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Posts Tagged ‘victim’

Journey to Freedom 4: Victory over Automatic Responses

In our previous blog we said the first step to freedom is to recognize the internal conflict, and the second is to forgive and release the offender. Those acts set us free on one level, but living life in this new freedom is a challenge because we have developed self-defeating habit patterns. Situations continue to trigger the internal memories of being victimized. In this blog we will address the issue of overcoming on a day-by-day basis.

We all know Paul’s pronouncement, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of love, power and discipline.” The word translated discipline (literally a healed mind) refers to the “mind of the heart,” or the subconscious as we call it in our culture. It does not refer to the mind of information, logic and analysis, but to the internal “programs” that produce automatic action. When we say something we didn’t intend to say, it was the heart-mind that reacted.

Solomon said, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.” The activities (issues) of our life flow from the internal programs of our subconscious, especially those actions that automatically respond to situations without thinking. So our success as an overcomer requires that we reprogram our heart-mind. How do we do that?

We access the heart-mind by monitoring our internal dialogue, the things we say to ourselves about ourselves, about others (or to others when they aren’t there), about how things work in the world (what I have to do to succeed) and about God (like, “God doesn’t love me as much as others”). Our internal dialogue was originally programmed by words spoken or implied by important others in our life.

As a young boy, when I made mistakes on the jobsite with my dad he would say, “You’re dumb. You’ll never amount to anything.” Those words continued to be my self-definition long after he passed on. I said those words to myself every time I messed up. They became my identity: “I AM dumb,” I would say to myself. Those words plagued me for years until I began to understand the inner-workings of the heart-mind.

To reprogram our subconscious we simply change our self-talk. Yes, it’s simple; but it’s not easy. Our old programs fight to remain in charge because in them we think we have safety. To counter those thoughts, we must replace them with empowering thoughts. I began to say to myself what I read in Scripture about myself as a new creature in Christ.

“I am more than conqueror through Christ who strengthens me,” I would say over and over until I began to experience it. “It’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” was a mantra until I felt its truth deeply. I would say, “I can do all things through Christ.” Saying, “The eyes of my heart are enlightened to know…,” helped me to begin to see the mysteries of the kingdom. As I continued to speak thus, the “spirit wisdom and of revelation” became a reality in my life.

The old adage, “Say it till you see it,” is true, but only if you are saying it because you know it’s true. If you’re trying to make it true by saying it, your self-talk won’t work. This is the problem of positive affirmations: they don’t work unless you already believe. So we must go one step deeper and monitor the deeper self-talk that occurs while we are talking to ourselves. The deeper level of self-talk exposes the lies we believe, lies we allow to influence our behavior.

Phrases like, “Not really; this won’t change anything,” will pop up. It’s necessary to correct those phrases immediately before we continue the affirmation. Confront the contrary phrase head-on. Counter it by saying to yourself, “It is true, because God said it. My present experience does not change the truth.” As you continue this over time, the truth will change your experience, your triggers will become weaker and your life will begin to change.

If these blogs are meaningful to you, share them with your friends and invite them to sign up to receive them automatically when a new one is available. Have them go to http://onword.org and click on the “blog” link. There is a place in the upper right-hand to enter their email address.

Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
President and Founder
On Word Ministries

Journey to Freedom: 3 From Survivor to overcomer

In our previous blog we noticed that childhood survivor skills don’t work in adult life. When we use the childhood defense mechanisms as adults, we have trouble experiencing intimacy with God and with others. We learned how to survive as a child, but when we left home we had not overcome the abusers. Our defense mechanisms helped us get through it all, but we did not win. In other words, we were still standing when the combat was over, but we lost the battle.

We also noted that, because of the constant clash in childhood, we never learned to bond in a positive way. In fact, our staying power became a block to intimacy when we entered adult life. We found ourselves quite capable of engaging in combat with other adults, but inadequate in developing close relationships. Sometimes we even engaged in combat with our spouse and children because we had a need to win. We became just like the caregivers who abused us. This took the problem to the next generation.

As children we were totally dependent on caregivers. If those caregivers were abusive, we had no choice but to learn how to survive. Now that we are adults, however, we are responsible for our own lives and must overcome and develop adult skills that promote intimacy. The ability to promote intimacy requires a different set of aptitudes than survivor skills. Since we didn’t develop these skills in childhood, we must make a concerted effort to break old behavior patterns if we want to move from being a survivor to being an overcomer.

As adults our battle is no longer with those who may have abused us or neglected us when we were young. We lost that war. Now we are fighting against our victim issues which are now internalized. Without realizing it, we are trying to fight that internal war by competing with the significant others in our lives. We may play one-upmanship with our spouse and children, for example, as though our battle were with them. If our spouse also has unresolved issues from childhood, he or she will respond as though their conflict were with us. And the battle rages on.

We will never become overcomers by competing with others for kudos. We may win the skirmish, but we forfeit any possible intimacy. The first step to being an overcomer is to recognize that the real battle is with our childhood defense mechanisms. As long as we are blaming and attacking others, we are fighting the wrong opponent. Self-control is all about conquering the urge to react or withdraw when these internalized conflicts are influencing our perception of reality.

My father died when I was 22 years old, but the battle still raged inside me. My “internalized father” continued to speak those negative words to me long after he died. I continued to feel his voice telling me I was no good and would never amount to anything. As long as I focused on his abuse, I continued to think and react like a survivor. I would even respond to my wife as though she were putting me down when it was actually my internalized father.

The first step to overcoming is to recognize the internal conflict for what it really is. It is a battle we are still fighting with the ones who took unfair advantage of our vulnerability. When we hold on to the offense we are allowing them to continue to aggravate us even after we no longer live with them, even after they are dead. We have the power to change that, but it requires action.

The second step is to forgive and release our “adversary.” Many people have trouble forgiving because they think forgiving is letting the perpetrator off the hook. But we are the one that is on the hook because of un-forgiveness. When we forgive we are not saying, “It’s OK.” Sin is never OK. We’re saying, “Your sin is covered, and I release you from my grip.” This does not release them from their sins, but it sets us free from our internalized battle. When we take this step it begins a journey out of bondage into victory. We will become increasingly free to learn the skills necessary to develop intimate relationships.

If these blogs are meaningful to you, share them with your friends and invite them to sign up to receive them automatically when a new one is available. Have them go to http://onword.org and click on the “blog” link. There is a place in the upper right-hand to enter their email address.

Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
President and Founder
On Word Ministries

Journey to Wholeness 1: Survivors and Victims

01/28/2013 2 comments

A survivor is one who has been through a difficult situation, a battle of one kind or another, but he or she is still standing when the dust settles. They came through the skirmish of victimization and were not taken out. But they did not win the battle either. In this valley many children learn survival skills. As children, they are no match for their victimizers in size or in fighting ability. They should be honored for their creativity and resiliency in surviving. Their survival skills can be very useful in adult life.

One problem is that our culture labels survivors as inferior or “troubled” people. But the truth is that they are often superior individuals who were creative enough to find a way to survive in very difficult situations. We dishonor them when we label them as abnormal. We fail to recognize their inner strength and stamina. In other words, the term “survivor” should be a medal of honor rather than a label.

Another problem is that these creative people often accept the label “survivor” as an identity statement, as a label. They receive this identity from the social workers (who themselves are often survivors) and from the caring profession in general. To BE a survivor is different from surviving. If you ARE a survivor, you cannot change; you just have to live with it. To survive is something one is able to do. Survival demonstrates strength of character and incredible fortitude. Behavior can change, but you can’t change who you ARE.

AA is a good example of the identity issue. It is a very good program for people who wrestle with alcoholism, but there is, in my opinion, one weakness in what they do. To be a part of this program you are required to stand up and identify yourself, “My name is Joe, and I AM an alcoholic.” If that is your identity, then you can never change. He can only continue to fight the battle which he can never win, and his self-esteem suffers in the process. If he could learn to think of himself as a wrestler, rather than an alcoholic, he would find another level of freedom in his life.

The same is true of survivors of victimization. As long as we think of ourselves as survivors, we continue to see ourselves as victims. Here again, to be victimized is not the same as BEING a victim. Victor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist held in Auschwitz at the end of the war. He did much more than survive; he learned much about human behavior and developed an ability to help others. He was victimized, but he was not a victim.

Jesus on the cross was victimized, but he was not a victim. “No one takes my life,” he said, “I lay it down on my own accord, that I may take it up again. In many circles today, Jesus would be considered co-dependent and dysfunctional. Those who, like him, put up with abuse without fighting back are labeled in this way. But Jesus was not a victim; he was not merely a survivor either. He was an overcomer. He actually won the battle as no one in history has ever done.

This does not mean that we should mindlessly submit to abuse as adults. I would never insist that a woman continue to live in the house with a wife abuser. But I would recommend she find a way to overcome her own sense of being a victim. We all need to find our identity in something other than what happens to us.

As time permits, I will continue this discussion in several other blogs. In future posts, you will learn some of my personal history and how I learned to go beyond survival. For now, if you find value in these blogs, please recommend them to a friend. You may forward this blog to them and suggest that they sign up to receive new blogs as they are available.

Looking forward,
Fount Shults
Founder and President
On Word Ministries
http://onword.org