Can you ever get over physical, emotional abuse or neglect?
A cruel word or snub from a certain person can hurt, just like a physical pain.
When a significant relationship doesn’t connect, it sets off alarm bells on a deep, subconscious level.
We are wired for connection. This need is basic, just like our need for food and water.
Childhood Experiences of Neglect or Abuse
Early childhood experiences teach us how to adapt to the world.
We start out unable to care for ourselves, and so we are completely dependent on those around us to get even our basic needs met. This is how we are wired. The ways in which we are responded to affects how we expect to experience the world.
Since we are wired for connection, when abuse and neglect happen, they make absolutely no sense to our subconscious minds. On a primitive level, these experiences are perceived as life-threatening.
To a child, the idea of our caretaker harming us or ignoring us feels too scary and overwhelming to process. Since abuse and neglect don't compute, our minds go through all sorts of mental and emotional gymnastics to try to make sense out of them. Our minds come up with explanations and beliefs that feel safer, such as, "there is something wrong with me," or "I should have known better... done better... been better."
These harmful, limiting beliefs then filter our experiences from then on.
Whether or not we received proper care doesn’t depend on how well-meaning those who took care of us were. For example, a parent may have been unable to attend to a child’s distresses adequately due to illness or other preoccupations. Maybe they were great care-takers some of the time, unless they were drunk, drugged, depressed, experiencing a psychotic break…
Regardless of the reason behind the abuse or neglect, experiences of the child integrate into how he or she sees him or herself, others and how he or she interacts with the world. These early influences can continue to shape and distort experiences long after the threat is gone. When this all happens before we even have the capacity for logic and reason, or before we are even verbal - we may not even have any way of verbalizing or making sense of these subconscious yet profound influences.
Abuse in adult relationships
I often hear from people who have been abused say things like, “how could I be so stupid?” Stupid is not the word I would come up with. More like tricked by a somebody who, consciously or otherwise, relied on and carefully crafted manipulation and deceit as their relationship skills.
Abuse in adult relationships has a similar effect as childhood abuse. The same wiring for connection is involved, something the abuser used to lure you in. When abuse occurs, it doesn’t make any sense. It literally doesn’t compute, on a deep level. How could this person you thought you loved treat you so cruelly?
Our minds make up versions that blame ourselves. I’m thinking this is because this gives us a sense that we can do something to make it better. The alternative, “I love someone who is cruel to me” takes longer to sink in.
Why do our brains create these distortions?
Our brains are actually trying to protect us. Survival is more important to the primitive brain than anything else. Unfortunately, early adaptations don’t update with the changing times, so we end up reacting to threats that no longer exist. Whether reacting to an actual threat or to an old out-dated threat, when survival mode kicks in, everyday brain functioning gets interrupted so that all available energy and resources are put toward getting to safety. This means that well being, maintenance and repair all become low priority. Logic and reason are blocked.
Relationships are difficult because of how distorted our vision of how others are and should be as well as how we are. An awful lot of time is spent "in the head" trying to analyze everything and figure it all out. When this is the approach, it's hard to trust yourself unless you work out all the different outcomes. Even then, it's hard to trust yourself.
I think of it as a fish in a fishbowl that doesn't know there is a whole world outside of that bowl. Unlike the fish, we don't have to stay in the tiny, restricting bowl for the rest of our live.
How I can help.
I am experienced in helping people clear out persistent, conscious and unconscious self-limiting beliefs and patterns. Rapid Resolution Therapy (RRT), my specialty, goes beyond just the thinking mind into the more primitive, emotional mind. We can clear out shame, guilt, self-loathing, anxiety and depression even where there is no obvious cause.
What does therapy look like?
Talk therapy and other more traditional approaches require you to introspect and analyze yourself and what you think, say and do. None of that is encouraged in RRT. All you have to do is provide me with a general idea of what has been going on for you, currently. The rest is on me.
In a session you may find elements of mindfulness and meditation, therapeutic storytelling, movement and touch, guided imagery, or play. Each session is tailored to your particular situation and need, and designed to make significant impact. Improvements made are lasting and are experienced as automatic and natural, and include feeling more connected, whole and at peace.
Sounds OK But You Have More Questions
What about Insurance?
I don’t accept insurance.
It is my intention that any session you have with me will be valuable and beneficial for you, and I know how to quickly resolve problems stemming from abuse or neglect. I do not accept your payment unless you value and benefit from meeting with me. I would not be able to stand behind my services in this way with insurance. I'd also be prevented from providing you with the most efficient services. I've written about reasons I usually recommend avoiding the use of insurance for mental health. If you’re interested, click here.
What If It Some Big Scary Stuff Comes Flooding Back?
Preventing you from having to re-experience painful, terrifying events is one of the distinctions of my approach. Reliving traumatic events is neither necessary nor beneficial.
What If My Problems Are Too Big? Or Too Small?
No problem is too big or too small. Seemingly unimportant events can have a profound effect on lives. The bigger the negative effect has been, the more relief once it has been removed. You will huge amounts of energy to put toward the people and or activities that are meaningful to you.
What If I Don't Remember What Happened?
Often I find that clients can't recall exactly what happened, or has trouble putting what happened into words. Neither of these pose any problem at all, as remembering what happened is not required to be effective.
You Can Be In Sync
Whether you'd like to schedule an appointment or discuss questions you may have, it would be my pleasure to hear from you.
Photo credits: black Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses on beach sand by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash.com, pink umbrella by Eric Witsoe on Unsplash.com