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Abuse and Parental Authority

Abuse and Parental Authority

Marnie was scared.  She couldn’t believe how mad she’d gotten at the kids just now.  She felt like a stranger, watching herself unleash on them over something stupid.  She’d told herself to stop, that they were just kids, but she hadn’t been able to.  The words and the anger just kept pouring out.  Thank God, she hadn’t hit any of them, though at one point she’d really wanted to.  That’s when she’d felt herself snap out of it.  Dear God, how could she even have thought to do such a thing?

Marnie had looked down at those two terrified little faces and, suddenly, saw herself looking back.  She knew what that felt like.  What was wrong with her?  How had she ever let herself get so out of control?  Dear God, Marnie thought, what if it happens again and I can’t stop?  Who am I?  Who have I become?

As you consider the effect of childhood abuse on your relationship with others, I ask those of you who are parents, or who have access to authority over children, to give thought to how those relationships may be affected.  Do you find yourself doing or saying things you swore you would never do or say when you grew up?  Or do you find yourself giving in to childish requests and behaviors to say no, all to avoid a confrontation?  Do you find yourself trying to be a “nice” parent more than a “good” parent?

If the parenting model you grew up with was fundamentally flawed, you may be at a loss to determine what is normal and what is not, what is helpful and what is harmful.  You may go to the opposite extreme to avoid any semblance of harsh behavior.  You may be terrified of becoming a monster yourself.  You may gain satisfaction from finally being the one in charge.  I implore you not to shy away from examining your own beliefs and behaviors about raising children, especially when it comes to discipline.

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.

Perfectionism and Self-Esteem

Perfectionism and Self-Esteem

Perfectionists walk an incredibly narrow road. There can be no deviation from the prescribed path, no sidetracks, and certainly no missteps. There can be no slowing or stopping for others, who are expected to keep up and keep straight, regardless. Perfectionists understand the road is going to be difficult and take great pride in navigating it successfully. They must be constantly on guard for any obstacle in the path, any breath of wind that might knock them off their course. Vigilance and an ongoing state of alertness are key.

With perfectionism, there is no standing down, no acceptable periods of relaxation. Perfectionism is, therefore, both exhausting and unattainable. Addiction can creep in and promise a form of momentary relief from the unrelenting anxiety of trying to be perfect. Addiction can also promise to numb those times when the reality of the unattainable becomes overwhelmingly hard to bear. Addiction promises you can spend a few hours looking away from the shame, blame, and guilt nipping at your heels unless you are perfect. Addiction promises to shield you temporarily from the fear that you are, sadly and tragically, like everyone else—flawed, imperfect, unworthy.

Self-Esteem

Angela felt she didn’t deserve to be happy. After more probing, I discovered she never had. Any success she’d experienced had been a sort of “cheat,” she said. If people really knew who she was or how much work she’d put into it or any number of factors, they would know she didn’t deserve success and it would be taken away. How could anything she did be worthy when she wasn’t worthy herself?

Angela grew up in a household where nothing she did was right. When she brought home good grades, it was assumed the teacher hadn’t applied the proper standards or she’d gotten away with something. Good things were suspect, but bad things were expected because of who she was. She knew who she was—the one who would “never amount to anything.” She was the one who would “never be like [her] sister.” The one who couldn’t “do anything right to save [her] life,” even though she always tried.

Angela was deeply ashamed of her addiction; part of her was also incredibly angry. She was angry because being trapped in the addiction proved she was weak and everything that had been said about her was true. All her life, Angela kept trying to “make up” for the mistakes she’d made, and the addiction kept putting her further and further behind. She’d never catch up, and with the weight of the addiction added in, catching up seemed to take more energy than she had. She’d been foolish to think she could ever do or be anything other than a failure. “What good is today,” she’d asked, “if I can’t have tomorrow?”

Angela’s addiction subverted the positive roles of shame, blame, and guilt and used them to convince her she wasn’t worth a positive tomorrow. She was especially susceptible to this tactic, since shame, blame, and guilt had always been used as weapons against her while she was growing up. Addiction strips away self-esteem. This can be particularly damaging when you started out with little or none in the first place, as Angela did.

For years, I’ve been speaking out against the tremendous damage done, especially to children, through the tactics of emotional abuse. My book Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse has been a pivotal resource in this effort for more than twenty years.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 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.

Ten Questions to Ask About Childhood Abuse

Ten Questions to Ask About Childhood Abuse

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.

  1. How would you feel about yourself if you grew up under the weight of unrealistic expectations from others?
  2. 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?
  3. If you were constantly told you were to blame for what was wrong in the world, would you come to believe it?
  4. Would the humiliations you suffered cause you to think less of yourself?
  5. If your thoughts, actions, and opinions were always marginalized, would you assume you had nothing of value to contribute?
  6. 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?
  7. If you were routinely yelled at, sworn at, insulted, and mocked, what would you learn about how one person speaks to another?
  8. 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?
  9. Would you trust the promises other people make if your experience growing up was that promises were spoken of but never delivered on?
  10. 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.

 

Can Childhood Abuse Lead to an Eating Disorder?

Can Childhood Abuse Lead to an Eating Disorder?

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.

What Does Forgiveness Mean to You?

What Does Forgiveness Mean to You?

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:

  1. Does forgiveness mean letting someone off the hook?
  2. It has been said that forgiving is also forgetting.  Do you believe that’s a good definition?  Is so, why?  It not, why not?
  3. Is it difficult for you to grant someone forgiveness if he or she doesn’t ask for it first?
  4. Do you think forgiveness involves an element of risk?  If so, what is the risk?
  5. How many times should you be expected to forgive someone?
  6. Are there some people you should not be expected to forgive?
  7. 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:

  1. How would you describe your present relationship with God?
  2. Are you satisfied with your present relationship with God?
  3. Do you feel comfortable praying to God by yourself?  When you pray to God, do you feel close to him?
  4. Do you pray because you want to talk to God or because you feel obligated to?
  5. Does the thought of prayer make you fearful, uncomfortable, awkward, or apprehensive?
  6. Do you spend time regularly reading God’s Word?  Do you generally understand what you read?
  7. Do you read the bible out of a sense of obligation or duty?
  8. Have you ever felt God speak to you through what you read?  If so, in what way?
  9. Are you a member of a faith community?  If so, what do you gain from being a member?
  10. 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.