Resilient as children are, childhood abuse, in its various forms, can decimate a child’s sense of self. Below are ten questions to consider when processing the struggles associated with childhood abuse.
- How would you feel about yourself if you grew up under the weight of unrealistic expectations from others?
- Would you get used to being a target for anger, rage, and hostility and think you deserved it? Or would you last out at any hint of a repeat of such injustice?
- If you were constantly told you were to blame for what was wrong in the world, would you come to believe it?
- Would the humiliations you suffered cause you to think less of yourself?
- If your thoughts, actions, and opinions were always marginalized, would you assume you had nothing of value to contribute?
- If you spent vast amounts of time alone, isolated from peers or activities, would other people and social situations make you feel uncomfortable, unequipped, and nervous?
- If you were routinely yelled at, sworn at, insulted, and mocked, what would you learn about how one person speaks to another?
- If you grew up in a world where you were made to feel unsafe, threatened, and afraid, how easy would it be for you to relax as an adult?
- Would you trust the promises other people make if your experience growing up was that promises were spoken of but never delivered on?
- How would you think about others if the important people in your childhood sexually exploited you or physically harmed you or neglected your needs?
Childhood abuse has the very real capacity to damage a person’s sense of self. A damaged sense of self creates complications in a person’s relationships with others.
If you have suffered from childhood abuse, you may need to work on the relationship with yourself before being ready to work on a relationship with anyone else. The next person, or the next relationship, or the next marriage, is not going to “save” you. First, you must work on liking who you are and feeling confident in being your best self.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, and author of 37 books. The Center creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.
What do you think would happen if you revisited some of the old ghost towns that haunt your memories? What if you revisited the house where you grew up and were taught you weren’t a capable person? Maybe it’s the school where you were taunted and teased and picked last. Or maybe it’s a person and not a place — a person who withheld approval and affection, though you did everything you could to earn them.
Sometimes the life we live causes stress and sometimes the life we lived causes stress. Each of us is a product of our past. If that past is full of ghosts, that past will haunt the present. To determine if memories of your past are creating stress in your present, ask yourself the following questions:
- What negative memories seem to haunt me? Which events and the pain they caused are still vivid, as though they just happened?
- What words or voices from the past are still ringing in my mind today?
- If you find that past pain still has power over you today, you need to begin moving out of your past and into the present. Start moving out of your ghost towns by reminding yourself those days are over. You may have had no power to stop them negatively affecting your past, but you do have the power to keep them from negatively affecting your present. Even more, God has the power to redeem those negative events and turn them into good.
Think about the good things of the present and be thankful for them. Think about each of your abilities and gifts and how each has played a part in making you the unique person you are. You will have to make a daily decision to dismiss the hurtful memories of the past and concentrate on the positive things of today, until the past no longer controls your thoughts.
The choice is yours. It will require some risk and demand a deeper trust of yourself and of God, but that will only enhance your growth. In the end, all you will lose are your ghosts of the past. What you will gain is an opportunity to regain control of your life.
We all have the capacity to become what we were meant—created—to be. Our ghosts haunt us and keep us fearful. God means for us, through his power, to break free from the past. Do you believe God has the power and desire to do that for you? Can you say, like the apostle Paul, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14)?
If you or a loved one is struggling with hurtful memories from the past, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.
As parents, we need to fight against the illusion that everything is always fine with our teenagers. Teens often hide their pain behind the “Fine” sign — which is another way of saying “Keep out of my life.”
Parents can have difficulty believing their teenager is undergoing some of the most painful experiences they’ll have in life, while that teenager lives in their house, eats their food, and sleeps under their roof. How can pain be happening in a place with Internet access, food on the table, and clothes in the closet?
Here are some tips for dealing with a teenager that has a broken heart:
Pay Attention – Parents can have difficulty realizing their teenager has an emotional need. What parents must pay attention to is when their teenager’s behavior changes.
- Your kid who’s never been much of a talker emotionally vanishes for days or weeks.
- Your kid who’s a drama queen about everything flatlines emotionally for an extended period of time.
If things like this start to happen, pay attention. Check in with your teen and ask how things are going. If they don’t reply, acknowledge that they don’t want to talk and don’t push them. Instead, leave them an open invitation to talk.
Check Yourself – If your teen experiences a broken heart over a known event, such as a relationship breakup or a divorce, a death, or a best friend moving across the country, keep track of how your teenager is navigating those waters. It is possible the event that’s upset your teen has also upset you. If you’re experiencing a broken heart as well because of what’s happened, seek out help for yourself. The last thing an emotionally wobbly teenager needs is for you to start leaning on him or her for your own support. Both of you are bound to fall.
Avoid Judgement – Avoid judging what hurts your teenager. When a teen is in pain, it doesn’t help to hear you consider the reason to be stupid or meaningless or, worse, childish. Pain can be universal; everyone who hits their finger with a hammer will yelp. Pain is also personal; what injuries one person may have shrugged off, another person might feel more deeply. Even though you shrug off your teen’s pain, your teen still hurts.
I encourage you to get to know your teenager, to get beyond your irritation at their behavior, and to pay attention to what that behavior tells you about your teen. There seems to be an inverse reaction common among teens — the more they hurt, the more they hide. But pain cannot stay hidden indefinitely. Pain will come out. As a parent, you need to watch for signs of pain coming out.
- Watch for changes in behavior over an extended period of time. A couple of days of isolation are probably pretty normal for teens, but not a couple of weeks. The more significant the shift in behavior, the more you need to pay attention.
- Don’t expect an immediate response. The first time you ask your teen how they’re doing and he or she says “Fine,” don’t stop there if you suspect things are not fine. Let your teen know you’re concerned and specifically why.
- Communicate your willingness to talk about anything at any time. Then, be prepared to follow it up, even if your teen unloads more than you want to know two hours past your bedtime on a weeknight.
I can’t emphasize enough the pain teenagers hold in. They get hurt in so many ways that fly under their parents’ radar. Sometimes that pain translates into depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or substance abuse — behaviors that push the familial panic button and clearly signal something is very wrong.
But sometimes that pain is less obvious and the signals that something is wrong get drowned out by the sounds of everyday life. Slowly, quietly, that pain translates into a loss of optimism, a cynicism about life, the gradual strangulation of dreams, and a loss of hope for the future.
Is adolescence supposed to be a time of up-and-down moods and volatile emotions? Yes, but pay attention if your teen spends too much time in the pits. If he or she just doesn’t seem to be rebounding or continually refuses to talk about what’s going on, consider obtaining the help of a counselor. School counselors can be of tremendous benefit, but realize your teen may need to see a professional counselor outside of school. If your teen had a broken leg, you’d seek professional help. Since you’d get help for a broken leg, why wouldn’t you get help for a broken heart?
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.
Vented anger, because of its “out there” nature, can be much easier to identify. However, many people still attempt to diffuse it by calling it other names.
I’d like you to take a look at the following list of words and mark any you identify as part of your anger repertoire. Be honest and bold. If you have a loved one or close friend, consider asking him or her to look over the list and discuss it with you. Other people are a good barometer of what you aren’t able to recognize in yourself.
All of these can be ways of expressing anger. Look over your list and answer the following questions.
- What do you tell yourself when you feel this way?
- Does your thought life escalate or deescalate your feelings?
- How do you feel after you express these feelings?
- How do you feel about yourself?
- How do you feel about anyone else involved?
- How do you feel physically?
- How long does it take you to get over the feelings?
- Do you “replay” the event and the feelings inside your head?
- Are you ashamed of how you reacted?
- Are you remorseful over how you reacted?
- If you could get rid of one of these reactions, which one would it be and why?
Be aware of your anger levels over the next several weeks. Write down, if you’re able, what you feel and any reasons you determine for feeling that way. Note any out-of-line or extreme reactions or feelings. Be sure to write these down for more examination, thought, and prayer.
Above all, remember you have an active partner in this process. Just as God said to Cain, he says to you: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?” (Gen.4:6). There is a why to all of this, a why that can be determined and brought out into the light.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a anger issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.
“Bill is such a great guy!” Carly smiled and made some sort of neutral comment. It did absolutely no good to dispute the evidence of Bill’s obvious charm. He was engaging, witty, energetic, and charismatic. People liked him. She knew the feeling.
When Carly first met Bill, she was overwhelmed by his outgoing nature. His gestures were larger than life, outlandish even. But to a young woman being courted, he seemed the walking incarnation of romance. She was being wooed. What Carly didn’t realize was that while she was being wooed by Bill, she and everyone else were being fooled. Bill’s grand gestured and protestations of care and love were for general audiences only. In the intimacy of the private viewing area called home, Bill turned out to be someone quite different.
At first, Carly just put up with Bill’s moodiness, nastiness, and withdrawing into himself. She figured he would snap out of it. It didn’t take her long to learn that Bill’s negative private behavior could turn in an instant if someone cam over to the apartment. Finally, she mentioned to Bill her concern over the way he treated her at home as opposed to the way he treated her in front of others.
Bill’s reaction was astonishment. He acted as if he had no idea what she was talking about. Every incident she brought up was countered with a rush of excuses, reasons and outright denials as Bill fought to maintain the illusion of himself as the compassionate lover, the life of the party, the perfect soul mate. It struck Carly that Bill needed her only as long as she continued to mirror the reflection of himself he so needed to see.
Illusionists are generally highly intelligent, charismatic people who thrive on being seen well by others. As long as there is an audience, they are “on.” Because it takes a great deal of energy to be “on,” their “off” persona may be the exact opposite. In public they are witty and humorous; in private they are sarcastic and cutting. In public they are deferential and attentive; in private they are hostile and distant. In public they are happy and easygoing; in private they are sullen and angry.
Being in a relationship with an illusionist can cause you to doubt your own judgment. Because illusionists are generally highly intelligent, they are able to convince you, even in the face of contrary evidence, that the concerns you have are invalid.
If there is a problem, you are always portrayed as the source. Feigning confusion, they appear shocked that you find their behavior unusual. If you ask other people, people who have seen only the carefully constructed illusion, you may not get validation of your concerns. Instead, you may hear a reiteration of how wonderful the illusionist is. Highly persuasive, the illusionist is very adept at creating and maintaining a positive image.
What is most important to illusionists is the maintenance of the illusion of who they are. You are valuable to them only when you are helping them to maintain this illusion. You become a danger to them if you question the illusion they have created. Because the illusion is more important to them than you are, the truth is never acknowledged. Your reality of events and circumstances is consistently denied, downplayed, explained away, rejected. This is a pernicious form of emotional abuse in that it causes the abused to second-guess his or her own assessment of the relationship. As such, many will stay in the relationship for an extended period of time until their ability to help their abuser maintain the illusion demands too great an emotional toll.
At this point, the abused person will lean but with his or her sense of self seriously tattered. After all, how could anyone leave such a great person? Because others have not seen through this illusion, the abused person who leaves can appear to be in the wrong. Not only does the abused lose the relationship, be he or she may lose any friends made during the relationship.
If you or a loved one is struggling with emotional, sexual or physical abuse, or body image or other dependency issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.
Andrea was in turmoil. Everything between them had been going so well and now this – Ryan couldn’t go out Thursday because he was supposedly visiting an out-of-town friend. Frantic, she tried to think back over the past few weeks, which was hard when her mind was in such a panic.
Was there something she had said that he’d taken wrong? Any odd looks or cross words? She should have known things were going too well. There was always something that caused things to fall apart. She could pretend nothing was wrong, but what if something was wrong? Andrea couldn’t think of anything else to try.
A nondependent person would have no problem thinking of what else Andrea could try. She could try accepting Ryan’s explanation, wish him a fun time with his friend, and find something else to do on Thursday. But if you have dependent personality traits, this simple approach isn’t so simple. When you’re dependent, you can become consumed with a constant fear of losing relationships. Any glitch, any stray from the fantasized norm of the relationship becomes a great cause for concern, fear, and consuming rumination.
One of the consequences of dependency is that you can take an ordinary occurrence, like a last-minute change in plans, as proof of disaster. An old friend coming into town, having to work late, or even the onset of a cold can be viewed with the utmost suspicion. If there is a truth to be found, you fear it lies with you being abandoned, again.
Abandonment in relationships is an overarching theme in dependency. Because people have a tendency to see what they look for, if you’re looking for examples of abandonment, you will find examples of abandonment. Once you find those examples, you go into fix-it mode, recommitting to do everything “perfectly” in order to hold on to the relationship. Or you panic and exit the relationship prematurely to avoid further pain. You may even react with anger and blame, trying to guilt the other person into apologizing.
While the first option may not register with the other person immediately, the second and third options will often appear to come out of left field. The other person may be baffled why you would leave the relationship over something so trivial. And if you act in anger over something so trivial, the other person may react with similar hostility, leading to the end of the relationship. If the relationship ends this way, the only thing that is validates if your fear of abandonment.
Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in uncovering the layers of relationship dependency that may have accumulated over time. We specialize in whole person care—in understanding the full dimensions of an individual, and the life script that brought them to where they are today. Each person that comes to The Center • A Place of HOPE is unique, which means that their recovery journey will be equally unique. We are ready to help you on this journey to uncover your true, healthy, happy self. If you are ready to take the first step on this journey, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak with a recovery specialist today.