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Posts Tagged ‘Shame’

Girl with bucket (c) Lynda Bernhardt

A friend of mine is struggling with feeling deep shame about a particularly traumatizing incident she suffered as a child. While it is so clear to all of her friends that she was not responsible, she is having a hard time working through the shame after this abusive incident.

Unfortunately, this is a common theme among survivors of child abuse. Child abuse survivors who suffered severe and ongoing trauma might label one particular incident of trauma or one form of abuse as even more shameful than the others. For example, a person who was both physically and sexually abused might feel deeper shame about one of the abuses, even though both were traumatizing.

People who suffered particularly degrading forms of abuse might attach even deeper shame to those events. Examples include gang rape, same sex rape, or animal rape. The child abuse survivor might have told herself that she was okay as long as X did not happen. Then, when she has a flashback of that very thing happening, she must face that she was not spared the one form of abuse that she most wanted to repress.

I faced this deep shame about one particularly degrading form of abuse. My sister, who suffered most of the same abuses that I did, asked me if I had recovered memories about this form of abuse. Her question triggered the memories, and I rapidly nosedived emotionally. Fortunately, I had a good support system in place because the urges to self-injure or die were nearly unbearable.

I had trouble looking anyone in the eye. I believed that this particular form of abuse was the one that put me over the edge and made me subhuman. I could not accept that I was an okay person after experiencing this form of abuse. I also could not believe that anyone would want to be around me if they knew about it.

What I came to realize was that nothing that anyone ever does to you can change the value of who you are. I was a precious diamond, and that did not change, no matter how much manure my abusers piled on top of me. I have been able to remove the manure, clean myself off, and I am now just as precious as I ever was. My abusers did not have the power to make me anything that I did not want to be. The power is in my hands, not theirs.

When it comes to child abuse, I have heard it all and experienced most. There is nothing that another person could ever do to you that will lessen your worth. You are a precious person exactly as you are.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Drooping Flower (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Feelings of shame is another hallmark aftereffect of childhood abuse. I have never met an abuse survivor who did not struggle with feelings of shame before healing. While I no longer feel shame, I used to live my life with a cloud of shame hovering over me at all times. I was ashamed of being myself.

The shame that you feel is not yours to bear. What you are actually feeling is your abuser’s shame. When someone abuses you, he offloads his shame onto you, leaving an innocent child to bear the burden.

I had a vivid flashback that captured this point. After my abuser finished harming me, he strutted around like a proud peacock while I, the innocent party, cowered in a corner feeling an immense amount of shame. He was the person who did something wrong, so why was I the one feeling shame?

When an abuser harms a child, I believe that more is happening than just a physical act. I believe that two souls come together, and the abuser’s soul dumps out his poison into the child’s soul. The abuser walks away feeling relief from the absence of shame (for a while, anyhow) while the child walks away with the burden of very deep shame.

Unfortunately, many abused children grow into adults without ever purging this shame in a healthy manner, and their deep-seated self-loathing permeates every aspect of their lives. They see themselves through their abusers’ eyes rather than through the eyes of truth, and they fail to realize how precious they are.

I compare this to a person heaping a large pile of manure on top of a diamond. The diamond is precious, but if it sees its reflection in a mirror, it will believe that it is worthless. No amount of manure heaped on top of a diamond can change the value or worth of a diamond. We abuse survivors have to find a way to remove the manure (the shame) so that we can clearly see how precious we are. Nothing that anyone ever does to you can change the value of who you are.

Related Topic:

Telling Your Sexually Abused Adopted Child: “It was NOT Your Fault”

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