We all need self-care, yet after writing our last blog, Time for Rest, I thought about the significance of of self-care for individuals healing from childhood abuse, trauma and addictions. It struck me that by choosing to engage in a daily self-care practice, they heeded the call to embark on a hero’s journey. A commitment to self-care is ultimately an odyssey of self-transformation.
By engaging in self-care, they embrace, and rewrite the chapters of their daily stories of co-dependency, self-sabotage, emotional overwhelm, and lack. Self-care offers them the opportunity to craft new chapters with tender loving care. By caring for themselves, they lay a solid foundation for living, creating stories with wholesome and hopeful endings.
Self-care is an inner revolution.
The journey of self-care catapults a survivor of abuse and trauma from victimhood to thriving. Daily self-care is like a thermometer, a way a survivor manages the rigors of counseling, support groups, and emotional work, and yet also allows time for hobbies and joyful activities. When needed, self-care can be a welcome pillow for pain and grief to rest. For anyone, self-care allows us to take off the masks of our false selves, nurturing our true selves. It moves us from despair to hope, from lost to found, and over time, to feeling powerful and at home within our bodies.
And yet, for survivors of abuse and trauma, self-care requires the courage to give themselves what they never received as children–help, tender loving care, and hope. Courage allows them to claim their birthright to live a good life. By choosing a self-care practice, they claim new ground, sowing seeds in rich soil where they blossom–for many, for the first time. For those seeking to end addictions, having courage allows them to cross a threshold where they begin the needed climb onto self-care steps toward a healthier life.
Yet, by embarking on the self-care journey, like any hero’s journey, the hero faces tremendous trials, darkness, and insurmountable odds. When we care for ourselves, we stop our cycles of distraction; work, addictions and relationships that no longer provide escape. As we move into just being, sometimes this intentional slowing down brings forth feelings previously ignored. Shadows of regrets, mistakes, and painful memories rise to the surface. During these times, survivors of trauma, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and those with troubled pasts, find themselves climbing over brick walls of shame and inadequacy, maneuvering minefields of PTSD, rage, grief, and shards from broken mirrors of their childhood. And yet, confronting the monsters that lurk in the darkness of the underworld are an essential part of the hero’s journey.
In light of this truth, it seems strange to say that embarking on this journey is the ultimate self-care. The act of choosing a practice of caring for ourselves daily, to heed the call of the self-care adventure, is to begin life anew.
In refusing this call, mythologist and author, Joseph Campbell says, “the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action, and becomes a victim to be saved.”
Having the courage to follow the call is to move from victim to thriver.
The beauty of the hero’s journey is that helpers come along guide the adventurer into the underworld. In the case of trauma or abuse survivors, skilled helpers, such as counselors and advocates are necessary. Yet, additional helpers might include supportive family members, a friend, or a flyer about a healing workshop. For those seeking to overcome addictions, it may be an invitation to a support group by a person in recovery. Even books show up as helpers on the journey. As Campbell says, supernatural helpers are “protective figures providing the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass.”
With the help of allies and skilled support, the courageous journeyer can enter the underworld, facing the terrifying darkness, grief, flashbacks, emotional anguish, denial by family and society, and perilous setbacks and obstacles.
Yet, like Luke facing Darth Vadar in battle, the survivor perseveres and prevails.
Ascending from the underworld, aides, guides, and supportive friends help the hero on their way to true home. For abuse survivors, reclaiming their lives from the hands of perpetrators, they find safety. As Mark Crawford says in our documentary, Boys and Men Healing, it’s about “taking myself back, and placing the shame where it belongs, on the perpetrator.” Here the once hushed child within speaks out, reclaims their big voice, tells the truth, and takes hold of innocence and lives again.
Daily self-care is a journey of putting pieces of ourselves back together again. Day in and day out we make positive decisions to apply salve to our wounds, offering ourselves adequate time for self-love and placing firm boundaries between ourselves and the demands of the world. A sacred act, self-care turns attention to ourselves. We finally set the auto-reply on our emails, “away on an adventure.”
I’m reminded how self-care is crucial for front line workers in the field of trauma recovery and child abuse prevention, and advocates, activists, counselors, social workers, and service providers. These ‘supernatural’ guides and helpers guide those in need through the self-care, healing journey. Without them, the hero’s journey cannot be made.
I’m also struck by the fact that many helpers in the field of child abuse prevention, addiction and trauma recovery were once survivors who traveled the hero’s road. The power of the hero’s journey is that the wounded become healers and helpers, and so the cycle of hope continues.
The baton is passed to another.
Boys and Men Healing, The Healing Years, and The Pursuit of Truth documentaries are stories about courageous individuals who embarked on the hero’s journey. Self-care was crucial to their healing journey.
For service providers, learn more about our Healing Journey workshops here.