Healing from Abuse

Child abuse – whether physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect – is likely to have permanent consequences. The wounds of abuse are grievous, inflicted when we are most vulnerable.

The extent to which we heal varies from one victim to the next, as does the rate at which healing takes place. This makes perfect sense. Victims are violated at various ages, for varying lengths of time, in countless evil ways. They have unique internal resources, and varying degrees of external support (sometimes none).

All these are factors in recovery. We must not, therefore, gauge our progress by that of others.

The “Inner Child”

Experts often refer to the wounded “inner child”. This is not to suggest that victims develop multiple personalities, though some may. It is an abbreviated means of saying we remain sensitive to issues relating to abuse, and – at an emotional level, at least – retain a strong recollection of the trauma inflicted on us.

Misplaced “Coping” Strategies

Unable to defend themselves against abuse, some children adopt desperate strategies in the effort to cope with it. These childhood strategies may continue into adulthood, becoming a hindrance where they once served a legitimate purpose.

Dissociation is one such strategy. The child, in effect, imagines himself or herself elsewhere while the abuse is taking place. This is the “out of body” experience. Dissociation may later be triggered by events which recall (or mimic) the abuse. Though meant to be protective in nature, dissociation can produce serious gaps in a victim’s memory.

Repression is another strategy. The victim mentally “walls off” memories too painful to acknowledge. Repression can last for decades. Eventually, however, repressed memories will out. Distressing as that may be, it is not likely to occur until the victim is stronger than at the time the egregious events first took place.

Abuse-Related Problems

Certain problems commonly develop as an outgrowth of abuse. These can cause as much pain (and shame) as the abuse which gave rise to them, especially when victims are unaware their problems stem from abuse.

Typical problems can include low self-esteem, issues involving hygiene, anxiety/depression, drug and alcohol addiction, self-injury, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders.

These are complex problems, not easily resolved. Understanding their origin is only one step in the process of overcoming them. Exiting abusive relationships (and learning to make better choices) can be as difficult [1].

Counseling can be of great assistance in clarifying matters for victims.

Healing

Do we ever heal from abuse? I believe recovery is possible. That is not, however, to say we are restored to our original state.

Abuse leaves behind a residue of pain and sorrow. Even when our lives are no longer governed by those emotions, we may be reminded of the abuse at unexpected moments. This is not a sign of weakness on our part. It is a reflection of the gravity of the violation to which we were subjected.

But abuse is not the central fact about us. The central fact is that we are children of a loving God, precious in His sight…no matter what we may have endured. Our grief is His grief. When we can no longer go forward in our own strength, He carries us.

Victims are not “damaged goods” in God’s eyes. To the contrary, Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross attests to our incalculable value. In the long run, our realization of that contributes — perhaps more than anything else — toward our recovery.

[1] The victims of child abuse do not deliberately choose abusive partners, as adults.  Victims may not recognize the warning signs of abuse (assuming those are present) or may not feel themselves deserving of a loving partner.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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14 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

14 responses to “Healing from Abuse

  1. jacqui

    Anna I related to all of this article, it’s seems at this time there is more awareness of the results of abuse but as you know it is just the beginning. I still disassociate but I now have help to work through these areas but it is not easy. I thank God he has placed me around beautiful loving Christian brothers and sisters to love me through these difficult times. Fear of rejection still the top fear. There is much talk on these issues but so much support is lacking to see through so many traumas. Thank you Anna lovely post …. jacqui xx

    • Thank you, Jacqui. I am so glad this post helped you! I was concerned it might sound too “matter of fact” while the struggle to deal with abuse actually requires every fiber of our strength.

      That struggle can be exhausting, at times sapping our energy for other — more positive — things. But there are enormous numbers of men and women grappling with abuse-related issues. You and I are not alone in that.

      Dissociation is among the most difficult of such issues, as you have experienced firsthand. Do not be impatient with yourself. Your mind is still trying to protect itself. That it is tenacious in utilizing this survival skill is a tribute to your mental toughness. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1: 7).

      I owe you an apology for taking so long to get back to you. My computer has been down all week. It’s put me in PC withdrawal (LOL).

      Blessings Always,

      A.

    • Thank you for the reblog, Jacqui. You have such a kind and generous heart.

      • jacqui

        I’m just learning so much myself Anna xx

      • I wish I could say I’ve never made mistakes. But that’s far from the truth. We’re all human. Mistakes are part of how we experience the world. Through them we learn…at least the fifteenth or sixteenth time around. :0) I somehow think that we will continue to learn in heaven, with all eternity at our disposal. It will be so much easier with all this baggage, all these obstacles out of the way. And our view of the Lord unobstructed, no longer blurred by our pain or the sin inflicted on us. A.

  2. Such a clear, informative explanation of the inner child and survival strategies, AW. I love even more the confident hope you hold out in Christ. Thanks.

    Diana

  3. I identify with a lot of what you say here. Your paragraph on “typical problems” might have been written specifically for me – it’s accuracy is spell-binding! As always, compassionately and eloquently delivered! x [ps. I hope you are well :)]

    • I am deeply gratified that you think so highly of my writing, Marie. I have struggled with many of these problems myself. Healing, I feel, begins when we realize that our problems do not define us. Despite them, we are still human, still sane, and still worthy of love. Some effects of my abuse are likely to linger the rest of my life. But I view myself differently now, than I did as a child. I no longer believe myself responsible for the abuse, or responsible to deal with it alone. And I no longer view myself as deficient. Scars are just that. Scars. Evidence of what we were forced to endure…and what we somehow survived. I wish you love and happiness, Marie. ❤

      • Thank you Anna for your well-thought out reply. I try to take as much as I can from your messages to help with my healing too. It is always helpful when someone has shared experiences to be able to pass on to others how they are able to move on and forward. I regard these as small miracles. I had a really disturbing dream about my father last night, so vivid and I wondered how it was I could have such a dream. I put it down to the abuse still hidden away in my subconscious choosing to come to the fore in unguarded moments. Child abuse is so deeply disturbing – I guess no matter how much you think you are “mending” your subconscious will continually remind you of how you have suffered in the past. Thank you for your healing words and I wish the same for you dear Anna. x

      • Thank you, Marie. I cannot tell you how much it means to hear that something I’ve written has been a help to others. I suffer from nightmares, as well. Nightmares, as you probably know, are one of the symptoms of PTSD. As you say, the damage done by abuse was very deep.

        Some find Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) useful. IRT, if you’re not familiar with it, involves writing out the nightmare you’ve had, then changing the story to make it more positive (or, if that’s not possible, build in a means of escape). The new version of the nightmare is then “rehearsed” (re-read during calm moments in the day). The hope is that it will becomes a tool the mind can use, when the nightmare returns.

        When you find yourself struggling with insomnia, or wide awake and bathed in sweat after another nightmare, know that you are not alone. There are alot of us wandering darkened apartments in the wee hours. God though is awake, too. You can call on Him anytime. ❤

      • Oh I so wish we could be friends – you are such a wonderful person to know. Thank you so much for taking time with me to explain things and listen to what I have to say. I will certainly try your suggestion and see how that goes. It’s funny but in my nightmare, I was standing up for myself and going pretty ballistic at my father in a way I couldn’t when I was a child. Thank you for reminding me that God is awake too and that I can call on Him anytime, and I thank Him for speaking to me through you. x

      • What a lovely compliment! I hardly deserve such praise. You bring up a good point though. We may carry with us the pain from childhood. But we are now adults, and better equipped to deal with it. You’re in my thoughts and prayers, Marie…and always welcome here! ❤

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