Healing the impact of childhood abuse is a difficult yet hopeful process. If you were physically or sexually abused as a child, you may often feel fragmented, confused, vulnerable, and somewhat chaotic inside. You may have difficulty with trust and intimacy in your relationships, and your emotions may seem unpredictable and volatile to you. You may also have a generalized feeling that you are somehow “bad” or unworthy, and therefore, not like yourself very much. You may also feel guilty, as though you caused the abuse. All of these experiences are common and make sense in light of your childhood experience. There IS hope! An integrated and intentional approach in therapy can lead to healing in these areas of your life. This healing involves reconnecting with parts of yourself that seem disconnected and alienated, reclaiming your life by learning to be in charge of your behavior and make good choices, and transforming your relationship to self and others. It may be helpful to think of the healing process as taking place in three primary stages: 1) getting started; 2) reconnecting with yourself, and 3) moving on.
Getting Started is primarily focused on helping you understand what you are experiencing, what you can expect from therapy, and how you can help yourself through the process. In this stage, understanding is empowerment. During this time you learn new ways of thinking about the abuse and its effects. You develop skills and strategies for handling flashbacks, emotional intensity, and boundary issues. Perhaps most importantly, you develop emotional self-care skills that will enable you to nurture, comfort, and calm yourself as you move through your healing journey. These skills can help you feel safer with the emotions that may seem overwhelming now.
Reconnecting With Yourself is the heart of the healing process, and takes commitment, courage, and a desire for wholeness. During this time you learn to identify the ways you have protected yourself that are no longer helpful to you. As you gradually replace these defenses with healthier coping skills you are freer to be in touch with what is inside you. You learn to experience a broader range of feelings, accurately name them, and make choices about expressing them. During this time your relationship with your body is also very significant. The way the abuse has affected your feelings about your body and your body’s need for healing is part of the healing process. At this point, Trauma Touch Therapy (TM) can be integrated into your journey and provide another avenue for healing. Your relationship with yourself changes as you are able to have compassion for yourself, grieve your losses, and honor the truth of your experience. The fragmentation you developed as a way of staying safe becomes less necessary, and you can begin developing a more cohesive sense of yourself as an adult. While this is a difficult time in the process, it is also one that is full of meaning, transformation, and hope.
Moving On occurs as you are increasingly able to integrate your new awareness and experience of yourself on every level. How you think about yourself and the abuse is changing. Now you are open to new ways of viewing the world, others, and yourself. Your new skills and ability to manage your feelings and maintain healthy boundaries bring with it the possibility for meaningful relationships. Perhaps most importantly, you may become less likely to identify yourself in terms of the abuse, as you move from being a survivor to being a thriver. You may experience increased levels of energy to give to those things in the “here and now” that is important to you, as less of your energy is given to protecting yourself from the impact of the abuse.
As a survivor, you learned to use your “smarts” and ingenuity to get through an overwhelmingly painful experience. As a thriver, these internal resources that served you so well are transformed into strengths for living fully in the present.