In the first blog on this topic, we focused on the fact that a lot of healing is required to release the buried emotions and pain that result from childhood sexual abuse. We gave some advice on how to move through tough emotions that surface and demand our attention.
Today we talk about the wider implications. When one has been sexually abused as a child you can lose the sense that your body is precious and should be treated as such. You can forget that sexual intimacy is meant to be loving, kind and about connection with self, other and God/Source Energy. It is a sacred act resulting in a union between man and woman. It results in conception, birth and parenthood. It is a sacred act necessary for the continuation of the species. It is meant to be enjoyable and safe.
For those who have been sexually abused as children sex does not feel sacred or safe – It can feel scary, dirty or carnal. The sacredness can be regained once healed, but for many who have suffered abuse sex feels like a threat, dangerous, or worse, meaningless – something you do just to please your partner or to get attention from another.
Many who have been abused as children continue to let themselves be abused by others. They don’t know how to set boundaries or say no. They don’t know that there is a choice to say no or that sex can be different to the physical activity that they have experienced.
Sex can become an addiction, a seductive tool used to get what you want in life. This really devalues your body as it is used by others. But someone who has been deeply hurt may be so numbed from their pain and hiding from their true feelings that they don’t even notice that they feel devalued, used, taken advantage of, etc. In essence, they let the abuse continue, not knowing that they deserve better.
Some do the opposite. For some, the abuse was so terrifying that they won’t let anyone close and sex becomes something that simply doesn’t happen as it feels too dangerous. In between these extremes is the person who can have sex with their partner, but may not feel much physically during the act, their mind wanders thinking of other things, so energetically they are not present or fully participating in the act – they have left in their minds to a safer place.
It takes much healing to get to the space where you can be fully present during sex, enjoy it and see it / feel it as a sacred process of surrender – allowing yourself to merge with your beloved partner and God. God is of course not involved in this, but the energy of union, of oneness, of love, is God and it is through the sexual act that we become most vulnerable and intertwined with another – we become one with them and therefore return in the moments of deep connection to Source, to our true state of oneness with all that is.
Another aspect of life affected by childhood sexual abuse is our self-image of what it means to be a man or a woman. It will affect what we think about ourselves, our worth, our appearance, our attitudes, etc.
It shapes our view of the world to one that is less than loving and kind, less than supportive and caring. All of this has to be worked through as we learn to love ourselves and dress according to our personality or being. For many years a sufferer of childhood sexual abuse may dress like a tomboy to avoid feeling feminine or threatened by further abuse. Baggy clothes are common, trying to hide the fact they are a woman or young teen.
Of course, those who have gone the opposite direction dress provocatively revealing their sexuality to all, showing they have power over others by alluring them. That is what the provocation is truly about. It is the person’s way to attempt to feel powerful, to have control over others. That way if they feel they are in control it is less scary than thinking others can control them. It is just a form of self-defence.
Both responses are okay and understandable as a result of what they have been through. The goal however is to heal and find balance, where you can just be you and dress how you like because you want to – not because you are trying to prove anything to anyone else or to get approval.
When we heal fully we come to a place of self-love and acceptance where it doesn’t matter what others think. When we are in this healthy place we can live our life doing what we want, being present to the moment and enjoying all that comes. We are not preoccupied with the past or the future. Our body is relaxed, not on guard, not scanning for danger or looking about needily or for protection. We are at ease, peace, trusting, flowing with life.
You can get to this stage and you will. All human beings will. It just takes time and effort – a willingness to keep dealing with whatever emotions surface and releasing them to the light, so that your body is ‘lighter’ and you do not feel so burdened, weighed down, heavy from it all – which is what depression is. It is a person feeling ‘de-pressed’ – pressed down by all the weight of their life, their stories of what has occurred to them and their fearful, angry, shameful reactions to it.
“Depression” is calling you to “deep rest”. It is your body’s way of saying I need you to stop now, to feel and heal this, to let it go. Enough running, pushing it away, trying to pretend it isn’t real. Stop, feel and heal. REST then you can feel better, find peace and happiness. This is what is needed. You deserve it. You are allowed to have it and you have done nothing wrong.
Any actions that you have taken resulted from your pain, your past experiences. You had no control over what occurred to you. You did your best to cope and live life. If you did some things you are not proud of, forgive yourself. Forgive and free yourself of any shame or guilt and choose to behave differently from now on. Know you did the best you could at the time. Let yourself off the hook and let yourself have fun and enjoy your life. You deserve to do so, to be free of the past and making the most of your now.
A big part of healing from sexual abuse is learning to trust another, to let a partner close to you – to be able to determine when it is safe to do so and the person is someone who is trustworthy, who will treat you well and who wants to be in a loving, intimate, connected, heart-felt relationship with you.
Recognise however that if you are not in such a relationship with yourself you are not likely to do so with a partner. Are you loving and supportive of yourself? Do you respect and treat yourself well? Do you lovingly speak to [yourself] and honour your own needs? If not, don’t expect a partner to do so. Their behaviour will reflect the way you treat yourself. If you treat yourself poorly you are role modelling to a partner that they can do so too.
Part of healing is learning to see the truth that people may treat you poorly if you let them, but as you heal and become more whole, you won’t attract that behaviour. You simply wouldn’t get into the relationship as you would know deep in your core, your intuition and gut feelings, that that person is not suitable for you as a partner. But in order to access your knowingness, your intuition and gut feel you have to be connected to yourself, to listen to your feelings, and identify your needs. This requires learning to be fully grounded in your body, present within it.
You can do this by simply closing your eyes and focusing on your breath in your belly. Get used to breathing deeply and witnessing your body’s reactions, practice feeling/listening to what is occurring inside you. Throughout the day notice whether you are in your body or if you have floated off into your mind or escaped into fantasy / left your body, so to speak.
There are many techniques you can use to help you settle back into your body. One that I use is Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). It helps the nervous system to relax and unwind, so that the body drops out of hypervigilance, fight, flight, and freeze, so it can return to its normal relaxed state.
TRE is a simple set of exercises you can do on your own at home to start the body’s natural stress, tension and trauma release mechanism. We have an inbuilt mechanism to shake off all the tension and trauma. It uses up all the fight and flight chemicals, like cortisol and adrenaline, that get stored in the body every time we get triggered and don’t act.
If we did run or fight back these chemicals would get used up, but if we freeze or we push through forcing ourselves to stay present in a situation where our body is uncomfortable and telling us to flee, then those fight/flight chemicals stay within, adding to the muscles clenching and tension patterns in our body.
Using TRE helps the body to relax, to let go of those patterns, to feel safer and more peaceful within. When that happens the mind also relaxes and our defences melt as the mind is no longer being sent danger signals by the body. It no longer senses threat at every corner.
There are other techniques you can use that also help the body to calm, such as spending time in nature, meditation, gentle exercise like yoga and much more.
Learning to be present to what is occurring in the moment and being grounded in your body is a major step in healing as you can then feel and process what needs to be let go of. When you are present in this way, you can get inner guidance as to what to do and how to improve your experience of life.
The answers are all within you. Your soul knows what you need to do and it will talk to you. Listen to your heart and follow its guidance. This is the goal to reach to live as happily ever after as possible. Healing from childhood sexual abuse takes time and effort, but it is worth it, to find the freedom and peace that awaits you when you heal. Blessed BE. Amen.
Here is the link to part 3 of how to heal from childhood sexual abuse.