Tag Archives: self-criticism

Anxiety, Phobias, and PTSD – Part 1

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch (1893), National Gallery, Norway (Accession No. NG.M.00939), Source WebMuseum (PD)

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea
…” (Ps. 46: 1-2).

Most people have experienced anxiety, in one situation or another.

The death of a loved one, divorce, serious illness, job loss, and moving are recognized as major stressors [1].  Other anxiety producing occasions include public speaking (always a favorite), waiting on approval for a mortgage, meeting a girlfriend’s parents for the first time, and having the in-laws over for Thanksgiving.

Then, of course, there are a host of phobias.  As a general rule narrowly focused, phobias are no small matter for those suffering from them.  Phobias include the fear of heights, spiders, snakes, birds, tight spaces, bridges, flying, and blood [2].

Purpose of Anxiety

Anxiety is intended to alert us to potential danger, and prepare the body for it.

A part of the brain called the amygdala releases neuro-transmitters that initiate the so called “fight of flight” response, producing the sensations of anxiety [3].  The heart rate climbs; blood rushes to the muscles; the lungs work harder.  This process is largely autonomic.  We have, by design, very limited control.

For most, the panic associated with stressful situations quickly subsides.  Shallow breathing deepens and slows.  Rapid heartbeat subsides.

The audience does or does not throw tomatoes.  The in-laws smile or grimace – it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference – and swallow their turkey.  We eventually get the mortgage.

In short, the body figures out we are going to survive.

Anxiety Disorders

About 40 million Americans, however, suffer from anxiety disorders [4].  Severe anxiety, whatever form it takes, is debilitating and can be crippling.

A. PTSD

The severe anxiety resulting from traumas such war, rape, or child abuse is better known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) [5].

Whatever its origin, PTSD can cause recurrent, powerful, panic attacks, with or without an identifiable trigger.  These attacks are typically accompanied by heart palpitations, chest pain, the sensation of being smothered, and a feeling of dread.  A panic attack can, also, be experienced as paralysis and overwhelming fear.

PTSD sufferers may, in addition, experience flashbacks (vivid and disturbing memories, re-experienced involuntarily).  I have discussed these elsewhere [6]. Continue reading

Advertisements

34 Comments

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

Spoons

Soup spoon, Author Donovan Govan (CC BY-SA-3.0 Unportedl GFDL).

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13: 1).

Whether as abuse victims made the object of unfair comparisons or as men and women raised in a materialistic culture, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. The comparison nearly always overlooks our real gifts.

Not many of us are fashion models or world class chefs. Few are sports icons, movie stars, or billionaires. None at all can stay eighteen forever. We play different parts, in the course of a lifetime – some more humble than others, but no less important.

Spoons may be less glamorous than swords or scepters. But they fill an essential role. You cannot scoop pudding for a child with a saber, or feed the hungry of the world with a magic wand. Ask any farmer.

Love, above all else, is what the world needs. Not “love” as portrayed by Hollywood. Real love – the kind that takes sweat and sacrifice. The kind that involves wiping noses and kissing boo-boos; standing on an assembly line, day in and day out, to make sure the bills get paid.

If we can manage that without having known it ourselves, we have achieved something close to miraculous.

A SPOON IS NOT A HAMMER

A spoon is not a hammer
A knife is not a glove
To warm a heart near frozen
From simple lack of love

So strike a blow for freedom
Cut through red tape and lies
Or lift the spoon to a child’s lips
A tender look in your eyes

We each have different talents
And different roles to play
A candle will light the darkness
A match can start a blaze

So raise a cry for justice
And hold that banner high
Or wrap your arms round a baby
And sing a lullaby

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

14 Comments

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

Falling Knives, Part 2

“Self-Injury Awareness Day – Open Your Eyes. Open Your Heart.” Photo by AndyCandy94 (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5: 5) [1].

For many abuse victims, assaults on ourselves are more than an emotional echo of earlier trauma, more than metaphorical.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury or NSSI (commonly known as “cutting”) is generally viewed as an attempt to deal with emotional pain [2]. Estimates suggest that as many as 14% of teens engage in cutting, at one time or another [3].  But adults are not immune.

In sexual molestation and rape, the violation involves the body. Therefore, the body becomes the “enemy”. Self-inflicted injury is one way this can manifest. But negative feelings ranging from loneliness, worthlessness, and shame to stress, rage, and racing thoughts may prompt the same behavior [4]. Continue reading

Leave a comment

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

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. Continue reading

8 Comments

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

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.

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

11 Comments

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

Good Works

Minimizing the impact of child molestation and other forms of abuse is a way of self-protecting that can lead victims to self-blame and self-hatred.  Negative self-image is often reflected in our inner thought life by an ongoing dialog such as, “I am worthless. No one could love me.”

That we may know on an intellectual level such statements are untrue will not necessarily reduce the power with which we invest them or the frequency with which we engage in them.

Though as abuse victims we may “feel” defective, the truth is that we remain God’s handiwork. He knew before time began the suffering we would be required to endure. Yet He entrusted us with good works – often arising from our very abuse experience – in complete certainty that we would accomplish these.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2: 10).

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

1 Comment

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

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

2 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Religion