Resistance to Change

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I am reading ‘How We Heal and Grow- The Power of Facing Your Feelings’ by Jeffrey Smith MD and I would like to recommend this book to every survivor of childhood trauma.

I am reading it to complement my therapy sessions and I have gained a lot of insight so far that is helping me in my journey of healing. I would like to share what I have learned so far.

Firstly, Smith talks about the importance of being able to feel safe enough to share your feelings. When a trauma survivor has found an empathic listener, they are able to reveal the feelings that are hiding behind all the shame and guilt. This is essentially described as catharsis. Personally, I can say that my therapist has created a non-judgemental space in which I have been able for the first time to talk about all the dark secrets within me. Catharsis is a powerful way to relive these feelings in a safe place and be able to move on from them.

What is very interesting though is that, it is not only the feelings that have to be uncovered. Being abused as a child causes us to internalise values and attitudes that are a result of the abuse. These values and attitudes are part of the mental content that we have to examine and analyse. Without doing so, we will continue to use coping mechanisms that were developed at the time of the trauma despite the catharsis that has happened.

The book reveals how our own minds can work against us and be a barrier to growth and healing. We have a complex motivational apparatus that impacts on our free will. In fact, it is as if half of our mind doesn’t belong to us. There are inner agents working in our mind to maintain the status quo. This means that when we try to enact change our inner agents will send us impulses and thoughts from our conscience and other layers of the apparatus to resist the intended change. The inner agents are so powerful that we can be overcome by shame and guilt and even become depressed, restless or anxious when we try to change our behaviour patterns.

I feel like this is where I am in my journey. I have started facing the feelings and am trying to break old behaviour patterns based on internalised values such as ‘I am not worthy’, ‘I am bad and shameful’, ‘I don’t deserve a voice,’ ‘My feelings  and boundaries don’t matter’ etc. These were the values and attutudes towards myself that I internalised as a result of the sexual abuse by my father.

As I try to make decisions based on MY comfort and well-being for the first time and as I move away from toxic people, my mind is flooded with impulses and thoughts pulling me back to the familiar dark places. My mind tells me that I am selfish for keeping my son away from his father, that I need him even though he is abusive, that I won’t find anyone else to love me and that what I am trying to do is too difficult.

Who could have known that our greatest enemy could be our own mind! It is one of the most damaging consequences of sexual abuse that we victimise ourselves long after the abuse has stopped.

Can anyone relate to this?


10 thoughts on “Resistance to Change

  1. That sounds like a great book. I attended a lecture yesterday about the adverse effects of trauma on children. There are studies now that prove that childhood trauma changes the way the brain develops. It is fascinating. I found that in therapy, I felt that I could pinpoint moments that must have taken me onto a different path of development. The battlefield, often is in our own minds💙

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes you are so right, the childhood trauma alters our neural pathways and our brains are hardwired in a very different way to children with healthy childhoods. That is a profound effect that takes a lot of time to heal. But we will heal because that is why we are on this great path!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very much so but knowing it doesn’t seem to change it. I also get so frustrated with myself about not feeling safe in therapy. Like I feel safe but my body responds differently and my words freeze and I begin to curl up and hide. After all these years I still respond like…well that’s where your post comes into play and all the negative beliefs swirl in my head. I am so slow to change that it seems like resistance but I think it’s just fear, shame and guilt all rolled into one. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes there seems to be so many levels of knowing that we have to get through to heal. But I believe that the body knowing and responding is a very significant important step without which there would be no way forward. The body feels safe enough to respond and that is a start! Be patient with yourself, your body has been through so much. lets be kind to our bodies and accepting . Change will come if we allow it and stick with it

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is wonderful. Thank you! I relate to so much of what you describe. A key part for me is the belief that “this is just too hard!” I have to check myself constantly when I get to that place. For me it’s often when I’m trying to gain some control in my outside world. Usually when my house feels like a disaster, my kids are arguing, my to-do list seems improbable. I find myself completely overcome with that belief, “This is too hard.” I’ve just come to realize that this is me as a child, trying to cope with the sexual abuse and feeling like it was just too hard. It was too hard. It was improbable and I just felt bad and worthless and completely shut down. Like a deer in the headlights. Paralyzed. This is a trigger for me now as an adult. Sometimes the little things feel like too much and it’s embarrassing because the tasks before me really aren’t too much and my husband isn’t overwhelmed by them. However because I’m triggered I find myself feeling like I could just curl in a ball and hide.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad that you find something in my posts helpful but I am sorry that you can relate. I know the feeling of being overwhelmed all too well. It’s the accumulation of little things that others are able to cope with seemingly. It is as you, the inner child who just couldn’t cope with such horror. At least we can try to stop being so hard on ourselves and just be with that little girl in those moments. Just nurture and protect her and acknowledge her feelings! always a pleasure to hear from you. take care my fellow warrior survivor

      Liked by 2 people

  4. “Being abused as a child causes us to internalise values and attitudes that are a result of the abuse.” The healing process is a long one. I’ve made a lot of progress, but I see that I have a long way to go. As you said, knowing is only half the battle. Thank you for sharing this post with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a pleasure, I am glad that you could take something away from my post. Yes, it’s a long hard difficult road to healing but the book does say that the mind, body and soul wants to heal itself if we give it that chance. The psyche wants to become whole, so there is a lot of hope and optimism for us in that. Take care

      Liked by 1 person

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