by Cindy Kunsman cross posted from her blog Under Much Grace
This is part of a series Cindy Kunsman has been writing on recovery from spiritual abuse and trauma. All images by Cindy Kunsman of Under Much Grace and used with permission.
How does a person find contentment while enduring abuse? When I started back into therapy with a therapist a number of years ago, this was indeed my goal. I know what I wanted. I wanted to maintain or create a healthy place for myself within a very unhealthy relationship. Together, the therapist and I would chase down my unreasonable expectations and beliefs about how the world worked – but every time, I was astonished. My mind could identify what was right and reasonable to expect, but when it came to me, my heart saw things differently. My heart wanted to change things that I had no power to change. With every vanquished lie I believed, I would realize afterwards that the goal was never to endure unmerited treatment or abuse. The goal was liberation from abuse which was based on my intrinsic value and upon that which was real and true in life.
I’ve lived many places, and in a place that I didn’t particularly like, I joked about that quote from Paul where he said that he learned to be content in “whatsoever state” he found himself. I said that he’d never lived in the particular State in the United States where I’d found myself. I would laugh, but I was truly unhappy and desperately wanted to be content. The means by which one thinks on goodness that I saw modeled for me growing up was one of unviable fantasies. If you believe and pray and whatever enough, you’ll get some happy ending.
I’ve found myself thinking of oncology patients in the hospital when I’d just begun working as a nurse. How does one lend their spirit of encouragement to a person who fights for their life against impossible odds? I believe that a part of my heart expected everyone to get well, though I knew in my head that this could never be true. It feels much to me like the false expectations I had for myself when I worked with my therapist. How could I make abuse no longer painful or abusive? How could I turn death and disease into life and wellness? I could do neither, but I did have a role in the process. How would I find it? Where did I or where should I fit?
I had to learn to live in the moment, separating hopes from reasonable expectations from dreams and flights of fancy. There was and is place in my life and my heart for all of these things, but it’s not as easy to figure out how to manage all of them. I want the guide to help me figure out how to navigate the process, but what a shock it is to learn that I’m writing my own as I go along. Ideas meet experience. My best hopes meet up with my humanity. In the middle of all of that ambiguity comes clarity and a meaningful life, but none of it is easy.
Does one stay where they are to bloom where they’re planted? Ah, that stretch of the maze of healing will blossom in a post to follow this one.
Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery
Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma
- Bessel Van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps Score
Cynthia Mullen Kunsman is a nurse (BSN), naturopath (ND) and seminary graduate (MMin) with a wide variety of training and over 20 years of clinical experience. She has used her training in Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a lecturer and liaison to professional scientific and medical groups, in both academic and traditional clinical healthcare settings. She also completed additional studies in the field of thought reform, hypnotherapy for pain management, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is often associated with cultic group involvement. Her nursing experience ranges from intensive care, the training of critical care nurses, hospice care, case management and quality management, though she currently limits her practice to forensic medical record review and evaluation. Most of her current professional efforts concern the study of manipulative and coercive evangelical Christian groups and the recovery process from both thought reform and PTSD.
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