I remember when I was talking about my first memory of being sexually abused. As I was speaking out loud about the details, being prompted for other tiny details and trying to remember even the thoughts I had about the trauma, I suddenly realized that I thought I could have stopped it. That ONE single belief caused a whole spiral of other problems for me and developed a very strong set of lies in my belief system. Because I thought I could have stopped the sexual abuse from happening, I also took responsibility for it happening. That led me to believe that I was a bad person. None of these thoughts were conscious. They happened as a result of that first subconscious belief that I could have stopped an adult from sexually assaulting me. Because I thought I could have stopped it, but I didn’t stop it, I was filled with guilt and shame. Guilt and shame that wasn’t mine, but guilt and shame that I thought was mine.
Here is the breakdown:
This went around and around in my mind, not so much the trauma, but the conclusions that I had come to about it and as other things happened in my life, they just automatically went through this new grid that had formed when I took the blame for the child sexual abuse that happened to me when an adult female babysitter decided to lay me out on a table and violate me sexually. I was just a small child; powerless to fight. I left my body. I remember leaving, floating up (still naked) to a corner above my head, hugging my knees in fear, cold, shock and helplessness.
It wasn’t just the trauma event that I had to look at in order to face the pain of my past, it was the belief system that I developed. In looking at the grid that I put things through and how that grid got set in place I was able to realize that certain foundational beliefs were WRONG.
The first belief that was wrong was thinking and believing that I could have stopped that woman from sexually abusing me. Truth ~ I could NOT have stopped it. I asked myself HOW I could have stopped it. Then I thought of all the ways that I “thought” I could have stopped it in my childlike mind. Through that process I realized several things, one of which was that I thought because I had left my body, I believed that I had literally become two people and that I (and this second person I became) should have been able to gang up on the abuser. Upon deeper examination of that conclusion, I realized that this belief was actually impossible.
I thought that I should have screamed. I thought that I should have bit her, kicked her, grabbed some sort of large object to club her with. I believed that my passivity was consent. I was so angry with myself because I thought that I submitted to her. I had no idea that I thought any of those things deep down. They were hidden in my belief system. I don’t even know if I had those thoughts then as a small child, or if I added them later when I was older but they were there none the less.
And I also had to realize that I believed I had in fact become two people. (which is not the same thing as believing that I could have fought her off if there were two of me.) All that had actually happened is that I left my body as many young children do. It is a very effective survival technique. But I did not actually become two people and I had never really realized that my child mind believed that I did. I also realized that I thought I should have fought and didn’t realize that not fighting does not mean consent. As I mentioned, some of these conclusions can be added when we are older too. Looking back on the trauma and wondering why we didn’t fight leads to more self blame and shame. The truth is that we had no choice. Period.
Because of all these wrong beliefs, I took responsibility for the trauma and violation. I blamed myself. I didn’t realize how that had happened, I didn’t think about it, I didn’t consciously know that I had taken the blame, but that is what happened. In realizing that these were my beliefs, I was able to replace those lies with the truth.
This became the system that I learned to take apart a trauma or memory; I looked at the event and the details that surrounded the event the way that I describe in the above article. It does not have to be a sexual or physical abuse trauma. It can be an emotional abuse such as being neglected or a time when you were not believed. By the time I looked at three events in my childhood this way (only one of them was sexual abuse) I was able to realize how my belief system began to develop. I picked apart a memory, every detail I could remember, the room, the colours, the curtains and doors, remembered thoughts, fears, shutting down. And I looked beyond that to the beliefs that I formed in order to cope and to process the trauma. I looked at the thoughts that I didn’t realize I had. I only looked at one trauma or one situation at a time. I tried to stick with just one tiny memory at a time and the beliefs came forward. Sometimes quickly, sometimes over a few days but always a new kind of hope came with it. The hope came from knowing the truth could set me free and now I knew how to FIND the truth.
I felt a HUGE relief when I understood more deeply where the feelings of shame and guilt came from and was able to realize that I had believed false things that through a series of thoughts fears and survival methods had become my truth, but that “that truth” was not true truth.
In my next article I will highlight how OTHER, perhaps more normal negative childhood events join up with those traumatic abusive events and make one huge big mess in the belief system.
Please feel free to comment, share your own stories or share you process of an event if you like.
Exposing Truth; One Snapshot at a time;
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