I am often asked by emotional abuse survivors whether they will ever be completely healed from their abuse. Sadly, the answer is no. Happily, you can move passed your past into a better future.
The following is taken from my book A Journey to Healing After Emotional Abuse.*
Perhaps you struggle with healing from the abuse you have experienced as an adult because you were also abused as a child. If so, you are not alone. According to UNICEF, “The single best predictor of children becoming either perpetrators or victims of domestic violence later in life is whether or not they grow up in a home where there is domestic violence.”
In his book Invincible: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up with Domestic Violence, and the Truths that Set You Free, Brian Martin, founder of the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, describes the lies you may have learned as a child growing up in a home filled with domestic violence. He then provides the truths to help set you free.
The most damaging lie we learn as children of domestic violence is that we are unlovable. According to Martin, “When babies are born, they require the love and attention of their parents to survive and thrive. When we are born, we need to be touched. A newborn clings to her mother, and the powerful hormone oxytocin creates a profound bond between them. This ‘cuddle chemical’ is essential for milk production, nursing, and the mother’s ability to bond with her baby. It triggers a feeling of strong connection. In this blissful state a child basks in the comfort of a mother’s arms knowing the world is a safe place to be.
“But if when we are born, we are routinely deprived of touch and affection, the consequences are severe, the possible result being the so-called failure to thrive syndrome. This occurs when a baby is ignored, perfunctorily fed, or left alone. A child will despair and become unresponsive. In extreme cases, the baby may even stop eating, waste away, and die. That’s how essential it is for humans to be consistently shown that they are loved. In the same way infants may fail to thrive when they don’t experience the physical signs of love, when children grow up living with domestic violence, they learn to question how loved they are.”**
What about you? Perhaps you struggle with feeling self-conscious. Did your parents, siblings, or someone else in your childhood call you stupid, ugly, fat, worthless, or bad?
The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is fundamentally untrue. Tweet This
Insults hurled at a young child can scar her*** and her image of herself forever. After all, if the people who are supposed to love you and protect you think you are ugly, you must be ugly, right? Wrong! My counselor-second husband often says, “Hurt people hurt people.” Your parents, who were caught up in their personal daily hell, may have often said things that weren’t true. But, as an impressionable child, it may have been easy for you to take their put-downs to heart. Now, as an adult, it may be difficult for you to change your negative opinion about yourself.
No one can completely cure the scars of childhood trauma. We can only work through them, process them, and learn how to deal with them differently so we can feel better. In her book Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, Dr. Karyl McBride likens our lives to a tree. “Each of us, like a tree, has roots (our family of origin and generational legacy); long, sturdy trunks (how we were treated as children); and branches that flower and grow in our adult lives. Your trunk bears scars, which don’t really go away; they are part of who you are. But the healing work you do helps you treat any gashes, fill them in, supply balm and seal them gently, and takes away the old recurring pain, changing the original trauma and allowing you to grow around it and away from it.”****
Knowing you can’t completely cure the scars from your childhood can actually keep you from becoming discouraged. Maybe you will be relieved to know you don’t have to totally remove those scars. Your past scars are important to acknowledge; they make up who you are today. Yet, they don’t define you.
You can accept your past as part of who you are and move on to a brighter future.Tweet This
In my next blog, I will share with you some of the ways you can work to heal your past.
Question: Were you abused as a child? Do you think your childhood abuse may have set you up to be abused as an adult?
God wants you to be healed! He is the author of healing. Isaiah 61:4 says:
<You can> rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
<You can> renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Yes, for some of us, domestic violence has been passed to us over several generations. But, this doesn’t need to be our future.
May the Lord bless all of you today!
* Abbott, Caroline A Journey to Healing After Emotional Abuse (Franklin, TN: Clovercroft Publishing, 2015) 79 – 81, 85, 86.
** Brian F. Martin, Invincible: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up with Domestic Violence and the Truths to Set You Free (New York, NY: Perigee, 2014), 224.
*** Abuse victims can be male or female.
*** Karyl McBride, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers (New York, NY: Free Press, 2008), 135-137.