Archive for November 7th, 2008

I am working through a series on unmet needs. The series begins here. I am using the book Beyond Integration: One Multiple’s Journey (Norton Professional Books) by Doris Bryant and Judy Kessler as a guide because the authors did a wonderful job in identifying the unmet needs that result from abuse during each stage of development. All identified unmet needs and reactions of child abuse survivors are from Chapter Four: Lost Developmental Stages.

Authors Bryant and Kessler identified the following two needs for children from birth to age one:

  • Trust in environment and caretakers
  • Being taken care of

Of course, child abuse survivors whose abuse began during this time did not have these needs met. Even if the abuse did not begin yet, most child abusers do not have the capacity to meet those needs, even if they were not overtly abusing the baby.

Most child abusers (obviously) have major issues in connecting with another person emotionally. They see children as objects to be used for their own purposes, not as living beings with whom they could connect. So, a child abuser parenting a baby is unlikely to meet either of those needs.

By failing to meet these needs in a baby, the abuser sends the message that the child’s existence is based upon the abuser’s whims and that the baby is not allowed to have needs. Of course, a baby is nothing but needy, so this is a powerful message for a baby to receive. Those of you who, like me, struggle with believing that having any needs = weakness likely did not have these basic needs met when you were a baby.

As a result, the baby begins his life with the belief that he is not important and that his world is not safe. He becomes mistrustful of his environment and anxious.

The authors identify the following internalized messages:

  • I don’t know where I end and you begin.
  • I can’t trust anyone.
  • I have to take care of myself.

So, how do you heal this in yourself? Honestly, I am still working on healing these messages in myself.

For the first one, learning how to set and enforce boundaries was the key. I truly had no concept of any form of boundaries. My therapist made this my “homework” every single week between therapy appointments. I had a very hard time until I recognized that every time I refused to set a boundary, I was choosing to hurt myself rather than say no to an inconsiderate person. I am much better at setting boundaries today, but I still have room for improvement.

As for the other two, that is a work in progress for me. I have made the most progress through positive friendships. I have learned that it is okay to trust some people for some things and that I don’t have to put all of my eggs in one basket. As for having to take care of myself, my blog entry on Wednesday drives home how big of a challenge this one is for me.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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