The best present we can give to anyone who has been abused is presence. Yes, presence. Presence, or being present, is about putting our attention onto what is happening right here, right now.
Those of us who have been abused have trained ourselves to not be present. When we were being traumatized, the present moment was very uncomfortable, so we taught ourselves to focus on our imaginations, or on nothing at all, in order to survive.
Now, hopefully we are in a safe environment, and we have the opportunity to relearn enjoying being present to what is happening in the moment.
The present wasn’t pleasant. Our smart younger selves found some pretty effective ways to change our thoughts from the hurt, to thoughts that were more comfortable. When no one was taking care of us, we discovered techniques that assisted us to pay attention to something more pleasant.
One of my techniques was counting. I often paid attention to numbers during the trauma because numbers were safe. I was never hurt by numbers and they were always there for me to “count” on. Some times I saw them in my head rushing one after the other, tumbling and crowding each other out. I would count faster and faster to keep myself from paying attention to the abuse that was happening. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,25,26,27,28,40,41,41,43,80,81,82,83,84,…
The counting became a habit. For example, I counted stairs as I ascended or descended, electric poles when I rode to school on the school bus, and cars we met on the road.
We can learn to be present. When we are present we are emotionally available to ourselves and others. We aren’t regretting the past of worrying about the future. Instead of preoccupation with past and future, we can be fully engaged in the immediate moment, and therefore improve our relationships by being engaged in the current events of our lives.
Being present to someone else means making them the focus of our attention. We may or may not agree with them, but we give them one hundred percent of our attention. When we have healed our old fear based beliefs and created new empowering ones, we can be present to our life situations. The present of presence is closer relationships with ourselves and our loved ones.
Some quotes from my therapist as reported in my book, Kathy Said, You’re Not Lost to Me:
Page 91: When I felt hopeless, believing I would never live peacefully,
Kathy said, “You are feeling hopeless today because you felt hopeless as a child and something has triggered those feelings now. Your life is not hopeless, and letting yourself feel those feelings today will reduce the reservoir of old hopeless feelings. They are just feelings, they are not reality.”
Page 111: I was constantly struggling to think, to put two thoughts together.
Kathy said, “Your brain works perfectly fine, there is just a lot of old pain in the way right now.”
I still get triggers. Recently, I made a mistake and was embarrassed to admit it, so I checked in with a friend and did healing technique, an Option Dialogue, to help me discover my beliefs that were causing my discomfort. I was still holding some feelings from being seven or eight years old, when I made the mistake of throwing another child’s homework away, thinking it was trash. When the teacher found it, and asked who had thrown it in there, I said I had, she called me in front of the room and told me how ashamed of me she was. I was too afraid to tell her I had thought it was trash and was just trying to be a “good girl.” Then my teacher called my mother who, when I got home, also berated me and punished me for throwing the boy’s homework away, and I was too afraid to tell her the reality of it because I believed she wouldn’t listen to me anyway. In the dialogue session I was able to feel the feelings that I had not given myself permission to feel as a child, and heal from the incident. Now, when I think of that incident, I think of two innocent children at school; instead of seeing it with fear and pain, I see us as open, happy seven year olds who made a mistake and can laugh about it and love each other. There is such freedom in that!
We give a present to ourselves and the world when we heal our past trauma, discover the beliefs that are keeping us stuck, and live openly, lovingly in the now. Eckhart Tolle wrote a book entitled, The Power of Now. That is where our power is, and what a gift, present, that is to the entire world.