Overcoming Childhood Emotional Abuse In Adulthood

Old 10-12-2017, 02:09 PM
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Overcoming Childhood Emotional Abuse In Adulthood

I feel so much better... words can't describe the change in me since going No Contact with my parents many months ago. Visiting this subject isn't nearly as painful now, and yet in the midst of a beautiful day with great things going on comes this subject across my path to explore it some more ... and the tears come, a shakiness hits me and I feel a bit of upheaval again. The psychological abuse I've suffered is very real. Even when I can't see it, I feel it, I know it, all the dots of the puzzle of my anxieties and more simply fall into place. I balance out quicker now... I'm getting much stronger emotionally, psychologically and also physically. So... in light of that... as much as I'd rather avoid this subject, here I am with it again...

Facing the reality of childhood abuse in adulthood takes a special kind of courage. It may feel as if sweeping past harms under the rug and ‘moving on’ is the most effective and logical route to take, but in truth, failing to face childhood abuse will only lead to bigger issues in the long run. In order to be an emotionally healthy adult, we must uncover the truth about our earliest relationships. Once we face the truth, healing can begin, and we can ensure that the pattern of abuse does not repeat itself in future relationships. It is not uncommon for an emotionally abused child who does not address past abuse as an adult to repeat patterns of abuse with his or her own children.

Generational Patterns of Emotional Abuse
In most cases, because emotionally abusive parents tend to be very secretive in their abuse, many emotionally abused children will grow up believing that the way they were treated at home was commonplace and natural. Because they lack a frame of reference, they will accept their circumstances as normal, and adapt to the way their family functions. As a direct result, the child will develop a distorted view of what a healthy relationship looks like. Individuals who were emotionally abused throughout early adolescence will typically become adults who lack self-esteem, have difficulties forming meaningful bonds with others, experience a deep and pervasive sadness, and engage in self-destructive behaviors.

Acceptance is The Answer
The greatest indication of future problems, it has been found, is the vehement denial of early abuse. Studies show that adults who deny coming from dysfunctional households (despite having been emotionally abused) are at the greatest risk of perpetuating the cycle of abuse themselves. However, adult survivors of emotional abuse who acknowledge, accept, and awaken to the reality of their damaging childhoods open the door for long-term and authentic healing. If the adult actively seeks therapeutic help, the adult child can successfully break the vicious cycle of emotional abuse without perpetuating the problem with his or her own children. Healing emotionally and psychologically from past harms may seem like quite a task to take on (especially so late in life), but it is truly the only way to avoid propagating generational patterns of relational trauma.

Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse
An emotionally abused child will typically continue being abused by the parents long into adulthood. Patterns have already been established, and family dynamics are not likely to change on their own. Nothing will suddenly and drastically shift – not unless the adult child awakens to the abuse and begins changing the cycle him or herself, that is. Some adults will come to terms with the reality of their abuse when memories are suddenly stirred awake; triggered by a smell, a song, a movie scene… anything, really. Some adults will simply reach a breaking point, and some may continuously deny the abuse until they recognize their parents treating their own children in a damaging way – emotionally abusive parents become emotionally abusive grandparents.

Acknowledging past abuse leads to a temporarily difficult path, but a path of recovery all the same. And walking along a path of recovery (no matter how treacherous it may seem) is much better than being stuck – stuck in a place of pervasive sorrow and an unwavering sense of unworthiness. Finally, patterns of abuse can be definitively broken. You can reclaim your life, and begin the beautiful and gratifying process of authentic healing.
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Old 10-12-2017, 02:42 PM
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The Hidden Wounds of Psycho-Emotional Child Abuse and It’s Effects On Adult Survivors

Another article...

The Hidden Wounds of Psycho-Emotional Child Abuse and It’s Effects On Adult Survivors

An Abuse Of Power

Ever wonder if you were were the victim of actual psychological / emotional abuse versus ‘sub-par parenting’ as a child? Many people have no idea that they grew up in abusive, ‘toxic’, and/or dysfunctional environments. Some therapists may miss the signs as well. The pain and torment of those who experienced “only” emotional abuse is often trivialized. We understand and accept that victims of physical or sexual abuse need specialized treatment to heal, but when it comes to emotional abuse, we are more likely to believe the victims will “just get over it" — which essentially trivializes the adult survivor's pain and dismisses and minimizes the very real psycho-emotional wounds that may continue to cause pain and unrecognized trauma today.

(Article By Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA)

According to Andrew Vachss, an attorney and author who has devoted his life to protecting children, the mental/emotional abuse of a child is “both the most pervasive and the least understood form of child maltreatment. Its victims are often dismissed simply because their wounds are not visible… The pain and torment of those who experienced “only” emotional abuse is often trivialized. We understand and accept that victims of physical or sexual abuse need both time and specialized treatment to heal, but when it comes to emotional abuse, we are more likely to believe the victims will “just get over it” when they become adults. This assumption is dangerously wrong. Emotional abuse scars the heart and damages the soul. Like cancer, it does its most deadly work internally. And, like cancer, it can metastasize if untreated” (Book: You Carry The Cure In Your Own Heart)

Many adults grew up in environments that did not support their authentic true self nature.

Adult survivors may have no idea they have lost connection with an innate, precious aspect of themselves, but may experience anxiety, addiction, depression, and other symptoms that are ultimately rooted in unmet needs and trauma unknowingly repressed during childhood. It is never too late to recover, embrace, and embody the authentic, true self nature so as to reclaim and more fully realize who and what they most truly are at the most basic, fundamental level so as to live in a more emotionally honest, authentic, expansive, energized, and awakened manner.

Were You A Victim Of Abuse In Your Family-Of-Origin?

Psychological/Emotional abuse experienced in childhood can be insidious: It is insidious because the adult survivor is often unaware that they were in fact victims of abuse, and therefore may not ever seek help or treatment for the invisible psychological and emotional wounds sustained. When healthy mental and emotional functioning is impaired, such an adult is at high risk of developing a variety of mood disorders, addictive behaviors, and other maladaptive ways of being in the world in his or her subconscious attempts to navigate around the pain of an injured psyche.

This type of abuse, when repetitive and/or chronic, results in the child unconsciously believing that he or she is faulty, damaged, and unworthy of love, empathy, attention, and respect. The abused child develops distorted perceptions of self and others, and will often conclude at a deep, core level that there is something wrong with them and that they must deserve the abuse. Such children typically strive life-long to be accepted and approved of by others as a means of proving to themselves that they are ‘okay’ and worthy of love. Having little self-worth, adult survivors of child abuse often find themselves in neglectful, even abusive relationships despite their best intentions to find happiness and love. They may go on to abuse their own children without being conscious of the fact that they are engaging in the very same hurtful behaviors that were inflicted upon them as children.

In the event that an adult survivor does for some reason seek the help of a Mental Heath professional, such as a licensed psychotherapist, they still may not receive the psycho-education and targeted support that they so desperately need to recover from abuse experienced while they were young. This is especially likely if the childhood wounds remain entirely unrecognized and go unreported by the client, and/or the therapist unconsciously colludes with their client to prevent the painful material from arising in session (this is especially likely if the therapist has repressed childhood wounding of their own). Successful treatment and recovery from this particular form of child abuse is especially challenging in that the adult survivor in therapy may still be experiencing mental / emotional abuse as a consequence of wanting to remain connected to those who continue to abuse them (most commonly the parents).
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Old 10-12-2017, 04:37 PM
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Keeping the faith

If ever I needed a push to make that extra effort I needed it today thank you your post touched on so many levels with me.I've missed my alanon this week and my therapy reminds me that my kids lives are precious and I will do everything in my power to break the cycle of abuse.(I've only learned what abuse is ).
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Old 12-16-2017, 12:52 PM
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From a study on how the brain develops...

The key to the young rat pups’ behavior is an almond-shaped structure known as the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in emotionally charged memories—especially fearful ones. The presence of the mother during a painful event is enough to suppress activity in the amygdala of a rat pup. The mechanism proved to be surprisingly simple: pups still living in the nest, or older pups in the mother’s presence, did not release the stress hormone corticosterone. The infant amygdala is uniquely dependent upon increases in corticosterone to learn and express fear. In a later study, we showed that the neurotransmitter dopamine is also released when the rat is learning to avoid the odor. Though dopamine is often considered a “reward” chemical, when increased in the amygdala it helps to form fear-related memories. In this study, young rats still in the mother’s nest showed a large decrease in dopamine in the amygdala, indicating a mechanism to further block pups from learning to fear.4

The benefits of this maternal off switch seem obvious. Nearness to the mother offers comfort and courage in what might otherwise be a frightening situation, serving to strengthen the bond between mother and infant, and to remind an older child where its haven is in times of danger. This phenomenon is known as “social buffering,” and it continues throughout life. When a child gets an injection, the presence of a parent can help the child cope with the pain. Later on, when someone we care about is there to comfort us in a stressful situation, our stress hormones and fear are greatly reduced.

The switch is flipped, however, when the intrepid older rat pup is out exploring. Then, the threatening event sparks the fear response, propelling the youngster away from danger and, preferably, back into the nest while searing an indelible memory into the brain.

But when the parent and the nest are themselves sources of danger, the suppression of fear circuits in the amygdala unfortunately still works. The fear, avoidance, and even memories associated with pain are extinguished—explaining why an abused child, even while trying to escape pain, will later seek contact with the abuser.

Neurons Build Walls Around Memories

Under normal circumstances, the ability to remember danger is so vital to survival that memories based on fear cannot be erased. They can be overwritten through “extinction,” an active-learning process in which a new memory supplants the older one (like teaching a rat that a shock will no longer follow the sound that used to precede it). But extinction is shaky and impermanent, and the underlying fear can re-emerge at any time.

Key neurons in the brain build structures that reinforce fear-based memories. These “perineuronal nets” are made of cartilage-like tissue known as proteoglycans. Like miniature chain-link fences, they are thought to protect important memories by blocking the re-modeling, or plasticity, that might otherwise dismantle the memory in favor of new information.

Once again, the formation of these barriers is age-dependent. Andreas Luthi of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Switzerland and Cyril Herry of INSERM in France showed that in adult mice whose fear of a shock has been reprogrammed through extinction, treatment with an enzyme that degrades the “nets” will bring the memory back in full force; the mice showed the same freezing behavior in response to a warning odor that they did before extinction training took place.5 But younger pups, less than three weeks old, can lose a fearful memory completely. Like our work with norepinephrine circuits, this research also illustrates a concrete mechanism that prevents young children from forming memories based on fear—even when it might be in their best interest to do so.
From other studies of the human brain:


" One amazing discovery is that parts of the brain (such as the memory center, the hippocampus) keep growing new brain cells even in adult life. Another finding is that disorders like depression and anxiety disorders cause damage to the brain, or a kind of 'negative plasticity.'

The good news is that the changes in the brain can be reversed. The amygdala can learn to relax again; the hippocampus can resume proper memory consolidation, and the nervous system can heal to flow between the reactive and restorative modes again.

We have CHOICES. We can choose to look at the negative, wallow in it, keep the pain and abuse alive.

Or we can CHOOSE to look towards recovery, towards HEALING, towards creating a new LIFE filled with HOPE, JOY, and HAPPINESS.

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Old 12-16-2017, 01:11 PM
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When I first started posting these things... exploring them... finding my voice... speaking my TRUTH about abuse and trauma as I've become aware of it... I had severe reactions... physical, mental, emotional. They felt debilitating. Yet I had learned first hand from a physical brain injury and a wonderful medical team that:

1. Healing is possible. The brain CAN regenerate and create new neuro-pathways in miraculous ways... this happens all the time in many people, again and again.

2. The heart and the gut have more neurons than the brain. Through therapy I learned to trust my Inner Knowing, my body, my heart. I learned ways to be in the moment by Mindfulness and being aware of all my senses.

The most amazing thing about these posts today is immediate reactions of fear and feeling guilt... of feeling ill... aren't here.

In this, I am CELEBRATING another milestone in my recovery.

I am listening to music at a favorite coffee shop while traveling, surrounded by happy, energetic, peaceful people. These kind of things help and I'm seeing progress in that I'm automatically turning towards healthy behaviors.

The process hasn't been easy. It is SO very much worth it!!!!
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Old 12-16-2017, 08:02 PM
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More on fear, how the brain works and healing from trauma: (Healing from trauma - putting on the brakes)

It's sometimes still a bit surreal that I thought I had a happy childhood and loving parents... that my brain hid the trauma from me in order to survive. There came a point in my recovery from being in an alcoholic marriage that so much more started bubbling up, wanting to find healing, too.
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Old 12-16-2017, 08:48 PM
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I have to say, after my mother passed things about my family dysfunction became much clearer. It took a few years for me to sort thru the "shattered" fantasy land I lived in. That's the only way to describe how it felt. Like none of it was real, just a charade of "perfectness" she created to hide the dysfunction.
This is the last, and only thing I never resolved in therapy. I truly don't know if I have the strength to do it. Have worked all my other issues, life changes etc.... But this. I guess I'm afraid it would kill me. Just to say it out loud
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Old 12-17-2017, 02:45 AM
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Very helpful posts........
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:32 AM
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Bump in honor of Valentine's Day.

I'm honoring the love I have in my life, and as I heal, so does my heart.

No Contact with those hurting me has been the core of giving myself space for healing.
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