I wrote this post a while back (August last year) but it remained unpublished.
Pain, abuse and neglect are awful experiences to endure. When you have suffered due to the actions of another person who in healthy circumstances should have loved, protected, nurtured or supported you the pain runs deep. Your mind struggles to believe how others could be so heartless, shut down, mean or cruel. You also struggle because in such a situation you are powerless. Often for a child who finds herself or himself in that powerless situation a solution is sought to make sense of suffering and this solution is to see that we did or didn’t do something to cause the abuse, suffering or neglect. As children we see everything as being caused by us and if we have parents who reinforce this view or leave us alone with difficult feelings its even harder to undo powerful mistaken thoughts of wrongness, shame or badness that can dog us well into adulthood..
I was listening to an interesting programme on Sunday on the history of pain and the person being interviewed has extensively researched how pain has been dealt with historically in terms of beliefs and propaganda. In the past, often the belief was that if you suffered misfortune or abuse or pain it was some how a result of your own actions. It may have been a penance or a test from God, something that fell on you to test your character or improve you in some way.
Alice Miller an expert on child abuse has dealt with the concept of what is called ‘poisonous pedagogy’ in several of her books. Poisonous pedagogy is the belief that children are born evil and will only be made good by correction, or punishment. Spare the rod and spoil the child. I am only doing this for your own good. We now know that often this is just bullshit and as Miller points on in many of her books is an effort on the part of the abuser to download their own past pain and suffering into and onto another.
The process of healing from our emotional abuse firstly means we have to come out of denial about it being abuse. Often if you have been abused emotionally and try to deal with it by confronting the perpetrator you will be gaslighted, told you have it wrong, made a mistake, are being ‘too sensitive’, or that it just didn’t happen that way! At a certain point such things being said can lead you to doubt the reality of your feelings, perception and experience. This is where an enlightened witness is so important. This is someone who can provide a reality check to say that abuse was abuse and there was nothing wrong with you in the first place and nothing you did to deserve it, rather that is what your abuser would have you believe.
Once you have this validation then you are left with a terribly painful experience of understanding and accepting that things others who were supposed to love you did were horribly hurtful and caused you pain and damage. That such abuse may have caused you deep losses, loss of faith, loss of hope, loss of self belief, loss of trust as well as deficiencies in normal development that may have left you impeded or stunted in your life and emotional growth in numerous ways. There is no easy way out of this conundrum or Gordian knot of tangled up angst, suffering and pain and along the pathway you are likely to feel lost, confused, angry, sad, frustrated, rageful and even murderous at times. All of those feelings are part of the healing of your core wound and suffering they ABSOLTUELY cannot be by passed on the way to healing.
That said I do believe that there are some people who hold on longer to pain and past hurt for many, many years, while others may let go a little sooner or easily. There are no hard and fast rules. But there is one thing that does impact on our ability to let go and that is the ability to accept what occurred and face it head on, rather than deny, argue or debate about it. It helps so much to read the experience of other ‘survivors’, to anchor into a sense of your own goodness and to reclaim a belief that you are worthy of better, more self love, compassion and belief than your abuser could ever give you.
Forgiveness is a very thorny issue and with abuse it is a process where we free ourselves from the ongoing hurt, rather than condone the hurter, it can only happen as a result of feeling all the feelings and no longer denying them. That said there comes a time when we learn to let go because we no longer want to suffer in that way. We may still have fear, shame and pain but we love ourselves through these feelings and find ways to no longer allow them to continue to punish us in ways we were when we were less conscious and aware.
“True adulthood (means) no longer denying the truth. It (means) feeling the repressed suffering, consciously acknowledging the story remembered by the body at an emotional level, and integrating that story instead of repressing it. Whether contact with the parents can then in fact be maintained will depend on the given circumstances in each individual case. What is absolutely imperative is the termination of the harmful attachment to the internalized parents of childhood, an attachment that, though we call it love, certainly does not deserve the name. It is made up of different ingredients, such as gratitude, compassion, expectations, denial, illusions, obedience, fear, and the anticipation of punishment. ”
Quote source unknown.