How to heal from childhood abuse

A lot of my followers on this blog and also subscribers from my youtube channel keep coming to me with the same question ‘How do I heal from childhood abuse?’.

Although this is something I have already addressed previously, I have decided to actually explore this in as much detail as I possibly can.

I will address this with reference to my own recovery journey and also by looking at research done by psychologists, psychotherapists and trauma specialists such as Pete Walker, Wilhelm Reich, Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk and many more.

Healing from childhood abuse isn’t a simple process. It takes a huge amount of courage, inner strength & resilience. It requires a willingness to become more self-aware of our own dysfunctional coping mechanisms, that we may have learnt from our primary caregivers.

If our parents were high on the narcissism spectrum, we will have endured years of all or some of the following:

  • neglect
  • hypercriticism
  • parentifying
  • infantilising
  • pathological envy
  • blaming
  • patronising
  • mood swings
  • pathological lying
  • aggression or passive aggression
  • gaslighting
  • controlling behaviour
  • emotional blackmail
  • scapegoating
  • silent treatment
  • shaming
  • invalidation
  • isolation
  • intimidation
  • verbal abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • physical abuse
  • engulfment

Living in a household with abuse, causes the child to develop Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Complex post traumatic stress disorder is a more severe form of PTSD and has the following 5 features:

  1. Toxic shame
  2. Self-abandonment
  3. Emotional flashbacks
  4. A extremely harsh inner critic
  5. Social anxiety

Emotional flashbacks are the most characteristic part of CPTSD. They are sudden and sometimes prolonged age regressions to the overwhelming feelings of being abused or neglected as a child. Emotional flashbacks don’t have a visual component. These flashbacks do however include an overwhelming feeling of fear, shame, alienation, abandonment, depression and emotional pain. They can range in intensity from subtle to unbearable.

Toxic shame is the when an individual has an overwhelming feeling that they are flawed, loathsome or stupid. It completely destroys a person’s self-esteem and causes the person to abandon themselves emotionally. This creates a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.

The inner critic is the internalised punishing voice of our abusive parent. If we had a parent who was a bully and constantly called us names such stupid, pathetic, too sensitive, ugly etc, then we will have this voice within us, even if our abusive parent isn’t in our life anymore. It will be a habitual inner bully that punishes us instead of supports us.

Other symptoms of CPTSD are:

  • Feelings of loneliness and abandonment
  • Fragile self-esteem
  • Attachment disorder
  • Developmental Arrests
  • Relationship difficulties ( Fear of forming relationships or forming relationships that are too dysfunctional)
  • Hyper-arousal / extreme flight/fight response
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Oversensitivity to stress
  • Dissociation
  • Exhaustion
  • Body armouring  (which involves tensing of muscle tissue whenever stress or emotion is experienced. To protect itself, the body takes a defensive, tight, and stiff stance. On a tissue level it enters into a muscular holding pattern that resists change and release. Unexpressed emotions such as anger, fear, and grief are common causes of this phenomenon. This was first described by psychologist Wilhelm Reich).
  • Impulsivity
  • Inappropriate anger

 

The stages of recovering

To recover from abuse and trauma, we must first educate ourselves on a cognitive level. We must understand that we most likely suffer with CPTSD and that it isn’t our fault that we are suffering. We have to put the blame where it belongs – to our abusive primary caregivers.

Secondly we must find a qualified therapist/specialist coach that will help us with the very difficult task of shrinking the inner critic. The inner critic can be a very difficult part of recovery to tackle, as the negativity from this critic has become automatic over our lifetime. It may take a long time to stop the inner critic from affecting us. Constant awareness of when the critic is present will help us stop him in his tracks and try and replace the negative criticisms with positive affirmations and self-compassion.

The next step in recovery is verbal ventilation and the very painful process of grieving our childhood losses. Verbal ventilation is when we speak in a way that releases our painful emotions with a safe person. Grieving our childhood losses means that we actually allow ourselves to cry, be angry and really feel the deep pain of not having had healthy parents. Grieving can take a long time and can sometimes last for a couple of years. In grieving, it is important for us to also grieve our loss of self-esteem and safety.

Once we have successfully grieved, we then must deal with the feelings of abandonment via somatic healing and via learning how to become self-compassionate in moments of depression or anxiety.

Lastly, we will need help with dissecting all our defences, especially those that no longer serve us. We may have picked up defences and behaviours from our abusive parents that are dysfunctional and we will now need support in stopping these defences and practicing more healthy ways of coping.

A very important part of recovery is to learn how to be patient with our progress, as sometimes it isn’t straightforward. Recovery is a journey and self compassion is crucial.

A great mantra according to Pete Walker, is

‘Progress not perfection’

Expecting perfection in recovery isn’t going to help us move forward..

Progress however is key!

Thanks for reading!

Love Athina ♥

© All blog posts and images are owned by me and Courage Coaching. Please don’t use without consent and only re-blog if you would like to use the information on here.

 

How to deal with loneliness

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Loneliness is an unpleasant feeling that a lot of people experience at some point in their lives. Loneliness is a feeling of emptiness or hollowness inside you.You might experience loneliness as a feeling that something is not right, a kind of minor emptiness. Or you might feel loneliness as a very intense deprivation and deep pain.For the most part, it is something that can be remedied quickly by reaching out to family or friends.

What happens however if you have a chronic feeling of loneliness? What happens when you don’t have any supportive family to turn to? or even friends? Do you end up feeling even more isolated? Do you retreat further into your shell and just tell yourself that this is how you are meant to be? Lonely and helpless?

A lot of the time unfortunately this happens. Loneliness is paired with depression and this can lead to further complications.If  you don’t have the appropriate support, the downward spiral gets worse and worse. Loneliness is a passive state.

The most important thing about loneliness is that we have to remind ourselves that it is a state of mind, a feeling, not a fact.So what are we doing to enable our loneliness? This is a really important question to ask ourselves.

If we lost a loved one to death or have grief related to trauma, then it is important to acknowledge our feelings. Acknowledging our feelings of loneliness is the starting point to dealing with them. Expressing these feelings in numerous ways is the bext step. If we don’t have a friend or family member to express these feelings to, then we have to try and find someone else who might listen, like a counselor or mental health volunteer. We can also express our loneliness through art or writing a blog.

As I said before, loneliness is a passive state. So how do you change something passive? Your turn into something active.This might be a simple thing to state and some people might find it hard to make changes, but it is crucial to understand that if you do nothing about it, it won’t change.

Being active means that we reach out to others and that we maybe take up a class doing something we enjoy.This is a good way to connect with other people. It means that we can choose to maybe do some volunteering, as helping others can bring a feeling of fulfillment and reduce the feeling of loneliness. It means practicing different acts of kindness towards people that really need it. It also means the possibility of getting a new pet, or helping in an animal shelter.

It is very helpful to write a list of the things we enjoy and which things in particular helped us feel less lonely in the past.

It also very important to fight those self-defeating thoughts we may have, that tell us we can’t feel better and that we will always be lonely. Even if we are very depressed, we must fight this feeling and push ourselves past the negative feelings of not wanting to leave the house or connect to others. We have to challenge the passiveness and do things that might makes us a little uncomfortable.

What are your experiences of dealing with loneliness?

Love Athina ♥

© All blog posts and images are owned by me and Courage Coaching. Please don’t use without consent and only re-blog if you would like to use the information on here.

 

 

 

The importance of persistence

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When some of us decide to take on a new goal, we tend to put in a lot of effort at the beginning and then as time progresses we don’t sustain the same effort to reach it. This is sometimes the case when people have New Year resolutions. An initial goal is set at the beginning when motivation is high but when the going gets tough, the less effort is put in. We tend to start procastinating and the more we put something off, the worse it gets.This then results in our failing to reach our goal.

Wanting to make a change, especially when it comes to bad habits, requires commitment, effort and persistence. To really make a change we have to commit to something 7 days a week! This might seem extreme but it really isn’t. Thomas Edison famously remarked that ‘genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

Most of us wish there could be a ‘quick fix’ for most things in life but this really isn’t possible when we want to make lasting change. It’s an in-built human urge to free ourselves from painful patterns of behaviour and seek peace, happiness and contentment immediately. When an individual has deep-rooted beliefs and unconscious patterns that have kept them stuck in unhappiness most of their life, this is something that requires persistence to change.It means that an individual would have to keep persevering through the ups and downs, through the disappointments and sometimes inevitable frustration.It means that the same goal might have to be looked at from different angles until a breakthrough happens.

Do you find yourself setting a goal and then getting overwhelmed too quickly?Do you find that the minute you hit a difficulty, you give up straight away? Do you have a low tolerance for frustration?

I would love to hear some of your experiences ♥

© All blog posts and images are owned by me and Courage Coaching. Please don’t use without consent and only re-blog if you would like to use the information on here.