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We hope you find this brief weekly article encouraging for you or someone you know who is working to move beyond abuse.
RE-IMAGINING THE MAZE
by Sallie Culbreth, Founder
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When I was in high school, I lived in Williamsburg, Virginia. There is so much I love about that town, but the maze at the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg was always one of my favorites. Being in a maze is a bizarre experience - no matter how familiar you are with it. When those walls - be they made of brick or holly - loom over you and your perspective is limited. It can create feelings of fear, hopelessness, and well . . . of just being lost. It's particularly disorienting when you can hear familiar voices that you want to follow out, but don't know how to find them. If you do find them, it's almost by accident, and you're still left with the challenge of finding your way through to an exit.
The thinking and emotions of abuse survivors create similar sensations. Abuse and trauma often wall in your ability to think clearly or to be emotionally balanced, leaving you with fear, a sense of hopelessness and lostness. It's as if you've been dropped into the middle of an impossible maze that's covered in spider webs and fog. What might be straightforward and unobstructed to those outside of your experiences can be baffling and overwhelming to you.
I think it's when we feel trapped in our own chaotic thinking, walled in by fear and hopelessness that we need to switch the metaphor from a MAZE to a LABRYINTH. I know this may sound like one in the same, but there are some differences that I think can help you ride out the confusion until you find a place of personal empowerment and clear direction.
For centuries, a labyrinth has been used as a tool to help seekers find peace, balance, insight, and even God. When you walk through a maze, your goal is to find the exit. It's full of dead ends and blind passages. When you walk through a labyrinth, your goal is to wind your way to the center, and then follow the path that eventually leads you to the exit. In between those two moments is a serpentine wandering full of introspection and revelation. Both the entrance and the exit are the same, by the way - the way in is the way out.
The twists and turns of a maze are meant to confuse you. The twists and turns of a labyrinth are meant to enlighten. So how do you move from feeling trapped and tricked, to feeling balanced and enlightened? Here are a few ideas to help you ponder that question:
Stop, Look, and Listen:
I think there are times when chaos and confused thinking are so familiar, that you can't even see them for what they are. In other words, chaos, depression, panic, and loathing can become your auto-pilot. One you never challenge or question. So the first task is to stop in the midst of it and listen - really listen - to these self-defeating thoughts. It's like coming to a dead end or blind passage in a maze. Sit right down at the spot and be still. Replace the picture in your mind of a dead end with one of a gentle passage that will slowly unfold before you, ready to reveal what you need to know.
Take some time to quiet the noise in your mind - perhaps even in your surroundings. These can be real teaching moments for you, if you give them permission to be so. At those places that seem the most defeating or the most terrifying, ask God to show you what you can learn by being there. Turning those dead ends into opportunities for growth and insight means you are no longer in a maze, but in a labyrinth of discovery about yourself, about others, and about God.
Call for help and grab a rope:
One of the great deceptions for abuse survivors is that asking for help is a sign of weakness, an admission of vulnerability and need. Nothing could be further from the truth. To know you are confused and need a guide is about as smart as you can get! So listen. Let your spiritual and emotional ears perk up when you hear a wise voice, read a helpful book, or learn of appropriate resources. Think of this as tying a rope around an anchor point and holding on to it as you pull your way through the maze. Of course, for a rope to be most helpful, it should be taut to navigate you effectively, meaning that resistance is part of the guidance. Anchoring to truth, perspective, and clarity moves you from being lost and trapped in a maze, to being proactively empowered to move forward through a labyrinth.
Think, pray, and meditate:
In a maze, the very experience of having walls loom above you, with dead ends and blind spots at every turn, can almost shut down your ability to reason or act logically. As I look back over my seasons of crazy chaos and illogical living, I can't for the life of me figure out what I was thinking at the time. The auto-pilot left me irrational and reactive. In your own maze, it is imperative that you take some time to engage your thinking.
Ask questions that will interrupt the auto-pilot impulses of panic or sabotage or disappearing. Questions like: Is this true? Do I have any options? Do I have all the information I need? Are there other solutions that might work here? If you're having a flashback, remind yourself of where you are - time, place, space, and presence. In your maze, if you take some time to pray and meditate, rather than panic and risk running smack dab into a wall, you will give the Voice of Peace an opportunity to speak to your panic. You will answer the Call of Love - extended from God's merciful, compassionate, and wise heart - to you.
While I've used the ideas of Maze and Labyrinth as metaphors, I'm a big fan of physically experiencing these two sensations to provide a vivid, experiential icon of the journey that you're on, and the various ways you can proceed on it. Perhaps it might be an interesting experience for you to find both a maze and labyrinth, walk both, and as you do - apply these ideas to your journey beyond abuse.
Remember, a maze tricks and traps you. A labyrinth winds into the center, and gently escorts you back out. You may enter it with confusion, but you can exit it with peace and balance.
With Peace and Gratitude
Sallie Culbreth, Founder
Committed to Freedom Ministries, Inc.
800-713-7837 or 501-623-6850 phone
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