Loss produces pain, so using the term “numbing out” is not a coincidence. So many of the survival strategies used by abused children are meant to do just that—provide a way to numb the pain.
You may think you’re avoiding the pain, but you’re not. The pain is still there, affecting what you do and how you feel and how you handle your life; you’re just pretending it’s not. You may think you’re not feeling anger at the past, but then why are you negative and hostile with those around you? You may think you’re not frustrated or grieving over how you were treated, but why do small setbacks create such large obstacles? Your feelings are there, underneath the numbness and denial, causing pain and creating problems. Bringing your feelings out in the light of day allows you to start seeing them for what they are and how they affect you.
Feeling again is just one step in the healing process. Grief, loss, anger, frustration, and despair are all valid feelings in regard to childhood abuse. People I’ve worked with sometimes will have an aversion to identifying these feelings accurately, even when they begin to truly feel them without their coping mechanisms.
When people have devoted themselves to not feeling anything to protect themselves from pain, they can become disconnected from their feelings. Or, if they have chosen a specific feeling to dominate them, they become unused to interacting with all the other emotions humans feel. They become unfamiliar with optimism because they react suspiciously in all situations. They don’t remember how to be open because they’ve spent so much time closing themselves off.
Learning to cry again, to truly belly laugh, to tolerate fear, anger, frustration, or pain without becoming emotionally over- whelmed can be difficult. Some survivors of childhood abuse reintegrate these emotions on their own or with help from family and friends. However, depending on the severity of the abuse, survivors may need the help of a professional counselor or therapist to navigate these waters without finding themselves in over their heads, inundated and gasping for emotional breath.
Admitting you need help does not mean you are a failure; rather, admitting you need help and getting the help you need shows the resourcefulness and creativity you used to survive the abuse in the first place.
Healing from childhood abuse means not only recognizing that positives exist but also allowing them to exist without qualification. A child’s drawing is beautiful whether the lines were followed or the sky is green. People are capable of kindness even if they’re not always kind. A spectacular sunrise in the morning need not be spoiled by rain in the evening. Positive things happen all around us—discreet and distinct. If you allow the negatives that invariably happen to cancel out the positives, the negatives always win.
If you have experienced physical abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.