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.
Some people are auditory processors—they think with their mouths. Other people just aren’t wired that way. If you’re one of the latter types, I suggest actually writing out your script. You could write out your script by hand or on a computer. Journaling your story has great power, especially your struggles between the negatives and the positives at conflict within you. Each time you take time to chronicle a struggle, you contribute to the handbook of how to overcome and succeed the next time. In essence, you write your own self-help book.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, I encourage you to try journaling, just once. Consider this a baby step. You needn’t write everything down in the moment, but you can choose a time—perhaps when things calm down—to write and reflect on your experience. Put aside any anxiety about penmanship or grammar. Put aside any anxiety about others reading what you’ve written or what you’ve written not being good enough. Put down anxiety and take that baby step!
Once you start the habit of writing your own script, I think you’ll be surprised at the effect of this simple tool. If you’ve been reading from anxiety’s script for a long time, you’ll hear negativity in your head for a time. Hearing that voice doesn’t mean you need to obey that voice. Once that negative script starts, you can, like Connie, stop it in its tracks and assert your own script, using your own voice.
Think about the type of character you’ve been playing with your anxiety as the director of your life. Then ask yourself the following question: Is that really the type of person you want to be?
Anxiety has written a script where you play the part of a frazzled, anxious, suspicious, irritable, short-tempered, and easily frustrated person. How would your life change if you could change the part you play into a character who is relaxed and not anxious, thoughtful and not reactive, seeing the good instead of pointing out the bad, approachable instead of putting up barriers? How do you want to be perceived by the other players on stage? When you take control of your own script, you determine the part you are going to play and then you act accordingly.
I think you will find that once you start changing your script and resetting your stage, others may find the freedom to change theirs. Every time friends or loved ones have stepped onto your stage in the past, they have entered a darkened, cluttered stage of fear, tripping and falling over your anxieties.
Not only will your stage be much more positive for you, but those who enter into your life will also find a much brighter place! Instead of being afraid of what you’ll say or how you’ll react, when you relax, others may relax. Instead of assuming you’ll say no, others may regain the courage to ask to see if you’ll say yes. You never know, but your courage to make such a radical and positive change may encourage someone else to do the same.
If you are struggling with anxiety, 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.
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.
Jillian looked around her room at all the boxes piled in the corner and felt an urge to weep. She wanted to but she wouldn’t. There was no point in crying; that wouldn’t solve anything. Nobody asked her about the divorce. Nobody asked her if she wanted to move to a different state. Nobody asked her anything. She was supposed to shut up and do what she was told; the only person allowed to cry was her mother.
Jillian could still remember how she’d felt when her mother told her the divorce was final and about the move. Jillian had started to cry and then her mother had started to cry and told her not to. It wasn’t fair. Jillian had to leave her school and her friends and she wasn’t to cry about it. Fine, she’d make the best of it. A new school, new friends, a time to reinvent herself. She had all summer to lose weight so she could start high school thin. Then she wouldn’t have to worry about finding friends; friends would find her. She wouldn’t cry or complain; she’d do what she needed to do—whatever it took.
Abused children are often not allowed to respond to trauma or traumatic events in appropriate ways for children. They are expected to act as “little adults.” Sometimes wounded adults call on them to take on the role of comforter or companion. They are expected to disregard their own needs and fulfill the needs of others. In some abused children, this unrealistic expectation and disregard of their feelings produce feelings of anger and rage. If these reactions are also quashed, the anger and rage must find a substitute outlet.
In some abused children, this expression leads to an eating disorder. The child may begin to control body weight as a way to control at least one thing in their life. That control of their body may come in the form of restriction, in anorexia; of bingeing and purging, in bulimia; or in a preoccupation with weight and image, in body dysmorphia. Some abused children seek out the comfort of food and engage in binge eating but without any purging, resulting in more and more weight gain.
Are you consistently thinking about how you look? What you eat? Do you experience a sense of satisfaction when you reach certain weight goals? Have you disregarded the concern of others over your eating patterns or your weight? Do you feel you deserve to be thin? Do you feel you deserve to be fat? Is food the one com- fort, the one sure thing in your life? Food is a mood modifier and can be used—either by undereating or overindulgence—as a way to cope with psychological stress.
If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, 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.