This blog post is the most challenging one I’ve ever written, mostly because it is highly personal and because it addresses a subject that I work within many of my clients. People who suffer abuse can feel so guilty that they never seek help, they feel shameful for putting themselves in harm’s way and think they should have known better, and when children are involved the shame is even more prominent because you have endangered someone that you love who are counting on your protection. Unfortunately, abuse is far more common than we think, and it is not only people from abusive homes, or with other social issues that enter into abusive relationships. Strong men and women can buckle under abuse in a very short period of time, and often, it takes much longer to come back to a state where you are ready to enter back into intimacy. People that suffer abuse don’t seek help because they are afraid of being judged for their misjudgment. They are ashamed of entering into the relationship in the first place, and they feel stupid for falling in love with someone who was clearly not worthy of their love, and for staying even when the abuser was doing them or their loved ones serious harm. The silent suffering of the victims of abuse needs to be met with compassion, both for the victim and the abuser if it is to be fully healed. In truth, both parties are suffering, and there are no winners of domestic abuse.
Four and a half year ago, I ended an abusive relationship. Even today it’s difficult for me to admit that I put myself and my child in a situation that was severely painful and endangered our physical and mental health, and for years this has been a “secret” that I have not shared publicly because of I – the victim of abuse, have been deeply ashamed of it.
When I met the man in question, I was at a very difficult time in my life. I’d been divorced for four years, and I was studying Tantra and intimacy in a sexually and spiritually progressive environment. Experimenting with open relationships and multiple partners and exploring the edges of sexual intimacy and love in the laboratory of life. This made me see and experience the deep corners of human sexuality and intimacy, something that makes me equipped to do the job that I do today – but also lead me to question the human capacity for deeply committed love and intimacy. I was wary of it, and I was looking for love. This handsome young man was available and wanted me. He did not judge me for my choices but celebrated my uniqueness and, also, wanted in on the fun.
He was charming and open-minded, adventurous, and good looking. We had a lot of fun together, and he was absolutely over the moon about meeting an open woman with my kind of experience, but right from the beginning, there were undertones of something not being right. It would be in small things. An insensitive remark here and there or the way he would sometimes suddenly pull away from me when I wanted to kiss him. He would laugh at me, not with me and he would be jealous of the time I spent with my daughter or other friends, and insisting on that I’d have to make it up to him.
As the relationship developed, more and more instabilities arose, and I started to learn about his past. He came from an abusive family, suffered addiction to marijuana and mental health issues in addition to having learned the abusive art of pick up where men actually learn how to manipulate women to get what they want. His personality was that of a sociopath, mine was of the empath, and everyone knows that when the sociopath and the empath meet things rarely turn out good. It is the perfect setup for abuse.
I did not understand what was happening to me in those days. I was at a stage in my career as a tantric bodyworker, where I was experiencing quite a success. I had money in the bank, and I had successfully changed my job, had a peaceful relationship with my ex-husband and daughter that I loved and adored. I had friends and a big network of people all over Europe that was the same as me, studying tantra and a new and progressive way of life. In this way, I was living my dream, but at the same time, my longing for intimate love was lurking in the shadows. I wanted to settle down with one man, and for some reason, my choice fell on this one. The broken one that I thought that I could fix.
I was naïve. I did believe that love could conquer all and that if I just loved him enough, all his pain would go away, and we would live happily ever after. I was willing to set my self aside to try to help him, and surprisingly fast, I spiraled into my worse nightmare. I was so ashamed of the drama playing out between us that I did not dare to tell my friends what was going on behind the scene. I hid and pretended for everything to be alright, but I didn’t really fool anyone, and my friends started pulling away from us. All the while, my boyfriend was getting more and more abusive. He knew all my weak spots and would do his best to get into my mind and convince me that I was the one who was crazy and that he knew what was best for me. I would listen to him talk, and I felt that my mind literally went in circles and I could not make sense of it, but my nervous system was so triggered in the fear that he would either leave me or become physically abusive that my brain stopped functioning. He would regularly keep his game going with me until I was too exhausted to stand up anymore, and I would fall asleep while he was talking. He could turn on a dime and be super charming, tentative, and caring. I never knew where he would be at when I came home from work, and I remember praying that he would be in a good mood. We ended up living together for a short while, and in this period that lasted no more than 3-4 months, my father died of cancer, I lost all my life savings, he turned to more physical abuse, and my daughter was temporarily taken away from me. I had utterly lost my bearings in life, and I hit rock bottom.
The pain that I suffered was so severe that I died. One night he convinced me to take drugs with him. A mix of herbs and mushrooms, and I ended up getting sick, vomiting on the floor and almost passing out, but my mind was aware, and in this state, I started feeling God. In his paranoia, my boyfriend had left me on the floor. He later told me that I was afraid that I would die, couldn’t take it and left. In the meanwhile, I was dying. Not a physical death but the part of me that had been under his spell for all these months was dying. Even thou I was there in a heap on the floor next to my vomit something in me awakened. I felt deep calm, and love and clarity came over me that was to stay with me for the weeks to come. I felt a presence, and I knew that I was cared for by something bigger than me. I remember thinking that I die now, and it is the best thing that can happen to me. It’s okay; this nightmare is over.
I woke the next morning, and my mind was crystal clear. All the hooks that he had so deep in my system were gone. I remember looking at him and the games that he played. I watched him trying out all his favorite moves, moving from a needy little boy to an abusive man to a desperate lover to prince charming, but there was just nothing he could do to have me back in his web, the spell was broken, and I was free. From then on, I started to gather my chattered life together.
I kicked him out and started the process of getting my daughter back. In fact, it did not take long at all, because as soon as he was gone, there was no need to protect her from anything anymore. I will not share the details of the story, but she had only been living with my boyfriend and me for two weeks when Children’s Services got involved, and she went to live with my ex-husband for three months. I don’t share the details of this story out of respect for her and her father (my ex-husband), but in retrospective, I’m entirely grateful for Children’s Services, for my brave and beautiful daughter and my ex-husband for the way they handled my fall. And I recognize that she was the biggest reason that I got out of the mess I had put myself in. She is my saving angel. I had also faced my deepest fear, which was losing her, and I survived.
In the beginning, all the practical things needed to be arranged. I needed a new place to live and to try to salvage my career. I had lost most of my success, and I was out of balance, but I still managed somehow because my job was helping others, and that was my safety. I went into therapy and started working my way out of the emotional mess, but I was mostly isolating my self. I tried to get my business up and running, even got a business partner and new boyfriend, but something was wrong. I was disconnected and scared, and nothing I tried out really worked.
2 and a
half year ago I started writing Awaken your Big SHE, a spiritual and sexual guide
to awakening for women. Words started pouring through me, and it was evident
that I was to make it into a manuscript. I contacted Nadja Eriksson, and we went
on a two-year adventure of spiritual and sexual enlightenment. In this period,
I entered into celibacy for more than two years because I found that even with
my years of exploration, I still did not understand the full extent of my own
sexuality. I was still taking on what I thought others needed from me and
seeking love through my sexual behavior. But now I had God and guidance on the
way, it was time to get some real answers, and I did.
As I ventured deep into consciousness on the quest of mining out how I could heal both my self and the collective feminine from the abuse we have suffered over centuries as sexual objects on earth, I understood more and more how misunderstood and hampered our sexual and intimate expressions are. How immature and insensitive we are in the dealings of some of the most sensitive and beautiful areas of life that bears the seed to the sacred union in the physical body. How women’s sexuality and sexual parts are cut, burnt, and misunderstood because we believe that we can’t feel anything in the sacred space of the womb. And, how men too are longing for the deep healing of the feminine. It is like we have taken the sacred mother and raped her. And now, we feel so deeply ashamed about it to the point that we are not even willing to ask the questions that are necessary to start the healing process so we keep embrace in ignorance and hope that somehow we will find in each other that which we can only find in union with God.
In Awaken your Big SHE I could get all of the wisdom I had accumulated through my hardship down on paper. It is not “my story,” but the understanding that came out of the life that I have lived and how to proceed with healing. For the two years of writing, I spent a lot of time on my own in communion with God. God and my spiritual practices were what saved me from the pain that I had experienced. It was my way of forgiving my ex-boyfriend and being able to move on. I could see his brokenness, and I could see how I had attracted him into my life. I forgave all the people that I felt had wronged me, and I learned to live with the experiences. I spent a lot of time mending the relationship with my daughter and making up for lost time. I prayed a lot and meditated. I got involved with getting my body back into shape and gaining strength. I moved houses a couple of times until I settled where I’m at now and started making my physical home.
Slowly, but surely, things were getting brighter. People started to contact me and want to work with me. I started trusting in life again, and I began to develop my own approach to sacred sexuality through Holistic Sexuality by Ingunn Tennbakk. I’m becoming a skilled healer and teacher, and I serve people from every walk of life. I’m using all of my experience, and my connection to the divine in my work, and my business is once again getting to be a success.
But life never stops making us aware. Three months ago, I fell in love with a handsome young man. He is wise, charming, sensual, playful, openminded, and highly intelligent. He swept me off my feet, and once again, I lost my bearings for a while. Suddenly, in the meeting with the prospect of deep intimacy, my past hit me. I could not bear the thought of sharing my story with him, and I froze. I did everything possible to get away from him, and in the process, I managed to hurt him so much that he pulled away from me.
I found my self in a situation that I had not foreseen. I did not understand what was happening to me. I had done all this healing work and forgiven my ex. I thought I was done with the past, and here it was bright as day smack in my face. My nervous system shifted between fight or flight and freeze, and I started thinking of all kinds of desperate measurements to try to get him back, most of them I did not play out – but some of them I did, only resulting in him taking even more distance from me. At some point, I had to let go and take an in-depth look inside. What was happening? What was it that I wanted from him? Why did I spiral into this immense and unnecessary pain when, in reality things where good, I could have been happily in love with the man of my dreams?
I looked, and what I found was shame. I’d been keeping my past to my self because I was afraid of what people would think of me if they knew. Even thou it is of great advantage in my work to have this depth of experience in my life, I was still afraid that I would be judged and not be taken seriously if people knew. I had forgiven my ex-boyfriend, but I had not yet fully forgiven myself. I did not trust myself when it came to love and to pick a partner that was right for me. I was convinced that even if things felt right, there had to be something wrong, and I never gave the relationship a real chance. I did not dare to enter into intimacy because my wounds of unforgiveness and shame were still hunting me. Guilt had become a familiar feeling to me, and it was not until the prospect of sharing my story of abuse with a new love came to me that I could see the full extent of how much the secrecy hampered me. I had to break out of my own imprisonment somehow.
Sharing is my way of doing that. I share my story not because I’m a victim of abuse, but because I’m victorious after abuse. I share it because I truly believe that women (and men) that suffer abuse should never be shamed or ashamed. I share it because I know that so many people experience severe abuse from someone they think they love, and I know what it takes to come out from underneath that. My story was short and painful, but yet it hampers me in intimacy to this day. Every day I sit with my clients, and I guide them to self-forgiveness and forgiveness to the once they perceive as their perpetrator, and I see it over and over again how much easier it is to forgive the other but not your self. How easy it is to condemn and keep up the self-abuse, to keep cutting and burning ourselves long after the real abuser is gone. Extending forgiveness to your self is the hardest thing to do, but it is also a necessary step of healing because until you do, you will keep looking to the world to forgive and validate you. That is not their job, that is your job. It is your job to find and cherish the value that you hod, not for what you do or what you have done in the past, but for who you are. In an unforgiven world, there are no villains, only victims. When the world is forgiven, all victimhood disappears. So, to my self, my darling Ingunn: I forgive you, and I set you free.
This blog post is my final goodbye to the past. After more than four years of processing a relationship that only lasted for ten months, I’m done! I have finally forgiven my self and even thou what hurts the most is that I put my daughter in danger, I know that the very best thing I can do now is to forgive so that she can see me living a full life again after witnessing my struggles. She deserves a mother that is fully there for her, and I’m that mother now. If I hang out in the past blaming my self, I can’t give that to her. I can’t show her how you overcome the inevitable difficulties in life if I’m not willing to do so my self. I can’t change the past, but I can change the future. I will use my energy and power, where it is best served.
For any of the readers who have suffered abuse or been the one to inflict abuse upon others; Please seek help! No matter how difficult it seems and how afraid you are that people are going to judge you, the pain of carrying the guilt, blame and shame are much, much worse. Help is there when you ask for it, but you are the one who has to take the first step. When you forgive someone, you do it for your own sake, not to pardon the other one. It does not take away the fact that abusers should be punished in the judicial system, but you don’t have to carry the pain around. Don’t let it poison the future of you and the ones you love, break the chain of pain, and seek help today.
If you want to contact me, you find me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer sessions for people all over the world.
#Ingunntennbakk #awakenyourbigshe #holisticsexology
Note: This blog has been read and approved by both my daughter and my ex-husband upon publishing
Photo by _Mxsh_ on Unsplash