~ Isaiah 58 ~ 

 

Love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

On Rejection & Whistling Cheery Tunes…

It has become a thing of habit, posting daily, but also a thing of thinking about the forgotten ones, the rejected ones, and the abandoned ones. Like the lepers in Bible stories, the religious people of today see many victims as ‘untouchable’, fearing their stories… fearing the exposure of their own pain and hidden secrets.

While the fear is understandable, the result is that many victims feel unnecessary rejection, and those who reject them out of fear of facing their own pain, miss out on the wonder of freedom.

Other times victims are rejected is a result of the person(s) needing to protect an offender. To acknowledge the pain of the victims would require acknowledging the consequence of hidden crimes. And in these cases, the offenders miss out on the help they need, and again victims feel rejected. But in this case it is the best interest of victims for these kinds of people to stay far, far away from them. The poison they offer is deadly, and serves only to further victimize and violate the hearts of wounded people. The rejection still bites, if the victims believe it is about them, but it is a gift.

When victims tell me about people rejecting them, my instinctive first response is compassion. And on the heels of that, I explain that rejection is never about them; people are far to self-serving to reject us because of us. They reject us for their own benefit, their own comfort, or their own self-preservation. They hate us because what we stand for or represent offends something in them. They speak evil of us because they have to defend themselves. And the more vehement their attacks or rejection, the more likely it is that our stories and our voices come too close to home, and their controls are threatened.

Again, in cases where it instills fear in victims who are hiding their stories out of shame, I offer nothing but compassion and understanding. And where it is the fear of some perpetrator being exposed, or needing to acknowledge those crimes, I have compassion but all I can say is thank God they stay far away. There is grace in that.

And as for the pain of rejection, it remains for those at the receiving end, and it is hard for most not to take it personally. Especially at first. With time, experience and seeing these patterns, it’s easier to let it ‘run off’ and chalk it up to the realization that these people have issues. But until then, it is a draining experience, and one that takes time to heal from and work through.

Counteracting rejection requires intentionality. Surround yourself with at least a few good and supportive people whom you can trust. Step outside of your own pain and story; a constant and repeated reliving of it is difficult even for those who love you, and does you no good. Find a mentor or counselor who will help you work through the hurt, and help you refocus so that you recognize you are not the problem; these people have issues. And, because I write from a Christian perspective and for Christians, get grounded in your true identity and who you are in Christ. The childish or fearful responses of those around us hold little weight when we know who we are, and Whose we are.

With the love, acceptance and approval of God, the Creator of the Universe, the rejection of a few fearful, angry, bitter or selfish people pales in comparison, and their approval means nothing.

Finally, if it is a close relationship, rather than some distant judgment pronounced by judgmental people who haven’t bothered to hear your heart, take time to have a conversation. If you have wounded them, hear their hearts. If they are afraid, encourage them.

But if it is that distant heartless judgment from those ignorant ones who are hell-bent on bringing you down–and especially the religious ones who misrepresent Jesus and who have not heard your heart–just pick up your boots and keep walking. Whistle a little tune, breathe in the fresh air and let the sunshine kiss your face… and celebrate Jesus, life and hope.

It’s a good day.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

Peace…

It is a word many victims of abuse don’t understand, experientially. At times the word is merely a mockery of that thing we crave and cannot attain. Our spirits scream for it, our minds are desperate for it, and our bodies ache from their wanting… But peace evades us at every turn.

Unfortunately I cannot simplify it into one quick anecdote for the turmoil, fear, pain and anguish.

It is a rise and fall… A learning to hold onto it a little longer before it slips away… A persistent leaning into a sheltered place… Staying intentionally in the Rock that hides us in the storm and covers us… Learning to abandon the need to prove a thing at all… Abandoning the desire for approval and perfection…

And resting in the One who defines us… Loves us… Accepts us…

Ah… sweet Love…

Because there is no fear in Love. And where there is no fear, there is peace.

Peace… that inner quiet… surrounded by a world with chaos all around…

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Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Love Heals

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We avoid entering the messy stuff of people’s lives because we fear we won’t know what to say, what to do, how to ‘help’. Trauma and its aftermath frightens us, because it is hard to watch people suffer, and stand helplessly by, with nothing practical to offer by way of support.

In the past five years I have seen things I didn’t know were possible, of people in pain struggling against it, and wrestling with darkness and fear. I have had more moments of questions without answers than ever in my life.

And if there is one thing I have learned when working with victims of abuse, it is the importance of embracing awkward moments, and being comfortable with not knowing what to say. Because in those moments, all the victim needs from me, is to sit quietly and know that I care. Words will come later, when the time is right and the words bring healing. But in moments of deepest trauma, when the mind cannot even absorb words, caring presence is all that matters.

The silent support of one true friend at a loss for words offers more hope and comfort than a thousand right answers from a heart without compassion. Love heals.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Rejection & Misconceptions Regarding Gender-based Differences in Lobido

Without a deeper purpose, I would be the last one to stand in line, to hang all my dirty laundry out for the world to see. Especially if the laundry is all on the line, and I feel I’m left hiding behind semi-transparent sheets. It’s a vulnerable feeling. But the private messages from you, my readers, and general response the past two days reassured me again that it is the right thing to do. There is a purpose.

I received a negative response from one individual–and it wasn’t particularly up-building, so it landed in file 13, and it is only the third negative response I have received since starting my blog. All in all, I would say the topic material is received in a positive light, and helpful for many. Thank you for sharing with me. You have no idea how much that encourages me when I’m going places, publicly, where I have rarely ventured even with counsellors or friends. Many of you understand both my battle, and how I feel, as you express your own fear of commenting publicly, because of that vulnerability.

Thank you for being sensitive, not only because I have overcome abuse and violence, but also as a writer, when I put my heart out there. I am convinced I have the most amazing audience in the world!

Everyone experiences rejection, on some level, in marriage, whether real, or perceived. With abuse victims there is often an increased sensitivity to rejection, and this sensitivity also means more perceived rejections.

What fascinates me is how much we hear about men being the ones with the high libido, and therefore the ones who are often rejected by women. I’ve heard it in pretty much every marriage event I’ve attended. When I invite them to conferences, I’ve had women say, “If I hear one word about men and their high libido, I will up and walk out. I am so tired of no one addressing the other side of that”, and similar comments.

Meeting with women, and working through marriage issues with them, I can count on two hands the amount of times I’ve heard the complaint that ‘all he ever wants is sex’. Or ‘I wish he would just keep his hands off of me!’ And the few times I’ve heard it, it has usually been accompanied by, “I wish he would pay attention to me other times too. Then I would love his advances in bed”, or things of that nature. The exception is in the case where husbands ‘grab and grope’ but otherwise put no effort into relationship building or healthy non-sexual physical touch. This is a source of deep frustration for women. Most of them feel disrespected, and neglected on many levels.

I am convinced that, a high percentage of the time, women do not have a lower libido than men. We crave relational attention, communication, affection and non-sexual cuddling apart from the bedroom scene. If we feel loved, valued and accepted, the odds are… Never mind, gentlemen…. Do your math…

What I do hear, constantly, are women who feel neglected both in bed and out of bed. Not only do these women tell me that the relational and communication aspect is lacking, but their husbands don’t initiate intimacy, and reject them when they initiate it. The topic of sexual intimacy is not up for discussion, leaving these marriages vulnerable and shaky, with literally months, if not years, without sexual intimacy.

The women who tell me their husbands are not interested in sex, are not an indication that women generally have a higher libido, or that we’ve been misled by statistics. It simply indicates that more men shut down sexually in marriage, whether due to sexual sin, childhood sexual abuse, addictions or other reasons, than most of us are led to believe.

This needs to be addressed because the women, who feel rejected, battle shame and inferiority. They are hesitant to open their hearts and talk openly about their struggle, not wanting to admit that their husbands don’t find them attractive. (Just like every girl in high school wishes she was the prettiest, every wife wants to be attractive and the apple of her husband’s eye. To admit to another woman that she is sexually rejected and relationally neglected is a very difficult and humiliating thing.)

Each one worries that either she is not beautiful, or maybe her husband is having an affair, or into pornography or masturbation. Some know that is the case, but feel lost and dis-empowered. Not knowing how to impact the marriage for good, they suffer in silence. Others walk out on marriages, without a backward glance.

Yet other women admit to turning to pornography, emotional affairs and masturbation, as a source of fulfilment, while continuing in cold, distant cohabitation. They are afraid or unwilling to broach the subject of their struggles with husbands, who, in some cases, are into the same thing. When I hear these ‘confessions’ it’s usually accompanied by, “I’ve never told anyone that before. Please don’t tell anyone.”

This rejection of each other, and ultimately God’s plan, along with the silence and secrecy, is detrimental to marriage, to the family unit and God’s kingdom. Every woman wants to be pursued first outside of the bedroom, at a heart level, and then celebrate that connection through intimacy in bed. I think that every man, based on those we have talked to and read about, wants his wife to think he is an amazing lover, but he also longs to be built up, believed in, and encouraged in day to day life.

Somehow the vicious cycle of rejection starts in the little things we overlook, because of a lack of communication and generally misunderstanding each other. It snowballs, because of our pain and selfishness and leaves many a marriage shipwrecked unnecessarily.

The key is to get help sooner than later. To ignore it will build up walls of self-protection until eventually, the relationship is all but severed.  Wise counsel and a listening ear from someone who understands is crucial in order to end the cycle.

In the past few days many of you have contacted me, asking for connections to counsellors, or looking for guidance. If I have not yet responded, I will. And if you have not had the courage to email, but would like help finding a counsellor, mentor or resource, please don’t hesitate. (Visit the Contact Trudy page, and fill out the form. It is private and will only show in my email inbox, not on the website.)  We were not created to do this alone, and if I have connections in your area, I will do my best to connect you to someone.

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

The Wastelands of My Heart

What if I was created with no purpose at all? The thought latches on to my spirit, like a leech. I feel my heart , suffocating. My soul cringes. What if Solomon was right? What if life is meaningless existence, with no new thing under the sun? What if nothing really matters, when it’s all said and done?

Empty… Hopeless… Defeated

Today I invite you into the secret place of my heart, a place where swords swing and dust flies, as wars rage between the life I was created for, and the lies of the enemy. It is a place I prefer to hide from the public, wishing rather to focus on the positive, bright side of life.

 

This is not because I want to deny the hard or negative thoughts, but because I don’t want to give power to the negative. The things we focus on most, have greatest influence over us, and shape us. (Proverbs 23:7Luke 6:45) The things we speak out, are the things we give power to. The things we dwell on, most profoundly impact the state of our mind, our spiritual health and life in general. If I am going to speak words, or write them, I want them always to bring life and hope, not darkness.

Sometimes, however, we have to share the darkness, in order to point another, who is still caught in it, toward the light. That is my hope in writing this.

The darkness I write about is a very real part of my life, and has been since early childhood. I share it to encourage those of you who struggle with feelings of defeat, worthlessness, and discouragement or depression. I want to encourage you not to surrender to these lies. I too, battle depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and the fear that I am destined for failure. These feelings are real, but they only have the authority we give them.

People see me, outgoing, confident, and fun-loving. And I am. In a way. But, if you could look inside my thoughts, you would find a raging battle, many a day. You would see this does not come without determination, faith and choice. The reality is that I have spent my entire life fighting negative voices, negative thoughts, and negative feelings.

In almost everything I do, whether ministry, or other work, these demons confront me, warning me that nothing I do will ever matter, scolding me for believing I could make the smallest impact in anyone’s life, let alone in this world.

As the voices grow louder, I see myself again as the toddler, with vacant eyes, in a violent home in Mexico, hiding behind a wood stove, peeking out to see if my world is safe. Like I did then, I try to close out the voices, but they’re too loud.

I am again an 11-year-old, down on my knees, asking God to spare my life and that of my family. But this time it is not physical life I’m asking Him to protect. It’s the fire that burns in my heart, the passion, the will to live with purpose and meaning. Everything in me wants to retreat in fear, to hide, to withdraw. I want to withhold my heart from even those closest to me, to surrender to the voices. It would be easier. If I would withdraw from the enemy lines, maybe the accusing voices would stop and the dark feelings disappear….

It is as though I wander, in the wastelands of my heart, looking for an oasis, a place to be filled, something to give me a sense of purpose and meaning. I want my life to matter. I want to help people, to bring life to others, but for all my effort, it feels futile, at times. Especially when I fail, and it feels like the dark side is winning.

How can I give if I myself am empty? What have I to offer, if I fight the same demons, the same darkness and the same fears?

It is so easy to reach for people to validate me. Or for ‘success’—by this world’s standards—and success evades me, mocking me. Like the annoying schoolmate who would run around the corner, poke his head back around and blow a raspberry, it taunts, daring me to pursue, but already declaring me the loser.

Sometimes I’m drawn into the game of proving myself to those around me.  The deeper I’m sucked into that vortex, the stronger the negative voices grow, as they pull me toward the ‘black hole’ of depression and defeat.

For almost nineteen years, my husband, Tim, has watched at close range, as I fight this battle. He has entered in, prayed, loved and supported me. But, at the end of the day, it is my battle to fight. No one can make choices for me.

So what is the secret? First, I shift my focus from self, to God and people. Negative feelings that take root are the result of unhealthy self-focus. Rather than producing positive change, these negative thoughts consume you and suck you into lies they tell. Secondly, I choose to move forward in faith, even while my feelings continue to lie to me.

Isaiah 35 speaks prophetically of the life and the hope that Jesus will bring, and  verse 6 says: ‘…waters will burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert….’

There is no wilderness, no desert, no wasteland more dry and hopeless than a mind consumed with negative thoughts. When Jesus enters this wasteland, and defines who I really am, defines my success and my purpose, the negative thoughts lose their power.

When negative thoughts bombard you, and the enemy tells you that you will never succeed, that you will never amount to anything, don’t take it lying down.

Invite Jesus into the wastelands of your heart and a stream will begin to flow, bringing life to the desert places. Know the truth that you are His, you are loved and valued, and the power of the lie is broken.

© Trudy Metzger 2012