Friday, January 3, 2014

Rebuilding Ourselves and Our Lives After Abuse

One Facebook friend asked me if there was a book that would speak to her now that she’s left and accepted the fact that that relationship is over. I couldn’t think of any at the time. Today, as I stood before my office bookcase, scanning the shelf stuffed with the books on what abuse is and how to leave, It dawned on me that I should be looking at the shelf above this one. It holds most all the books that helped me build the skills to have the life I now have. I thought I’d share some of these books and their lessons with you this year. 
One of the first books I read was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s author, Stephen Covey, shares how we can develop the skills to move from dependence to independence to interdependence. Each an important stepping stone to success in our professional and personal lives. 
Having left our abusive relationship, we are now technically independent. But, do we have the skills to take care of ourselves and family? Possibly not. To survive we had lived in reactive mode, pushed around by someone else’s whim, not allowed to move froward, to grow. We came out with a mangled view of ourselves and obliterated self-esteem. 
Covey tell us to be proactive. Look ahead. Where do we want to go professionally and personally? He calls it beginning with the end in mind. Even if you aren’t sure what you want to do, pick an end result. (i.e. I want to work in a medical clinic.) You can always adjust it as you move forward, uncovering your passion, developing your skills and growing stronger. Determine what steps it will take to get to that end. (i.e. Approach friends in that field for advice. Apply for any job in a clinic. Take classes.) Then set your eyes on that future. Recognize the negative self-talk in your head is left over from the controlling people that were in your life. Tell the voice to shut up.
As you take control you will become truly independent - inner directed and your sense of worth determined by you, not what others think of you or that defeatist voice from your past.
From independence, Covey suggest you work toward interdependence.
“Interdependence is a far more mature, more advance concept. If I am physically interdependent, I am self-reliant and capable, but I also realize that you and I working together can accomplish far more than, even at my best, I could accomplish alone. If I am emotionally interdependent, I derive a great sense of worth within myself, but I also recognize the need for love, for giving and for receiving love from others. If I am intellectually interdependent, I realize that I need the best thinking of other people to join with my own.”
Though we join with others in our professional or personal life, we remain strong enough to speak up for what we believe. We cooperate, truly listen to the others' view points and try to understand their positions then negotiate a win/win solution. One that feels like a compromise not a loss. 
Covey suggests you write a mission statement. I talked about the importance of a mission statement in a previous post (October 2013). If you haven’t done one, this is a perfect time to do it.
Covey’s book is also were I learned about emotional bank accounts (EBAs). If you’ve read my book But He’ll Change, you will be familiar with this term. In every relationship we have an EBA where we make deposits through kindness, courtesy, honesty and keeping commitments. Accounts are drained by cruel treatment, thoughtlessness, no regard for commitments, and any kind of abuse. Of course, we now know to let go of relationships that drain our EBA.
Another important lesson for me was to stop hacking at the branches and go for the root of a problem. This is best described by the saying, “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Too often we go for the quick-temporary-fix and not deal with the root of a problem. Covey taught me to look beyond the immediate relief choice and deal with the real problem.

The bottom line is to live your life with integrity. Respect yourself and others. Isn’t that the basic lesson of life - Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. Covey gives you steps to get there.

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