Four Recommendations for Healing Child Hood Abuse
Recommendation One: Be thankful that you did survive and time travel back to see what sort of skills your inner self devised. These are going to look different for each child but there are some similarities. For me, I am grateful that Tony came into my life at age three. He was an adorable blue bunny rabbit delivered in an Easter Basket. I could not sleep or eat without him. When mom was having one of her “mean days” Tony decided where we should hide. Grandmother made me a tutu because I wanted to become a ballerina. Of course Tony and I danced all over the house.
I am pretty sure now that between Grandmother and Tony and my Grandfather, I emotionally survived childhood. My Grandmother wondered why I had named him Tony. I simply replied that he had introduced himself as Tony and I could not change that fact. Tony was very insightful. There was not a question that Tony could not answer. I felt so safe and comforted in every way. Once Tony was left behind in a hotel room and I was beside myself until he was mailed back to our home address. In fact it seemed that only Tony could reconcile the world to me, explain grownups, and truly bring me to a place of peace and love. When I looked into his eyes, they were alive with understanding and compassion. When I was hospitalized at age four, well, Tony was right beside me through it all. Finally, as an adult, I parted with Tony. When I found him in a box, he was so very small, tattered and gray. Where did the soul of Tony come from? Where did it go? I have always wondered. Many children have imaginary friends like Tony.
When childhood trauma is involved, it is a necessary creation in a child’s life. The ability to pretend and use our imaginations is very healthy for adults too. Now that I am a writer, I would be lost without being able to imagine my characters and their reactions. These survival skills will uniquely qualify you as an adult. The childhood trauma survivor has natural empathy. They do will in jobs that require this sort of insight.
The creative world of a child protects them from some harsh realities. As an adult you must travel back in time to heal those childhood wounds. If you don’t heal that inner child your present day relationships will be haunted. My second recommendation is: I highly recommend seeing a therapist that you can connect with and trust. After seeing a therapist I noticed a pattern of putting some people on a pedestal and then shutting them out completely if they had lied to me. One pattern I noticed was in needing complete honesty and loyalty from my friends and romantic interests. The neediness was always present in the beginning of a relationship. Now, that I have healed somewhat, and I admit that it is a lengthy process for some of us, my approach is less needy. I am not that five year old clutching my bunny rabbit anymore. My third recommendation is: Find your comfort or safety zone.
At this moment of my life, I can give new friends the space and freedom to be who they are. This is great because in gaining unconditional love for myself, I can extend it to others. None of us are always honest and loyal. We can all fall short in the good friend department. That does not mean you have to give someone the ax as an acquaintance. Trust is still essential in good friendships. I have become more skilled at protecting my boundaries. It is not wise to give a new relationship cart blanch with your heart and necessary resources. It is about finding what you are comfortable with. At church you would not donate your whole paycheck. You will drop into the offering plate that which is affordable and dispensable income for you. Until you understand what is sacred to you and where you can be injured in a relationship, you are at a disadvantage. Give others the chance to show you who they really are and you can do the same without losing something vital.
Surviving childhood abuse is all about loving yourself as an adult. That is the most important thing here is to find your authentic self and nurture yourself. My fourth recommendation is: Discover those things that put a smile on your face. Don’t limit those explorations either. OK, then what if it is illegal or harmful? There is probably a legal way to do it. For instance, going swimming nude is something I really love. Am I hurting anyone? I would say no, but, the law would suggest otherwise, so I found a friend with a pool that is totally private. Someone would have to go out of their way to spy on me. That person would have to rent a helicopter to get above the tall trees that surround the property. Another example would be something that harms you, like too many shots of tequila. The after math of a hangover effect would suggest you did not do your body a favor.
This happened to me one day when I decided to treat myself to a hot fudge sundae. About a half an hour later I was so very ill. Too much sugar is not a good reward for me, but, I can share a sundae with a friend. A few bites won’t put me into a sugar coma for the rest of the day. This discussion on being good to yourself could go on for pages, and that would be a good thing. For time sake, I will not go on, but I encourage the reader to create a list of small indulgences. Find small ways to pat yourself on the back and be good to yourself.
The golden rule in action creates a better life and it would make perfect sense if we were treated well in childhood. We learn to value ourselves from significant others in childhood. I often felt vacant and empty. I did not have a sense of a true personality or “self”. In my mind I was surviving by pleasing others. Other people defined me. There was also the subliminal message that I must not be worth much, because if I was important and loved, I would not be treated so badly. Children internalize the abuse message. Children will fail to thrive without love. What helps me now is finding the beautiful qualities in everyone. Certain people put themselves on a pedestal. We are constantly comparing ourselves. Each human heart is precious. Those with weak self image will often attract the narcissist of the world. There is such danger in that. There is a book I recommend. “The Art of Extreme Self Care” by Cheryl Richardson. It is amazing to me that just some self nourishment can revive the most damaged person. I would say we bounce back, clean up, and are ten times more profound for our undernourished years.
The best advice is forgiveness. The abuser did not know what they were doing. It is likely that they were in so much turmoil and pain (probably from conditions in their childhood) that they did not see you as a precious human heart and a real person. This is what we call the cycle of abuse in social work. Someone needs to end that cycle. You may never forget, or maybe you have conveniently forgotten, pushed it way back in your head, but it is very healthy to forgive. I can guarantee you that the pain that person felt, that lead them to abusing you was very intense. That does not make it right, or excusable, but, we are all subject to damage. Some of us more than others. If we were all operating from a healthy conscious place, this would never happen. We were understand that we are all connected. If we are all invisibly connected then the idea of treating others as you would prefer to be treated makes perfect sense. My mother was very scared of her father. During the height of his alcoholism there were threats, anger and violence. Mom never fully dealt with this dysfunction. She married young and was saddled with children. My Grandfather, became sober later in life and was a loving and kind grandparent to me. Some things come full circle. I love each of them very much. I did not understand when I was young. I internalized much of this behavior. I felt that there must be something very wrong with me, for someone I love dearly to be hurting me. It takes a lot of years to see all this with an adult mind and totally forgive all the players. Underneath this lump of coal is some pure gold. That is my view point now.
In conclusion I would like to recap this healing discussion. First recognize you probably had some childhood crutch, like my stuffed rabbit, that helped you cope. It is good to remember how strong you really were and evaluate those strategies that you once used. Secondly, the choice for a therapist is good sometimes, if you can connect and open up to that person. Third, explore your safety zone. Know where your personal boundaries are and what really matters to you before you over extend to others. Fourth, find the things that make you happy and explore them. It is vital to accept and nurture yourself because your childhood might have been missing that sort of love and warmth. Finally don’t forget to practice “Extreme Self Care”. There is a book with that title that is very good The Art of Extreme Self Care by Cheryl Richardson. Finally and most importantly, forgive everyone. That will be the most healing act you ever do for yourself. Forgive and look to the future for happier moments. One of the best therapists for child abuse is located in Los Angeles, CA.
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