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.
Evil, destructive people must be scrupulously avoided. Everyone else, including yourself, requires a lot of forgiveness. You cannot punish your abuser by withholding forgiveness. On the contrary, you can repudiate your abuser and supersede the abuse by intentionally choosing to live a different type of life, with positive responses.
Of all the ways we can respond to each other, you can choose love, mercy, and forgiveness. These will first enrich your life, then bless the lives of others.
Think about what forgiveness means to you:
- Does forgiveness mean letting someone off the hook?
- It has been said that forgiving is also forgetting. Do you believe that’s a good definition? Is so, why? It not, why not?
- Is it difficult for you to grant someone forgiveness if he or she doesn’t ask for it first?
- Do you think forgiveness involves an element of risk? If so, what is the risk?
- How many times should you be expected to forgive someone?
- Are there some people you should not be expected to forgive?
- Do you feel forgiven by God?
With negative, destructive examples in your past, it is imperative that you constantly align yourself with God’s overwhelmingly positive presence in your present and future. He will be your source of healing, forgiveness, and strength to rise above what was done to you by the sin of others.
Even more, it is his divine desire to heal your broken heart and rebuild your damaged spirit. Make your relationship with him the primary relationship in your life. Do this, and your ability to love yourself and others will multiply in the bounty of his love for you.
Please take some time to think about and answer the questions below. They aren’t necessarily meant to draw you into a conclusion, but are meant to stimulate thought:
- How would you describe your present relationship with God?
- Are you satisfied with your present relationship with God?
- Do you feel comfortable praying to God by yourself? When you pray to God, do you feel close to him?
- Do you pray because you want to talk to God or because you feel obligated to?
- Does the thought of prayer make you fearful, uncomfortable, awkward, or apprehensive?
- Do you spend time regularly reading God’s Word? Do you generally understand what you read?
- Do you read the bible out of a sense of obligation or duty?
- Have you ever felt God speak to you through what you read? If so, in what way?
- Are you a member of a faith community? If so, what do you gain from being a member?
- If you are not a member of a faith community, what reasons have you given for not joining?
As you consider your responses to these questions, here is a prayer from which to draw strength.
God, with your love to strengthen me, I can truly look at and understand how I have been hurt. Bind my wounds. Rebuild who you created me to be. Help me trust you. Help me to forgive myself and others.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 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.
The effects of emotional abuse on your sense of self are significant. Yet often these effects are not linked to the emotional abuse you have suffered. Because this connection has not been made, you may find yourself suffering from one or several of these effects without really understanding why.
Here is a list of effects of emotional abuse:
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of self-confidence
- Transfer of needs
- Acting out sexually
- Failure syndrome
- Unrealistic guilt
- Crisis oriented
- Unresolved anger and resentments
Go over these effects and honestly evaluate if and how they are present in your own life. Which ones are most debilitating to you today? As you look at these, are there some you’ve been able to overcome? God is not happy with the list above. He never intended that list to overshadow your life. Instead, he has another list he wants for you. It is found in Galatians 5:22-23:
Take time to explain how your life will be different with God’s list guiding your life and thoughts. Using God’s list, write down at least one way to counter each of the effects of emotional abuse.
Realistically, what will it take for you to begin to substitute the characteristics from God’s list for the negative consequences of your emotional abuse? What is the first step you need to take? Be sure to make note of any negative patterns you are not ready to give up. Identify why, and work to implement more positive patterns.
Countering the lies of emotional abuse with the truth about our true nature and value as individuals is important. For help in doing that, read over the following statements of commitment. Meditate on them and visualize the positive difference living out these commitments will make in your life.
- To believe in my true value.
- To reject the lies of emotional victimization.
- To pray that God’s love would increase in my life.
- To learn more about my true self, not my abused self.
One of the most important commitments you can make to yourself is to substitute the negative effects of emotional abuse with positive, affirming characteristics. I cannot think of a better list to strive for than the fruit of the Spirit talked about in Galatians 5:22-23. May these be yours more and more each day.
“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.