Working Around Your Abyss

SONY DSCI’m always amazed at the lengths some people will go through to hide their pain. All of us have pain, disappointments, regrets, wounds, and parts of us we wish we could hide forever, but many times those very issues are the things we need to address in order to move on and live truly fulfilled and happy lives.

The other night I was watching Beyond Scared Straight on A&E and there was a kid on there whose father committed suicide when he was younger and it looked like the kid had never really talked to anyone about it or dealt with it in any sort of healthy way. Instead he turned to drugs, violence and other petty criminal behaviors as a way of acting out and dealing with what I believe must be anger towards his dad coupled with immense depression.

Most people would look at this kid and see a juvenile delinquent, but all I saw was a kid crying out for someone to see past the walls he had erected around his pain and help him navigate his way around it.

This young kid wasn’t unlike many of the high school kids I dealt with that teachers thought were just bad apples, but they were really acting out because of the pain they were holding on to, such as coming from poverty stricken, sometimes violent and unstable broken homes. Especially the boys who would hold on to their pain so tight, not wanting to show any weaknesses, and yet the pain was literally destroying them by causing them to constantly get in their own way by fighting, failing out of school or getting involved in illegal activities that were sure to lead to incarceration.

We all have stuff. We all have issues. That is something I say all the time when people open up to me, no matter if they are clients or friends. I always encourage talking about those pains because I believe that talking about them, even just a little bit, helps ease some of the tension, stigma, shame, and fear people attach to their pain.

While some people try drastic measures to consciously or unconsciously hide from, ignore, deny or cover up their pain (sex, drugs, alcohol, cutting, eating disorders, continued bad relationships, etc.), some people are so absorbed in their pain that can’t even enjoy moments of happiness when they happen. They can’t see anything except for their pain. They live in constant depression, anxiety, suspicion, and pessimism.

It may be something that happened a long time ago, yet they are never living in the moment, they are constantly living in the past and their pain. They are constantly unconsciously telling themselves stories which for the most part are untrue. Stories about themselves, their pain and their lives. Stories that hold them hostage to turmoil and they will hold on to those stories with a death grip even in the face of evidence that their stories are at least partially untrue.

The stories we tell ourselves include things such as, “My dad left because I was a bad kid”, or “My husband cheated because I wasn’t enough for him” and “I fail at everything I try”. The list goes on and on, but you can imagine how someone who is telling themselves these stories will live their lives in the present and future if they continue to believe these stories about themselves.

They will hold on to those stories, sometimes because it is the only story that they know and it’s much easier to believe in the story that you know than to try to create a better story where there may be unexpected surprises even if some of the surprises include very pleasant ones.

One of my favorite books is entitled The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom by Henri Nouwen. It was given to me as a gift several years ago and I have since given it away, brought it again and given it away again no less than eight times.

The first passage in that book is called Work Around Your Abyss and it says:

There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss. You
will never succeed in filling that hole, because your
needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it
so that gradually the abyss closes.
Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish
so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it.
There are two extremes to avoid: being completely
absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so
many things that you stay far away from the wound
you want to heal.

When I first read that passage about six years ago, I almost cried because I felt like it was talking directly to me. I was holding on to a lot of pain and not doing anything about it. Pain about my fathers death, pain about our relationship, pain about the romantic relationship I was in and fear of not being completely loved and fear of failure.

Holding on to and not addressing those pains was leading to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and agitation. It was until I read this passage that I started to address and work around my abyss which slowly, but surely started to close and this passage is probably the #1 reason I have shared this book so many times with people who have shared some of their pain with me.

All of us have issues, or what I like to call “stuff”, but it doesn’t have to define us and we don’t have to wear it like a scarlet letter nor pretend like it’s not there. We define ourselves and our situations, our situations do not define us. Let’s all make a commitment to start working around our abyss so that we can start living fully and completely, the way we were all meant to live.

Betrayal Of Trust: How To Let Go And Move On When You’ve Been Hurt

affair_istock270Trust is an essential part of every relationship (romantic, family, business, friends, etc.). Trust defines interactions in relationships by building bonds and strengthening intimacy. Without trust, no relationship can truly grow to it’s full potential.

But what happens when that trust is betrayed?

Not everyone values trust as much as they should. Because trust at times is easily given, especially at first, it at times is also easily taken for granted. When trust is loss, the relationship suffers and sometimes fails.

When the trust is loss, it can be very hard, if not impossible to earn back. Whether trust can be restored or not depends on how much damage was done. Often the betrayed person just wants to end the relationship because of the pain and that is understandable.

However, many marriages have survived affairs and many relationships have survived betrayals.

If someone wants to work on rebuilding trust in the person that betrayed them, there are some things that they can do:

  1. Let the anger out– let the person that betrayed you know that you are hurting. It’s okay to let them know how you feel and you should. Often times the betrayed person feels rejected and is afraid to show anger towards the other person, but they end up just holding it in and letting it consume them, preventing any type of healing or rebuilding of trust to truly happen.
  2. Make up your mind to let it to, and then let it go– once you have let out your anger, let it go. That doesn’t mean blind forgiveness, but forgiving the person that betrayed you will free you up and set you free. If the person that betrayed you apologizes and you forgive them, then never bring up the incident over and over again. Don’t hold it over the person. Acknowledge that it happened. Acknowledge how you feel, but don’t beat them over the head with it if you hope to move on. Forgiveness is as much for you as it is for the other person.
  3. Know that will can never go back to the way they were before the betrayal– sadly, things have changed. The betrayal has done it’s damage. Things will never go back to the way they were before. Things will get better, but never the same. You may never trust the person the same again, but you can develop a type of mature trust and maybe not the naive trust you may have had before. I once counseled a woman who’s husband had had multiple affairs with multiple women, and surprisingly (through counseling) they managed to save their marriage and are still happily married today, but she couldn’t talk about her marriage and the affairs without crying, even years later, despite forgiving her husband and moving on.
  4. Be willing to ask others for help– you will need your support system to get through this. You can’t and don’t have to do it alone. know that you can ask for help when needed, even if it’s from the person that betrayed you. Let them know what you need from them. Often times we are too embarrassed about being the betrayal to ask for help because we don’t want others to judge us for forgiving the other person. If that’s the case, talking to a counselor may be the best source of support. There you will have someone who will listen to you without judgement and give you the support needed.
  5. Practice Trusting– people can’t earn back our trust without the opportunity to do so. This doesn’t mean you give the person “tests” to pass or fail, but practice giving them opportunities to show you that they deserve your trust. Sometimes people will say, “I forgive you”, yet cling to the other person as if they are trying to control their every move and thought. This isn’t forgiveness, trust or love. It’s fear.

Part of loving and trusting includes opening yourself up to potential pain and betrayal. It doesn’t mean it has to devour you and ruin your life.