Verbal and/or emotional abuse leaves no visible scars, so the tendency to deny that these events happened can be great. Often the parent will remember the circumstances from a very different perspective than the child. The child-self recalls one version of events, and the parent another. Which is right? They may both be.
When we were children, we remembered things from the perspective of a child, often unaware of the larger picture. Our parents may never have considered how their actions looked from our child-side. We need to take this into consideration when examining the past. We will need to accept the other’s version of what happened, and they must accept ours. Finding the truth, and working with our families to resolve issues, can be difficult. But it can be extremely illuminating and rewarding. It can mean the reconciliation of relationships. Or we might gain an understanding of the type of relationship we can realistically have as an adult with our families.. Much will depend upon the hurtful behavior that can be discussed and resolved, and the willingness of others to accept our pain.
Egregious physical or sexual abuse, by its very nature, may lead to outright denial by the abuser. The more valid the memory, the more vehement the denial can be. Because societal and religious condemnation of such acts is so great, the person who physically or sexually abuses may never truly admit what he or she has done. The abuser may believe that if the abuse is denied outright, the abused may begin to doubt that it occurred at all. In spite of this, the abused needs to acknowledge that he or she was hurt. Sometimes it really does not matter if memories are totally clear or recalled; the individual still feels the pain.
Another example occurs with eating disorders. It is possible to replace one’s faulty coping mechanism of an eating disorder with healthy life skills, helping withstand the stresses of life. Through counseling, one can learn to understand and accept their childhood and its pain. If a person can weather the storm of finally learning the truth and giving up an ideal image of the “perfect” family, the pain and hurt can become like parts of a puzzle, fitting into place and giving one a greater understanding of why our parents might have done what they did (or continue to do what they do). Once one understands the why, he or she can begin the process of filling the void in their life with healthy choices: with laughter and love, with family and friends, with good things, and with God. Food will stop having a demanding, overbearing presence in their life and mind.
One’s self-destructive behavior does not come about for no reason. Most people who develop a severe eating disorder have had some history of abuse, and if this is you, I encourage you to believe in what your past reveals. You must be determined to examine your past and accept the truth that is revealed. You must take the truth of your past and put it into perspective as an adult.
If you or a loved one is struggling from denial or past abuse, especially if there are signs of having an eating disorder, you may benefit from consulting an eating disorder specialist. Our team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE focus on whole-person recovery, and take special care to understand the many aspects in a person’s life that may be contributing to their eating disorder, including the possibility of past abuse. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today. Don’t allow denial, your own or others’, to halt your journey to ward healing and recovery.