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What would you do if you were invincible? If you knew you couldn’t fail? It’s a question that the Childhood Domestic Violence Association (CDV) is asking survivors, and others, with the introduction of their new program called Courage Unleashed.
For survivors of domestic violence—including those who grew up witnessing domestic violence between parents or caregivers, otherwise known as CDV—the psychological effects can be hindering, and lifelong. CDV can have an impact on how a person learns, advances in life and excels in their career. It can increase the risk for health issues like depression and heart disease. It can increase the risk of being manipulated into a future relationship with an abuser, or becoming someone with abusive traits. And it can do all of this because abuse and violence are thought to reinforce negative messages that run on repeat in a survivor’s brain.
Hard Time Seeing the Positive
Subconsciously, survivors of abuse often continually reframe life experiences in the negative.
“The problem is, when you grow up in one these homes, the brain is doing its job of finding evidence of what it already believes to be true,” says CDV.org Chief Operating Officer Anna Radev. Your brain is selectively filtering out anything good because it’s been taught, well, simply, there is no good.
“Let’s say it’s raining and a car splashes mud on you and it gets on your pants. That’s it—it’s over for you. For someone who’s lived with adversity, you’re convinced this is going to go down as a bad day.”
She says the goal of her organization—founded by CDV survivor Brian F. Martin, author of Invincible: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence and the Truths to Set You Free—is to not only educate survivors about the effects of CDV, but to also reverse them.
“What [Courage Unleashed] does is to bring a very unique and powerful conditioning model … to allow people to go through their daily life, dissect their daily routines and determine over time what the bad habits are that don’t serve them, and then replace those bad habits with positive reinforcing habits and confirming thoughts.”
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It takes about 45 days, says Radev, though they give participants 60 days because “we know life gets in the way sometimes.” They ask people to make a 20-minute commitment every day.
The program is a combination of videos and journaling that has participants focus on their thoughts regarding four key areas of life: health, wellness, career and relationships.
“These are areas where we see people in these situations struggle,” says Radev. And while Courage Unleashed was created with people who grew up with CDV in mind, Radev says it’s really about focusing on the self, and unlearning negative patterns and negative habits.
“The long-term goal is to reshape their belief systems. We think and we act in accordance to how we feel and what we believe. Only about 15 to 20% of the program mentions CDV, and even people who didn’t grow up with CDV recommended it,” she says, of the initial test group of 80 who tried out the program last summer before it launched on their website.
The 45-day program costs $39.95, but Radev says CDV.org is hoping to provide it for free through organizations like shelters. It’s recommended for those 18 and up, but people as young as 16 have completed it—“as long as you can really process these concepts, and be able to sit back and reflect,” Radev says.
For more information, visit CDV.org.
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