|| Complex Trauma
by Teresa Joyce, NAASCA representative in the United Kingdom
All abused children will reach a point in their life hopefully in which their painful memories will need to and are able to be addressed, a place where they will have to come to terms with the horrific atrocity that they were subjected to. The only unanswered question left can only be as to when?
The only one who is truly able to answer that question is that child, that inner child that until now has been in hiding away from the world and may not feel strong enough to do so just yet. The journey of going within to engage with that pain takes timing child abuse survivors around the world that I have engaged with have always related to that statement as to bring their truth, but also that we should never have truly underestimated that child's strength just look how far it has already taken them but yes it also takes time.
We will never really be able to feel that strength within until they connect with their inner child from the outside, but it will be the hardest thing that they will ever have to do by taking that first step it's like walking into the abyss.
In all honesty, it may be just as hard as their journey within their past abuse even though that abuse is now firmly in their past, so why would they want to come out of the shadows and unearth all that pain and trauma? Their objection will carry a lot of weight and there will be a lot of haggling to be done before they allow to be taken by their tentative outstretched hand, their adult self will need to make that inner child feel supported in their journey so when you reach back your grip needs to be firm with assurance.
They will look to you for that supported reassurance that the separation they have endured from within is no longer one which needs to be continued, they will be feeling anything other than sure about that now felt a very unfamiliar feeling of completed union. We need to remember that togetherness for them and feeling whole is something untried and tested because until now they have survived apart they had to and it has taken enormous strength in which to do so, but what they may not be aware of there is there is surely not much in this world of ours that they would not be able to contend with on the completion of this unity.
This will be the start of their journey where they will tentatively start to look for any support available in which to aid their very difficult journey ahead, and it's a completely new realisation that it has always been there just waiting for this mutual connection. Now not only will they find the camaraderie of other child abuse survivors around the world but also a network of professionals. At that time more than ever before they will need to learn how to trust another but finding that trust in which to do so also takes practice, it can be far from being found just by opening that first door in truth it's somewhat like they have to enter a maze in complete darkness.
Truthfully it's never going to be a walk in the park for them away from those chilling memories but at least they are now on their own two feet that's immense progress, and yes there will be most certainly many false starts falls and faltering but who's counting? It's movement and sometimes they will fall but falling should be and can be used to play an important part just by being there they are still going forwards. An adult child abuse survivor should always be in charge of the speed of travel within their recovery and they will always test the water, to see if they have relinquished any part of what they were still holding they can't afford to lose more, whilst inside their journey it needs to be stated very clearly that we are there to give and not to take away there is no other manner in which it will be successful.
Support means just that no longer do they have to shoulder this weight alone maybe now they start to feel truly understood by those waiting in the wings to offer that support, it needs to come in the direction of an outward source but only when requested never should it be pushed upon them there is no easier way for them to loss that trust. Although support can really only ever be walked alongside it's where it needs to be however much it may seem it's wished for by either party, we are there to support as they are there to feel supported but also to grow. It's so important to understand that those boundaries need to be given this is necessary not only for the survivor but also for those supporting, because of the nature of this support should never become co-dependent and neither are we are trying to create dependency.
When they finally entering a time frame in which they are able to feel movement towards support that transition will be difficult but they are no longer alone that's a huge difference, on their arrival their defence is firmly in place and their mind full of questions, just how you may feel about them and the abusive road they have travelled? Are you judging them? Do you think that it was their fault? Why have they kept quiet for so long? In all truth, their questions can be endless. They have already lived within self-judgement for it seems like always and it's for sure they will feel completely alone unprotected and so very confused, they will always gauge your reaction to every question once asked and answered because they have never found positivity in the world that they have grown up in.
But this is a process that needs to happen and completed with a gentle reminder given that there are no right or wrong answers to those ever burning uncomfortable questions. Working together will create that much-welcomed safety net for that surviving adult and that very new union with their child in that recovery, also that very confused emerging altered person they will be new to them and the blend may take some mixing. Of course, this will be an immensely difficult experience no doubt but once tried and tested it will be seen with remarkable realisation, it's a completely different situation than their controlled journey of abuse that they now have a voice and what's more they are being heard. It's quite incredible to witness this manifestation a new form emerging just by the giving of our time support and understanding they now stand alone within their own power.
Let's just think about that for a moment and just how this has now manifested? They are now in a position where they are in a place of complete control although still dealing with their emotions, they are no longer within that separation their broken inner child that they have been defending for so very long now walks tall along with them. The strength and power this brings about are so very difficult to explain they are now an adult abuse survivor and it's overwhelmingly felt within, they are really here despite the time and suffering it has taken to get there had seemed like never-ending journey simply because they were the one controlling the speed of movement. Their journey had been addressed completely as it should have been and in the right way guided but not driven but it's more than a little new, what more so many abuse survivors in time reach out themselves to others that still need the guidance that they had been given.
Everyone's experience within a support network will be different and it may take time to find that person that they can start to trust but what's important here is that they have never stopped looking, they will become just that little bit stronger and more complete as each day passes and in time they will walk through the right door for them and out the others side. There are so many labels attached to child abuse but complex trauma is by far the one that even comes close to any of them and in truth even that doesn't cut the mustard, every experience of this journey has its own nature and is integral to the child concerned it should or could never be safe to second guess. A journey of past abuse can only be explained or felt from within that child particular because they will always be the one that has survived those particular events of trauma, and although different the ramifications are devastating and long lasting there is a light at the end of the tunnel for everyone.
The first attempted visit on this journey of support may not be the right journey for that particular person for so many reasons and I would never be able to list them all or if I tried to do so I would never get it right, the support that they are looking for may not be clear even to them at that time but they need to make their own choice and at times it may be unexplainable. But if we were to look at this a little closer for them it's just like a muscle that until now has never been flexed and this freedom of thought and recognition leaves them feeling completely in the unknown, it takes time to really believe that it's safe they are just waiting for that other shoe to fall whilst covering their head.
Getting it right needs to be explored and it can result in hours of complete silence of but it's required and surely needed this is the place where they start and are trying to trust, within this silence they are doing no more than trying to judge that another sitting in front of them. It's a process of elimination that may never move away from that space in time, and where they can't find or see movement with that particular support and this is completely normal and should be seen by both. It's not difficult to understand we all gel with others differently or some not at all and for an abused child in adult recovery this is felt tenfold, they need to feel completely secure and if that's not the right place for them there will be another in which they can find that connection.
In time the right place for all can be achieved because along the way they are dipping into that sore place within more often and it can be a case of simply
by not arriving at the right place at the first time in asking. It may have seemed to or be perceived as if it was not profitable within that encounter but that's so very far away from the truth, encouragement was given even if not spoken and if only minimal and that should never be a discarded. If we were to look at it another way they have in fact been allowed to choose and that's a mighty big deal for a child abuse survivor, they have been able to walk away without feeling any restraint and able to approach another open door when they ready to try again, and it's just that little bit less feared which means that the support has indeed made a dent or chip in the armour of their struggle to find themselves. Nothing is wasted when freely given to a child abuse survivor every little gesture given allows them a feeling of hope emotion and they matter it's been taken in even if drip fed and it now sits in residency within.
Everyone involved in this process even though it may be many months and the road seems long up ahead we were a part of that recovery journey no matter how large or small our input may have been, our support wherever or however has mattered we have been part of that chain of support we have allowed and encouraged those steps to be taken. For one I always feel so completely humbled in which any part I played in this struggle against it ongoing fight against child abuse, each one of them had a right to a childhood in which they were loved and protected and regrettably we can't change their past or rid them of their horrific memories but what we can do is to be there for them now.
When a survivor of child abuse reaches out all we can only ever do is our best in reaching back and it will always be enough.