Shame and Child Abuse
On my next radio show, Conversations that Heal which airs this Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at noon PST, I talk about how the feelings and lesson learned from our childhood show up in our everyday adult life.
Let’s take shame. When I see the word ‘shame,’ I imagine it putting itself in Hollywood lights and making a big entry, like I am here and you cannot get away from me. It is such a strong feeling. But survivors of child abuse have many ‘opportunities’ to work with overcoming it.
Shame is part of the setting up or ‘grooming’ process abusers use. Think about it, they have to. It is their main ammunition to use against their victim. The child abusers threatens this innocent child by telling him or her over and over how no one loves them. Then they add statements like ‘you are not deserving’ or ‘you are worthless’ to reinforce the shame and take further control over their victim. These are the perfect derogatory seeds for planting ‘shame’ into the survivor’s thinking. Sometimes those lies stay with the adult forever.
Through my years of reclaiming my life from my child abuse, I have noticed how ‘shame’ and ‘trust’ are connected, almost intertwined. I believe every child instinctively knows right from wrong. The trap starts when the abuser feeds these mean lies to the child. For many, valid, reasons the child has no one to support them in recognizing the setup or reinforce the cruel remarks are untrue. The child is left with the abuser ‘nurturing’ their fragile intuitive self trust.
The abuser has created the perfect stage. All the child’s natural developmental milestones are forever altered. The child’s self trust becomes weaker and the shame becomes stronger. The abuser has the child in the ideal, vulnerable position.
What is important is to acknowledge the truth. Once we can see the truth, we can begin to set ourselves free from the lies of the child abuse.
What Do You See in the Mirror?
You know the expression, ‘the lights are on but nobody is home?” I have always liked that expression. I feel I have spent a lifetime identifying with it. I would go as far to create my own: ‘the lights aren’t even on.’
Maybe for the first time in my life, I can look in the mirror and see some of the lights on. I will be the first to admit it feels very strange to look into my eyes with the ‘lights’ on. I wonder what these eyes have seen, what these eyes have chosen to never remember. I think about what the skin on my face has touched that it doesn’t remember. At this point in my life, I choose to let my eyes and my skin rest. There are enough memories of child abuse to last a lifetime.
As the adult looking into my eyes I see sadness and pain behind the smile. I see sadness from lost relationships, opportunities, and time. So much time lost just surviving my life from the effects of the child abuse.
Sometimes I wonder if the pain will ever go away. Some days I struggle to get through the day. Other days are filled with possibilities and the evidence that I am like everyone, that there is nothing strange or different about me.
I am grateful. And even more grateful than I can write this right now: “when I look into the mirror today, the eyes looking back at me are filled with more possibilities and awareness than I have ever seen.” I am winning this war – through self love.