In my practice I have met people who have been in therapy for childhood sexual abuse, but have not been able to set it behind them and get fully involved with their lives.
There seems to be 3 stages of healing from this horrific crime against you as a child: (1) Being a Victim, (2) Experiencing Yourself as a Survivor, and (3) Becoming The Person You Were Meant To Be. Let me explain what I mean:
When you are a Victim, you are reacting and suffering from the effects of the abuse. You may or may not be fully aware of what happened to you as a child. You are strongly effected by the abuse and it has left you with a myriad of issues. These include problems with relationships and trust, sexual dissatisfaction, substance abuse, low self-esteem and more. You may or may not have been in therapy, but you haven’t resolved the the pain and effects from the past.
When you are a Survivor you most likely have had a good bit of therapy. You are proud of yourself and you deserve to be. You have worked courageously to own your life, you have gained quite a bit of self understanding and confidence. You have made progress and have a right to be proud of it. Survivors are warriors and stand tall. The truth of your abuse is a fact of life, and a pretty conscious one. You may find yourself telling people about it, feeling righteously angry that this injustice was done to you. And you have every right to feel this way.
But you are not over the abuse, it is not in your past, yet. It is a present, daily fact of your life and you are conscious of it every day. “How can I not be?” you might demand, “Don’t you understand how devastating that all is?” What I am saying, very gently, is there is another place to be with the truth of your abuse. You can get past being enraged and involved in what it did to you. You can get on with the rest of your life and be primarily involved with new challenges and self actualization: becoming the person you were meant to be. At this stage of your healing you are invested in your life now as it unfolds before you. I find myself saying to others when they ask about my family of origin: ” I didn’t have a normal childhood. But it’s OK, I don’t live there any more.” You are truly finished with the work of your abuse when you “don’t live there anymore”.
I wish I could say that the sexual abuse is no longer at the core of your personal growth as you continue on with your life. It is. You may wisely recognize that today’s problem or stuck place is stemming from what happened to you in your past. You might go back to a therapist to deal it. But you don’t identify yourself as a survivor anymore. Now you are more involved in things like learning to be more assertive and getting the respect that your deserve at work, or raising your children better, the normal problems and growth areas of regular life.
Your childhood abuse isn’t a life sentence. Joyfulness and deep satisfaction are out here for you. If you haven’t found them, keep looking.
Thank you for this. it really helped, especially the “I don’t live there anymore.” part.
Thanks for telling me this, Jordan. I’m glad something I’ve done for myself is useful to another fellow “traveler.”
Thank you Ann. I can identify with the archetype of the survivor, and it took Yoga for me to understand how my attachment to this belief of myself was perpetuating my suffering. You speak so eloquently. I have journaled your beautiful words as a reminder to myself that I too have changed address.