For First Time Visitors

If you are a first time visitor to this blog, I invite you to start from the beginning, especially if you are unfamiliar with the potential emotional impact of long-term child abuse.

Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!

Understanding the Incomprehensible

Children of incest or long-term sexual abuse grow up to be wounded adults with complicated emotional issues. Unfortunately, some symptoms are misinterpreted or often dismissed as "crazy", only serving to maintain a tormented victim status. We, as a society, have the power to change this dynamic. Each of us can make a difference.

Aug 19, 2008

Two Worlds - One Face

One split might be dissociative or repressed. The definition of DID is reserved for two or more distinct identities. A child (especially an older child who no longer has access to the gift of dissociation) may repress memories of abuse. While there are varying definitions, I honor the definition that repression is the mind "storing" memories subconsciously as opposed to having an element of amnesia. It is not unknown memory, it is forgotten memory (stored in the subconscious). In my experience, when a repressed memory is uncovered, the client spontaneously remembers the event. Both repression and dissociation involve memories being drawn into the subconscious realm. And both usually result in strong feelings crossing over into consciousness to which the child has no connection.

For both repressed and dissociated childhood memories, that initial split may appear something like this: The child is aware only of the conscious world in which she is not being hurt. She exists in a state of oblivion to the abuse. The switch to "hurt self" is triggered possibly by an incestuous father's knock at the door at night or hearing footsteps near the bed. The trigger would be anything that has come to mean she is about to be hurt. Wherever abuse occurs, triggers will become connected in a child's heightened awareness. These triggers are their saving grace.

During the molestation (or beating or verbal assault), the child must do as told--submits to the caregiver's will. The survivor art shown in the previous post is a collage conceptualizing having one's will bend to another's demands. Once the child is not being harmed, she becomes everyday girl and has no memory of abuse that may have happened only seconds previously. However, she likely will have crossover fear at bedtime, if the abuse occurs at night, which might manifest as fear of the dark, not liking her bed, wanting the safe parent to sleep with her, etc.

I think we have all heard stories of daycare centers where a caregiver was molesting the children. Observant parents reported their child becoming extremely agitated or upset at being taken to the daycare. Even preverbal children have the aversion response to being left with someone who is hurting them. The child's aversion response has thankfully led to some alert parents pulling their children from such centers.

For all children, this division is survival. It might be referred to as a betrayal bond or double bind. A child does not know how to love and hate a parent at the same time.