In spite of the horror, in spite of the tragedy, in spite of the weeks of sleepless nights, I'm finally alive. I'm not pretending. I feel real. I'm not playing charades anymore. I wouldn't go back to the way I was for anything. I'm really like a different person. I'm where I am, and I'm making the most of it. I know I'm courageous now. I found out I had it in me to face this. — Barbara
Bruised, beaten, shaken, weakened, tossed, thrown, lost, alone, heard, helped, healed, hope... it still works.
When shame is met with compassion and not received as conﬁrmation of our guilt, we can begin to see how slant a lens it has had us looking through. That awareness lets us step back far enough to see that if we can let it go, we will see ourselves as clean where we once thought we were dirty. We will remember our innocence. We will see how our shame supported a system in which the perpetrators were protected and we bore the brunt of their offense — first in its actuality, then again in carrying their shame for it.If the method we chose to try to beat out shame was perfectionism, we can relax now, shake the burden off our shoulders, and give ourselves a chance to loosen up and make some errors. Hallelujah! Our freedom will not come from tireless effort and getting it all exactly right.
For change to occur in us, we must be willing to enter the wilderness of the unknown and to wander in unfamiliar territory, directionless and often in the darkness....We do not need to keep every little thing under control. In fact, we find ourselves only by allowing some falling apart to happen.
Healing isn’t just about pain. It’s about learning to love yourself. As you move from feeling like a victim to being a proud survivor, you will have glimmers of hope, pride and satisfaction. Those are natural by-products of healing.
When someone forces you - he unkindly borrows- he does not, can not own you- Remember your body, spirit and heart are yours and only yours, and when you start to process your sexual abuse you will get it all back.
But it is. It’s something you need, and that’s a long way from nothing. If you need it, Eddie, we need it. What we don’t need is a man who can’t let go of the useless baggage of his memories.
Society gives the image of sexual violators as weird, ugly, anti-social, alcoholics. Society gives the impression that violators kidnap children are out of their homes and take them to some wooded area and abandon them after the violation. Society gives the impression that everyone hates people who violate children. If all of these myths were true, healing would not be as challenging as it is. Half of our healing is about the actual abuse. The other half is about how survivors fit into society in the face of the myths that people hold in order to make themselves feel safe. The truth is that 80% of childhood sexual abuse is perpetrated by family members. Yet we rarely hear the word “incest”. The word is too ugly and the truth is too scary. Think about what would happen if we ran a campaign to end incest instead of childhood sexual abuse. The number one place that children should know they are safe is in their homes. As it stands, as long as violators keep sexual abuse within the family, the chances of repercussion by anyone is pretty low. Wives won’t leave violating husbands, mothers won’t kick their violating children out of the home, and violating grandparents still get invited to holiday dinners. It is time to start cleaning house. If we stop incest first, then we will strengthen our cause against all sexual abuse.
Admitting the need for help may also compound the survivor's sense of defeat. The therapists Inger Agger and Soren Jensen, who work with political refugees, describe the case of K, a torture survivor with severe post-traumatic symptoms who adamantly insisted that he had no psychological problems: K...did not understand why he was to talk with a therapist. His problems were medical: the reason why he did not sleep at night was due to the pain in his legs and feet. He was asked by the therapist...about his political background, and K told him that he was a Marxist and that he had read about Freud and he did not believe in any of that stuff: how could his pain go away by talking to a therapist?
I no longer look to my abusers with any expectation– of remorse, or apology or restitution or restoration or relationship. I’m at peace, accepting that they won’t and can’t help me out of the mess they created. But, I’m the best qualified for that job anyway and I’m happy with the job I’m doing.
In the grief that comes with recognizing what happened to us, we often feel there is nowhere to turn for solace…We do things to keep it away, such as becoming overly busy or using drugs or alcohol to numb our feelings. When we are caught up in resistance, we do not feel hope, but when we surrender to our sadness fully, hope trickles in.
As we move away from the old role in which we were helplessly entrapped as a victim, we make friends with the people who affirm us. Their enthusiasm about us mirrors the positive experience we are having.
Jake guessed Henry had been pulling shit like this on him so long that Eddie only noticed it when Henry pulled it on someone else – someone like the blonde ticket-seller.
Because we were treated neglectfully and abusively in our young years—when we most needed self-love to be mirrored—it was difficult to hold onto…We take up the challenge of learning to love ourselves, through our highs & our lows, when we are finding acceptance from others and when we are being closed out and rejected.
In situations of captivity the perpetrator becomes the most powerful person in the life of the victim, and the psychology of the victim is shaped by the actions and beliefs of the perpetrator.
She's terrified that all these sensations and images are coming out of her — but I think she's even more terrified to find out why. Carla's description was typical of survivors of chronic childhood abuse. Almost always, they deny or minimize the abusive memories. They have to: it's too painful to believe that their parents would do such a thing.
You have come from the shadow of the heroin and the shadow of your brother, my friend. Come from the shadow of yourself, if you dare.
Healing was a terrifying and painful experience and my life was as full of struggle and heartache as it had always been. Several years after I started therapy, I began to feel happy. I was stunned. I hadn't realized that the point of all this work on myself was to feel good. I thought it was just one more struggle in a long line of struggles. It took a while before I got used to the idea that my life had changed, that I felt happy, that I was actually content. Learning to tolerate feeling good is one of the nicest parts of healing.
As you recover, you will feel more conscious of your surroundings. Freed from the ‘fog’ of your pain, fear, and confusion, you will awaken and see the world revealed as never before. You will begin to observe things, especially yourself. You will be aware of what you do and why you do it. You will begin to observe your own behavior and attitudes.
Deciding to actively heal is terrifying because it means opening up to hope. For many survivors, hope has brought only disappointment.Although it is terrifying to say yes to yourself, it is also a tremendous relief when you finally stop and face your own demons. There is something about looking terror in the face, and seeing your own reflection, that is strangely relieving. There is comfort in knowing that you don't have to pretend anymore, that you are going to do everything within your power to heal. As one survivor put it, I know now that every time I acceptmy past and respect where I am in the present, I am giving myself a future.- The Courage to Heal
Everyone heals in their own time and in their own way. The path isn't always a straight line, and you don't need to go it alone.
Most survivors grew up too fast. Their vulnerable child-selves got lost in the need to protect and deaden themselves. Reclaiming the inner child is part of the healing process. Often the inner child holds information and feelings for the adult. Some of these feelings are painful, others are actually fun. The child holds the playfulness and innocence the adult has had to bury.
Some Survivors get angry at having to work at recovering from sexual abuse. They feel that it is unfair. They suffered all their life because of what someone else did to them: why do they have to suffer any more pain? This anger of “having” to do something is similar to the anger they felt at “having” to put up with the abuse.
When there is inconsistency in belief and action (such as being violated by someone who is supposed to love you) our mind has to make an adjustment so that thought and action are aligned. So sometimes the adjustment that the mind makes is for the victim to bring her or his behavior in line with the violator, since the violator cannot be controlled by the victim. Our greatest source of survival is to adapt to our environment. So increasing emotional intimacy with a person who is forcing physical intimacy makes sense in our minds. It resolves cognitive dissonance.
...some patients resist the diagnosis of a post-traumatic disorder. They may feel stigmatized by any psychiatric diagnosis or wish to deny their condition out of a sense of pride. Some people feel that acknowledging psychological harm grants a moral victory to the perpetrator, in a way that acknowledging physical harm does not.
While in principle groups for survivors are a good idea, in practice it soon becomes apparent that to organize a successful group is no simple matter. Groups that start out with hope and promise can dissolve acrimoniously, causing pain and disappointment to all involved. The destructive potential of groups is equal to their therapeutic promise. The role of the group leader carries with it a risk of the irresponsible exercise of authority.Conflicts that erupt among group members can all too easily re-create the dynamics of the traumatic event, with group members assuming the roles of perpetrator, accomplice, bystander, victim, and rescuer. Such conflicts can be hurtful to individual participants and can lead to the group’s demise. In order to be successful, a group must have a clear and focused understanding of its therapeutic task and a structure that protects all participants adequately against the dangers of traumatic reenactment. Though groups may vary widely in composition and structure, these basic conditions must be fulfilled without exception.Commonality with other people carries with it all the meanings of the word common. It means belonging to a society, having a public role, being part of that which is universal. It means having a feeling of familiarity, of being known, of communion. It means taking part in the customary, the commonplace, the ordinary, and the everyday. It also carries with it a feeling of smallness, or insignificance, a sense that one’s own troubles are ‘as a drop of rain in the sea.’ The survivor who has achieved commonality with others can rest from her labors. Her recovery is accomplished; all that remains before her is her life.
I'm not crazy, I was abused. I'm not shy, I'm protecting myself. I'm not bitter, I'm speaking the truth. I'm not hanging onto the past, I've been damaged. I'm not delusional, I lived a nightmare. I'm not weak, I was trusting. I'm not giving up, I'm healing. I'm not incapable of love, I'm giving. I'm not alone. I see you all here. I'm fighting this.
The unconscious mind always operates in the present tense, and when a memory is buried in the unconscious, the unconscious preserves it as an ongoing act of abuse in the present of the unconscious mind. The cost of repressing a memory is that the mind does not know the abuse ended.
We each have our own ways of sabotaging & keeping ourselves down…Do we need to remain the victim so strongly that we pull the ceiling down upon our own heads? There is a comfort in the familiar. Also, it is important to us to be in control because as children being abused we were not at all in control. In self-sabotage we can be both the victim & the victimizer.
The bridge out of shame is outrage. Suddenly the obvious becomes stunningly clear—we have been carrying shame for the crime of the offender…In a clear flash we may see ourselves standing in a fierce stance, grounded by our knowledge, ready to throw off any wrongdoer. Our outrage can be a fueling energy, capable of making us as steely as we need to be.
At the time I was being molested, I thought I was the only one. My father controlled everything in our house and he always said that what was happening to me was natural and that I should accommodate him. Even though I have to look back sometimes, I am moving forward. And even though it's painful for me to face my mother's complacency, doing so has helped me understand that it wasn't my fault. If I could have read something at the time about sex abuse, if people had talked openly about, I could have been saved so many years of guilt and shame and secrecy. Each time I talk about my incest, I get rid of some of that shame and guilt. Each person I share with, no matter what their response, takes another piece of the pain away.
Always remember that what was done to you has nothing to do with YOU. It all has to do with a sick perverted abuser that wants/wanted power- You are not at fault and you were/are a target- but it is not because of who you are that you were/ are abused. You are worthy, beautiful, kind, smart and deserving of love, care, passion, and nurturing! xo dr. p
Even if the abuse happened years ago, writing about it and telling someone about it can make all the difference to how you feel inside. I can assure you that telling will help you feel better. It is never to late to tell your story and begin to heal your wounds. Find the right person to trust and tell.
My only regret is that no one told me at the beginning of my journey what I'm telling you now: there will be an end to your pain. And once you've released all those pent-up emotions, you will experience a lightness and buoyancy you haven't felt since you were a very young child. The past will no longer feel like a lode of radioactive ore contaminating the present, and you will be able to respond appropriately to present-day events. You will feel angry when someone infringes on your territory, but you won't overreact. You will feel sad when something bad happens to you, but you won't sink into despair. You will feel joy when you have a good day, and your happiness won't be clouded with guilt. You, too, will have succeeded in making history, history.
In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.
A person raised in a healthy family is equipped to live a confident and independent life, someone from an unhealthy family is filled with fear and self-doubt. He has difficulty with the prospect of life without someone else. The devaluing messages of control and manipulation create dependency so those who most need to leave their family of origin are the least equipped to do so.
You’re too sensitive’ victims of sexual abuse are told over and over by those whose reality depends on being insensitive. Most adults who have been in the victim role cringe when anyone tells them they are sensitive. In fact, sensitivity is a lovely trait and one to be cherished in any human being.