Like many survivors of childhood abuse, I have had a difficult time letting go of the past and moving on. For years I thought I was doomed to suffer throughout my entire life, and I resented that. I felt ensnared in my history. With frequent reminders and triggers of the old feelings, how could I ever escape?
Each time I saw sexist imagery in the media, each time I saw evidence of pornography, which had played a part in my history, each time I saw the announcement of another registered sex offender moving into my area, I plummeted into depression. I wallowed in my sad story.
I identified myself as a victim of abuse and as a target for continued abuse, because I considered myself irreparably damaged. I even recognized that I abused myself with these thoughts, but I didn't know how to change my thinking. I saw my life the way I saw it, and that was how it was. I couldn't imagine any other way.
When I interacted with other people, I did so from my identification as a target for mistreatment. I had been bullied in school and at work, and these experiences supported my identity as a permanent victim.
I hung on to that sad story for years before I realized that I could create a new story and a new identity.
First, I began actively looking for the positive experiences that had occurred alongside the negative in my history and I focused on those. I chose to focus on memories that brought me happiness. This practice created some balance in my personal story.
Next, I began to focus on how I felt in the present from moment to moment. When I did this, I discovered that the past didn't really have any power in the present. Actually, it didn't even exist. I can smile with my children and immerse myself in the joy of being together. I don't have to remember that I had negative experiences during my own childhood. I don't have to drag that story along with me and allow it to influence my present experiences.
As for the future, I no longer project continued suffering into that time. The future doesn't really exist either. It's always the present, and the present is what I make it.
Now, when I choose to look back on my childhood experiences, even when that choice is triggered by present reminders, I focus on the aspects of my history that give me positive feelings. I reach for good feelings rather than allowing unpleasant ones to take over and influence my present. A history of child abuse has given me strong intuition, compassion, and a drive to actively seek joy in life.