Anyone who knows me knows that I am a proponent of going “no contact” with a person (or a people group) who are causing duress toward a target or former target of abuse. But, why is this necessary? My reasoning is two-fold:
First, many survivors suffer from PTSD or C-PTSD. One of “our” mamas recently asked me if I believe a person can “really heal” from PTSD. I responded in the affirmative with one condition: that the sufferer of PTSD symptoms is completely removed from the stress-inducing relationships and environment. This means no-contact. (Disclaimer: I realize that not all sufferers can be removed from abusive behavior. In this case, we recommend low-contact and a complete removal of the physical living space of the abuser. There is still much hope for the person going low-contact to heal. That will be a different blog post, although I believe this current blog post will still be helpful.) We are grateful to our friends over at Beauty After Bruises for their incredibly researched post on C-PTSD and PTSD. The authors explain, in-depth, the many symptoms associated with the disorders and why it is necessary to receive prolonged therapy and help:
Healing and recovery: PTSD can be rehabilitated in as little as mere months, or a couple of years for others. C-PTSD can take even longer than that just to be diagnosed; the recovery that then follows can take several years. Comorbid conditions also challenge the healing from C-PTSD and may need attention first before resolving the underlying trauma (though, good treatment targets both simultaneously). due to the way prolonged, intensive trauma wraps itself around a person’s entire self-concept — and processing one memory often pulls forth 20 others just like it — untangling these things can be incredibly difficult and unsafe to try at an accelerated page.
How can one experience healing when she is constantly being jabbed by those inflicting trauma upon her — even “now and then”? This person could be a boss, a spouse, a family member, a friend or (sadly), even a church body. A former victim must separate herself from any and all triggers. Simply put, a wound cannot heal if it is not protected, at first, or the scab is removed over and over.
Second, those who are diagnosed with extreme disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder, will be constantly looking for their “supply“. Former victims of abuse must stand firm and not allow themselves to be used in such a way. We are children of God! Redeemed and set apart. We no longer subject ourselves to being “supply”. That is beneath us. A person with NPD will always be on the look-out for the opportunity to “stick it to ya'” and get a response. They crave drama. Oh, beloved ones . . . do not give in. You are too precious for that. (Note: not every person who causes a panic-reaction or trigger in us has a disorder. If you have a history of unhealth with said person, it may be a matter of habitual stress, induced by this person. The person may not even realize it. Even so, there simply has to be sweeping and broad space between you and this person.)
In order to be free of this “abnormal normal” to which we have adjusted, we MUST do all we can to become free and go “no contact”. Many believe that no contact simply means not talking to the person. There is much more to it than that. Here is my list of fundamental ways to go no contact with a person who is causing triggering responses:
- Do not answer their calls. In fact, block their calls. This is an easy thing to do on an i-Phone. For flip phones, it can be done simply by calling the provider. If you need more information on this, go here.
- Block their texts. Again, an easy thing to do on your phone. It is a matter of navigating toward “settings” and going from there.
- Do not “peek” at their Facebook pages or their blog posts. This can easily cause a panic attack, as this angst-causing person may not even realize how hurtful they are being, for whatever reason OR they may know exactly how to passive-aggressively cause hurt, without being obvious to the rest of the world. It should be said that, often, bystanders know . . . . they see it. You are not being isolated in their hateful posts or their blog posts. If you need to fully comprehend this for sure, print it off and show it to a wise friend or a therapist. Watch their reaction. It will not take long for you to see that the issue is not YOU. (As an aside, this was the hardest thing for me to do. I hoped and dreamed that there would be change in those who hurt me so deeply. We want that. As believers, we hope for restoration and restitution. I wanted to see evidence of this. Eventually, I stopped “peeking” and I found peace.)
- Ask mutual family and friends to stop conveying information about this hurtful person to you. Family and friends may be well-intentioned, believing that they are trying to be peace-makers. They, most likely, do not understand (or want to understand) the painful infliction this/these person/persons have poured out upon you for so many years. Regardless, it has to stop. We have information about how to write gracious notes to people or casual conversation, asking them to stop here. I have, personally, found that most people respond incredibly graciously. Again, others have seen and do see much more than we realize. They simply do not always verbalize it.
- Block their emails.
- If necessary, remove mutual friends from social media, either for a time or permanently. If you feel an explanation is necessary, so be it. Do not go into lengthy explanations where the other person will feel the need to converse. Again, reference our post, above, on healthy boundaries.
- Do not go visit places where the angst-causing-person frequents. Find other fun and healing things to do.
- Keep a diary. Use it to write down what you are feeling and maybe what you would like to say to former abusers. In the cold light of day, this new, stronger you may actually decide that you no longer want a reconcillation and that the world has a lot more to offer you!
- Protect yourself emotionally. If you are pining, replace any “free time” with new pursuits, more pointedly, activities that bring you healing and occupy your mind. Therapy (especially for those diagnosed with C- or PTSD), art (my personal favorite!), music, new and healthy friendships, support groups in person and online (we absolutely love Leslie Vernick’s Conquer group, as well as Natalie Hebranson’s!), writing, prayer, nutrition, etc. Listen, it is important to be no-contact physically, but we would, eventually, love for you to go “no-contact”, in your mind. This is the greatest victory . . . and we believe in you!
- Surround yourself with new people. If you try to go “no contact” in a vacuum, chances are that you will go back to your old habits. I know it is difficult. I know it is new. But, it is vital to find healthy relationships that do not look anything like what your old crew looked like. It is counter-intuitive but surprisingly possible. These new people are kind, caring, non-judgmental, they do not gossip, they do not put you down. You do not walk away from these people feeling “less than a person”. In short, they are those who look like Jesus . . . or who try to. They love much. Believe me when I say that you need a new tribe. It will make all the difference.
Finally, this process will not be easy. Take it one day at a time and celebrate that one day. Then, celebrate three days. Celebrate a week. At thirty, days, you have passed a great milestone. You are actually rewiring neural pathways in your brain and creating new ones! Celebrate that! Then, it will be ninety days . . . soon, a year. You are becoming a different person now — one that those who use to victimize you would never even recognize. You no longer allow people to victimize you. You slowly become an expert at setting boundaries and you are no longer drawn toward abusive people and they are no longer interested in you. They have moved on, as well. You are no longer a victim.
(On the flip-side, this is why I no longer concern myself with another person’s avoidance of me, if it happens. Who knows that that person is facing? Maybe I remind them of someone who has hurt them deeply. Maybe something in me causes them to struggle. Who knows?)
You know, sometimes, I don’t even think that abusive people know what they are doing — to the full extent. Sometimes, they do. They are simply evil. Other times, they have just become so used to scapegoating you that they do not recognize how much pain it has caused you over the years. It is their way of life. But, that doesn’t mean that you should ever accept it. God has a a purpose for you and for me and we never, ever get to invest that purpose in a person who simply uses you to prop themselves up ever again. You are too beloved, too precious, too important to Jesus.