Rescuing Ourselves

“The Rescue” by John Everett Millais (1855), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (PD-Art l Old-100)

There was finally a point in my teens when I realized that I would never be rescued from sexual molestation [1].

The shock of that revelation was overwhelming…as if all my trauma had been condensed into a single instant.  It felt, at that moment, as if I had been struck in the chest by a sledge hammer.

Trauma Beliefs

Traumatic childhood events (especially those involving a parent) can give rise to false core beliefs [2].  Often, such trauma beliefs are not articulated.  They may never be identified and consciously brought to mind.

But trauma beliefs can be enormously destructive – not only damaging our self-image, but crippling us.

Here are a few versions of such beliefs:  I am stupid; I am ugly; I am unlovable; I do not deserve to be cared for; I must do everything perfectly, or I will be rejected; I should be punished; I will be abandoned by everyone I ever love.

Self-Hatred

Deep inside, I concluded that I was unworthy of rescue, because I would never be the woman my mother was.  I would never be as kind, gentle, or generous as she was.  Most especially, I would never be as vulnerable or petite.  This translated into self-hatred.

That I developed weight issues in high school seemed “proof” of my deficiency.  Clearly, I had an innate flaw that went through to the bone.  So it appeared to me.  I became a perfectionist to offset this.

Acting Out Trauma Beliefs

Weight problems can be a source of torment and discouragement, especially in our culture.

Those of us with problems involving our weight try diets, weight loss programs, and gyms.  We buy expensive exercise equipment, and gadgets guaranteed to change our dimensions.  Some of us even have surgery, and still the weight comes back.

Weight issues are the symptom, not the disease.  Weight issues are a constant source of shame which is why, with some part of ourselves, we cling to them.  They reinforce our trauma beliefs.  That these false core beliefs were laid down so early in our lives gives them added strength.

Perfectionism is likewise a harsh taskmaster.  Perfectionism (another way of acting out trauma beliefs) insures a sense of inadequacy which is the reason it is so tenacious.  The bar is constantly out of reach.

What these two have in common is that they preserve the feelings we had as children.  Those feelings have simply found a new focus.

Attacking Trauma Beliefs

A. Talk Therapy and EMDR

Until we tackle our particular trauma beliefs, it is unlikely we can make much headway against the scars abuse has left on our lives.  Talk therapy is one way of doing this.  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another [3].

EMDR is a relatively new form of psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but has been well researched.  While results are by no means guaranteed, EMDR is thought to make it easier for the brain to process memories of trauma which have remained acutely distressing.

Since its purpose is to facilitate natural healing, EMDR requires much less time than talk therapy.  In one study, 77% of combat veterans were found to be free of PTSD symptoms in 12 reprocessing sessions.  In another study, the victims of multiple trauma were found to be free of symptoms in as little as 6 reprocessing sessions.

Individual results, of course, vary.  Trauma of long standing is likely to be more resistant.  And EMDR does not work for everyone.

B. Transformative Love

There is a third approach to trauma beliefs.  This is transformative love.

Love can change the view we have of ourselves, can change our whole perspective on life.  A paradigm shift occurs.  Suddenly, the world is beautiful, and we have a place in it.

A sustaining love like that in a strong marriage can go a long way toward healing the wounds of our childhood.

Unfortunately, love as human beings experience it often involves pain and heartache.  We marry a man like our father.  The boy with the winning smile turns out to be a fiend.  We do what is familiar; make the same mistakes, again and again.

Change is slow and difficult.

C. God’s Love

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34: 4).

The purest form of transformative love, God’s love is different from human love [4].  His love is unconditional, unfailing, sacrificial, boundless, and everlasting.  It is the love for which we have always longed.  God’s love fills an empty place in our hearts no other love can.

And God longs for a relationship with us.  We were created to share eternity with Him.  But the choice is ours.

These approaches are not mutually exclusive.  Try one or all of them.

I will never be the woman my mother was.  I am a different kind of woman.  But, with God’s help (and that of some wonderful therapists over the years), I have managed to rescue myself.

[1]  Thankfully, reporting abuse is today far easier than when I was a girl.

[2]  Childhood Trauma Recovery, “False Core Beliefs:  Their Childhood Origin” by David Hosier,   http://childhoodtraumarecovery.com/2014/12/04/false-core-beliefs-childhood-roots/.

[3]  EMDR Institute, “What is EMDR?”, http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/.

[4]  God’s love is discussed at length at Bible.org, The Joy of Knowing God, “14. God Is Love” by Pastor Richard Strauss, https://bible.org/seriespage/14-god-love.

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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13 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

13 responses to “Rescuing Ourselves

  1. I hope your post will help others unpack the baggage they have carried..

    I had weight issues most my life.. and kids in school wanted to educate me.. fat was gross, thin was pretty and popular.. the world has not changed its view..

    I have read that some SA victims would continue to gain weight in hope that if they were so unattractive, no one would want to be perverse with them.. unfortunately, it does not guaranty safety..

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    God Bless

  2. What you shared Anna as copied below, is so beautiful and so True….

    “The purest form of Transformative Love, God’s Love is different from human love. His Love is Unconditional, Unfailing, Sacrificial, Boundless and Everlasting. It is the Love for which we have always longed. God’s Love fills an empty place in our Hearts no other love can. And God longs for a Relationship with us. We were created to share Eternity with Him. But the choice is ours.”

    I had a weight problem Anna that started after I was Molested when I was 3 years old and as a Teenager I became Bulimic after trying many quick loss diets trying to be like Twiggy who was presented as the perfect woman and yes I became very thin but I did a lot of damage to my Body some of which I suffer with today and this Addiction continued until I was 30, when God delivered me, I never binged and made myself sick again and I lost 50kilos and kept it off when attending a Share Group but also seeking God’s help and later by using balanced Low Fat Cook Books too.

    I was trained by The Health Department in Diet and Nutrition to be a Leader for one of their Share Groups but instead with their consent I ran Christian Weight Control Groups for 20 years for Woman who couldn’t afford the other Groups.

    I had 7 Leaders around N.S.W and I never needed to advertise, attendance was all by word of mouth and many ladies joined the groups and stayed for years, helping others when they lost their added weight.

    It is very True Anna a large percentage of the Woman who attended my Groups including myself were abused either as Children, in their Marriages or in their close Relationships. This was why I focused a lot on them being Woman of worth and greatly Loved by God.

    Today I have added weight because I can’t exercise or walk or stand for very long but I have never put on all the weight I lost unlike before because I do eat moderately but not obsessively like when I was motivated by fear of failure and watched every mouthful and so was being controlled by food instead of my controlling it.

    Thanks again Anna for a Factual and very Uplifting Message.

    Christian Love Always – Anne.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this,so thank you.

  4. It is heart breaking to know that you suffered as you did Anna and to know that you longed to be rescued, but felt that this would never happen. I feel your pain. I am though inspired and uplifted to know that as crippling as child sexual abuse was for you, God reached out to you and enabled you to testify that: ” … with God’s help (and that of some wonderful therapists over the years), I have managed to rescue myself”.

    I know that through God’s love for you, He has enabled you to reach out to many others (myself included), and demonstrate through your writing that “God’s love fills an empty place in our hearts no other love can”.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge of child sexual abuse in such an articulate, candid, courageous and compassionate way.

    • Dearest Sam,

      You always see the best in me. I’ve stumbled and fallen many a time. Some abuse-related issues will plague me the rest of my days. Despite abuse, however, I have been greatly blessed with friends. That, too, is God’s doing.

      I know how much you, yourself, have suffered from abuse. I find your capacity for kindness both miraculous and — selfishly — an enormous support. You are truly a “sister by another mother” to me.

      Much love,

      A. ❤

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  6. Oh, Anna, how beautiful you are…such an amazing soul….I love this post, and that you share from the heart….and, Transformative Love….yes, yes, yes….”On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”. The surest love of all…my fail safe approach when I am not sure where I am going….thanks for sharing, Anna…you are a light 🙂

    • I do not deserve such praise, Truly. You are far too kind. But I am deeply gratified that you would feel this way. We all of us have a light inside, a unique spark of life with which God endowed us. Some lights are snuffed out too soon, and many more dimmed by the cares of the world. What little I can do — in my small corner of the world — to share God’s love with others, I try my best to do. Both St. Therese of Lisieux and Mother Teresa believed in doing ordinary things with extraordinary love. All of us can do that. ❤

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