Archive for November 11th, 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 four needs for children from ages three to six:

  • Taking initiative
  • Taking risks
  • Exploring
  • Separating real from not real

Oy. These are all areas that were greatly stunted in my develop, especially the part about separating the real from the not real. My ritual abusers went to great lengths to confuse the two.

The lyrics from an Evanescence song called Going Under says what I feel so well:

Blurring and stirring the truth and the lies
So I don’t know what’s real and what’s not
Always confusing the thoughts in my head
So I can’t trust myself anymore

I have also had to work through (and continue to work through) a lot of grief over what I never got to explore at my own pace, especially when it comes to sex. But that’s another topic…

The authors identify the following resulting internalized messages:

  • If you risk/initiate, you’ll get hurt.
  • If you get hurt or if I get hurt, it’s your fault.
  • Don’t trust yourself.
  • No one will protect you.

Oh, boy – I am just now appreciating how much the abuse I experienced from ages three to six shaped who I am today. All four of those messages are ingrained in me so deeply, and I have been working very hard to remove them. But, it is still so hard.

One of my greatest gifts to myself was learning to trust my own intuition. My abusers worked hard to get me not to trust myself own inner voice. Since I have found this inner voice again, I feel much safer in my day-to-day life. My intuition has never steered me wrong. Learning to listen to your intuition is a huge part of healing from child abuse.

I still believe that no one will protect me. I do have friends who, in my head, I know would fight for me. However, in my heart, I truly believe that I am alone. I am working on this, but this message has been ingrained for so long.

Another Evanescence song comes to mind – from Whisper:

Catch me as I fall
Say you’re here and it’s all over now
Speaking to the atmosphere
No one’s here and I fall into myself
This truth drives me into madness

This is when abused children begin punishing themselves for the actions of others. “If it went wrong, then it is my fault, and I need to be punished.” This is also when the abused child is more likely to split into parts to enable himself to be what he needs to be in conflicting situations, such as the model student at school and the compliant abused child at home.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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