Is Healing Really Possible?

posted in: Child Abuse, Featured | 31

Why yes, yes it is.

I don’t know if it’s just me, or just a coincidence, but it seems like there have been a rash of tweets, Facebook comments, etc. challenging me on the very idea that survivors could ever really heal. These comments are coming from survivors too, which just saddens me. Most of them seem to follow along the pattern of “these survivors will never live without the damage caused by this, and are doomed to misery for the rest of their sad existences”.

That is just not true. Yes, survivors never forget what has happened, and the past will forever be a part of us. But let’s talk about what that does not mean. It does not mean we are doomed to a miserable existence for all of our adult lives. It does not mean that we can never have happy, dare I say, joyful, lives. It does not mean that we will never be able to develop meaningful relationships. That simply isn’t true. I, and many others survivors, have managed to accomplish those things. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes it takes a lot of work, and a lot of time. Yes, it can be a struggle to overcome the effects of our abuse, but to say that it cannot be done is an outright lie.

Here’s the thing. As I engage this response I have found a few common themes that seem to come along with this attitude about survivors.

1. Many of the comments are shrouded in the theme of justice, basically that healing is impossible because justice will never be served. While I am all for justice being served, healing is not, and can not be, tied to whether or not your abuser ever gets punished. That is not healing, that is vengeance. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue justice, but recognize that pursuit will not, by itself, bring you healing.

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2. Another common thread I’ve seen is that the comments generally come from male survivors. This shows me two things, one, that far too many male survivors are still taking the path of “leave me alone in my misery” instead of reaching out to the broader survivor community, and that the broader survivor community does not do an effective job of getting the word out and making male survivors feel welcome.

3. Unfortunately, I fear that this attitude of giving up is a response to the fact that healing is hard work! It’s not easy. If it were easy, abuse wouldn’t really be a big deal. would it? It is a big deal because the damage done is real, but it is only a life sentence if you give up trying to heal. Taking the easy way out only allows your abusers to continue to damage you long after they had any control.

So yes, healing is hard, and it takes time. After all you didn’t get the way you are overnight. It takes everyone their entire childhood, and then some, to become the adult they later are. When that childhood development is robbed from you by abuse, you are simply getting a later start. It can be challenging to learn all the skills that make for a happy adult live, and to overcome the fear that plagues us from our previous experiences.

Just because something is a challenge though, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Nor does it make it not worth doing. If you are a survivor who has convinced themselves that healing isn’t possible or worth the effort, than I truly feel sorry for you, but you won’t find any agreement on that point here.

31 Responses

  1. From Tracie

    Yes!! So much yes to this.

    Healing IS possible. We can have happy, fulfilling adulthoods, even after a childhood of abuse. It is so very worth doing the hard work of healing.

  2. Delilah

    Agreed, male survivors are more likely to turn to violence, crime and basically anything that blocks out the pain of their past. It’s such a shame society are so unaware of the true detrimental effects of child abuse.

    Healing IS possible. For me, 23 years of emotional abuse (10 years of that being physical abuse) take TIME. The cocktail process to healing for everyone is different but mostly involves therapy, self-awareness, hard work, trial and error, patience, and time.

    You WILL succeed.

    http://thechildabusedadult.blogspot.com.au/

  3. Alice Whitaker

    Gosh, I’m a female survivor, but this was really what I needed to read right now. I’m right near the beginning of my healing journey, and it does often feel hopeless. You’ve given me strength today. Thank you ?

  4. Katherine P. Stratton

    My scars are placed in Jesus Christ nail scarred hands – for me complete healing is possible for My Savior is a survivor too.

  5. Crystal Barnes

    I think a lot of people get stuck in the victim mentality. I know I did for a while, when people tell you there is light at the end of the tunnel all you see is a train coming. It took a survivor taking the time to admit they were a survivor and that with time, “work”, and a change of mental attitude you can overcome your past. It saddens me that so many allow the past to define them as a person and define their future. I wish I could reach out to every victim and tell them life can get better. It can be great!

  6. Middle State

    Thank you for your common-sense views on healing. Here’s the thing I’ve noticed in the many decades since this all happened. I go up and then I go back down again. I’d like to think each time that I don’t fall as far down as the previous and that each ascent is higher and more long-lasting that the ones behind me. I’ve accepted the ups and downs. I have faith that a hill is right around the bend. The hard part is getting anyone close to me to understand and accept the roller coaster that is my emotional life. Triggers are tricky things and never what you think they should be. A news report of a child molester will bother me a lot less than watching a loving father dote on his baby girl. That alone will unravel me for days at a time.

  7. Audrey

    I’m Audrey. I’ve been counselling victims for almost 20 years and recently my attention was caught by the fact that children construct a pseudo-identity to cope with the abuse and may be very vulnerable if that identity is stripped away too abruptly. I’ve written down some ideas. Would you have time to think them over and give me some of your personal insights and feedback?

    Here is what motivated me to write to you: Quote from
    your blog: “Unfortunately, I fear that this attitude of giving up is a response
    to the fact that healing is hard work! It’s not easy. If it were easy, abuse
    wouldn’t really be a big deal. would it? It is a big deal because the damage
    done is real, but it is only a life sentence if you give up trying to heal.
    Taking the easy way out only allows your abusers to continue to damage you long
    after they had any control.”

    Question from Audrey:

    Would you have some insight for me on this idea of
    mine:

    “Survivors live
    day to day with the abuser in family incest situations. In order to do that
    they create a ‘survivor personality’ that allows them not to give up and
    suicide. They create this new personality and move forward through day to day
    activities for years and years with what little bits of hope and dignity they
    can muster. Life is not as full as if they had never been victims of this
    demoralizing incest and yet, they are alive, it IS a life. It works for them and
    allows them to contribute to society. Then, one day, the justice system
    infiltrates this world and charges are laid and the individual has to face a
    long judicial process – and not by choice. Control of their life is once again
    ripped away from them. Just as the abuser took away their freedom to choose,
    the Crown now takes away the protective armour they have created for themselves
    and lays them naked before others. Worse yet, the abusers lawyer has to
    question their credibility in order to win his case and design the most
    effective defence for his client that he can. This means that the survivor
    hears accusations which attack and offend. In the blink of an eye the survivor
    loses the protective shield they have designed to allow them to not end their
    own lives. Emphasis is put on the idea of testifying – ‘you are brave and
    strong, you lived through the abuse, the worst is behind you, you can do this’ –
    but the survivor has not consciously made the decision to expose his or her
    life to public ridicule and therefore has had no time to construct a new
    persona willing to play a legal chess game with court representatives who far
    outdistance them in training, strategic planning, energy and motivation.

    Society is all about stomping out sexual abuse these
    days. But how can society knowingly press charges when they know how cruel the legal system is.
    Dragged in to the Police Station to give statement after statement; attacked unmercifully
    by the abuser’s lawyer; exposed in their
    family and the Press; dragged through the psychological distress of facing
    reprimand after reprimand often lasting 2-3 years; knowing that the legal
    system will give 2 years prison time (out in 18 months for good behavior, more
    or less); and allow him to return to his
    life while the victim has seen the life they have created for themselves
    pulverized beyond repair, relationships destroyed and financial security often dissolved.

    No, avoiding telling is not the “easy way out”;
    sometimes it is the smartest way out. Our job as Human Beings is to “Survive”;
    to recognize that we are the keepers of the ‘pilot light’ of the ‘breath of
    life – the soul’ – given to us at
    creation and it is our supreme task to shelter it through adversity until it
    has gained the tools necessary to burn brighter and “know” the joy and
    contentment of embracing adversity because it is the Human thing to do…

    No one chooses ‘the easy way’ so that the abuser can
    continue to control them from some invisible distance. They choose it
    subconsciously, automatically, because they don’t know any other way to keep alive at the moment. Rather than break, they simply choose to stay with the survivor
    personality they have constructed over the years of (and since) abuse. As Human
    Beings their heart and soul knows that “to everything under Heaven there is a Season”. The victim has an intuitive awareness of this life lesson that Society and those who have not been victimized are not taking the time to consider. The current lack of respect for the universal rule of divine healing may actually harm more than heal. What do you think???
    Audrey

    • Mike McBride

      Audrey,

      Since I was never involved in any official court proceedings, I can’t really speak to what level of trauma takes place or whether anyone is ever forced to be involved against their will. (Personally I think it should be your choice as to whether to testify or be involved). The one thing that I want to address though, is the comment you made about creating a persona that is in complete control of their lives, and when that control is ripped away it is too much for them. I do think we try to control every little thing in our lives as we grow up with being abused, and it is a way to try and protect ourselves. However, I don’t think it is actually possible to control your life in that way. Something is always going to rip that control away, whether it be other people, the weather, or a whole host of things that we cannot actually control. Healing, to me, is not hiding away from anything I can’t control and living a limited life where I only interact with things I can control, it’s knowing that I can’t control everything, and that I will be safe even when I can’t control everything because I have an inner strength and sense of myself that doesn’t get overwhelmed by outside events.

      Mike McBride
      http://about.me/mike.mcbride

  8. Amrita Maat

    I can speak from my personal experience with the legal system and my memoir describes the disconnect I experienced as a victim in a system designed to operate within the tunnel vision of the law. My experiences were extremely painful and even though I don’t believe justice was always served, my healing comes through my learning to forgive others that have hurt me and forgiving myself for the hurt I caused others. Certainly to complex a message for this forum post, but open to share through my book, Wearing a Mask Called Normal.

    Healing is possible despite a legal system that is flawed! This is my response.

    Sincerely,
    Amrita Maat
    http://www.maskcallednormal.com
    facebook: Amrita Maat

  9. getupflyaway

    Thanks for this post and your blog in general, not many bloggers on the subject matter. I appreciate it as a adult male survivor of child sexual abuse.

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