“When the family energy is focused on the problem of the adult rather than on the needs of the children, the results for the children are the state of not knowing they come first, the state of believing that they have to fix the situation, and the state of believing that life is about surviving instead of enjoying and that the meaning of life is to get through the struggle of life.” Cathleen Brooks
1. Child Abuse Survivors: “Powerlessness”
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this subject of late. I won’t get into any of the details of why, but suffice it to say, I’ve had a number of conversations and seen stories of people who find themselves in situations, as adults, that from the outside seem easily changeable, yet they don’t do anything to try and change things.
I’m sure you’ve all seen similar stories, whether it be the abused wife who won’t leave, the disgruntled employee who never looks for another job, or the kid who gets bullied even into adulthood. I’ve always considered these situations to be a product of fear, afraid of what worse things might happen as opposed to the hell you know and live with. Lately, however, I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t something deeper behind that fear, especially when it comes to survivors of child abuse. What I see when I dig into that fear motivation, is powerlessness.
Yes, there’s fear of the unknown in changing all of those situations I listed, and many more specific situations that I know we can all relate to, but a big part of that fear seems to come from not having any sense that we actually have the power to say no, or to remove ourselves from a situation. As children, of course, we were taught exactly that. All the while I was being abused as a child, I didn’t have the power to say no, or to remove myself. It was taken away from me, and even now, as an adult, I recognize that there are times I look at circumstances that I could change, but fall right back into feeling like I don’t have the power to do so.
Being ignored is the cruelest way to make a point……to flaunt control…..to wield power. Not acknowledging a person can create a hurt so deep – it’s the harshest thing someone can do to another…especially if that person claims to care.
My father used to ignore me….refusing to talk or acknowledge my presence. His silence would go on for days…sometimes weeks… shutting me out of his world….closing the door….denying me access to him. He wanted to teach me a lesson….that he was right….I was wrong…he was good….I was bad. It was his way to force me to do whatever he wanted.
He had hurt me many times with his words and his fists – yet to be locked out of his world tore at me. It made me crazy…and desperate to make things right. I ended up doing whatever he wanted….anything just to have him acknowledge me again.
Ever since I could think, he taught me ‘that without him…I was nothing’ and even though he beat me…called me awful names…broke my spirit – I believed I needed him to live…to breathe…to exist. I needed him to survive.
Something has changed since I wrote my story…and told the truth of what happened. Writing…voicing what I had never been able to say….changed something in me. It gave me an inner strength…a courage I didn’t have before. I’m not afraid anymore and I’m not a child.
3. Blooming Lotus: “Need for Therapy in Early Stages of Healing From Child Abuse”
Child abuse survivors need therapy. Period. It does not matter if the abuse happened one time or was ongoing throughout your childhood. Healing from child abuse is extremely difficult, and you need a qualified therapist to help you through it.
I was determined not to enter into therapy when I first started having flashbacks about the child abuse. I was in the process of trying to adopt a child, and I feared that I would be “disqualified” if I was in therapy because I would be seen as “crazy.” (As it turns out, therapy is highly encouraged for hopeful adoptive parents and will not be held against you. You just need to have your therapist write a letter stating that your reason for seeking therapy will not negatively affect your ability to parent a child.)
I decided that I was going to do the healing work myself. The problem was that every resource I turned to began with, “Find a good therapist.” There is a very good reason for this advice …you need to work with a qualified therapist with experience working with people who have been abused because trying to do it yourself is simply too hard. If it was possible to heal through sheer force of will, then I would have done it.
If you try to heal from the child abuse yourself, you will find yourself in over your head. When you first come to terms with the reality that you were abused, you will go through a “breakthrough crisis.” For me, this felt like a pressure cooker of emotions had the lid blown off of it, and my emotions had exploded all over me. For six weeks, I truly did not know from minute to minute if I was going to survive it. Nevertheless, I was hell-bent on healing myself. I changed my mind after finding myself lying on the floor, shaking, crying, hyperventilating, and trying to decide on the best way to commit suicide. At this point, I realized that anything would be better than this and decided to enter therapy.