by Teresa Joyce, NAASCA representative in the United Kingdom
The hoped-for self-realisation, when achieved by an adult child abuse survivor, is to recognise that the abuse they suffered was never their fault. But that is far more difficult to do than it may seem to the outside world. So many emotions will rise to the surface at that moment, in what can only be described as a spillover of gigantic proportion. For sure, there isn't a bucket to be found that will be able to hold onto its contents.
This causes immense distress to that childhood abuse survivor as they embark on that journey, simply because, the only way through it is to revisit that trauma head-on and come face to face with that misplaced misjudgement.
The absence of an abuser will never alleviate that painfully now-uncovered truth that will be inflicted upon them, that huge emotional self-blame which has been so very difficult to address. Sadly, rearranging all that has to be recalled is a huge undertaking and extremely confusing. In truth, that adult may even feel able, but for that child within. It signals the arrival of complete and utter devastation and they are left with that ever-burning question: just who am I?
Self-blame is almost always control related and when that controlled emotion has been in place for so many years, although it's sourced by another, it's a hard habit to break. For many, that attribute around their abuse has continued to be in place until this tentative point of arrival; they have been within that dark place of self-judgement for what seems like forever. When something is drummed in so relentlessly and callously on that naked soul of a child, they cannot help but feel that the blame lays completely with themselves. In truth, blame was inserted throughout their childhood without thought, without care or compassion. It signalled the true loss of their childhood and from there on in they see the emerging life of suffering that child abuse creates, which is so devastatingly damaging. Self-blame almost seems to be part of their DNA.
All children, whilst suffering through the horror of child abuse, have no other choice than to take themselves to a place of being unresponsive. They become expressionless, and they find it difficult to engage with others. Deep within, there is always that niggling feeling that their abuse must be attributed to their actions, without any adequate proof or recognition ever being given by another. On view to all that care to look, there may be a kind of frozen watchfulness, as they struggle to achieve any withdrawal from the spotlight they feel is hanging over their head. They live within a space of dead energy, where their mind has become somewhat filtered with an automatic response in the right place; all that is left for them is the struggle to hold on to that place in which they can at least retreat.
Carrying the knowledge of adult sexual engagement is so very inappropriate for these children, faced with a still yet underdeveloped mindset of the world out there before them. An acquired knowledge which grows within all children in time, allowing them to digest the world and its lessons as time passes. That enforced life situation is something that a child within abuse is faced with daily, and any giving of time for life's adjustments has been stripped away. Their innocence is lost within the atrocity of child abuse. They are, quite simply, a child living within an adult sexual situation and in the midst of destruction. Even as I sit here today and share with you, the sentences I need to form are a struggle; any words that I can bring to my mind? Well, they don't seem adequate to be able to explain just how much that child has been broken.
Recognition and the act of recognising are always accompanied by the shock of realisation for a child abuse recovering adult. This mental re-occurrence of recognition may have been darting around in the darkness for many years, within avoidance, before they arrive at a point of formal acknowledgement and, somewhat for them, the end of the line. It may seem curious that such an avoidance occurs, but avoidance within non-recognition ultimately means that they can stay within the shroud of negative self-acceptance which has been created. Even if those emotions are in truth a prison they still have a structure which is so completely familiar, and if that structure were to fall what may lay beyond it?
In truth, there is no escape from the chaotic disturbing mess of emotion that will be for them completely untried. Acknowledgement of the existence within recognition is so very far away from delving into those until now avoided events of recall. With that recollection on identification, it will ultimately turn their world upside down. For them, it's not as easy as the world at times may wish them to believe. Within the implication of any instruction given, changing their perception of that held on to belief just about alters everything before them. How can that be an easy task?
If a chapter is removed from a book, how will the story read without it? And a childhood abuse survivor may avoid this full publication for many years just trying to find those missing pages. Underneath that perceived avoidance is a child with no clue as to where to locate those torn out pages. Even once found, where do they ultimately belong when the binding of that book is so broken? When its content was viewed as children to things that were so completely adult and beyond that child's understanding? Whilst within a maze of counting those pages for a choice of arrangement that it needs to endeavour aid towards its completion, but what if whilst within its puzzle the pages seem to refuse to stay in order? Overly more so, the author of this written labyrinth was themself; how could they misplace the structure of that manuscript? You can't help but see their dilemma.
Problems within life that are familiar are easier to solve because the quicker that they do so makes the overall task that much easier. Whenever a pattern exists it's so much easier to follow. When the pattern of child abuse and self-blame is locked within a child, the mindset which is needed is, unfortunately, a pattern which requires a life-changing adjustment. It requires understanding and the realisation from others that this journey will take many twists and turns; any movement may not always be within a timely fashion. Within self-blame, they will inevitably need to encounter many emotions before that child abuse recovering adult feels that they have the courage within to make that life-changing step. Ridding themself from self-blame, they begin that arduous journey of putting themselves back together, to enable and recognise that stranger to their past self-perception.
It's so very difficult to see past this obstacle of self-blame that was so very difficult to digest as children, and an abuse recovering adult survivor will still see through the eyes of that child because that's where the pain resides. Others may see this as metaphorically merely just a touch of the button, to enable that survivor to relinquish that self-blame. If only it were so easy. To be told by another for so many years that they were completely accountable, the weight within the struggle of emotions for that survivor is truly felt, even on reaching a point within self-acceptance. In truth, any movement required towards taking that step and leaving self-blame behind and to look towards self-realisation will never be felt through another. The scales required to balance out that in which a child abuse survivor needs, will always ultimately need to be placed on those scales of life by themselves. All that we can ever really do is to offer to stand by their side and act as a counterbalance to the best of our ability.
Self-realisation is only a step away from self-acceptance and it's just a matter of time before they take it.