The pain of the past, unfortunately, keeps you stuck in a time zone of terror and fear. It splits your still developing self into fragments. You adopt a coping mechanism that helps you survive. You deny your true self and become a caricature, a puppet who is controlled by other people.
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Sadly, for us survivors, our past continues to cast its dark shadow on our lives long after we have escaped the toxic environment. Our brain has been moulded and wired for stress-reactivity even when there is no stress.
Abuse and Development of False Self
Childhood abuse is actually brain destroying. The ones who are supposed to love and protect you were the ones to unleash hate, terror, meanness and rejection.
It shatters your trust in the universe and wounds your core being. You come to believe their lies that you are bad – not good enough and evil.
Furthermore, you are shamed into silence by the society which refuses to believe the child.
‘I am bad’ becomes your default program. To fit in you repress your feelings and adjust to the needs of your caregivers and family. You pretend, you fake your laughter or numb out parts of you that will bring on their wrath or displeasure.
Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott describes the false self as a defensive façade – one which in extreme cases could leave its holders lacking spontaneity and feeling dead and empty, behind a mere appearance of being real.
We suppress our true essence because our evil environment will destroy us if we dare protest against the injustice. We cower in fear and cover up who we really are.
To really heal we need to uncover and throw out shit that has been heaped on our innocent psyches.
Further, we have to shed the faulty beliefs that the adults were ‘right‘ and we were wrong and bad. It means slowly releasing the negative energies trapped in our minds and bodies.
For me, it meant releasing the shame of being falsely accused of being the slut in the family. That I was responsible for the sexual abuse.
Instead of being protected, I was blamed. To protect myself I hid my body and repressed my sexuality by developing scoliosis. My development was arrested, emotionally and in many ways physically I was stuck at age 13 years. Becoming a woman was dangerous and terrifying. Pretending to be a little girl was safer. For years I did not know what it was to feel like a woman.
Shedding layers of trauma mean changing our perceptions and rewiring our brains to overcome our past negative reality.
Trauma creates a mental block. To heal we need to release these mental blocks and shed the protective ‘armour’ like layers we built in our psyche.
We can consciously change our thought processes, feelings and experiences) to physically alter our brains, which, in turn, alters how our mind works.
Our brain is amazing. It can heal and change due to its neuroplasticity. By increasing neural activity in specific brain regions (through our chosen therapeutic technique) the neurons’ connections (synapses) are strengthened, and new connections (synapses) are formed.
Whatever we feed our brain system becomes the new program. Research has proved that ‘neurons that fire together wire together.’
Mirroring Not Meditation
Though meditation is considered to be safe for healthy people, there have been reports of meditation-induced psychosis. Meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people who have certain mental issues.
Meditation is not a cure for mental illness. How can it be? Asking a person who is mentally traumatised to be mindful and watch her thoughts is like asking her to sit still while being burnt alive. Trauma makes our minds go haywire, we are overwhelmed with thoughts that are too painful to contemplate.
What really helps is having someone to share our pain and validate our experiences. That we were indeed hurt and are not the bad one. When someone holds the mirror of loving kindness to our pain it makes us feel safe. It revises and resets our limbic brain.
Love is the only real cure for mental illness.
Healing means understanding, accepting and grieving for our past. We need to stop believing the lies of our abusers and release our shame and guilt.
We have to accept the truth about the people who let us down, hurt and betrayed us. Cutting them out and letting them go is the way to move forward.
To become integrated we need to honestly accept the pain and loss and stop denying, repressing and pretending that all was okay. We need to accept that we were wounded and slowly work on ourselves to put together the parts of our shattered psyche.
The most painful truth for me was accepting that my father did not really care, nor did my brother or my extended family or my best friend or my lover.
Love and True Self
However, it also meant that there were some people who really did love me. Who were kind and loving and who really did care regardless of who I was – broken and confused. They reaffirmed my faith that there is still good in this world. Those little bits of caring were like tiny bandages I slowly used to put together my shattered psyche together.
I bask in being a mother, it defines the person who I am slowly becoming. Caring for another human being who has loved me despite my failings has been very therapeutic.
The online world has connected me with fellow survivors on the journey of healing. Being bonded in our pain and all of us struggling to overcome the past has helped me overcome my deep sense of aloneness.
Gradually, as my inner child heals, I no longer need to pretend and be something just to be accepted. I am free to become who I am truly meant to be.
Healing from the past has helped release my true self without fear of rejection or ridicule. I feel more alive and look forward to what the New Year has to offer.