“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 .
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.
Traumatic childhood events (especially those involving a parent) can give rise to false core beliefs . 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.
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