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.
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.
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.
People suffering from an eating disorder often experienced some form of abuse in their lives. Emotional abuse is one such form of abuse that is frequently overlooked. Emotional abuse can either be verbal or nonverbal. Teasing, belittling, sarcasm, and taunting are all forms of verbal emotional abuse. Nonverbal abuse might take the form of expecting more from children than they can reasonably deliver. Conditional love, with its message of “I love you, but…” is also a form of emotional abuse.
Emotional and verbal abuse are easy to deny because the scars are hidden; there are no bruises to heal, no visible wounds to point to. It is harder to say, “Yes, this really happened!” If you have always lived with them, these behaviors might even seem “normal” to you. But for all of their seeming invisibility, they can be very damaging.
It can also be difficult to pinpoint the symptoms of emotional abuse as they happen in a person’s life. They may have grown up with the behavior, believe it to be normal, or worse, believe the abuse to be their fault. Here are thirteen signs a person is being emotionally abusive.
A person is emotionally abusive if they:
- Refuse to consider your opinion then attempt to force their opinion on you without consideration for your point-of-view.
- Always have to be right when there is a disagreement.
- Devalue your feelings with phrases like, “You’re crazy!” or, “How could you think such a thing?”
- Use unrealistic guilt—guilt that is not in line with the situation—to control your behaviors.
- Command instead of ask you to do things.
- Bring up past hurts to harm you.
- Verbalize forgiveness but bring up past issues to prove a point.
- Use threats, physical force, anger, fear, or intimidation to get their way.
- Practice conditional love.
- Display favoritism by comparing siblings.
- Incorporate harsh judgments in their communications, in order to produce feelings of shame.
- Misuse scriptures to get their way.
- Resort to screaming, yelling, and name-calling in any context.
If you or a loved one is struggling from emotional 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 emotional abuse. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today.