Exercise: Giving Your Shame Back to Your Abuser
Releasing your anger about having been abused will help you recognize that the abuse was not your fault. Although you may know on an intellectual level that as a child, you did not cause the person who abused you to act as he or she did, nor did you deserve the abuse, expressing your anger at having been abused can help you to come to know these truths on a much deeper level.
It is especially important for those who internalized their anger (i.e. blamed themselves) to redirect that anger toward their abuser. After all, he or she is the appropriate target for your anger. By allowing yourself to get angry at your abuser, the vital force of anger will be moving in the right direction, outward instead of inward.
Internalizing your anger and blame not only makes you feel guilty and ashamed but can also cause you to punish yourself with negative relationships or self-destructive behavior (such as alcohol or drug abuse, starving yourself, overeating or self-mutilation with razors, knives, pins or cigarettes). Let all that self-hatred become righteous anger toward your abuser. Stop taking your anger out onyourself and start taking it out ofyourself.
Releasing your anger at the abuser can also help you to give back the shame to the abuser—after all, it is his or her shame that was put on you. The following exercise will help you to do this.
Exercise: Giving Back Your Abuser’s Shame
- Ground yourself by placing your feet flat on the floor, taking some deep breaths and clearing your eyes.
- Imagine that you are able to look inside your body. Scan your body and see if you can locate where the shame surrounding the abuse is located. Find any shame or feelings that you are “bad” inside your body.
- Imagine that you are reaching inside your body and pulling out that dark, ugly stuff.
- Now imagine that you are throwing all that dark ugliness at your abuser, where it belongs.
- Open your eyes and make a throwing motion with your arms.
- Say out loud as you do it: “There, take back your shame. It’s yours, not mine.”
This exercise may bring up more anger or it may bring up sadness. Whatever emotions arise, allow yourself to express them freely.
If you feel like confronting your abuser(s) directly I encourage you to continue releasing your anger in healthy, constructive ways first so that you do not put yourself or the other person at risk. I also encourage you to carefully consider whether it is safe for you (emotionally and physically) to confront your abuser. If the person has not changed he or she could become physically or emotionally abusive toward you, thus causing you to be re-traumatized. For more information on the pros and cons of direct confrontations, please read my books: Breaking the Cycle of Abuse or The Right to Innocence.