Childhood abuse or neglect, in any form, is a deep wound that can permeate every area of our adult lives. Healing from it is not an easy endeavor because oftentimes it becomes so embedded in our psychology that we do not recognize it for what it is.
We develop many coping strategies around it to protect ourselves and sometimes to protect our abusers even at our own expense. We develop Stockholm Syndrome and justify our abusers and minimize the impact of their actions. This defense mechanism arises because, if this person that is supposed to love and protect us is abusing us then the world is a very unsafe place and we will not survive. So, it is easier to believe that we are at fault. That we are to blame. That we deserve it.
This and other similar beliefs are created during childhood and refined and reinforced throughout our lives. So, it is no wonder that it takes time to unravel.
I want to be clear that this is not about blaming your parents. At best they were functional but also traumatized and did not have the tools or skills to do anything different or better. At worst, their trauma took over their lives and manifested as addictions, mental illness, etc. in which case they were even less equipped to parent you in a healthy, loving and safe way. But, this journey is about you.
Something I've seen in a lot of Facebook groups is advice on how to forgive your abusive parent so you can heal and let it go. And, I'll admit, it sounds good. But, from my experience, the reality is that this is backwards.
To me healing is not the result of forgiveness. Instead, forgiveness is a by-product of healing.
So, I admit it. The title of this blog is kind of clickbait. Because my focus here is not on helping you forgive your parent. My focus is on guiding you to start healing from abuse. And, if as a result of that, you can find a way to forgive your parent, then great!
Here are some steps that you may find helpful as you begin this process.
1) Awareness. This is a key component of any healing or development journey. As strange as this may sound awareness that your childhood experience was abusive or neglectful is an often overlooked part of healing.
The environment I grew up in, the time I grew up in, and the experiences of other children close to me, kept me blind to the severity of some of the things I experienced in my childhood. Abuse was normalized and even made a joke of. I remember talking to one of my college friends and laughing at the beatings we use to receive as a child. Laughter is how I coped.
Understanding that your experience was abusive can be pretty shocking. But in truth, we all know something wasn't quite right. The fact that, as an adult... you cried every time your friend got mad at you; or that you jumped two feet off the ground every time someone slammed a door; or that you cowered in the corner every time people started raising their voices, is a clear indication some part of you recognized there was trauma.
And still, recognizing your experience as abuse can be pretty unnerving. I credit the book Healing the Shame that Binds You with that crucial step in my journey. It was when deep awareness sunk in and deep healing could begin.
2) Acceptance. Accept where you are and your emotions. That could be hating your parents, being afraid to hate your parents, getting impatient with your "slow progress"... all of it.
Forgo judgement and have compassion for yourself and your journey. Just like you would for a friend. Healing from abuse is not easy and we need to make room for all the emotions that will come up.
3) Validation. Please find support from someone that can understand, validate your experience and give you perspective. For me it was a spiritual mentor. For you it may be a friend that went through the same experience, or a therapist, or a coach.
Especially at this stage it is important that you have people that are supportive of you and your healing. A lot of painful core beliefs can surface and it is imperative that you have tools and people that can help you question and dismantle them.
Byron Katie's book Loving What Is can be very helpful tool to help you dismantle
some of those beliefs that may be invalidating to you. But, having the validation and support of people is, in my opinion, essential for long-term healing.
My multi-dimensional framework to understanding and healing relevant emotional wounds is a unique approach to address these issues long-term.
4) Learn about the subconscious, abuse, core wounds, tools, techniques, etc. Arm yourself with knowledge, tools and other resources to kickstart your healing.
Inner child work is [in my humble opinion] key to healing these wounds.
You can find plenty of videos about these topics on my YouTube channel and you can also visit my website if you are interested in working more closely with me.
5) Start taking actions to heal. Steps 4 and 5 sound the same. They are not.
Learning about this is not enough if you don't consciously chose to take action aligned with your healing. For example, create and maintain better boundaries with friends, start expressing your emotions instead of swallowing them, start a self-care routine that helps you feel valued and prioritizes your well-being, etc.
These tips can get you started on your healing journey. Find guidance from a trusted and experienced resource that can help you navigate it all.
The experience of abuse does not have to hold your entire life hostage. Give yourself the gift of freedom. You deserve it.
Please feel free to reach out to me for a free consult if you want to work with me or even if you have some questions and need more guidance.
Wishing you healing!
Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw
Loving What Is by Byron Katie
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My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwR43uWdzEmwDGdZWZrZTqQ