Building emotional wellness (also known as emotional health) after surviving an abusive past may feel like an uphill battle.
You’ve lived a certain way a long time and you may notice there are certain patterns in your life that keep popping up over and over again. Perhaps you keep getting involved in dysfunctional relationships or there are certain parts of your life you feel you can’t share with anyone because you’re ashamed.
To begin to turn things around, here are five questions you can ask yourself.
Question #1: What am I sad about or what is still bothering me today?
What is bothering you? Find someplace where you won’t be disturbed. Grab a piece of paper and write about it. Write everything that comes into your head. If you have to cry, go ahead. For instance, if you are sad about how your parents physically abused you, write everything that comes to mind that bothers you about it.
Question #2: How has this experience affected me as an adult?
Now it’s time to identify how your past is still affecting you today. Going back to the “abusive parents” example, perhaps you find yourself in relationships where you are not treated well or you don’t treat the other person well. Be honest with yourself about how your experiences have affected you. Record your answers.
Question #3: What is the lesson to be learned from all of this?
The key to not being overwhelmed by your current problems is by putting them in perspective. Write what you feel are some lessons you’ve learned from your experiences. If you had physically abusive parents, perhaps you learned the importance of treating children with loving discipline. Perhaps you’ve also learned that because of what your parents did to you, you have a lot of anger and a tendency to get into abusive relationships.
Question #4: What new goals do I need to set based on the information I have learned?
Think about the changes you want to make in your life. What do you want your life to look like 1 year from now? 5 years from now? Thinking about a brighter future gives you a sense of hope and renewed energy to rebuild your life. Part of making a successful recovery is cultivating a sense of hope for the future. Now that you have recorded some thoughts about what you have learned, think about how it will help you in the future. What new strengths have you discovered about yourself that you didn’t realize you had? What weaknesses did you discover that you may need to work on? For instance, you may find that being abused and having no one to turn to made you more self-reliant, but at the same time it made you unwilling to trust others. This can be a strength or a weakness, depending on the situation.
Question #5: Where can I turn to for help in order to achieve my goals?
Having a good support system in place will help you reach your objective. What are some emotional resources you have access to? Do you have a supportive friend or ally that you think would help? What about a survivors group? If you’re an alcoholic, groups such as alcoholics anonymous have chapters in many major cities and surrounding areas. For the purposes of dealing with abuse and dysfunctional family issues, a good therapist will go a long way.