Most of us are aware that children, who suffer violence and abuse at home, are at greater risk of suffering from anxiety and depression later in life. According to a study by the University College London, violence/abuse within families can affect children in the same way as combat affects soldiers.
Scientists carried out magnetic resonance imaging brain scans of children. More than half of them were from abusive homes. The pattern of activity in the brain showed heightened activation in two regions that are associated with threat detection. Previous research of combat soldiers has shown similar patterns.
The scans suggest both veterans and children from abusive homes tune their brains to be hyper-aware of environmental dangers. This also increases vulnerability to mental health problems. In my experience, it also creates ultra-sensitivity to other people’s aggression.
I often wonder why certain traumatic events in life have been a breeze in comparison to early childhood with my parents. From early memories – 3 to 9 years old – Mum would regularly launch into attacking my sister and me with her slipper. In addition, Dad’s violence and intimidation were severe and repressive.
Between a dysfunctional home and sexual abuse, my behaviour was appalling. To this day, it is hard to revisit that part of childhood. Unfortunately, vivid PTSD-like flashback images can haunt me like nightmares. My heart beats heavily with adrenaline. The anger is soul destroying.
It would take an entire post to explain the complex nature of our mother. Never renowned for patience, “misdemeanours” never did wear well. Barely a day would pass without her bemoaning, “Oh what a terrible time I’m having”. This would only fuel Dad’s temper even more.
I can still hear her moan, “I wish I never had you” and “You will go into a home for bad boys”. The intention was to frighten me into submission. She had no way of knowing that I would pray to God for two things – to be put in a home as far away from them as possible or that I would die.
Seldom does the child break, but on the rare occasions when he does, Mum would soothe-talk with statements like, “It is your own fault” and “You bring it all on yourself”. It planted the seeds of guilt, shame and humiliation. Emotions I still struggle with today.
Of course, I know we should not harbour feelings of shame and self-blame, but these emotions still weigh heavy, as though they are the bricks and mortar of my life. They are hard to shake.
For years, I have been stuck on how to forgive them, to be able to let go and finally move on. Maybe I’m looking to forgive the wrong people – perhaps I should strive towards forgiving myself.
Some people say that self-forgiveness is the key…and I sometimes think they must be right. But no one has ever been able to tell me how you can forgive yourself (which makes me wonder if it’s possible at all). It’s too hard for me to imagine… I guess. Nevertheless I hope that everyone who strives for self-forgiveness reaches it one way or the other. I hope you’ll get there if it is what might truly help you in the end. xx
Hi Grace… I am not sure how to forgive the people who hurt me as a child, or myself. However, people say it is possible and I must try achieve that peace for myself. It’s a long road and I do also hope you find that peace through forgiveness.
Thanks for your comment, Grace.
Cat, you probably already know what I am about to say… self forgiveness is an awesome place to start because you have complete control over it. You cannot control the other people in your life or their reactions to you and your feelings. But you can control yourself – it may take practice, but it can be done. Self forgiveness can start with just accepting what you had control over, and what you didn’t. The stuff you didn’t have control over is stuff you hold off on for now. The stuff you had control over is where you start.
For example: you had no control over the actions of the abusers. But you had control over your actions. I am not talking about a scared young child being unable to stop abuse – you had no control there. I am talking about things like let’s say after an episode of abuse when you felt angry and hurt and in turn you chose to take that anger out on someone or something else ( a weaker kid, a pet, someone else’s property, whatever…) – you know “kick the dog syndrome”. So you find an instance like that and really look at it, accept how you felt/feel, acknowledge the hurt and the pain and the anger. Then let go of the associated guilt of hurting some-one else with your pain and find one small place of forgiveness. And from there it can spread… one baby step at a time, till eventually you can start to forgive the things you never had control over…
*Big Hugz* to you my friend I hope this helps even if it’s just in knowing some-one cares…
PS that weaker kid could even have been yourself… self abuse counts here too… *hugz*
Yes, I totally get that
MSH… As always, your support and wisdom are very welcomed. I know what you are saying is true. After reading it over a few times, something within finds the entire concept of forgiveness so difficult to grasp. I can only continue to chip away at it and hope that I will one day know healing.
I’ve been stuck on this for years. The only difference now is that I am talking and listening… I absorb everything other people have to say and have been grateful to you on many an occasion for sharing your insight.
As you say, one baby step at a time… Thanks!
Enjoyed not only this Blog but your response myspokenheart!
Thank you for dropping by. I also take a lot away from your blog.
Fascinating research…this is why I go through EMDR.
The words that your mother said to you feel like a dagger to me. I suppose being a mother myself, I cannot imagine talking to my own kids that way.
Yes, once again, forgiveness is essential to healing, but how can one begin? It is not as easy as saying the words and moving on. These things take time, and the younger we were when the hurt took place, the deeper the seeds are imbedded in our fabric, the longer this process takes. I also like what myspokenheart had to say…one step at a time…sometimes we must work from the outside in.
Those words – and many more – from my Mum were disgusting. The worst is that she would still blame me today for being so difficult! This is the essence of what makes forgiveness and moving on so ruddy difficult. At such a young age, those experiences become woven into our fabric – the building blocks of our lives.
MSH always has great wisdom to share. It makes a difference to have such nice people sharing my journey. Thanks RS, appreciated.
The emotions sound really painful. I think those things like guilt, shame, etc are a common feature in PTSD aren’t they? At least I think I read that somewhere, best wishes
I think they are common features of PTSD and very difficult to shake. Thanks for reading and commenting GM
I enjoyed reading this blog …. there is a quote you wrote and I want to answer your quote .. you said
” I often wonder why certain traumatic events in life have been a breeze in comparison to early childhood with my parents”
Early childhood is where we develop worthiness, love, care, connection. This is the time is our life that is most crucial. This is where we develop all the things that makes us who we are. Its where we learn the love we should have, the safety we should be provided, and the connection. When we are abused as children those things are robbed from us, and they stay with us and it’s painful. We build walls as we move through life, but those things before the walls never developed the way they should have, and a part of healing is going back and redoing the things we were not provided.. we need to re-parent ourselves to heal.
That is what I have learned and it has helped me to heal along in this journey
Hi Karen… I understand and agree with everything you say. However – and there is usually a “however” – there seems to be some kind of mental block as to how exactly I ‘re-parent’ and heal the child within. I’ve been stuck here for many years. I’m guessing I need to do a little more reading and undergo some therapy, which I am due to start in the autumn.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. It’s appreciated.