Overcoming Child Abuse

Reflections on recovery.

Today, Let's Follow Colin Powell's Lead

The labor of healing begins with discipline

I'm not turning our TV on today. Call it impossible, impractical, even idiotic.  Call it anything you want to call it, but I call it a media fast. For me, this abstinence  is a form of prayer. It gives me the space in which to process what this anniversary means to me. It also gives me the space to honor those who have lost their lives, those who have lost family, those who are fighting, grieving, hurting, healing, and working toward peace. I know that I don't need my mind and my autonomic nervous system to be activated by yet another replay of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., nor do I need the voices of religious extremists in our own country, who have been spewing hatred and fear, blaring in my head. And at this point I'm not interested in each commentator's perspective on the issues, either. I've become increasingly selective about where I get information.

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Colin Powell is someone I've continued to admire. He was on The View last Thursday ( http://abc.go.com/watch/the-view/SH559080/VD5583375/the-view-99 ) and I made a point of tuning in. Gen. Powell expressed his views on the media, and on recent news and world events, and while doing so reminded us that terrorists don't only attack buildings; they also attack the psyche of each person impacted. Their goal is not only to kill people but also to render them terrorized, paralyzed with fear.

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have early personal experience with this dynamic, and because the terror is planted deep into the soul of these children when they become adults, it can be difficult to even entertain thoughts of healing or to imagine how that process is achieved. One aspect of healing that Gen. Powell's interview reminded me of is discipline -- the kind of discipline pregnant mothers commit to as they, week after week, prepare for natural childbirth; the kind of discipline triathletes commit to for months, sometimes years, before the event; the kind of day-by-day discipline of the sober recovering alcoholic, or the magna cum laude college graduate. 

Give yourself the space to discern what your goals for healing might be. This is the start of discipline. Once you've been able to articulate clearly what your goals are, then seek out resources that are inspiring to you, that feel safe and supportive of your goals --  friends, a therapist, teachers, places, books, blogs, music, etc.  As with any choices, this means that you will have to make sacrifices, but the important thing is to get yourself on a path where you are not sacrificing your own physical or emotional safety.

Yesterday, while waiting for two new tires to be put on my car at my local Goodyear store, I watched Oprah interview Will Smith and his family on her show and he told a delightful story about his grandmother.  He said that while he was growing up she was always smiling, and so one day he asked her why. She told him it was because she knew why she was here. He asked why she was here, and she said that she was here to make everything she touched better.  What a beautiful thought!

Today, September 11, 2010, we can decide to commit to the discipline of healing ourselves and the world through the decision to make everything we touch better, beginning with ourselves.

Catherine McCall, M.S., L.M.F.T., a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, is the author of When the Piano Stops: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse.

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