Tag Archives: poor self-esteem

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. Continue reading

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

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. Continue reading

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

Bitter Pill

“‘…and the truth shall make you free‘” (John 8: 32).

One particularly tenacious scar of abuse is the vicious criticism victims direct at themselves. In most cases, this criticism continues long after the abuse, itself, has ended. It undercuts our relationships, our endeavors, and our peace of mind.

Because the rationale behind self-criticism is not immediately clear, victims are tempted to take the criticism at face value. This can be a crippling mistake (even a fatal one, if the criticism feeds depression).

When those who preyed on us expressed their criticism of us – our behavior, our hopes and dreams, our very being – verbally, it does not require a great leap of faith to draw the conclusion that our critical inner voice is actually theirs.

What of those among us who were not verbally abused? Abuse by any other name remains abuse. Victims are not unfeeling lumps of clay. They know what is being done to them is wrong, whatever blandishments accompany the violation, whatever labels are applied.

As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously put it, “Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.”

Why then is it so difficult for victims to still that inner critic?

The truth at the very heart of abuse, the reason we continue to excoriate ourselves long after the abuser has gone, is that we would rather destroy ourselves than believe we meant so little to someone who should have loved us.

That is a bitter pill to swallow. But it is the medicine we need to heal from this scar.

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Shared Suffering

Abuse victims often withdraw into themselves:

• For some, this reflects an understandable mistrust of the world, a common result of abuse. Withdrawal, in this connection, is intended as a self-protective strategy, though at great emotional cost.

• Others may withdraw from close contact, in an effort to keep the abuse secret.

• Many of us view ourselves as damaged in a fundamental way by the abuse. Not just injured, but mutilated.  Defective.  This is not a true assessment of our value, but does express the pain we feel.

Self-protection, secrecy, shame.  We deserve better.

Surprisingly, our suffering may become a means of alleviating the suffering of others. As former abuse victims, we can understand and empathize with fellow victims. Shared experiences may actually help us to heal.

But this is not a hard and fast rule. Wrestling with our own grief, we may find interaction with other victims too painful.

God can still use us in any number of ways unrelated to the molestation. Even in isolation, His love surrounds us. Even in isolation, we can pray for the world.

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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Acid Rain

The emotional scars from childhood sexual abuse can badly damage a woman’s view of herself.  But any woman’s self-esteem may be skewed by the world’s sometimes superficial values.

Poor self-esteem can be crippling. The negative feelings associated with childhood abuse often hold abuse victims back from becoming all they might.

Sadly, many of us castigate ourselves for problems and perceived “failings” that are actually scars of the molestation, or coping mechanisms we adopted as children to deal with the pain.  The constant self-criticism is like acid rain for the soul, corrosive and debilitating.

God does not evaluate human beings as we do. He looks at the heart, while the world tends to look only at the outer shell (1 Sam. 16: 7).

Scripture emphasizes Christ’s great love for us, and encourages us to combat these negative feelings whenever they arise.

“…[N]either death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord(Rom. 8: 38-39).

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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