But avoiding the truth -or being in denial of it- in my book, can hurt a helluva lot more AND last a lot longer. Like a lifetime! Excavating the truth -about yourself, your past, your childhood- isn’t always pretty. And when confronting memories of sexual abuse, it can get downright ugly. And painful. So painful that a lot of adult survivors can’t remember the abuse. At all! They’ve buried the dark details so deep in their subconscious that it’s as if they’re peering into a black, bottomless hole; some place you never dare to look and God Forbid -fall. Other sexual abuse survivors have a basic sense; an inkling of what occurred (think quick flashes of still images or slo mo film here), but nothing concrete. And who can blame them? Unearthing f*%cked-up memories and confronting the truth about your past is not for the faint of heart. But let me be brutally honest here — it is 100% necessary if you’re to live the life you want, deserve and have always imagined!
But HOW? How do you get to the bottom of the abuse. Or more accurately -to the other side- and heal? First, you need courage. Then you’ve gotta dig deep. Way deep. You have to pull those f*%cked-up memories out from the dark shadows (of your subconscious) and into the bright, shining light. As a famous Supreme Court Justice once said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”. And confronting the truth about what really happened to you is THE most direct route to true inner healing!
And that’s where my tools for childhood trauma therapy come in. And not your nonni’s old-school, traditional tools (aka talk, talk, talk, talk, talk therapy), but innovative, highly effective therapeutic solutions specially designed for sex abuse survivors. 21 century tools that actually help speed the healing process. If you think of talk therapy as a teaspoon. Think of my tools as a steam shovel.
In my last blog (End of Endless Therapy), I touched briefly on Snapshots Of The Past: How Childhood Photos Help Adult Survivors Heal. When my clients start working with me -whether it’s in individual or group therapy- I immediately ask each one to bring in a picture of themselves as children. Preferably an image closest to the age when the abuse began.
When someone walks into my office, they may say, “yeah, I was abused at the age of three or ten” or whatever age – but many adult abuse survivors don’t actually connect with the abuse in their hearts and feel it. And feeling it, is crucial!
I urge my clients to stare at their “younger” selves and really connect with the fact that they were that small; that helpless; that vulnerable. It’s important for them to really get that they could not stop someone stronger or more powerful from hurting them. Their “child” could not fend off their father, grandfather, uncle, mother, babysitter, football coach- anymore than a baby zebra can defend itself against 300 lb., full-grown lion. Also, it’s important for them to look at that child in the photograph and realize that it was not their fault. After all, would you blame a three year old or ten year old or whatever year old on a school playground who didn’t stop a perpetrator from abusing them? Of course not. So then stop blaming yourself!
After really connecting with these difficult feelings and mourning the loss of their innocence, adult survivors can truly stop blaming themselves for the abuse and begin the ”re-parenting” process. And by re-parenting our child self, we re-parent our adult self.
During the reparenting/repair process of therapy, many adult survivors find they can stop sexual abuse within their own family, and/or community. They find they can overcome and grow from that wounded child and become the kind of adult they always wanted to be.
As one of my graduates put it, “Life gets infinitely better when we are no longer just surviving this world, but thriving in a life where we are proud and hold our heads up high, free of the shame and stigma of abuse forever.”
As your childhood photograph will remind you: from the smallest seed a great tree of life can grow.
In my next blog, I’ll talk about another tool I use in my practice: Homework: How Left-hand, Right-hand Writing Rocks Your Brain And The Healing Process. So stay connected!
Your advocate, always –