Narcissism isn’t something we usually associate with survivors of child abuse, however I was thinking of that exact thing recently. Let’s see if I can explain this.
Last week, I got to spend the week in Australia for work. Traveling to Australia from the US is a fairly surreal experience, because of the amount of time it takes to get there, the time difference, and of course, the seasons being different. Going straight from almost the start of Summer and the longest days of the year, to almost the start of Winter and the shortest days of the year, is quite an adjustment, let alone the 17 hour time difference and 15 hour flight.
I’m not here to complain about my travel though. I am here because one of the things that taking a trip like that does is remind me that the world is a big place, and there are billions of people living in a very different way than I do, and dealing with their own every day lives that I know nothing about, and who know nothing about me.
Compare that experience and perspective to what we see from adult survivors. There’s really no comparison. I have often said that the reason so many survivors struggle with even starting to heal is because rather than learning the skills necessary to being an adult, we were simply surviving. That is what we had to do, and there’s no shame in that. At some point, however, you have to go back and learn those skills and get the perspective that kids gain while growing up. Think of the small child. Their entire world consists of what is right in front of them, and it all centers around their own needs. As they grow up, they begin to grasp that the world doesn’t always revolve around them. They have to play and share with other children, parents have to go to work, and return home, they have to interact with other children at school and so on. Healthy children start to understand that they are but a small part of the entire world eventually, and grow to understand their own place in that world.
Children being abused have this whole process short-circuited. They do not grasp the big picture and their place in it. They only know what is right in front of them. That’s why it is so difficult for survivors to truly understand that what happened was not our fault. Because we haven’t learned that other people make choices and do things that are not based on our behavior. We don’t grow up understanding our place in the world, so we don’t understand that not everything that happens, is happening because of us.
Unfortunately, when I see someone talking about how their own lives are miserable, and they will never heal or overcome, it’s this same mindset. They look around them and see bad things happening, and in turn, go back to that same assumption, that it’s happening to me, because of me, and the world is, therefore, out to get me.
The world isn’t out to get you. There might very well be people around you who do not want you to heal, or want you to stay silent, but the world in general is much bigger than all that. The world will continue to move on, with or without you, whether you heal or don’t heal. That’s not to say that you are insignificant, no one is. It is, however, to say that most things that happen in the world, have nothing to do with you. You cannot learn how to heal from the trauma suffered as a child if you view every action taken, or not taken, by other people as being directed at you. All you’re doing is looking for ways to continue to be traumatized in your own head.
Truly, all you are doing is conveying meaning to things that do not have any, because you never learned that the people around you do not exist for you. They are individuals with their own lives, their own faults, their own struggles and priorities. They do not, and cannot, exist only to assist you. Only you can heal, only you can learn the skills you missed out on during an abusive childhood, and it is up to you to learn how to relate to other people.
Healing from child abuse is possible, it happens all the time. It happens because survivors learn the skills they missed out on during childhood, not because the world suddenly starts catering to them. It happens because we understand what happened in the greater context of the world and the billions of people in it. The next time you look around and think that everyone is out to hurt you, or prevent you from healing, remember there are over 7 billion people on this earth who don’t even know who you are. Given that perspective, go out and live your own life. You’ll be amazed at the new people you connect with, and how they become your new tribe, as you do.