We all have occasions of negative thinking. The abuse victim struggles with a deeper sense of humiliation, feeling like a failure, disliking oneself, shame and guilt. It creates confusion because the victim typically blames themselves for the damage inflicted. The real issue lays in the grooming of the victim, along with the mental and emotional degradation that happens during all abuse.
“Grooming is a manipulative process used by a sexual or abuse predator for the purpose of creating a sense of trust with a targeted person prior to the act of actual victimization.” according to Sharie Stines, Psy.D, The Recovery Expert
Anyone can be groomed. It doesn’t matter age, sexual orientation, income, location or any other demographic. Common grooming tactics used by predators, prior to actual abuse of victims include:
- Pretending to be someone/something they aren’t. They pretend to be someone trustworthy, so you drop your guard. This is accomplished in many different ways.
- They present themselves as the perfect person for you. This tactic is only superficial and never meaningful.
- They seem emphatic — They will mirror you and showing an ability to connect with you, therefore you have your needs and experiences felt. If the predator is a an adult and the victim is a child, the abuser will become childlike and at the same level as the child. They will use compliments and lavish attention as well.
- Groomers act sincere and truthful with a calming presence. They don’t seem clouded, mean or like they carry some deep, hidden secret. Victims often do not suspect malicious intent, only that they are comforting to be with.
- The abuser will pretend to care and often act as a guardian and protector. Exhibiting anger and rage for wrong doings against you, will promising to play the white knight. All the while plotting to do the same evil to you.
The victim is groomed to believe that the abuser is the perfect person. They have a baseline of who they feel that person is. When abuses start to occur, the victim will begin explaining abusive behaviors away. As the level of abuse continues, the victim will become emotional withdrawn and feel numb. This is an instinctual protective behavior because numbness protects from internal pain and is a psychological analgesic. It’s like the lidocaine the dentist gives to numb your mouth, only it works mentally and emotionally.
As time progresses, there is a level of guilt established. The victim assumed responsibility (how can the perfect person be wrong), taking the blame and carrying the guilt of failure. Victims also have a difficult time reaching out for help because they feel ashamed of what’s happening. It’s easier to pretend that everything is fine. It’s really hard to be vulnerable and show any weaknesses. Predators of abuse use and exploit any weakness demonstrated by the victim, therefore developing tactics to attack those vulnerable attributes.
As an abuse victim, it’s difficult to not listen to the negative comments that eventually come within a predator/victim relationship. This develops into a new thought process for the victim. The term walking on egg shells begins coming into play and the victim will start playing out all the bad potential reactions in their head to prevent conflict. Eventually, the derogatory comments made and the conflict prevention will spill over into every moment of the victims life into surroundings, work, other relationships and begin removing the victim into a more withdrawn state. This pattern will eventually cause dysfunction within the victim, manifesting in physical and mental illnesses.
“Negative thinking refers to a pattern of thinking negatively about yourself and your surroundings. While everyone experiences negative thoughts now and again, negative thinking that seriously affects the way you think about yourself and the world and even interferes with work/study and everyday functioning could be a symptom of a mental illness, including depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and schizophrenia.” from Rethink Mental Illness
My own personal experience is that negative thinking is the hardest cycle to break. Even by refocusing on positive thought processes, that anger voice of manipulation will still sneak in at random moments. I’ve developed a pattern of being overly critical of myself, needed to excel and succeed with everything I do. Perfectionism is the technical term.
Practicing positive has helped me get to the point that I don’t have the constant negative thinking. Sadly, when something doesn’t go exactly perfect I still, after 16 years away from the abuse, still get angry with myself for a perceived failure. Recently, I was working on a job and messed a line up. I spend the rest of the project berating and belittling myself for minor errors. At the end of the job, my project partner gave me an unprovoked compliment about what a great job I did preparing everything. Surprisingly, I didn’t get upset with myself for being upset. I started analyzing why I reacted the way I did to the initial error.
It’s a constant battle to stay ahead of negative thinking. It has taken a lot of reprogramming to my main frame (brain) and there’s still some wiring that gets crossed now and then. I found this great article on Healthy Place about ways to combat negative thinking. Affirmation lists have also worked well for me in the past. The key is understanding that each impact of negative thinking may require an alternative method.
To break a person mentally takes more than one strategy, so having an arsenal of strategies to reestablish positive thinking is going to be needed. I feel that another key component is giving yourself time and empathy for random side steps into negative thinking. There’s no timeline to healing and being able to forgive yourself for a slip in judgment isn’t a failure.
How to Stop Negative Thinking
You don’t have to succumb to a life of negative thinking. With some basic countering techniques, you can learn to get rid of negative thoughts by intercepting them before they become all-consuming. The key is to practice countering exercises every time you have a negative thought, and not to give up if you have a blip.
With this in mind, here are five questions to ask yourself next time negative thoughts arise. You can do this exercise in your head or by writing down your answers in a journal.
Is the thought true? Is there a basis for this negative belief?
Is the thought giving you power, or is it taking your power away?
Can you put a positive spin on this thought or learn from it?
What would your life look like if you didn’t have these negative beliefs?
Is the thought glossing over an issue that needs addressing?
Remember that countering negative thoughts takes time and commitment. Often, people require ongoing help from a mental health professional to change their negative thinking patterns for good (“How to Create Positivity in Life When You Have a Mental Illness”).
Using the power of opposite thinking, let’s start working on grooming ourselves and each other for positive thinking. Here are a couple quotes to hopefully inspire you, like they do me.
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” — Willie Nelson
“No matter what you’re going through, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it may seem hard to get to it but you can do it and just keep working towards it and you’ll find the positive side of things.” — Demi Lovato
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela
“We May Encounter Many Defeats But We Must Not Be Defeated.”- Maya Angelou
“Focus on an ocean of positives, not a puddle of negatives.”― Kevin Ansbro