One serious issue that adult survivors of child abuse often deal with is the ache of unmet needs. I am going to be focusing on the topic of unmet needs over my next several blog entries.
I have seen the ache of unmet needs manifest in many ways. Most child abuse survivors have serious issues with trust and shame. I know a child abuse survivor who felt such a strong need to be rocked (a need that was not met in childhood) that she bought herself a hammock to give her this experience. I know child abuse survivors who have felt the need to sleep with stuffed animals in their forties because it met a need that was never met in childhood.
The sad reality for child abuse survivors, and particularly those who experienced ongoing and severe child abuse throughout their childhoods, is that unmet needs do not just “go away.” Anyone who has adopted a child out of foster care can tell you this. Even though the parents are doing a wonderful job in parenting the abused child from age five and meeting the five-year-old child’s needs, the child still has five years of unmet needs that the foster or adoptive parent must try to meet.
The best resource that I have found to explain unmet needs the book Beyond Integration: One Multiple’s Journey (Norton Professional Books) by Doris Bryant and Judy Kessler. Although the book is about a woman who integrated from dissociative identity disorder (DID), it has a lot to offer to anyone who experienced severe and ongoing child abuse or who is parenting a severely abused child.
DID is just the way that a person might react to severe and ongoing child abuse. It is a symptom, not a cause. The abuse is the cause of the unmet needs, so all child abuse survivors are going to experience at least some unmet needs. Until those unmet needs are met, they will manifest as empty places inside of the abused child’s soul. The fact that the abused child now resides in an adult body does not change that fact that the voids are still there.
Over my next few blog entries, I am going to discuss the unmet needs that result from abuse during each stage of development in a child. I will be using the information provided in Beyond Integration: One Multiple’s Journey (Norton Professional Books) as a template because I could not possibly do a better job at identifying unmet needs in each stage of development than this book does. However, I will bring my own perspective into the discussion about things you can do to begin healing your emotional wounds from unmet needs.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt