Today I am going to talk about a topic that will most likely only appeal to those of you who are further along in healing. When I first heard about this topic when I was early into my healing journey, I rejected it outright. However, I have come to appreciate the wisdom of this topic, which is why I am writing about it today. If you are not ready to hear this message today, just let it go, but tuck it into the back of your mind for the future.
Early into my healing journey, I heard people say that it is not the child abuse itself that causes the emotional damage but, instead, our reaction to the abuse. Specifically, it is the lies we embrace after experiencing the abuse that causes the problems. If you are reacting strongly in a negative way to this idea, I understand … I was once there myself. Bear with me for minute, though.
When a child is abused, the child internalizes numerous beliefs that are lies. Here were some of mine:
- I am fundamentally unloveable.
- I cannot trust anyone.
- The world is completely unsafe.
- Who I am is not good enough.
- I am fundamentally f@#$ed in the head.
- If anyone saw the real me, he would run from the room screaming.
- I am worthless.
These beliefs were my reaction to being a victim of child abuse. I have come to recognize that it was my choice to continue believing these lies that caused the emotional damage long after my body was safe.
Why does this distinction even matter? Because what I can choose, I can also “unchoose.” If my belief in lies is what is causing my pain, then my choice to embrace the truth has the power to relieve my pain.
Contrast this view with what I initially believed – that the pain was caused by having experienced the child abuse itself. If it is true that having experienced child abuse condemns a person to a lifetime of misery, then I am destined to be miserable for the rest of my life. It is not possible for me to go back in time and stop the abuse from happening. So, if experiencing child abuse means being in pain forever, then there is no hope for me to heal.
However, if the cause of my pain is actually from the lies I have embraced in reaction to being abused as a child, then I can choose to fight the lies with the truth and ease my misery. I can dismantle the lies, replace them with the truth, and live the rest of my life free from the pain of having been abused as a child. My history will not change, but my reaction to my history will do a complete 180.
I think this theory also explains why different people can experience the same abuses but react differently. Each child buys into his own set of lies. Some of the lies are common among child abuse survivors (guilt, shame, etc.) while others are unique to the individual. This could also explain why different healing tools work to varying degrees with different child abuse survivors – You need to figure out which healing tools will be most effective in helping you dismantle the lies that you have carried over from childhood.
Photo credit: Hekatekris