Reclaiming is a proactive step towards healing from relational betrayal. While I was getting divorced, I decided to Reclaim places and things that aggravated the pain of my ex-husband’s affair. I often use the example of Reclaiming restaurants, but there are many different things that can and may need to be Reclaimed for the sake of your emotional health and strength.
My definition of Reclaiming…
Reclaiming (v): Identifying a fearful, painful internal reaction to a place or a thing that holds a once happy memory, choosing to face it head-on and create a new, positive association.
Caveat: Not every memory needs to be Reclaimed. Some places and experiences can or should stay in the past. We need to make these Reclaiming decisions for ourselves. Taking steps towards personal wholeness may look different depending on your position and your story.
I recognize a Reclaiming action needs to be taken when something causes one or more of the following reactions in me:
1. Avoidance – This can be a good coping mechanism for a time. However, if you’re actively avoiding something because of pain you have experienced, you may need to consider Reclaiming it. This is especially true if the avoidance becomes a hindrance to living your day-to-day life.
2. Fear – For me, avoidance is often a result of fear. The list of my fears can be extensive: fear of running into my ex-husband or the other woman, fear of what others would think, fear of my own emotions or even the fear of moving on. Fear is a reflection of something deeper and I am resolved not to allow fear to hold me back from anything – including restaurants, parks, or even music. (Read Ellie’s Reclamation Flowchart)
3. Painful memories – When a flood of painful memories is caused by an external source such as a photo, a song, or even a smell, I know a Reclaiming action may need to take place. Going back to that location, listening to that song, or talking about the memory are all steps towards healing. I believe it is important to take these steps with people I trust. (Read about the different kinds of Reclaiming Buddies)
4. Trauma – Often when an individual has experienced abuse or trauma, there can be debilitating post-traumatic associations. If this is your story, I strongly suggest you seek the help of a professional therapist to help you in this kind of Reclaiming. Trauma is serious but also treatable. Please get the help you need to Reclaim from your trauma.
5. Negative emotions – I recognize the need to Reclaim when I feel rage, despair or panic after encountering something associated with my marriage. Reclaiming isn’t about obstructing or avoiding negative emotions. Feelings like sadness and anger are not bad in and of themselves, but they point at a deeper root issue. What is my sadness saying right now? Why am I feeling angry at this moment? What’s causing this anxiety? I believe I need to get to the root of these emotions rather than sweeping them under the rug. For example, “I feel angry right now because my ex-husband loves that song.” Perhaps that particular song needs to be Reclaimed. (Read my protocol for combating a negative self-image)
6. Feeling powerless – Facing reminders of betrayal can be excruciatingly challenging. Something was wrongfully taken away and reminders are everywhere. I often felt helpless and too weak to face the hurt; the pain was winning. Although I would feel too fragile to Reclaim something in the moment, this powerless feeling can be an indicator that this thing needed to be Reclaimed. When I remain immobilized, I am giving that place or thing greater power in my life, and this can easily turn into a victim mentality. I am not a victim. I am a victor! (Read more about positioning yourself for healing)
Emotions, memories and trauma are central gauges for me that something may need to be Reclaimed. When I don’t allow fear, a victim mentality or trauma to hold me back from facing my pain, I am taking powerful steps to create a new life. Embracing memories in a new light allows for tiny miracles to take place, and I’m brought closer to the wholeness that God desires for me.
What are your Reclaiming identifiers? I’d love to hear your thoughts!