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.
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.