Every so often the national dialogue shifts. Right now, we’re talking a lot about domestic violence in America. It’s about time.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but for people like myself, solving this tragic issue is always top of mind. Like an estimated 1 billion others across the globe, I grew up in a violent home, which means I experienced Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV). As you can imagine, growing up living with domestic violence negatively impacts the developing brain and the formation of the cognitive belief system. Those who experience CDV often grow up feeling guilty, resentful, sad, alone, angry, hopeless, worthless, fearful, self-conscious and unloved. These negative beliefs, according to leading researchers, will prevent them from realizing their full potential in life. That is, unless they conquer these feelings and replace them with more productive ones.
The more we study people who achieve success, the more we realize the traits they share. It took me years to realize that the home I grew up in directly embedded into me some very useful traits. The amazing thing is that anyone—no matter their upbringing—can use the same techniques I used to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that hold them back. I’ve learned that no matter how difficult our individual circumstances, there are a set of principles that will allow us to replace crippling negative thoughts with productive ones.
Here are the detrimental feelings holding many of us back, action steps to eliminate them, and the positive replacement emotions those actions will produce and that we must cultivate.
Negative Feeling: Guilt
Principle: It is natural for those who grew up living with domestic violence to take action when others do not. Many had to act to protect their siblings—or even their parents—or to keep hidden. Consider the times you have stuck up for a co-worker, or righted another injustice you encountered.
Negative Feeling: Resentment
Principle: Those who experience CDV develop a natural intuition. They can easily understand someone’s true intent and then use their natural curiosity to find something to praise or openly admire about the other person. Say, “I so admire how you deal with people. How did you become so skilled at it?” Now, model how they do it and apply it to personal pursuits.
Negative Feeling: Sadness
Principle: Because their toxic adolescence is now gone, those who experience CDV s often find ways to count blessings. The ability to sleep through the night and improved senses of control, security and comfort are all things that motivate immediate gratitude. There is an urge to take away suffering and pain from others because they know what suffering feels like—and this leads them to serve others.
Negative Feeling: Loneliness
Principle: As you unlearn negative emotions and shed past self-doubt, it’s critically important to become comfortable being yourself. Understand your true nature—especially in a scientific way by taking assessments like the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator—and reveal personal best practices in life and work. Know your strengths and play to them to create confidence.
Negative Feeling: Anger
Principle: A lot of people bury their anger and frustration deep inside, especially those who have experienced CDV. Rather than bury them, they can use the energy that that they produce. It’s vital to harness strong feelings and channel them in a positive direction, especially toward an ultimate goal.
Negative Feeling: Hopelessness
Principle: When they were young, people who grew up with domestic violence had a purpose—to get out of that house—and they achieved it. What is your purpose today? It does not have to be a purpose that stays with you for eternity. But it is essential to have a purpose for right now.
Negative Feeling: Worthlessness
Principle: Those who experienced CDV grew up setting goals they rarely achieved, like I am going to do something today so Mom and Dad don’t fight tonight. Instead of continuing to think in terms of goals, think in terms of outcomes. Goals are a hope, outcomes happen. Decide on the outcomes that are most important.
Negative Feeling: Fear
Principle: Visualize realizing the outcomes you want. Before acting, prepare your body, sticking out your chest, head up high, so you feel bigger in the eyes of whatever fear you’re opposite. For anyone who experienced CDV, this prepared them to act then in the face of violence—and it can prepare you now, against obstacles to your success.
Negative Feeling: Self-consciousness
Principle: The only way to unlearn the lies is by cultivating the truths each day. Review them in the morning and the evening, checking in with yourself to make certain your actions reflect the new truths of your life.
Result: Feeling physically attractive
Negative Feeling: Being unloved
Principle: Share these laws with others. Once the lies are unlearned and the truths seen as possible, there is more comfort with the idea of sharing experiences—opening up to others and relating to their experiences is the definition of human connection.
Result: Feeling loved
Brian F. Martin is the author of INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up with Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free. Brian and his work have been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. To learn more about Brian and his foundation, Children of Domestic Violence, visit www.cdv.org.