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Healing from child abuse Self help techniques

How do you heal from childhood sexual abuse? (Part 1 of 3)

How do we heal from childhood sexual abuse? Part 1 (19:41 mins)

This is a gigantic topic that can not be addressed in one blog. We will give some general guidance and cover other aspects in future blogs. Childhood sexual abuse is a heinous act that takes away a child’s sense of innocence and trust in the world.

Whether the act was done in a violent or loving manner it rips apart a child’s identity. They are no longer a child living in a world of mystery, awe and learning. They no longer can lose themselves in the moment, they lose spontaneity and joy for life.

In its place come watching, scanning for danger, for fear of it happening again. Confusion terrifies – is it good, bad, dirty, evil? Am I a bad person because of it? Why is it a secret? Why mustn’t others know? All of this takes a child out of a child’s mindset and experience of life. It robs them of their freedom to live life innocently and openly connecting with self, others, nature and life.

Each experience is different, based on the particular circumstances, but none of them is beneficial to the child. The child may feel some pleasure in the physical touch. They may feel love towards the perpetrator who is giving them special attention. They may become jealous of the other parent and sharing the perpetrator with them. This sets up an unhealthy competition between mother and daughter (if that is the scenario). Or the mother may be depressed, father/stepfather unhappy and the child steps in to compensate, hoping father will stay, not leave.

There are many combinations and the above relates to incest by family members or friends of the family. These are the most common forms of incest. Strangers molesting children is much rarer. It is usually a person known to the child. Someone they trust and this also has a massive impact on their ability to trust others.

Whatever the situation, healing from childhood sexual abuse is a long and tedious process. All the various emotions have to be felt and released. The dysfunction of the family and the complicity of those involved have to be seen and acknowledged. Your parents / the adults should have been protecting you, but they didn’t. Shame, anger, rage, grief, loss, isolation, pain, all has to be worked through, before the light can start to enter.

Because these events were so painful and confusing it is automatic to push the memories and feelings away when they surface, but suppressing them does not help. It just keeps them locked inside the body and the person numbed out from feeling fully. This means that they can not experience great joy or happiness either, as their feelings are numbed, on autopilot, shut down to the bare minimum.

This all releases in time as the person learns to feel the emotions and release them. This can be done willingly or not. The body will trigger releases when it feels you are ready for them – be it flashbacks, memories surfacing, body aches/rashes, pain or emotional outbursts. It surfaces in many ways and it will impact your ability to function in your day to day life. Surrender to the process and allow the emotion to be felt and released. It will take time, a lot of time, but it will get easier as you learn how to deal with an emotional release and support yourself through the process.

Eat well, rest and get lots of sleep. Your body is undergoing massive shifts and changes. If the trauma or emotional pain was too intense it gets locked inside the body and it all has to come back out. It needs time for this to all occur. There are no miracle cures or quick answers. It has to occur bit by bit so you can cope and process the emotions that surface.

  • You will need to work through feelings of loss and its impact on your life.
  • You will have to work through feelings of betrayal and perhaps a desire to punish those involved for what happened, and for not looking after you.
  • You will have to work through any shame you feel and learn that it is safe to open back up to love, sexuality, passion and joy.
  • You will need to learn to trust others and allow yourself to be vulnerable again.

There is much healing to occur and it does take many years to fully resolve. That is the sad truth of it. It is a major impact on a person’s life and they have to deal with it the best they can. It does lead to lots of personal growth and insight, which is a good thing, but it is a hard way to get it. Especially when others around you may seem to be having a happy, easy life. So jealousy and feelings of ‘Why me?’, of victimhood, also have to be worked through.

It is a tumultuous ride and no wonder the body may struggle at times to cope with it all. Depression is common as people work through the issues. Do your best to support yourself with kindness, love and friendship. Be the loving parent to yourself that you wished your parents were. 

Be patient and kind to yourself, you are doing the best you can. Know it will shift in time and while frustrating, your feelings and experience are normal. It is part of the process. That is why we said it is a heinous act. It is one that destroys a person’s natural ability to live and enjoy their life. It dominates their reactions to life and the way they interact with others. All this damage, this processing and conditioning, has to be worked through and released.

Many people become overweight, even obese, as a result of childhood sexual abuse. They hide under the layers of weight, feeling more protected and safe. At some level, they hope they are safer as they feel less attractive and hope no one will attack them again.

Some remain extremely thin, afraid to exist and not accepting nourishment. They hope if they look weak, thin, like a child, people will take pity on them and hopefully look after them. The self-loathing, shame and rejection of self can lead them to self-harm, to punish themselves and therefore not nourish their bodies appropriately.

Some people armour up. They put layers of energetic and physical armouring on their body, which hardens them. It makes them rigid and cold and deflects off anyone or anything that approaches them. It acts as a defence but keeps them isolated as no one can get close enough to give them love. Love would melt the armour and help the emotions to surface. But until a person is ready this feels threatening so they would push away anyone who comes close and tries to love them. They may judge those who come close as unacceptable, untrustworthy – finding some fault in them to justify their actions and rejection of them. This can be a very lonely and sad way to live.

Some channel their anger and rage into their work. They may fight for some cause, some charity, in an attempt to protect the vulnerable in society or the planet itself from abuse by man. This fight, this burning passion to save others or the Earth is due to their own buried pain and the need for themselves to be saved, rescued, loved and supported. It is a projection outwards of what they actually need.

They need to allow themselves to be vulnerable, weak, and to be looked after by others. They have been trying to be strong for so long that eventually, they will collapse and burn out. They will need to rest and face what is inside. They can’t go on fighting forever as they are depleting their energy reserves and no matter what they achieve in their work it will never feel like it is enough because it isn’t what they really need. What they really need is to look inside themselves, feel the emotional pain and release it, so they can then enjoy their lives as much as possible.

Finding peace after childhood sexual abuse is possible. It is just a long journey. Call on the Angels and your Guides to help you. Find practitioners to support you – energetically with healing; your body physically with releasing, and nutritionally with vitamins. 

There are many different tools and techniques that can be used to support you through the process. Try different things and see what works for you. The key is to remember to be patient, loving and kind with yourself. You have suffered enough, so don’t burden yourself by feeling not good enough or getting mad at yourself.

Inside you is the scared, wounded, confused child who went through the experience. He/she needs your love and support. They need to be talked to, listened to and reassured. They need to be helped to feel safe again and to trust that you, the Adult you, will look after them. Then they can relax and play again, they can become a natural child again – free, spontaneous, in awe of life and full of joy at what they see. This then unlocks the door to your freedom to enjoy life more fully.

So love yourself through it all. Talk to your inner child regularly. Tell him/her that you love them, you will protect them and you are sorry about what they went through. In time they will trust you more and open up. You can visualise with your eyes closed and imagine playing in the park with your inner child. You can eat ice cream together and do all that you missed out on. You can have fun and form a strong connection and feeling of safety, of being loved, accepted and safe. That is important to do. It brings light into your life and the ability to have fun and play.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. Just this and other experiences get in the way. Do the work to free yourself from the past, so that you can enjoy the rest of your life and make the most of it. You can do it and it’s worth doing.

Don’t keep pushing the emotions away that prolongs the process.

  • Breathe through emotions as they arise.
  • If it is really intense you can scream or yell.
  • You may want to hit cushions against your bed or lounge to release the anger.
  • Buried emotions within my bodyYou may draw pictures of how you feel releasing the energy onto paper. Whatever method works for you to get it out of your body.
  • Some people like to go the gym or run until they are exhausted and the energy has shifted.
  • Hot, salt baths help to cleanse and soothe the body after a release.
  • Massage and other body work can help muscles to relax and the body to let go of tension and being in constant fight or flight mode ready to defend itself.
  • Time in nature helps ground us and strengthen us to cope with what we are going through.
  • Feel the Earth’s energy and allow her to hold you, support you. Imagine her energy coming up through your feet and filling you with love and support. See all that you don’t need draining out of your feet, back into the Earth – give her your heaviness, your pain, your emotions, she can process them for you, turning them into positive energy. The Earth is fertilised with our crap and that of all animals. It is why we put manure into the soil. You can do the same energetically. She can cope with it all. Do this visualisation daily or whenever you feel you have something to release.

Counselling can help if you find a therapist who is familiar with these issues and the complexities involved. It is not completely necessary, but for many people they have isolated themselves enough, they have no one they trust or can talk to about what they are going through. If this is the case a counsellor can be that person and someone you experiment with being vulnerable, revealing your secrets and your fears, desires and truth.

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) can help your body to release stress, tension and trauma. It can help you to come out of numbness, shut down and depression. It can help you move out of freeze, fight and flight, back down into calm, social engagement where you feel safer to relate with others. It takes consistent use over time to achieve a relaxed, calm body that feels safe, can be present in the now, no longer scanning for danger.

TRE can be used for free once learned, so you can use it regularly at home to support yourself and your body to release out the stuck, frozen energies, allowing you to thaw out and come back to life. It is well worth learning so you can use TRE to support yourself for the rest of your life.

It helps to shift the internal pressure, the intense charge out of your body, so it is then easier to feel the emotions and release them as they no longer feel so big, so explosive or threatening.

TRE helps you to come home to yourself and to feel safe in your body. It really is a blessing for those of us that have suffered sexual abuse and other forms of abuse and trauma. It is best to learn TRE with a practitioner for the first few sessions to make sure you know how to self-regulate and can use it safely, knowing how to recognise the signs when your body says “That’s enough for today“. If you are unsure or would just prefer to have a supportive person holding space for you then you can continue to do TRE with a practitioner, but there’s no need once you’ve learned it. You have the choice to do it on your own at home or with a TRE practitioner like me in person or online via Zoom.

Each person’s journey will be unique to them and it all takes time. Go easy with yourself. You don’t need to dig through your past trying to find clues about what did or didn’t happen. it will surface when it is meant to when you are strong enough and ready to process it. So just enjoy your life as much as you can and know that you will remember or be triggered by others when the time is right for you to complete the next part of your healing journey.

Know that you do deserve peace, love and happiness, and you can get it. In time you will be free and you will be so grateful for that. You are brave souls on a massive journey. We cheer you on from the sidelines and we watch your progress. We hold your hands when you cry and laugh along with you when you laugh. We are always here, supporting and encouraging you, whispering in your ear helping you to intuitively know what you need to do next. You are never alone. You are held in the arms of God and the angels. You are cherished and cared for by those of us assigned to you this lifetime. We see your beauty. We see your strength, your innocence and your goodness. It is our job to help you to see them too. We love you. Blessed BE. Adieu.

In this first blog, we have talked about the impacts of abuse and mentioned some tools for healing. In the second blog, we focus on the impact on your sexuality and ability to interact lovingly with others. In the third blog, we will focus on the pain and releasing it from the cells of your body.

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Healing from child abuse Self help techniques

How do you stop making yourself wrong?

If you were abused as a child, you were constantly told or shown that whatever you did was not good enough, not acceptable, basically wrong.

Even though the issue was really the emotional state of the parent / abuser, to you as the child, it would have seemed that you were the problem, that there was a fault, a flaw, an imperfection with you. You probably beat yourself up a lot, trying to work it out, “What exactly is it that is wrong with me?”.

An abuser is likely to have told you off for what you said, how you stood and looked at them, for being defiant or a smart ass, for talking back, and sometimes for simply breathing and being alive. In essence it felt like everything about you was wrong or not good enough, not acceptable or okay.

should-have-done1This sets up a pattern of self-loathing, even if you believe the abuser is full of shit, making it up, f*cked up. Even if you do place the blame on them, part of you still wonders “Am I to blame? Is something i’m doing provoking them? How can I change who I am to be less offensive?”

You certainly change who you are by watching carefully all that occurs, trying to make sense of a situation that does not make sense. You lose your innocence, your spontaneity and start becoming the watcher, the cautious one, the guarded and over protective one. In essence, you lose access to your soft, vulnerable, innocent self, your authentic self, as all these defense mechanisms kick in to protect you.

As a part of keeping yourself safe you will have developed a very strong inner Judge and Critic, who keep watch and tell you when you are doing something wrong. They become very strict monitoring your every move and they work with the inner Controller and Pusher to modify your behaviour and control your every move.

When this team of sub-personalities take over life can be very bleak. They push you to do what they think will protect you best. They watch you and criticise you first, before any one else gets a chance to, because then they can force you to modify your behaviour to be less susceptible to getting told off or abused from others. However, you are now being abused from within. There is no kindness, no rest, no fun, when this is the team controlling your ship. If these have become your dominant sub-personalities or primary selves, life becomes very painful indeed.

This inner team of voices hounds you, day in, day out, telling you what you could do better, how you should have behaved, or what you should have said. What you did do or say is never enough. It could always be better. This team thinks they are helping you avoid confrontation. They are in essence trying to help, but it is a painful process.

The habit of feeling wrong, bad, not good enough, can become so strong that you come to think of yourself as a bad person, an unworthy human being who doesn’t deserve to be alive. It is very cruel and unnecessary.

Once you are an adult and no longer in your abusive childhood home, you don’t need this barrage of judgement, criticism and control to continue, but it does until you learn how to switch it off. You do so by becoming aware of the patterns, listening for those inner voices and urges, and simply choosing to ignore them.

When the Judge comes in and says “That wasn’t good enough”, you can simply reply “I know I could have done better, but it was good enough”. When the Critic comes in and says “You are terrible, you should have …….”, you can simply say “I am no longer willing to put myself down. I am not listening to you”. As its voice ramps up, you can say “Look, I know you think you are helping me, but you are not. What I need now is for you to have a rest, a holiday, to go away and let me live in peace. I can handle it now. You have done a good job in the past. When I was in danger, you did keep me safe. But I am not in danger now and I need you to turn down the volume, so I can focus on enjoying life more and have more fun, friendships, inner peace and joy in my life. The war is over! You helped me survive it. But now it is a time of peace and you deserve to rest, to go on holiday, and to let other aspects of me come to the fore, to guide me in this phase of my life. Thank you for all that you have done, but it is time for a change of guard, a change to who is the dominant sub-personalities operating in my life. Please step back and let this change occur.”

When you can do this, have these inner conversations with those parts of yourself, they will listen. They will watch and test whether you mean it. They will observe whether or not you really are safe without their feedback and constant response. If they can see you truly are okay, then they will back off. It is not all of you beating yourself up. It is just these parts of you and they were doing it, trying to help you.

Likewise, the Pusher was trying to get you to do certain things to keep you safe, or to achieve certain things because then you might finally get the recognition you deserve, or break free from dependency on others through a successful career, financial independence.  These parts of you were helping in the only way they knew how. They didn’t realise it harmed you or caused you pain. They simply didn’t notice that or felt it was a minor, acceptable outcome, for a higher good. Their focus was on the goal of keeping you safe, avoiding  abuse, and therefore safe and isolated from other people, from your heart and the pain within it, and from all the softness of life. This was their job to keep you safe. They have worked hard, thank them and let them know the war is over. You have won, largely due to them.

Many of us have been free of our abusive childhood homes fro decades, yet we still act as if we are there, constantly looking out for danger, reacting in fight or flight and being wary of all that occurs around us. It is a painful way to be. We have to learn how to turn these defense mechanisms off, so we can finally relax and enjoy life. Talking to your sub-personalities, thanking them for how they have helped you and explaining what your new goals are and ways they could help you now, is a big part of this change.

Instead of telling you off all the time, the Critic can be asked to monitor when your body is getting tired and to let you know to rest. It can be asked to gently let you know when you are being too serious and you need to lighten up and have some fun. You give them a new job description, so to speak, so they can still serve you, but in ways that help you to achieve today’s goals.

You can ask the Pusher to help motivate you to exercise and eat well or to connect with others, instead of isolating yourself. You can ask the Judge to remind you when you are being unkind to yourself or others, or to alert you when there is an opportunity that would be beneficial to accept.

positive inner helperYou ask this inner team to become your greatest supporters, to show their love for you, by helping you achieve today’s goals. The past is the past. You don’t need to live there any more. Time to upgrade your inner workings to reflect life now, and life now can be full of love, joy and connection.

One way I found extremely helpful to shift this patterning was Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). These inner parts were still strong because of the stress, tension and trauma in my body. This tension led me to feel stuck, wound up, anxious, on edge, looking for danger, because my body was still braced against it. My body was sending signals to my brain that I wasn’t safe. Hence, those inner parts were sensing that they were still needed to protect me as it felt like I was in danger, when in reality there was no external threat just the inner pain still active inside.

TRE helps to discharge the tension, stress and trauma. It helps to complete the overwhelm and trauma activations from the past so that the nervous system and body calms back down, so that you come out of freeze, move back out of fight and flight, into a relaxed way of being. Bit by bit your body ‘shakes’ out the tension and calms down, so in time you do feel safe, you are able to relax and peacefully connect with others, knowing the past is over, gone and life can be different now.

When your body calms and feels safe the inner parts relax because they see that they are not needing to defend you or be on high alert. They too relax and this enables you to enjoy your now and meet people anew without the old threats interfering. It is well worth the work to heal so you can joyfully live in the now doing what you want without the old defense mechanisms activating. Blessed BE.

(For more on sub-personality theory, see Hal and Sidra Stone’s Voice Dialogue).

By Jodi-Anne (24 April 2016).
Further free guidance on healing techniques and self love are available on the Life Insights and Healing from child abuse pages of this website.