Last Updated on November 20, 2023 by Cindy Bekesi
Thanksgiving for most people is a holiday. It may be a chance to vacation, visit friends and family and celebrate with a warm and inviting feast.
Here at CDVA, we like to look at this holiday in a different light as for those who grew up with childhood domestic violence. Thanksgiving may be a day that finds little to be thankful for. Giving thanks is an expression commonly associated with the holiday. It’s a time to start to assess the past year and to be grateful for what you have in life. Yet, gratitude can be hard to find for those that grew up with CDV.
Catching up on CDV, ACEs and gratitude
Past blogs about gratitude have focused on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) like CDV and what CDV is and how it impacts one’s body and mind starting at childhood. We looked at finding resiliency, what gratitude means and how it can help you heal as well as finding ways to find joy through gratitude.
This blog hopes to expand more into what gratitude is to you as a child of domestic violence. We’ll also look at how CDV imprints falsehoods into your belief system. Finally, we can give you a new way to look at gratitude and how the cultivation of it truly creates more happiness in life.
One of the key LIES of CDV is Sadness – it’s corresponding TRUTH is Grateful
CDV encodes the brain with negative beliefs that you did not choose as a child, but adults did for you, and does not seek to change the falsehoods. There are 10 of these including struggling to feel gratitude in your life.
Maybe looking back at your childhood, you have a sense of sadness. You may call it depression or a sense of loss or feeling let down. The people that were supposed to care and love you didn’t. These feelings can continue into adulthood. People disappoint you and you just figure this is what happens to someone like yourself.
Sometimes when all the focus is on yourself, it is overwhelming. You see pain and negativity everywhere because that is where the state of your mind is and may be for many years after experiencing CDV. The concept of gratitude seems unreal – it is not a natural state for those that grew up in a home with DV. The brain does not go there by inertia. It is the LIES that built up in your developing brain that make many of the truths, such as being grateful a challenge to have naturally.
You may not know it, but Compassion comes naturally to those that grew up with CDV
Due to the hyper-vigilant nature you developed while growing up with DV, feeling hopeless or alone many times, you instinctively imbue compassion. It is through what you went through, the pain experienced, that you can show a deeper understanding of what others experience. It is through this instinct that you build resilience and have deep wells of compassion.
As an adult that lived with CDV, you have the power, more resilience and inner strength than you know. For any adult that made it through a life filled with childhood trauma, you have great potential to still thrive and in fact to be grateful this Thanksgiving and beyond.
It is a gift that you did not ask for, but growing up with CDV enables you to be courageous, be compassionate and be grateful. It enables you to forge a different path and not stay in the shadows of your childhood.
Why is it important to find Gratitude in my life especially after growing up with CDV?
To answer this, it helps to understand what gratitude can be. The dictionary can say many things such as grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. It is the idea of appreciating what you receive and the goodness in yourself. Beyond that though, the concept of gratitude is not just internal. It is the idea that there is a connection to other things, and this could be other people, to nature, or to a higher power.
You can express gratitude in different ways – you may look back at your past childhood, or you may look at the present or the future. For someone who grew up with CDV, looking back at your past can be painful, but the focus can now be on your present – you are no longer in that home, you are more in control of your environment and your decisions. You can look to the future with greater optimism, as you are a survivor, and you can endure hardships or challenges with a greater well of strength than those who did not share your experience.
According to some research, gratitude can improve mental wellness and increase happiness. To count one’s blessings and express gratitude to others imparts a positive effect not only on yourself but to others as well. Gratitude builds stronger interpersonal contact, thus better relationships. It is not fully known how physical health is impacted, but when the mind is in good health, it can follow suit that the body will follow. Dr. Emmons, who led one of the landmark research projects on gratitude states:
“Gratitude heals, energizes and changes lives…It is the prism through which we view life in terms of gifts, givers, goodness and grace.”
Discovering you have great potential to cultivate Gratitude this Thanksgiving
Being that gratitude may not come naturally to those who grew up with CDV, it is helpful to cultivate it. The most beneficial way comes from something that may seem difficult or foreign to you. It is in helping others.
There is the idea of ‘comparing down’. This concept is not meant to look down on others, rather it is the idea that we compare ourselves to others that are also suffering, and that may have less. For one who grew up with CDV, you may feel resentment and anger towards many people. This is not helpful to you – it does not help your well-being.
But comparing down enables you to see that you may have more to appreciate about your own life – it is a means to illuminate what you may not have seen about yourself that makes you feel grateful. A child of CDV has enormous resilience and great compassion already stored inside of them. Looking through this lens instead of looking at others that seem better off, you can find natural ways that you want to help others, that have less potential and courage than yourself.
This may be through the typical ways you would think of such as donating to an organization. But what is often far more helpful is active participation – you being part of an activity that helps many or helps one. Join a community project or organization such as Habitat for Humanity or the local soup kitchen. Be a mentor for someone or join Big Brothers or Big Sisters to help a child. You may spark the imagination and instill hope for those who truly need more help than you.
This Thanksgiving you can be Grateful and express Gratitude
If you are still finding it a struggle to do this, there is something to remember. You have unique strengths. You received a gift from your life of CDV. It is the gift of resilience and courage and compassion. The adversity you faced in your childhood now makes you stronger than most to deal with whatever life brings you.
You can not only face your life with a different perspective on what you can be grateful for, but you have the ability to help others, through your compassion and understanding of other’s pain.
This Thanksgiving don’t dread the holiday season ever again. Use these weeks to think about yourself in a new way. Reflect on what you DO have. You have the ability to change your path at any point in your life. You do not have to stay mired in the past and continue to exist within the framework of the LIES of CDV that have built up in you. Gratitude in itself has its own healing power, transforming negative attitudes and beliefs into positive ones.
Those lies were created by adults in a place you had no control of as a child. They do not define you any longer. You now know the TRUTHS and knowing is power. It is through your compassion and strength that you can build yourself a better life for yourself and your future.
Share your gratitude. Your well is deep.