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Posts Tagged ‘minimizing abuse’

On my blog entry entitled Judging Your Childish Actions Through Adult Eyes, a reader posted the following comment:

I’m right now dealing with coming to terms with the fact that what happened was a big deal. I have seen it as “no big deal” because that is what I was taught. Even now, as an adult, I have trouble seeing it as a big deal. If I hear about it happening to someone else (a child in the present day, for example), I am furious. But, I am having trouble giving myself that gift. I feel very few emotions about all of it. ~ Marie

Minimizing the abuse (seeing the abuse as “no big deal”) is a normal reaction to child abuse, and it really does make sense once you understand where it is coming from. Judith Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery explains this reaction well. I strongly recommend this book, especially if you are having trouble accepting that your own abuse was a big deal. I found this book to be very helpful because it focuses on all forms of trauma (not just child abuse), which helped me see the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a disorder rather than as a collection of symptoms that were unique to me (and not a big deal).

Here are an excerpt that explains this phenomenon of seeing the child abuse as “no big deal:”

Though [the abused child] perceives herself as abandoned to a power without mercy, she must find a way to preserve hope and meaning. The alternative is utter despair, something no child can bear. To preserve her faith in her parents, she must reject the first and most obvious conclusion that something is terribly wrong with them. She will go to any lengths to construct an explanation for her fate that absolves her parents of all blame and responsibility.

All of the abused child’s psychological adaptations serve the fundamental purpose of preserving her primary attachment to her parents in the face of daily evidence of their malice, helplessness, or indifference. To accomplish this purpose, the child resorts to a wide array of psychological defenses. By virtue of these defenses, the abuse is either walled off from conscious awareness and memory, so that it did not really happen, or minimized, rationalized, and excused, so that whatever did happen was not really abuse. Unable to escape or alter the unbearable reality in fact, the child alters it in her mind. ~ pp. 101-102

There’s so much more, which is why this book is in my list of recommended book resources. If you find this helpful, I would read this book or at least the chapter devoted to child abuse.

Minimizing the abuse make perfect sense. When you are a helpless child, the alternatives are to “forget” the abuse (repress the memories), minimize it, or sink into utter despair. By minimizing the abuse, the child holds onto hope that the abuse is survivable. It is a coping mechanism that enabled us to survive the abuse.

Many of you have read my story, which I share beginning here. While there is no question that my abuse was severe by anyone’s standards, I, too, struggled with believing it was no big deal, others had it worse, etc. The bottom line is that any abuse is a big deal, and even one time is too many.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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