Falling Knives, Part 1

“…A morning of tears, remembered fears
Withering looks from the past
Cut the heart, tear you apart
Pain racked soul heaves your body
Causing you to tremble and shudder

Cruel words spoken with loathing
With no care for the innocent soul
Who listens carefully
And believes this to be truly
The way things could be…”

– Marie Williams, Damaged People

Some days are darker than others.

Perhaps we have had an oppressive dream, now half-remembered. Perhaps an icy rain is falling, sharp as knives, and the weather determines our mood. Perhaps a misplaced word pierces our already injured psyche or our blood chemistry is off or the stars are misaligned.

Self-Criticism

Whatever the reasons – internal or external, identifiable or not – for abuse victims, particularly those of us suffering from depression, the most innocuous thoughts and observations can quickly morph into self-criticism, calling up faults and failures, real and imagined. No mistake is forgiven; no oversight on our part – however slight – is laid to rest for good.

Hour after hour, our criticism is unrelenting; our self-assessment, merciless. We may be able to defend ourselves against a single assault, even a dozen. But we cannot dodge the falling knives forever.

Emotional Flashbacks

The pain is searing. Old wounds are re-opened; new wounds, inflicted. What may seem insignificant to others can trigger repeated emotional flashbacks with childhood traumas not merely recalled but relived, re-experienced emotionally, again and again.

Minimizing the Abuse

To those unfamiliar with abuse, this description may sound overly dramatic. Surely, victims must be exaggerating. Actually, however, the opposite is true.

It is not uncommon for the victims of childhood abuse to downplay their suffering. Some will make excuses for their abuser, assuming liability for the abuse which is not rightly theirs. Why this tendency to minimize the scars of abuse, to downgrade the brutality of a traumatized mind and body?

Minimizing is a form of denial victims utilize in an attempt to deal with their trauma [1].

In denial, the brain tries to protect the psyche by refusing to admit the reality of trauma or abuse [2]. Details of the abuse may be shielded from the victim’s consciousness. The horror is diluted; the trauma processed in manageable, bite-size pieces. The victim is still adversely impacted, but not completely immobilized.

Fear, Shame, and Family Secrets

Victims may fear they will be overcome by the intensity of their feelings, should they accept the full extent of their abuse.

They may find it too painful to admit a loved one would treat them so callously. They may feel responsible for keeping family secrets. They may have difficulty connecting present day problems with past trauma.

In particular, incest victims, the victims of sibling abuse, and the victims of clergy abuse may prefer to avoid the shame (and possible publicity) they anticipate will be heaped upon them when the abuse is revealed, the unfounded challenges to their veracity, and the blame inappropriately placed on them for their abuse.

Denying PTSD

Not surprisingly, some victims of trauma or abuse will expressly deny having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD [4]. Victims may mistakenly equate PTSD with weakness. In the military context, acknowledgment of PTSD can be viewed as career damaging. A security clearance or job specialty may be placed in jeopardy.

The Consequences of Trauma

Unfortunately, denial is not a permanent solution. Trauma (whatever form it takes) has consequences, even when not acknowledged.  The long-term symptoms of trauma may include isolation, impaired relationships, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, drug abuse, eating disorders, and sexual dysfunction [3].

Deferring treatment only makes matters worse. But there is hope.

“But, if you suffer from PTSD [have been abused] or not, you always have value, you are always constantly being created by love in the image and likeness of God.”

– Dr. John Zemler, PhD


[1] The Healing Place, “Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse”, 10/2/11, http://www.thehealingplace.info/adult-survivors-of-childhood-sexual-abuse/.

[2] [3] Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle, Adult Health, “Denial: When It Helps, When It Hurts”, 5/20/14, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/denial/art-20047926.

[4] PTSD Spirituality, “PTSD Spirituality: Why Deny the Possibility of PTSD?” by Dr. John Zemler, PhD, 1/12/13, http://www.ptsdspirituality.com/2013/01/12/ptsd-spirituality-why-deny-the-possibility-of-ptsd/.

My thanks to Marie Williams, together with whom these two posts were written

This series will conclude next week

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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8 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

8 responses to “Falling Knives, Part 1

  1. Thank you Anna for this blog. I am seeing a pattern in my own life and realizing how true that poem above applies to me as well. I just don’t know what to say anymore except that I feel I walked into a Lion’s Den. Something seems to be happening all over again. Was crying at the words and I don’t want to get into self pity. My deafness seems to be brought up over and over and making me look at my past and seeing it in the presence real or imagined. It’s like why did I come back????

    A very timely blog.

    • In my own life, certain times have been more difficult than others. We may feel that finding an explanation would banish the darkness. But I am not sure that is true. How can cruelty toward the innocent ever be explained, really?

      That is not to say we are condemned to darkness. When the past rises before us, we must try and remember three things:

      1. First, that these visions are a mirage. The painful events from our past — however much they hurt us — remain in the past. They no longer have the same power over us. We are no longer vulnerable children. In fact, our memories may again be troubling us because we are now strong enough to deal with them.

      2. Second, that we are entitled to seek comfort and support. We are no longer alone. There are fine psychiatrists and psychologists who understand our pain; loving and compassionate friends, waiting to extend their hands to us.

      3. Third, that there will be better days. God never abandons us (though Satan may attempt to convince us otherwise). If we are here, there is a purpose to our lives, even if we cannot see it.

      Marie Williams, the woman who wrote that poem, is herself an abuse survivor. Though deeply impacted by the abuse, Marie would tell you that she has a full and satisfying life. You are entitled to that, too.

      Here are two more stanzas from Marie’s poem:

      “Damaged people are to be loved
      Taken to your bosom
      Allowed to rest there
      To be provided a shady cove
      A haven of peace and tranquility

      Spoken to as if reborn
      Gentle whispers in their ear
      Reassuring them there’s no need to fear
      That which hurt and broke them
      Can no longer stoke the fires of pain…”

      With love,

      Anna ❤

  2. I am so glad I found your blog this morning! Very wise words here. I’m following now.

    • I am so glad you’re here! ❤

      • mum

        i am taking a shot at emptying myself. i hurt. i don’t know how to stop. i have left the physical situation eight years ago but i find myself still there. What I think is self sacrifice another may think codependent. How do I heal. Where do I begin. Abuse has followed me since birth. My parents fought. I was in a 25 year abusive situation. Fear mostly kept me there. 32 years later 7 children all grown but 1. she will be off to college next year God willing.I am beginning to feel like I have a second chance at life. The fear of the Lord is what keeps my focus. What can happen to me if I have God on my side. I pray I talk I cry to him. I read his inspired word. I get through the day knowing that he loves me. I have turned my mess into a message. Stuck is saying it 1/2 true. i have accomplished alot by God’s favor and grace…There is so much more to do i am slow in moving forward.

      • Your faith is clearly powerful, Mum, to have brought you so far. Raising 7 children is an enormous achievement, especially in the face of domestic violence. You seem to think an outsider might label you “codependent”. And codependence is among the scars abuse can leave. But no one has the right to sit in judgment of your life.

        I applaud your sacrifice. I’m sure your children do, as well. It can only help them, if you focus now on freeing yourself from the shadow abuse has cast over your life.

        You say that abuse has “followed” you. That is often how abuse feels. The situation repeats itself, again and again, despite our best efforts to escape it. But repetition is not a result of fate or God’s condemnation. It is the result of choices we make — choices the abuse, in effect, trained us to make from childhood.

        I am guessing that you have not sought professional counseling, perhaps for fear of criticism. Counseling is not though designed with a view toward criticizing victims. Its purpose is to help us see our lives from another perspective; to shed light on the darkness, and allow us finally to break free.

        You need not move forward at any speed except your own. There is no one setting the pace, no one measuring your progress. Not a psychiatrist, not a psychologist, not a social worker. Not even God. How fast you go, and how much ground you cover are determined by how happy you are with your life.

        I think you would find counseling lifts a weight off you. That is not to say you won’t be left with challenges. Sometimes for abuse victims these are lifelong. But you have already demonstrated what a strong woman you are. The hard part is over. Show your children now how a woman can recover from abuse, and shine.

        God bless you, Mum. ❤

        Readers can find more information on codependence at https://avoicereclaimed.com/2015/04/05/unbiblical-part-5-self-sacrifice-v-codependence/.

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