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Healing from child abuse Health

Ten rules to avoid rescuing an alcoholic

Unable to relax and enjoy life for fear of abuse
The children of alcoholics suffer ongoing pain from witnessing the chaotic behaviour of their parents. As adults it continues to affect their ability to relax and enjoy life, their ability to connect with others and trust. Many end up constantly on guard, locked in fight or flight, watching for danger, their nervous system still expecting the moment when the alcoholic snaps from being happy to emotionally abusive. It takes a long time and a lot of healing to shift this and be able to enjoy life fully.

Although there are many ways of ‘Rescuing’ an alcoholic, some ways are typical. Here are ten of them:

1. When three or more suggestions to an alcoholic have been rejected you are Rescuing. Instead, offer one or two, and wait to see whether they are acceptable. If they are not, stop making suggestions. Don’t play “Why don’t you… Yes, but…”

2. It’s O.K. to investigate possible therapists for an alcoholic, but never make an appointment for him or her. Any therapist who is willing to make an appointment with an alcoholic through a third person is probably a potential Rescuer and eventual Persecutor.

3. Do not remove liquor, pour liquor down the drain, or look for hidden stashes of liquor in an alcoholic’s house, unless you’re asked to do so by the alcoholic. Conversely, do not ever buy, serve, mix for, or offer alcohol to an alcoholic.

4. Do not engage in lengthy conversations about alcoholism or a person’s alcoholic problem while the person is drunk or drinking; that will be a waste of time and energy, and will be completely forgotten by him / her in most cases when he / she sobers up.

5. Never lend money to a drinking alcoholic. Do not allow a drunk alcoholic to come to your house, or, worse, drink in your house. Instead, in as loving and nurturing a way as possible, ask to see her again when she / he is sober.

6. Do not get involved in errands repair jobs, cleanups, long drives, pickups, or deliveries for an alcoholic who is not actively participating in fighting his / her alcoholism.

7. When you are relating to an alcoholic, do not commit the common error of seeing only the good and justifying the bad. “He’s so wonderful when he’s sober” is a common mistake people make with respect to alcoholics. The alcoholic is a whole person, and his / her personality includes both his / her good and bad parts. They cannot be separated from each other. Either take the whole person or none at all. If the balance comes out consistently in the red, it is foolish to look only on the credit side.

8. Do not remain silent on the subject of another’s alcoholism. Don’t hesitate to express yourself freely on the subject, what you don’t like, what you won’t stand for, what you think about it, what you want or how it makes you feel. But don’t do it with the expectation of being thanked or creating a change; it’s not likely to happen. Do it just to be on the record. Often your outspoken attitude will be taken seriously and appreciated, though it may not bring about any immediate changes. Just as often it will unleash a barrage of defensiveness and even anger, which you should staunchly absorb without weakening.

9. Be aware of not doing anything that you don’t want to do for the alcoholic. It is bad enough if you commit any of the above mistakes willingly. But when you add to them the complications of doing them when you would prefer not to, you are compounding your mistake and fostering an eventual Persecution.

10. Never believe that an alcoholic is hopeless. Keep your willingness to help ready, offer it often, and make it available whenever you detect a genuine interest and effort on the alcoholics part. When that happens, don’t overreact, but help cautiously and without Rescuing; doing only what you want to do, and no more than your share.

Remembering these guidelines about Rescuing will be helpful regardless of what else is done. You can’t fix the problem, the alcoholic has to do the work. By rescuing and reducing the painful impacts of the alcoholism you are allowing the alcoholic to continue to drink. Often it’s only when things hit ‘rock bottom’ that the alcoholic will decide it’s time to change. That is when you should be there for them to support them through the process.

(Adapted from: Steiner C, undated, Healing Alcoholism, http://www.emotional-literacy.com/hea3.htm)

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Healing from child abuse Self help techniques

Free manuals on healing from child abuse.

Early stages of the healing journey

There are a lot of resources available that can be accessed for free to assist individuals with their healing journey. Most focus on the early stages – where an individual may still be feeling controlled by their past, filled with buried emotions and desperate for relief. These can be a little ‘heavy’ as they share snippets of people’s journey – including expressing judgement, anger, blame, shame and grief. If this is the stage that you are at then you may find them extremely valuable as examples of the healing process and how to go about it.

A free manual on healing from child abuse.

Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA) provide a wide range of support services for Adult Survivors. www.ascasupport.org. This includes a regular newsletter and support groups. They have a free manual called ‘From Surivor to Thriver’ that you can download.

Link to download manualCatherine House have a manual for women on healing from childhood sexual abuse. It is called ‘Reclaiming myself after childhood sexual abuse’. It can be downloaded for free from: http://www.catherinehouse.org.au/Portals/0/pdf/research_projects/WomensResource_FINAL_Oct05.pdf

Its not my fault coverRespond SA is a part of Relationships Australia. They provide support for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. www.respondsa.org.au. They have a manual for men called ‘It is not your fault’. It can be downloaded free from: http://respondsa.org.au/resources/booklet.aspx

Can I trust my memory coverJoan Spear has written a booklet called ‘Can I trust my memory: a handbook for survivors with partial or no memories of childhood sexual abuse’. It is useful to read when you suspect you may have been sexually abused but you are not sure. It can be downloaded free from: http://ascasupport.org/_downloadsResources/canItrustMyMemory.pdf

Later stages of the healing journey

It has been my experience, and that of those I have interacted with, that as you continue to heal you no longer have these ‘heavy’ emotions. You release them from your body and find a place of great freedom and inner peace. You may even reach a stage where you see what you experienced as a gift – as a great teacher – that was part of your evolutionary journey. I am not aware of any free manuals that focus on this larger consciousness focus. However, it is these later stages that I will be sharing most about in this blog.

The Healing Journey Demystified: Achieving Sustainability One Heart at a Time.You can also read about my experience in my book called ‘The healing journey demystified: achieving sustainability one heart at a time’. It is not available for free though. Sorry!! It is available cheaply as a PDF or e-book. The printed book costs a bit more. You can view and purchase it from: http://www.lulu.com/shop/jodi-anne-m-smith/the-healing-journey-demystified-achieving-sustainability-one-heart-at-a-time/paperback/product-14703855.html

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Healing from child abuse Self help techniques

Art Therapy – art as a tool for healing.

Art is a very powerful healer. It helps us to express buried emotions that we may not even be conscious of. It can help release stress and tension as the energy moves from within us out onto the paper. It is therapeutic with its colours, textures and processes. In this booklet I will share some of my drawings from throughout my healing journey. The medium will mostly be coloured oil crayon drawings and some painted ones. I have also had experience with the use of clay, pastel crayons and other art forms as my mentor/counsellor was an Art Therapist. I loved experiencing and learning about the role of art in healing. I am very grateful to my Counsellor for all she has shown me and how she has helped me and others to heal.

One does not need to have any artistic skill to use art as a healing tool. Indeed I did not think of myself as artistic at all. When I started focussing on my healing journey I was a very head-strong, analytical, rational minded person. When Lynn asked me to draw for the first time I thought she was mad. I almost walked out the door thinking how ridiculous, as if drawing could help! It wasn’t long before the floodgates of my subconscious mind opened and drawings were pouring out of me. That is literally how it felt. I wouldn’t consciously think about what to draw or how to draw it. I’d just feel drawn to pick up a crayon and next thing there was a drawing on the paper. It just flowed out.

I was fascinated how at times of strong emotion I would draw and cry or yell at the same time. In these situations the most powerful drawings emerged clearly showing the power of the situations on which I was releasing emotion. I didn’t know how to draw what I drew. If I consciously tried to do it again later I wouldn’t know how. My mind would get in the way. I love how the colours often represent the chakras and the emotions being felt, the profound symbolism that comes through depicting the experiences. Here I have chosen some of my pictures that show the healing of my childhood issues, my relationship with myself and with my parents. I encourage you to embrace art as a tool to assist you in your healing journey.

(Extract from: Smith J, 2011, The healing journey demystified achieving sustainability one heart at a time, Lulu.com)

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Healing from child abuse

What is Child Abuse and How Common Is It?

It is difficult to determine the exact numbers of children who are abused each year. Most cases are not reported to the authorities and once grown most people still keep the abuse secret. Surveys that have been done suggest that child abuse is very common, with some reports suggesting that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 8 boys are abused (ASCA 2004). The fact is that most people suffer some kind of abuse – it is just the type and level that varies. There are many different types of abuse. Gil (1983) describes the following categories: physical; sexual; neglect; emotional neglect; cruel and unusual punishment; corporal punishment and mental suffering.

Physical abuse is when a child is hit, pushed, whipped, bitten, punched, slapped or burned resulting in injuries that are left on their body. Some of these injuries such as scratches, burns, bruises and welts are visible. Others are internal, such as broken bones, fractures or haemorrhaging.

Sexual abuse is when any person, adult or child, forces, tricks, threatens or coerces a child to have any kind of sexual contact with him or her. It may be looking, exposing, talking, telling stories, viewing pornographic pictures or videos, touching, kissing, or full penetration. All of these are abusive. It should be recognised that even if the child consents it is not true consent as the abuser often uses manipulation, guilt, pressure and threats to influence the child, and the child often does not have the power to say no or knowledge of what the consequences will be.

Neglect is when a parent does not feed a child or provide the basic necessities such as clothing, shelter and medical attention when needed. Leaving a child alone when the child is not yet ready to care for him / herself is neglectful since it leaves a child in a potentially dangerous situation.

Emotional neglect is when parent’s don’t take an interest in their child, and do not talk to or hold and hug the youngster, and are generally emotionally unavailable to the child. Alcoholic parents are often neglectful of their children’s needs. Although emotional neglect or abuse may not leave physical scars it has serious consequences for the child.

Cruel and unusual punishment is another form of abuse. These are punishments, which are extreme and inappropriate to a child’s age and ability to understand. For instance locking a child in a closet, making a child duck squat for hours or go without food for long periods of time.

Corporal punishment resulting in injuries is also abuse. Corporal punishment is physical discipline and it includes excessive spanking, kicking or whipping which results in injuries. Spanking can become child abuse when it is done in an out of control way, with enough force to leave injuries. Using instruments to hit, spanking with a closed fist, hitting very young children, and hitting in vulnerable areas (face, head, stomach, back, and genitals) is abuse. Many feel that any physical discipline is abusive.

Mental suffering occurs when a child is psychologically abused. If a parent calls a child names, constantly belittles the child, blocks every effort on the part of the child to accept him or herself, this can cause mental suffering to the child. Threat of abandonment can also make the child anxious and afraid, and is another form of mental suffering.

Compiled many years ago by Dr. Jodi-Anne M Smith, summarised from:

  • ASCA, 2004, Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse website, www.asca.net.au
  • Gil E, 1983, Outgrowing the pain: a book for and about adults abused as children, Dell Pulishing, USA
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Healing from child abuse

Impacts of Child Abuse

There are many impacts of abuse on children. If the child does not receive assistance to break free from these impacts they often carry over into adulthood. Bradley and Johnson-Marshall (1993) explain the following impacts:

Loss of childhood – abused children lose their sense of innocence, their sense that the world is a safe place. A sense of mistrust that persists develops with the abused child often expecting people to abuse them. They therefore do not let people close and often go inside themself, close down and withdraw. They begin to parent themself and protect themself as best they can. They may even try to parent their parents to gain a sense of safety. They cannot relax and enjoy their childhood. They may act inappropriately sexually or become withdrawn, confused and silent. They may become less intelligent than they were or more bookish if they find some safety and security in being alone.

Repetition of abuse – abused children have acutely low self esteem. They feel there must be something wrong with them because of what happened. This low self confidence makes meeting people and relationships difficult. It leads to difficulty in creating appropriate boundaries and recognizing their own needs. Abused children often accept more abuse as they grow, as they do not know any different and they may feel that it’s their fault some how. They can’t easily identify the kind of person or behaviour that is harmful to them; only that something doesn’t feel good. They become more likely to be bullied in school and abused in adult relationships. A sexually abused child is 4 times more likely to be sexually abused again than a non-abused child. Castine (1989) points out that 50% of the time daughters of alcoholic fathers marry alcoholics while Jorgensen and Jorgensen (1990) report that one out of every four children of alcoholics develop alcoholism themselves.

Blaming ourselves – children can’t bare to believe that those who are supposed to love them and care for them can be wrong, so they take responsibility for the abuse themself. Blaming themself gives them a sense of control. It’s easier to live with the guilt of themself having caused it than to accept that their caretakers could be so terrible. Abused children believe that they are bad. Some may try to hide their feelings of weakness by acting strong, while others will be cowardly and subservient. They live their lives afraid of being confronted at any time with their badness. This sense of badness may not be conscious; it may be suppressed however it affects all parts of a person’s life (this is what gets changed through therapy).

Emotional rigidity – the abused child carries their hurt and their damaged inner child with them as they grow. The emotional damage affects their development. They tend to become rigid, stuck in particular feelings, thinking or a particular way of looking at the world. They often can’t feel all emotions or express them and may be stuck in feelings such as happy or loving or angry or fear or complaining. Being stuck is a defense mechanism protecting them from feeling the other emotions that they see as threatening or that may result in re-experiencing an aspect of some earlier abuse. An adult who was abused as a child is often unable to be spontaneous. They do not see their rigidity, but are aware of a vague dissatisfaction with their life. They tend to see both people and situations as either positive or negative, good or bad, there is no middle ground. They may blame others unnecessarily and direct their bad feelings and suppressed anger at them.

Isolation – starts from a young age as abusive families often try to hide their dysfunction from others, siblings don’t talk about it and they compete for the attention of the parents. They may abuse each other as they try to cope with what has happened to them. They don’t bring friends home from school or venture out into the world for fear of someone discovering their secret. If an abused person feels they can’t deal with the emotions they’ve buried inside such as sadness, anger, and shame, they will often continue to isolate themselves as adults. They feel separate to others. They do not have a sense of a way out of their position and may over react to any situation which touches on a felt memory or when people seem like their abuser, or where the feeling is the same as when the abuse happened to them. They may act as if in danger and push people away even though they’re not in danger.

Control – Often abused children as adults feel a need for a strong sense of control. This is so that awkward, painful and difficult to handle emotions / feelings can be kept at bay. Giving up control means facing the pain, which they may feel is overwhelming and therefore must be denied. The need for control can show up in rigid demands that partners, children and others also hide their feelings and control their emotions carefully. It may show up in compulsive behaviour like obsessive cleanliness and tidiness, excessive fussiness, or a need to get things right at any cost whether at work or at home. This anxiousness or desperation can be sensed by others and often makes them feel uneasy around the abused person.

Dependence and insecurity – abused children and adults often have an external locus of evaluation. They judge themself on whether or not others love and accept them or on the size of their career success and assets. These people, who feel a need for someone else to nurture them, to tell them they’re okay, are often taken advantage of by others who see their desperate need and know they can do what ever they want to them and the abused person will put up with it, they won’t leave.

Ambivalence – abused children as adults are often ambivalent to what occurs to them. They learnt to be ambivalent while being abused. They didn’t want to dob in their parents as they wanted their love, feared their loss and the consequences of telling the truth. If the parent only abused them occasionally, they may have seen it as an occasional error to be put up with. They may have pretended that they liked the abuse or told themself that not making a fuss is better or that they might not be believed even if they did say something. Hence they learnt to accept it and just get on with life. They are ambivalent to the affect of this on the rest of their lives. They may never relax and feel safe with those they love. They may never allow themself to be emotionally supported for fear of the loved one becoming an abuser. They may believe that anything good can contain bad and vice versa. The result is apathy, not knowing what to choose or where to turn.

Identifying with the abuser – identifying with the abuser can make an abused child feel strong rather than a weak victim. They will therefore act strong using anger as their dominant emotion, blaming others for things. This is a defense against their underlying feeling of danger and the fear that they may be abused again. If they were sexually abused they may be sexual with other kids. This can be an angry gesture: it happened to me now you; it may be a confused way of trying to share the experience, trying to make sense of the pain and humiliation; or they may have felt the abuse was pleasurable and want to do it again; they may want their child friend to feel what they felt. Many kids who are abused are also cruel to or abuse siblings, kids, pets or wild animals. They may feel ashamed or guilty of this and beat themselves up. It’s really important to always remember it is not the child’s fault. They learnt what they lived, they know no different, be compassionate, do not abuse them further.

Abusing our bodies – abused children as adults often have a high level of self contempt and self loathing. They abuse their body by over or under eating; alcohol or drug abuse; physical abuse or ignoring their body’s needs. They may scar themself in an attempt to make themself less attractive to others or to punish themself.

Splitting and multiple personalities – if a child cannot cope with what happened to them they may go inside themselves, go somewhere else. People often report leaving their body and looking down upon the scene when being abused / watching from outside themselves. Everyone has sub-personalities, parts of themselves that are happy, sad, achievers, doers, relaxed, etc, but they are all a part of the one person – they make up me. Some people after extended abuse, however, can form almost whole or partial separate personalities. Their sense of ‘I’ is not always the same, the different personalities take control. They never know when they wake up who’s going to be there. This interrupts their memory as each personality has their own preference, skills and memories. The different personalities may or may not communicate and the person can feel horrible, trapped, unable to control them.

Continuing family abuse – when abused kids grow up they often repeat the pattern with their own children. They frequently fail to connect with their children emotionally and do not know how to behave appropriately so the cycle of abuse continues They may feel horrible about what is occurring, but do not know how to break free from it.

The impacts of abuse often go wider than just affecting the individual who was abused. There are also impacts on siblings who were not abused and on their partners, children and those they interact with in their adult life. The following information is offered for non-abused siblings. Recognise that it is normal for you to have felt glad not to be abused, but guilty that you weren’t and your brother or sister was or you may have been jealous of the attention they got and sought it out too – being afraid and eager at the same time. You may feel that you should have protected the abused sibling or at least protested. You may have tried to be perfect to avoid abuse and pointed out how much better you were than the other child as a way of trying to protect yourself. Remember you were a child. You coped the best you could. Don’t avoid the abused sibling now because of your guilt. They’ll probably value your friendship and you can both seek assistance in sorting through your issues and developing a closeness.

Partners of adults who were abused as kids may face all sorts of feelings. They may want to rescue their partner, trying to help them heal and protect them from hurt. This can be problematic as relationships always have some tense moments and both partners need to be able to express their feelings and get their needs met – don’t be silent about your needs as this will only cause problems down the track. The abused child as an adult may occasionally behave poorly trying to get the partner to treat them like their abuser did, provoking them. They are trying to feel familiar, comfortable as they are not used to always receiving love. They’re testing you to see if you really do love them and will accept them. If this pattern occurs talk about it, don’t abuse them.

Partners may feel a lot of confusion about what to do, how to handle it, they may get impatient or tired of their mate always being affected by the past and wish they would get over it. They may then feel guilty or ashamed of themselves for thinking this. Don’t bash yourself up over it. It’s normal for you to feel these things. Talk to your partner about your concerns or seek help or if your partner is open to it you can both seek help together. Accept your feelings of helplessness, your pain at seeing their hurt and your anger at their parents. It’s normal. It’s also normal for you to dislike interacting with his or her parents and not saying anything. However, if this is what your abused partner wants you need to respect their wishes. But look after yourself and vent your anger and frustration healthily when you leave from visiting their parents. You need to get out any negativity, sadness, anger, etc that you have inside about the situations. When you do this you’ll feel better, more in control and react less to what is occurring. You will be able to change the dynamics of how you interact with your partner.

Learn to own your feelings and behaviour and express yourself effectively with no blaming, no judgment, or criticisms. Learn to use I statements – when you do X, I feel Y and I’d prefer it if you could do Z. If you can do this, creating a safe space for them, with love and encouragement it creates the conditions required for your partner to consider facing their own issues. They have to be ready to change. If they’re not keep working on yourself so things don’t upset you so much and you can enjoy your life fully. This is the best thing you can do for both of you. When your partner does become ready to take action you’ll be able to show them what to do or point them to where they can get help. Remember that what we focus on expands so focus on the positive and create more of it! Be a role model for your partner. Don’t see them as sick, but as a healthy person yet to take action and break free of their symptoms.

Prepared many years ago by Dr. Jodi-Anne M Smith. Some content is summarised from:

  • Bradley R & Johnson Marshall C, 1993, A safe place to begin – working to recover from childhood sexual abuse, Thorsons, London.
  • Castine J, 1989, Recovery from rescuing, Health Communications Inc., Florida
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Healing from child abuse

Welcome to my healing from child abuse blog.

In this section we explore healing from child abuse and becoming a healthy, fully functioning adult. Those of us who suffer painful beginnings in life have to spend many years unravelling the knots we’ve been tied up into. We have to loosen these, drop the armour, shed the fear, grief, despair and rage, to access the peace and love that was our true birth right. Finding peace is possible after abuse. It just takes time as all the buried emotions and trauma need to be relived, felt and released from the body.

If it was too painful at the time of the events we escape through leaving our body, going somewhere else in our minds or a myriad of other distraction techniques. When we do this our body stores the trauma and waits till we’re ready to feel and release it. It’s buried in our cells, locked in our joints and muscles – it is the rigidity, the frozen energy that keeps us feeling stuck in fight or flight. It cannot be avoided. It has to be felt and released. In this section of the blog/website we discuss ways to do this, ways to cope during the painful stages of the healing journey and how to move through them to find peace and happiness.

Once you clean your house – your body – of the past, you can let the light shine in fully. You can see the beauty that was always there, hidden under the dust, cobwebs and shadows. Now we get to redecorate, to add bright colours and celebrate. This is the time of ecstatic joy and gratitude, gratitude for making it through, for the new feelings of bliss and oneness, for the lessons learnt, wisdom gained and love found. It’s my honour to provide insight and support to help people along this path and into their beautiful hearts.

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Healing from child abuse

Behaviours of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA)

  1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at Alcoholwhat normal behaviour is.
  2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
  3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
  4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.
  5. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.
  6. Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.
  7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
  8. Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.
  9. Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.
  10. Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.
  11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.
  12. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
  13. Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviours or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.
  14. Adult children of alcoholics often isolate themselves and have few meaningful personal relationships.
  15. Adult children of alcoholics often have feelings of powerlessness.
  16. Adult children of alcoholics may strongly fear abandonment or criticism, retaining an abnormally strong, essentially unmet, need for approval and affection.

 

Compiled many years ago by Dr. Jodi-Anne M Smith from:

  • Ackerman RJ, 1987, Children of alcoholics – a guide for parents, educators & therapists, Simon & Schuster, Fireside
  • Geringer Woititz J, 1983, Adult children of alcoholics, Health Communications Inc.
  • Jorgensen DG & Jorgensen JA, 1990, Secrets told by children of alcoholics – what concerned adults need to know, Human Services Institute
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Healing from child abuse

Stages of healing from child abuse

While every individual will go through their own healing experience there are common healing stages. People cycle through these healing stages, moving from one to another and back again, until they have released the past and can concentrate on their present and future unhindered.

1. Acknowledging that abuse occurred

  • Admitting it – no more denial

  • Acknowledging the impacts on you & your life

  • Dealing with the emotions & memories

  • Accepting yourself & your reactions as normal

  • Learning to trust your self & your intuition

2. Making the decision to heal

  • Choosing hope over resignation or despair

  • Making an active commitment to change

  • Putting aside other demands and allowing time to experience emotions, to think about the issues, and to get the necessary help & support

  • Allowing the painful emotions to come up and release – dealing with the chaotic nature of this on your day to day life

  • Finding support – from yourself & others

3. Talking to others about the abuse

  • Breaking the silence
  • Reducing shame & guilt by acknowledging out loud that you were abused & it wasn’t your fault
  • Choosing who to tell, what you want from them & dealing with their reactions

4. Placing responsibility where it belongs

  • Recognising the abuse was the abuser’s fault, not yours – you are not to blame at all. You were a child
  • You are not to blame if you went along with it – the abuser had power over you & you didn’t have all the information to decide objectively – you were a child
  • In the case of sexual abuse, you are not to blame if your body was aroused – it’s a normal bodily response. You’re not to blame if you felt positive feelings of intimacy with the abuser – they may have been nice & loving to you when others weren’t
  • Any problems that arose within the family as a result of the abuse were not your fault
  • Identify & understand how you were tricked, bribed, threatened or coerced by the abuser – you were used & abused
  • You are strong though – you have survived. You can heal & create the life you want!

5. Dealing with the loss and sadness

  • Feeling grief over – what happened to you, your loss of innocence & childhood, the loss of trust, sadness that the relationships weren’t the way you would have liked them to be, sadness over the impact of the abuse on you throughout your life
  • If you get depressed, get help to move through it
  • Feel all these feelings, talk to safe people about them, release the emotion – the intensity will pass

6. Expressing anger

  • Feeling anger over what happened
  • Expressing anger towards the abuser & others involved, rather than at yourself (This is done in safe & constructive ways in private, not necessarily with the actual people involved)
  • Letting go of the need for retaliation
  • Building self assertion & strength

7. Working through the difficulties caused by the abuse

  • Working through difficult physical, social, emotional & behavioural problems
  • Working through unhelpful beliefs about oneself, about abuse or about life in general

8. Building a future

  • Accepting the abuse happened & it is part of the past
  • Development of self acceptance & self respect
  • Acknowledging the wisdom & strengths you’ve gained from surviving the abuse
  • Overcoming residual feelings of vulnerability & lack of confidence
  • Dealing with fear & planning ways to take care of yourself in different situations
  • Setting goals & taking steps to create the life you want
  • Feeling more in control of your life

Summarised many years ago by Dr. Jodi-Anne M Smith from: MacDonald K, Lambie I & Simmonds L, 1995, Counselling for sexual abuse. A therapists guide for working with adults, children and families, Oxford University Press, London, pgs 30-43.

Art work is Jodi-Anne’s original art therapy drawings.