Turning the page on unhealthy relationships can be the dawning of a new day in someone's life.
There is now a popular book that gives 20 health-based perspectives on cleaning out the human pain in your life, and one of them comes from here.
Chapter 13 is entitled A Whole New World and it was written by Chelsea Gibson, a cognitive behaviour therapist and the proprietor of Wild Rose Wellness in downtown Prince George. It is one of the life-skills theses found between the covers of A New Day Dawns: Breaking Up With Abuse, edited by Erica Glessing and produced by Happy Publishing.
In a book loaded with views and life-lessons on spotting the people in your life you need to shed for your own long-term wellbeing, Gibson adds a surprising twist.
"The abusive person I needed to break up with was me," she writes in her first paragraph.
Of course there have been people in her life who weren't supportive, sometimes she heard mean or spirit-crushing things, and that is common in any life, but Gibson's role in the book was to address the inner voice - how we are our own worst critics, sometimes to a brutal fault.
"The only times I ever allowed other outside people to abuse me was when I was abusing myself," she said. "Nobody can hit that key if they don't have access to the piano, if you can, for just a second, think of your life as a musical instrument. If that key doesn't exist, you just aren't going to respond to those outside forces, but if it does exist, it rings in your ears."
The main point to understand, she said, is that other people's thoughts about what you say, do, look like, etc. is just their own point of view. It has no effect on your reality. But your own point of view on the things you say, do, look like, etc. has a profound effect on your reality. If, upon hearing someone's opinion of you, something feels good or something feels hurtful, then you have made a choice to validate them.
"I can go on a date with someone and if they don't want to go on a second date with me, that doesn't mean I'm ugly or I'm unworthy," Gibson said. "I can go into a clothing store change room and if the clothes I want don't fit me properly, that doesn't mean my body looks bad or I'm not the person I should be. The earlier you can learn to not judge yourself, not give other opinions including your own a power over your reality, then the more time you have to be happy on the planet."
The problem, said Gibson, is mathematical exhaustion. There are billions of people on earth, millions of people in Canada, hundreds of thousands of people in our region, and they would all have a different opinion or view of you. If you tried to respond to all of them, if you tried to please everybody, you'd go insane without ever coming to a positive resolution.
"So who has to be happy with you in order for you to be happy? You. Just you," she said. "It's not an easy topic. People don't want to look at themselves through that lens. Looking at the abuse you've received isn't easy, it isn't a joy, especially if it's for the first time. It isn't even clear to a lot of people that they are receiving abuse, or that they are participating in that abuse. But we have all received abuse, somehow, from someone, and we have all been part of hurting ourselves. Some more than others, obviously. Sometimes you are so inundated with it, it becomes your norm. And then you can't easily receive compliments or positive messages, because we all get those, too."
If you keep a scorecard of yourself, in your mind, and you're always losing on the scorecard, that is a prime sign that you are self-abusing. If the meal you made wasn't as good as you hoped, if your clothes don't look good on you, if you are never satisfied with the things you do in your career or your family, then the signs are indicating you might well have a self-abusive point of view. And maybe that is amplified by other people in your life who agree with your negative view of yourself.
"The whole thing is about control. You choose your reality in life, so how do you take control of feeling good about yourself and take control of seeing the value you have in the world. Everyone has high value. If you can't see yours, this is a sign that you are involved in your own abuse."
People naturally attract people who support your self view. If you are self-abusive, you will likely attract abusers. If you are self-supportive, you will likely attract uplifters. Or at least draw out those traits in the people around you, because remember, they, too are in a struggle with self-abuse.
Moving in the right direction isn't easy and it isn't always clear, Gibson said. But a good place to start is the old adage about treating people the way you wish to be treated, and the first one on the list should be you. The first time you have to compromise on that point, you've spotted a hole in which your self-abuser lives.
"If I want my friends to treat me a certain way, if I want my lovers to treat me a certain way, if I want my boss or colleagues to treat me a certain way, then insisting on that soon becomes your pattern and it becomes what you attract from outside people," Gibson said.
"It starts to shape your life in a positive way. I remember when I decided to take control of that myself. Do you know how many 'friends' I've lost the happier I've gotten? So many. And that's a price well worth paying. Because do you know what the people are like who have become my friends since then? They're wonderful. And we make each other stronger."
To help spot the places in our lives where abuse leaks in, where self-abuse leaks out, and where to find the emotional first-aid kit, A New Day Dawns is available for sale at participating bookstores, at Wild Rose Wellness, and online at Amazon. It is available in hardcopy and ebook formats.