If I were to summarize, based on looking back over the years, trying to move on from the abuse and change my life, the first step would be a positive acknowledgement of everything you are feeling. The validation of your story by yourself, and hopefully others, seems to be necessary to taking the subsequent steps.
This idea is not in line with what I was told early on by both religious and non-religious therapists. They claimed I couldn’t move on because I couldn’t forgive. But until my story was positively validated, until I knew for sure that it wasn’t all in my head—that’s what abusers try to get you to think by constantly gaslighting you—I could not move forward.
For me that validation never occurred until I read The Body Keeps the Score. Once I read that, it was like a blindfold has been taken off and I could begin to see things for the first time.
When I say “positively” I mean what you have experienced needs to be compassionately confirmed. And your reaction to it must also be compassionately confirmed. The moment you fall into the “cult of personal responsibility,” you will get stuck and will not be able to move forward.
Personal responsibility is a lie created by people who don’t want to face the issue of trauma. They create a false narrative which claims there can be a right and wrong way to react to trauma. This is a lie. The only “right” way is the way you were forced to deal with it, the way that helped you survive.
Aside from hating this because it forces them to face the fact that trauma is a terrible thing and they should get off their arses and do something about it, people hate this idea because the way the traumatized person reacts often creates further trauma. It’s a cycle and because society is not healthy enough (even among psychologists and psychiatrists) to make the structural changes required to lessen the reasons for trauma, it continues and is directed always at the victim.
The thing I learned, though, is that everyone is the victim. My mother was the scapegoat of her family. She turned into an absolute psycho as a result. And she abused my brother and me terribly because she could never deal with her trauma.
Where does it start?
It starts with a society that has never viewed children as fully human. Even today, many in the health profession are loathe to accept the fact that childhood trauma is the biggest factor in almost all our ills. For example, studies done on morbidly obese people have found that upwards of 75% of them were sexually abused as children. Yet our society, backed by the medical profession, continues to insist that overweight people are just lazy. As a result, their stories are not validated. They are shamed for their response to the trauma. And the cycle continues.
Too often, we are forced to self-validate. And that takes far longer than getting help from outside. And in that span of time, we end up retraumatizing ourselves with the thoughts our abusers put into our heads about our worthlessness and the doubtfulness of our experience.
And the cycle continues.