Winning the Battle

by Dee Ann Miller (a timeless message written in 2008)

Survivors and even advocates can easily fall into despair, feeling like losers. Yet, even despite the catastrophic losses, there are many ways to feel like a winner, regardless of what others do or say.

Back in 1992, four years after losing careers we loved over these issues, Ron and I had done a lot of grieving. Yet I was still in the doldrums emotionally in spite of us both being resettled professionally and feeling a lot of fulfillment. We were far from being fully recovered.

I borrowed a stack of old magazines, hoping to separate my mind from my losses, before the two of us took off to a luxurious resort hotel that we really couldn't afford.

Strangely, it wasn't the luxurious hotel that did the trick at all, but one of those free magazines! In the July, 1986, issue of Parents' was an article that has kept me going, through thick and thin, one battle after another--some internally, but many with powerful people--while seeking to have my voice heard. I thought of it again yesterday when Ron reminded me: "We can't win the war in life unless we are able to survive the battles." Ironically, he wasn't referring to my advocacy work at all. He was talking about some other things related to his work as a pastor.

The article by a well-known psychologist, Dr. Julius Segel, was intended to help promote his "new book," Winning Life's Toughest Battles: Roots of Human Resilience (McGraw-Hill).

Now, I'm passing the message on to you.

Tackling powerful systems in a case of sexual abuse often feels like war. In reality, it is only one of our battles in a series of struggles that make up the beautiful, yet trying, process we call life.

Segel says that it is quite possible to live triumphantly, despite tremendous crises, if we utilize five techniques:

COMMUNICATE - When I saw that, I was initially cynical. Few people really welcome me doing that, I told myself. Back then, in 1992, I didn't have the Web and had no idea where to find other survivors. The only ones I'd met were former clients of mine. I had to read on and come back to this one later. Finally, I thought back to days of beating my head against the wall in other battles. Like when we lived in Africa and I found myself wrestling with officials of a government ruled by a "benevolent dictator," hoping to get permission to implement some small projects to improve the health and well-being of the poverty-stricken citizens. Nothing came easy. Yet I finally succeeded with some of my dreams because I kept talking, even when it seemed nobody was listening. Looking back, I realized that it wasn't all of those people who didn't listen that made the difference. With each project, the only important person was the one who finally did! For survivors, that one person may be a therapist, another survivor in the network, or just a writer like Segel whose words can help you think differently and increase your creativity.

CONTROL - Segel started this section telling of a time when he lost two brothers and his father in the course of eighteen months. He was convinced life was over. The simple act of getting out of bed was too much for him. Then, he started setting a structure for himself, forcing himself to act like things were going to be okay, by doing some routine things he'd done for years. He got back to the typewriter and wrote, without fail, each morning. This was a way of taking charge of his life, rather than letting what he could not control take charge of him.

CONVICTION - Making a purpose out of the pain, seeing it as a way to ultimately learn and grow or to bring about change in the world, is liberating. It takes us away from the "If only…" thinking that keeps us stuck in yesterday. The how isn't nearly as important as the conviction that we are going to make a positive purpose, no matter what. This is not to say that finding the energy to cope with life, after all of the devastation, is easy. It's not at all. Sometimes looking at other over-comers who have fought some very different battles can inspire us; but there are no simple formulas, no pat answers. Segel speaks of weaving a "significant thread into life's tattered fabric."

A CLEAR CONSCIENCE - Blaming self for the tragedies of life is never productive. With victims of professional sexual misconduct, it's almost a universal problem, made more difficult because others echo those feelings. Yet it is very hard to feel guilty about the past while being hopeful about the future, Segel reminds us. Even if you are hanging on to a remnant of guilt, you can still move on. You can accept yourself as an imperfect person who deserves the best, a person who is headed toward better things. Keep that vision while talking through the guilt issues with people who will continue to remind you of reality.

COMPASSION - Pain becomes tolerable when we balance our own concerns with those of others. This does not mean we are to neglect ourselves. Not at all! Yet reaching out to others, sharing in the commonality of human suffering and oppression, can put our own suffering into perspective. In so doing, we not only fortify others. We fortify ourselves and set an example for others who are looking to us--our children, our friends, and maybe a few strangers who might end up being the best listening ears we've ever found!


This article, like all at www.takecourage.org is copyrighted by the author. Other writers, by copyright law, may use up to 300 words in other published works without asking permission, provided the author is given full credit. This also applies to the acronym "DIM Thinking," a term coined by Miller. You may download and/or distribute copies of any of these articles, for educational purposes, PROVIDED the pages are distributed without alteration, including this copyright statement.

www.takecourage.org by Dee Ann Miller, author of How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct and The Truth about Malarkey.