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Archive for November 13th, 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 twelve to eighteen:

  • Ego identity
  • Belonging to a group
  • Separating from home
  • Developing sexually

Personally, I had no issues with separating from home, at least physically. I was dependent financially, but I knew that I was barking up the wrong tree to expect any sort of emotional support from either parent. I learned how to make friends by mirroring who they were and becoming what they wanted me to be, which, of course, got in the way of my ego identity. My identity was always a reflection of whoever I was around.

The authors identify the following resulting outcomes:

  • Anxiety
  • Lack of identity or several identities among various social groups
  • Continued emotional enmeshment with abusers
  • Extreme fluctuations in behavior or moods or compulsive conformity and overachievement
  • Drug use
  • Sexual problems
  • Eating disorders

Yep – I definitely relate to most of the above.

The authors identify two internalized messages for those with dissociative identity disorder (DID), but I would imagine that they can apply to others who suffered abuse throughout their childhoods:

  • I don’t know who I am, how I feel, or what I do.
  • I want to be whole, but I don’t know how.

That would be a resounding yes. I struggled with both of those issues for most of my life.

My guess is that most children who suffer abuse from age twelve to eighteen also suffered at younger ages, so this would be an accumulation of unmet needs and resulting aftereffects. I have been successful in cutting all of my abusers out of my life, including my mother, so I know that it is possible to end the dysfunctional bond with an abuser. Figuring out who I am and learning how to be whole have been the two driving forces of my healing journey.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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