Denial takes many forms, and I’ve yet to see one that is of real benefit. The denial after trauma – sexual assault, domestic violence, or otherwise – may be good “for the moment” because it helps get us through the trauma and into the light of day. Soldiers need it to get through seeing their best pals blown up; rape victims rely on it to “get through it” and survive. They tell themselves, “That horrible thing was only an hour of my life and it’s over now; it can’t hurt me anymore.” But it can.
Denial is a coping mechanism, but ironically, it’s a failure at coping. Once it’s helped us out of the trauma itself, it needs to be dismissed, and the real work must begin. In the light of day. The light flushes out the shadows and proves them to be just that. It gives us back what denial had taken away: our ability to see ourselves and our situation more clearly.
We can see that very thing happen every day if we pay attention. I live in Chicago, and anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows what our city, and Ferguson and Baltimore, and Cleveland have been going through this past year. But it wasn’t until our mayor stood at the microphone and said he should have done the hard work instead of denying the problem was a real one that everyone in the city took a real breath for the first time in a long time. The mayor stood in the light of day, dismissed denial, and began to see himself and his circumstances clearly. Now he, and the city, can move forward.
Yes, there will be problems to overcome. Yes, there will be some collateral damage. And yes, it will be hard work. Very hard work.
How do I know? I know because I am a survivor of sexual assault and abuse, and I too had my denial – in spite of facts screaming to the contrary and acting-out behaviors backing them up.
But once I stood in the light of day and began to tell my story – to myself, and to the therapists and caring organizations with which I worked, I began to heal. I began to feel alive, and hopeful, and eventually, powerful.
Now I am thriving, and I want to help other survivors make the same journey. But first, do the work. Tell your story to people who can help you out of the shadows and into the daylight. I am NOT a therapist, but I’ve worked with some of the best in the city. What I CAN do is pass on to you some of the tips and some of the truths that helped me on my journey from merely surviving to happily thriving.
Do the work. Then email me and tell me how you’re doing (firstname.lastname@example.org) I’ll meet you in the daylight and be proud to walk along with you and anyone else who follows this blog as they are healing. We all need someone to share that journey. You’re no longer alone.
Coretta Dixon is a highly regarded businesswoman and sexual assault survivor. Her own traumatic experiences and exemplary work done through the healing process, along with her Master’s Degree and business experience in Change Management, equip her well to act as a coach to those who have done the work of healing and now wish to “thrive.” She can be reached at email@example.com.