WORKING TOGETHER TO CREATE AN ABUSE-FREE FUTURE
Publisher: Beverly Engel
The response to the first issue of Working Together was overwhelmingly positive. So many of you wrote to tell me that you appreciated me doing this. Many took the opportunity to tell me how my books have helped you throughout the years. Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. It is always gratifying to hear that my books are affecting people in positive ways. Many also wrote to tell me their stories. I was deeply touched by how much pain many of you have had to endure and even more touched by your courage.
As the holidays approach many of you are focused on family and family issues. For this reason, this month’s article is on how to survive the holidays with your family and how to cope with the pain holidays often bring up for survivors. Since there will be another newsletter before the Christmas and New Year holidays, I invite you to send me your stories of how you have been able to successfully deal with family of origin issues in order to create a better holiday season for yourself or the methods you have used to take care of yourself while around your family of origin.
In the News from Beverly segment I will include announcements of upcoming events, workshops or conferences relevant to the treatment or prevention of abuse. Feel free to send me announcements you feel readers will find of interest. I cannot guarantee I can include them all but I will do my best to include what I feel is relevant. I will also announce my own upcoming workshops and books. I ask that you order books directly from
as I do not sell individual books directly to readers. If you would like to attend a workshop, feel free to email me directly at
Please forward this ezine to anyone you know who is interested in preventing or healing childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse or emotional, physical or sexual abuse in adult relationships. If you are receiving this issue as a forward, and would like your own no-cost subscription please follow the instructions at the end of this newsletter.
BREAKING THE CYCLE DURING THE HOLIDAYS
By Beverly Engel
“The events of childhood do not pass,
but repeat themselves like the seasons of the year.”
For those who were abused or neglected in childhood, thoughts of the upcoming holidays often stir up feelings of dread, anxiety and even fear. Many dread having to spend one more holiday with dysfunctional, alcoholic or abusive family members—having to endure inappropriate or hurtful comments, being unable to open up and share their true selves, or having to experience one more ruined dinner because of a family argument or other family drama. For others, the holidays bring up tremendous pain due to the fact that they are either estranged from their family of origin or the fact that one or both of their parents have died and they are left with the painful reality that they will never receive the nurturing and/or acceptance they didn’t get as a child. There is no doubt about it, the holidays pose the potential for the reenactment of abuse—either by re-experiencing the abuse one endured as a child or by survivors abusing themselves.
How can you avoid this repetition? What can you set in place to help you provide for yourself what you did not receive as a child during previous holiday seasons? In this article I will outline a few strategies that have helped me and many of my clients over the years.
First of all, you need to give yourself permission to opt out of family holiday celebrations if they cause you more harm than good. If you become physically ill or depressed anticipating visiting your family every year or if you need to get drunk or use drugs in order to be in their presence, you seriously need to consider whether being around family members is in your best interest. If one or more of your family members is still actively abusing you verbally, physically or sexually, is abusing your partner or children or is a threat to your children, you need to stop being around this person. Instead, invite to your home those family members who are healthy enough to be around for a separate celebration. Yes, it may hurt the feelings of the alcoholic or abusive person, but what is more important, your mental health or their feelings? And yes, some family members may balk at this idea but in reality, the healthier ones will understand and support your need. Do not subject yourself, your partner or your children to continued abuse because of some misguided belief that you must celebrate the holidays with your entire family. It is not a true celebration if you, your partner or your children walk away from the event emotionally damaged, shell-shocked, depressed, disoriented or doubting yourself.
You also need to watch out for self-abuse this time of the year. Survivors of all forms of child abuse tend to numb themselves to the pain associated with the holidays by over-indulging in food and alcohol. It will be far healthier for you to face your feelings of anger, sadness, fear and guilt/shame about your childhood memories of the holidays than it is for you to try to stuff them down with food or alcohol. Try expressing your feelings in writing or talking to a friend or your therapist about your memories of family holidays.
Most important, do not treat yourself the way your parents treated you. Acknowledge the positive things about yourself, including how courageous you are, how wise you have become, how hard you have worked to heal, how much healthier you have become.
You cannot make up for the neglect or deprivation you experienced as a child by overindulging yourself today with food or shopping. What you can do is to create new rituals and happy holiday memories. Invite your close friends over for a festive night of Christmas music and hot chocolate. Light a fire and sit around and tell stories. Sit in a circle, hold hands and tell each other what you are most grateful for. Tell each other what you appreciate about one another.
Make a special effort to connect with your inner child during the holiday season. Your inner child will be strongly activated this time of the year anyway, so you might as well make it a conscious connection. You do not want your inner child to run your life, which paradoxically she or he will do unless you make this conscious connection. Ask your inner child what she wants to do for the holidays and then do as many things as are reasonable (go to tree-lighting ceremonies, to special Christmas pageants, go Christmas Caroling with a group).
Attempt to deepen the meaning of each holiday. Have each person write down two virtues you wish to focus on deepening in the coming year and read them out loud at a family function. Even if you are all alone on a holiday, make it special for yourself. For example, On New Year’s Eve write down two personality flaws you would like to alleviate in the coming year. Stand by your fireplace or place a large bowl nearby and focus on your intention to get rid of these personality flaws in the coming year. Then light a match and burn the papers and place them in the fireplace or bowl and watch them as they burn up.
Last but not least, focus on the things you have to be grateful for. I am not minimizing the pain you still experience because of your childhood but there are things in your life to be grateful for—including the fact that you did survive. Although it has almost become a cliché at this point, gratitude is extremely healing. When you are feeling especially down during the holidays, make a list of all the positive things that have happened this year—all the growth you experienced, the kindness of friends, the bright spots and happy times. If you are in good health, be grateful for that. If you do have good friends, be grateful for them. If you live somewhere close to nature’s beauty, be grateful for that.
I am grateful for all of you out there. I appreciate your support and your love. I feel connected to you whether you take the time to write me or not. We are all in this together—one large circle of people working to heal ourselves, to heal our families and in a very real sense, to heal the world. In this sense none of us are truly alone—during the holidays or any other time. We form a very, very large community of people who have been wounded but who have also been strengthened by our wounds. I send you my best wishes, my prayers and my undying commitment to help us all to heal.
“A lot of people go through life beating themselves up
the same way they were beaten up.”
Medical news. Sherie Angevine, a longtime supporter from Canada, sent me the following information and asked that I pass it on to my readers.
“Sexual abuse causes emotional trauma, but it can also result in the development of cancer. This abstract contributes to the existing literature in suggesting an association between HPV and breast cancer. Merck’s new HPV vaccine targets HPV 16 and 18, which are cited in this study. Canadian news services recently highlighted the impressive performance of this prophylactic HPV vaccine. I hope it received coverage in the US, as well. There are therapeutic HPV vaccines in development, but I have been unable to determine if the work is receiving adequate funding—antivirals may also warrant additional financial support. Meanwhile, most people never heard of HPV. I sense that it’s important to share information with others, since politicians may need some prodding.”
Look for BREAKING THE CYCLE OF ABUSE OUT IN PAPERBACK THIS
“A beacon of hope for women and men who fear that they will pass the abuse they have suffered on to their children, partners, or employees. Humane and compassionate but also clear and down to earth, this is a wonderful contribution to the literature of healing.”
LUNDY BANCROFT, author of Why Does He Do That? and When Dad
“In this remarkably powerful, wise and compassionate book, Beverly Engel leads readers step by step through a program that will help survivors of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in childhood to heal from their wounds so they don’t need to re-enact their abusive pasts. She offers expert advice and strategies to help parents and would-be parents avoid doing to their children what was done to them and helps both abusers and victims in emotionally and physically abusive relationships make vitally important changes in their relationships.”
SUSAN FORWARD, author of Toxic Parents and Emotional Blackmail
I hope you enjoyed this issue of Working Together to Create an Abuse-Free Future.
To find out more about Beverly Engel, go to
Working Together, copyright, Beverly Engel. All rights reserved.
Excerpts from this e-zine may be distributed or reproduced as long as you include the author, the copyright and the sentence, “Beverly Engel is the author of Working Together to Create an Abuse-Free Future. You can sign up for her free electronic newsletter by visiting
To find out more about Beverly Engel, go to
Copyright, Beverly Engel. All rights
Excerpts from this e-zine may be distributed or reproduced
as long as you include the author, the copyright and the sentence, "Beverly
Engel is the author of Working Together to Create an Abuse-Free Future.
You can sign up for her free electronic newsletter by visiting