magnify
formats

How to Let Go of the Outcome of Your Complaint

In “How to Present Your Case Most Effectively When Filing a Complaint” I emphasized the importance of letting go of the outcome. But how do you do that? How do you just not care if someone who inflicted an immense psychological damage on you will receive a just punishment or not? How can one not care if they get vindicated by the justice system or not?

 

Let me be clear. By “letting go” I don’t mean to say that pursuing justice is not important and that the result of this pursuit is not important. Of course, when we have been wronged, it’s important to see justice prevail because it makes us feel supported and validated by the society, by life itself, and, for spiritually-minded and religious people, seeing justice done makes them feel validated by God or Higher Power. The sense of being supported by some larger entity outside of ourselves makes recovery much easier……initially. Because the feelings of relief and happiness that come with the good news don’t last forever.

I have known people who have not healed their wounds even 20-30 years after the traumatic experience ended despite the fact that they achieved what they wanted through their legal or civic pursuits.

I’ve also known people who chose not to seek justice for various reasons and who have healed their trauma considerably. I am one of them. (I am referring to one of the two of my traumatic experiences because in the second case I did pursue a civic action.)

Through an enormous amount of healing work I have done I was able to learn that healing essentially has little to do with what happens to those who inflicted harm on us, but has a lot to do with how we view our experiences and what lessons we have learned from them, if any.

So what way of looking at your experience can help you detach from the outcome of your legal/civic action? Here is my advice.

Look at what happened to you as a great opportunity to learn something important about yourself, about life, about people and human relationships, as an opportunity to grow and to become a wiser and stronger person than you were.

This is a spiritual/philosophical outlook that some people might reject, but I strongly believe that there is no other way not to make your recovery dependent on the external circumstances. The narratives we create around the events in our life, the ways we choose to interpret our experiences, the conclusions we arrive to, the belief systems we construct as a result of our interpretations, the definitions we use to sort out and separate right from wrong – all of those choices will make our healing process either easier or more difficult depending on what we choose.

If the ONLY way for you to make sense of your experience is through the narrative of the innocent victim who was violated by the perpetrator, then the entire quality of your life will continue to depend on whether life sends “good” or “bad” people your way, which is a disempowering position by default. This mental disposition assumes that you have no power to make decisions and to exercise your free will, which puts you at the mercy of other people, external events, and circumstances.

Now you may ask how else to interpret the experience of being objectively victimized other than to acknowledge the reality of it?

Of course, this is the reality that needs to be acknowledged. I have never suggested otherwise. What I am saying is that this is not the ONLY reality of the situation. Every life situation consists of more than just one dimension, more than just one reality. It is up to you to accept this proposition or not. I just know from experience that life gets better when we accept it. To explain this further would require a separate post, probably, more than one.

 
 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit Share on LinkedIn
12 Comments  comments 

12 Responses

  1. Sue

    Hi Marina,

    You are providing such terrific information on this site. So…thank you.

    I read this a few days ago and the thing that I carry with me is this: “I have known people who have not healed their wounds even 20-30 years after the traumatic experience ended despite the fact that they achieved what they wanted through their legal or civic pursuits.”

    I envision the perfect outcome for me in this period post-filing and I completely get what you are saying.

    I also though cannot help but to worry too that I will be completely invalidated. 🙁

    In my present therapy I have begun to struggle to deal with “behaving” so that my current therapist, if contacted, won’t somehow come out against me. Deep issues of mistrust from being so mistreated by the first therapist that it’s just, well, hard work. 🙁

    I’ve written about my present struggle here–and thanks again. http://www.thesandbox.life/therapy-narrative

    • Marina Tonkonogy

      Hi Sue,

      I’ve read your blog post and it made me sad because it’s clear to me yet again that the problem of harm in therapy goes way beyond the problem of some “bad apples”, as some people would like to see it. This is the problem of the system, not individual practitioners.

      As your post shows, your current therapist hasn’t done anything unethical or unprofessional and yet your experience with her is not fully satisfying (and, by the way, I can relate to many frustrations you are describing in your post) despite the fact that she is, probably, doing her best. This is, in my experience, a very common situation that reflects systemic problem of the psychotherapy profession.

      And, the biggest systemic problem, to be completely frank, is that the profession doesn’t know much about what is called the “human mind” and how it operates on the level of the brain and the rest of the body. The precise mechanics of its operations are largely unknown, and, yet, therapists believe that they’ve got all the answers. But their “answers, mostly, are nothing more than speculative theories, most of which are not based in facts established through scientific research.

      As a result of this lack of knowledge, professional training IMO completely fails to produce practitioners who know how to work with trauma. The lack of objective knowledge of trauma in professional circles, knowledge that is based in findings of neuroscience, is stunning.

      From what I have researched on the subject, I’ve come to a conclusion that traditional long-term therapy should be outdated by now and that the main focus should shift to body-focused methods with clearly defined objectives and with limited time frame, just like medical procedures. I really believe that this is one of the directions in which the MH system should go if we want to address the issue of harm in therapy on the fundamental level. If therapists continue to stick with the status quo, the harm will continue to take place regardless of how ethical individual practitioners are.

      Unfortunately, the cases when therapists do nothing wrong in terms of formal ethics and clients still get hurt are quite common. That’s why I do not see individual practitioners as a problem as much as the entire system and how it’s set up.

      As far as worrying about being invalidated, it’s okay to worry about it. My point in the post is not to suggest that one should not feel what they are feeling. You can’t help feeling what you are feeling and so, whatever it is, it’s much better to allow it than to suppress it. There is nothing wrong with worrying about being invalidated by the justice system. Just try not to identify with your worries. You are not your feelings, and, if you remember that, you can let yourself feel anything without letting the feelings make decisions for you.

  2. Sue

    Thanks Marina, for your as usual awesome post and your support. I would be interested if you are inclined to hear your thoughts more specifically on this: “…the main focus should shift to body-focused methods with clearly defined objectives and with limited time frame.” What would this kind of treatment look like?

    For me I’ve shied away from things like trauma-based-yoga to deal with emotional pain because I feel like, as someone with pretty intense walls and amnesia, I’ve really wanted to try and find out what was going on. I’ve wanted to not treat symptoms of the infection but rather, I’ve wanted to clear it out. I’ve dealt with my emotional stuff through blocking it out a lot and also very physically for decades (running, swimming.) It seemed like it was time now in my life to sit with my pain in words and conversation. Similarly, though my current therapist is an EMDR enthusiast, I’ve only done a little bit of it. I want to be super present with everything and not be in any way taken away from “me.”

    I chose therapy because I knew, subconsciously, that I needed to play some things out and not in my “real life” as I’ve worked too hard to get to where I’m at. Along the way, obviously, this choice of mine has had some serious downs. Because of the bad therapy I ended up getting worse before I got better but I believe now I’m better than I was before this journey ever began. But that’s most likely 95% due to my diligence and wanting to heal come hell or high water.

    Would shorter term, body focused therapy have given me the language and insights I now have? On the other hand, did I need all the psychotherapy pain and devastation to get me to where I am today?

    I suppose I’m in a pretty deep meditation right now about the things you are mentioning–the gains and downfalls of psychotherapy-the limits of it–obviously the harm. I’ve been helped by my current therapist–enormously–but I think in assessing the narrative of the better therapy with her I can’t help but confront too how painfully lacking at times even relatively decent therapy can be.

    This whole site and what you are doing here is enormously powerful for someone like me who does not have the opportunity to see as much as you do. So once again thank you so much for sharing and helping.

    • Marina Tonkonogy

      I understand your thought process in regards to body focus vs. talking things out. Thank you for sharing it because this is something many people have misconceptions about and those need to be explained and discussed. I’ll address the points you make one by one because I consider them all important.

      First off, in regards to your yoga practice, I suspect that, just like most people, you were not guided by people who had reality based understanding of the so-called mind-body connection. All the yoga teachers I’ve come across, unfortunately, had no clue of how trauma operates in the brain and in the body, didn’t have any idea about what happens in the body of an emotionally traumatized person on the physiological and biological levels, and yet some of them claimed to teach “trauma-based” yoga. So, in this case, just like in case of traditional psychotherapy, this is the problem that has to do with general ignorance. Does the fact that many yoga teachers are ignorant of the mechanics of trauma mean that yoga, as a practice, is not helpful in trauma treatment? No, it doesn’t. Yoga can be extremely beneficial under the right conditions which are:

      1. It should not attempt to replace either counseling or any other healing modality or a traditional medical treatment. As a complimentary practice, yoga could do wonders when combined with other methods, not when it replaces other methods.

      2. When yoga is used to help people with trauma history, it should be taught drastically differently from how it is taught in general yoga classes. It should be firmly rooted in and explained from the perspective of anatomy, physiology and neuroscience, not traditional yogic concepts like “prana”, “asana”, “krya” and such or some kind of New Age-y mumbo-jumbo.

      Don’t get me wrong. I mean absolutely NO disrespect to the ancient way of practicing. On the contrary, I have enormous appreciation for the depth and the holistic understanding of life the ancient yogis had, but the kind of life they lived 3,000-5,000 years ago has nothing to do with the life of an averaged, crazy, overstressed person who lives in the modern Matrix, especially if they live in the West. Therefore, traditional yogic terminology holds no meaning in the today’s world that operates on linear understanding of tangible data such as physiological and biological facts. The ancient understanding derived through experience and intuition sounds empty and falls flat because it has no point of reference for a modern person. People today need to know in what ways specifically a particular yogic posture affects their brain and other organs and how it affects them on the physical and emotional levels. I believe that it’s only when a person has a clear understanding of what they are doing on a very down-to-earth practical level it could be beneficial. I don’t believe that performing yogic asanas randomly without having a precise knowledge of what they are doing to your mind and body brings lasting benefits, but that’s exactly what vast majority of people are doing

      Next. You say: “ I’ve really wanted to try and find out what was going on. I’ve wanted to not treat symptoms of the infection but rather, I’ve wanted to clear it out.”

      I believe, body-oriented modalities like yoga are NOT designed to get rid of symptoms, but to deal with the CAUSE and, in fact, I know from experience that they have a potential to get to the root of the problem and to bring repressed emotions to the surface much more effectively than talk therapy. It all depends on how you do it and who is guiding you. As I’ve said, the way those modalities are normally practiced doesn’t fulfill their true purpose, but that doesn’t mean that they themselves are not designed to fulfill it because they are.

      To be continued…:-)

    • Marina Tonkonogy

      Next. You say: “I’ve dealt with my emotional stuff through blocking it out a lot and also very physically for decades (running, swimming.) It seemed like it was time now in my life to sit with my pain in words and conversation. “

      Yes, it does sound like exercising had been your major coping strategy for a while (may be still to some extend), which is very common for many people. And, yes, beyond a certain point it could become counter productive if it’s used to avoid feeling pain. In our culture exercise is often used for destructive purposes as a way to escape things that need to be confronted and dealt with. But

      1) That doesn’t mean that exercise can only be used as a way to avoid feeling painful emotions. Just like money, in and of itself, is not evil, as many people believe, but just a means to be used either constructively or destructively.

      Just like many people use exercise to run away from their pain, as you used to do, many others use it for the opposite purpose, which is to get in touch with their emotions. For someone like you it may be hard to believe but many people use exercise to get in touch with their emotions and to feel more alive even if those emotions are painful. This is how exercise works for me. I’ve never been an athletic person (quite the opposite) and my natural tendency has always been to get to my deep feelings through talk and self-analysis. Exercise is the last thing I naturally turn to as a way to cope with trauma. So, for me personally and for other people with my tendencies, even something like a brisk walk could shake my body to the point when it brings some powerful emotions to the surface that have been laying dormant.

      So, exercise affects everyone differently. There are people for whom it works as an avoidance mechanism, but there are those for whom it forces them to feel something they wouldn’t be able to feel through other means like talking to someone and self-reflecting.

      2) Exercise, in and of itself, is not a body focused form of therapy unless we are talking about exercises specifically designed to deal with some physical ailments. It could, however, be used as a helpful addition to either body-oriented or talk therapy, because therapy can get very intense and overwhelming and wisely selected exercises do help to cope with that emotional intensity.

      Next..

    • Marina Tonkonogy

      Next. You say: “It seemed like it was time now in my life to sit with my pain in words and conversation.”

      I do believe that there is a point in our life to sit with our pain in words and conversation and to put everything else aside. Again, different people may need to do this in different amounts but generally this would, probably, apply to most people. It does seem that in your case specifically this became a priority due to the fact that for a long time you were trying to deal with traumatic symptoms only on the physical level. This seems imbalanced and so it makes sense why you switched focus on words and conversations.

      Next. You say: “Similarly, though my current therapist is an EMDR enthusiast, I’ve only done a little bit of it. I want to be super present with everything and not be in any way taken away from “me.”

      I am not sure what this means to be honest. From what I know about EMDR, it doesn’t have a goal of making someone not present with their experience. What it does is that it aims to help the person to “understand” on the body level that they are no longer in the same harmful situation they were once in the past. When this realization comes to the body level the person no longer has the need to use maladaptive strategies to protect themselves which makes traumatic symptoms subside.

      I admit that I don’t speak from experience on this particular subject because I haven’t had EMDR done on me and I haven’t used it with my clients. I assume that the effectiveness of EMDR, just like the effectiveness of any type of therapy, depends on who performs it and how well they understand the method. I also assume that, just like everything else, EMDR doesn’t work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that the method itself is ineffective. I don’t know how competent and experienced your therapist is with EMDR, but I find it interesting that you experienced it as something that disconnected you from your experience. From what I’ve read, EMDR is not supposed to make you feel this way.

      Next..

    • Marina Tonkonogy

      Next. You say: “I chose therapy because I knew, subconsciously, that I needed to play some things out and not in my “real life” as I’ve worked too hard to get to where I’m at.”

      Are you sure this was your real motivation or you think so because one of your therapists, either former or current, suggested it? I believe people choose to seek therapy because they want to feel better and get better, just for that simple reason. Unconscious “playing out” a.k.a acting out for some clients comes later after therapy begins and it increases if the therapist doesn’t know how to deal with it and it decreases if the therapist is able to deal with it effectively. But it’s hard for me to believe that the desire to play out one’s unconscious material is ever a motivation to seek professional help. I believe people seek professional help of any kind because they suffer and they want suffering to stop, for that simple reason.

      Next. You say:”Along the way, obviously, this choice of mine has had some serious downs. Because of the bad therapy I ended up getting worse before I got better but I believe now I’m better than I was before this journey ever began. But that’s most likely 95% due to my diligence and wanting to heal come hell or high water.”

      This was the reason I started doubting the real value of traditional talk therapy. It became clear to me that 95% of what has contributed into my progress was due to my diligence and wanting to heal come hell or high water, which confronted me with the question :”What do I need a therapist for?” The sad reality for me became the fact that I was much more trauma-informed than all the therapists I had come across and that I had done more of my personal work than any of them. I am not bragging. I wish I was. I am just stating an unfortunate fact. The majority of traditional talk therapists have nothing to offer me unfortunately.

      You say:”Would shorter term, body focused therapy have given me the language and insights I now have?”

      I don’t know. No one can answer this question because no one knows you as well as you know yourself, and, ast for me, I don’t know you at all. The only way to know is to try body focused therapy and find out. I am not saying you should do it. I am just saying that’s the only way to find out. I know body-focused therapy has given me much of the language and insight I now have, but I have no idea what it could do for you.

      You say:”On the other hand, did I need all the psychotherapy pain and devastation to get me to where I am today?”

      The answer is unequivocal NO.

      NO ONE needs to be traumatized in therapy in order to advance their personal development. This is NOT what therapy is meant to be. The goal of therapy is to heal, not traumatize further.

      While it is true that one should be able to process some painful emotions in order to heal one’s wounds, this is fundamentally different from getting traumatized. A necessary pain is the one that comes from seeing the parts of one’s soul and the reality of one’s life situation more clearly. This pain is natural. When it’s felt and processed it doesn’t leave wounds in the heart.

      Trauma inflicted by therapy experience is not that kind of natural pain that leads to healing through its release. It’s created either by a) a therapy situation itself, b) therapist’s incompetence and/or ignorance, c) therapist’s lack of ethics, d) all of the above and it leaves deep wounds in one’s heart in addition to those they already carry from their past.

    • Marina Tonkonogy

      I suppose I’m in a pretty deep meditation right now about the things you are mentioning–the gains and downfalls of psychotherapy-the limits of it–obviously the harm. I’ve been helped by my current therapist–enormously–but I think in assessing the narrative of the better therapy with her I can’t help but confront too how painfully lacking at times even relatively decent therapy can be.”

      This has been my experience for the past 6 years so I relate a lot to where you are right now. I’ve been in this meditative state for 6 years now and the realizations that came to me as a result inspired me to create this website.

      “This whole site and what you are doing here is enormously powerful for someone like me who does not have the opportunity to see as much as you do. So once again thank you so much for sharing and helping.”

      Thank you for your kind words. I am happy that this website is fulfilling its purpose.

  3. Sue

    Hi Marina–thanks so much for all of this.

    I agree with your thoughts on Yoga. I do not have a Yoga practice now. But I also think that for me, for really specific and personal reasons I wouldn’t pursue Yoga a therapeutic modality. Nothing to do with trauma focused Yoga therapy and its efficacy–just a personal experience I’ve had around someone who does it whom I know is one of those unhealed healer types.

    I like your thoughts about exercise and they make me re-think my thoughts about my own exercise! I also agree with you; I did not consciously pursue psychotherapy to act anything out. I suppose what is accurate is that I chose not to act out in my real life but I knew that I needed to address what was going on inside of me somehow.

    I also 100% agree that the pain of bad psychotherapy is never a good thing. I spent a lot of time trying to make buckets of lemonade out of those lemons–and I believe I have to a degree–but that’s not to say that they were lemons I was working with.

    I am going to do a little bit of EMDR in the coming week to address one particularly sticky issue I have; I figured I happen to be working with a trauma (and EMDR) specialist and this could help untie one of my more difficult knots.

    For me, relative to where I stand on psychotherapy, I’m not sure where I’ve landed except to say that I’ve not. The only thing that feels true is that I’ve not settled upon my truth yet.

    Thanks once again!

    Sue

    • Marina Tonkonogy

      Hi Sue,

      I certainly didn’t mean to imply that yoga, or anything else for that matter, is a panacea in trauma treatment or is needed for everyone. My point was that different things work for different people under different circumstances and with different practitioners. There is too much diversity in the world to suggest that something works better than something else. It’s all situational, it’s all personal and it’s all contextual. So, if psychotherapy is something you need right now then it is something you need. That’s all.

      Good luck with your EMDR therapy. If you don’t mind, let me know how it was because I am very curious about this modality.

      Thanks a lot for your feedback and your participation in discussions!

      Marina

      • Sue

        Re Yoga, I didn’t think you were implying that at all, Marina! And honestly I might be more inclined to explore if I didn’t have that really personal kind of bias right now.

        I will keep you posted on the EMDR! I just posted a few more entries in my Sandbox about where I’m at working these issues–these are in the 7/7-713 entries in this This Is Me Now section:

        http://www.thesandbox.life/this-is-me-now/

        • Marina Tonkonogy

          Thanks 🙂 I’ll take a look at your blog entries and I look forward to hearing about your EMDR experience. I’ve been told by a few people that they found it very helpful, but, I believe, as everything else, it depends on the practitioner and the specific problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *