For those of us who have endured considerable abuse from childhood onwards, we have brains and belief systems that are wired by all the terribly abusive words and actions done to us.
Our brains are developing when we are children. Which is why childhood complex trauma is so damaging. Our immature and growing brains become wired by the experiences we endure, the abusive words we hear and the ongoing harm and fear we feel.
Our brains have grown hearing e.g. we are unworthy of love. We are unworthy of respect. We are unworthy of being treated with dignity. We are only worth abusing and being treated with contempt. That we deserved it, and the shame is ours. And our suffering and pain, does not matter. That danger is always imminent. These greatly impact the growing brain and the belief systems we form.
It wires us to have deep issues with trust. It wires our brains to be permanently hyper vigilant and ready for more trauma. It wires us to isolate when overwhelmed. To hate ourselves. And so many more fear and shame based thinking and beliefs, understandably formed due to all the severe abuse and trauma – we should never have endured.
This has lasting impact on how we see the world, how we view people and also how we feel about ourselves. This goes on into adulthood and affects us in so many ways.
In order to heal these deep wounds that have taken years, if not decades to form…… we have to ‘re-wire’ our brain to think appropriately. We have to re-wire our brains to have new and positive beliefs about the world and about ourselves. And there is a lot to re-wire, when you have endured a childhood based in ongoing fear and abuse.
I also know – that you cannot hear the appropriate words and believe them immediately. It doesn’t work like that for many of us. Hearing it once or a few times, does not re-wire those beliefs – that are so deeply fused and embedded. I have realised I needed to hear and read it over and over – to even start to believe them. And this process takes a long time. It is why blogging has been such an important part of my healing. As I type it out, my brain is hearing what it needs to hear – to begin to heal. And the more times I type it, the more my new beliefs and thinking are forming.
I realise, this is why many of blogs are issues that I write about repeatedly. Even within blog posts – I can write the same thing repeatedly. And whilst they may seem odd to people – it is actually a necessary part of my healing.
An example of thinking and a belief system I needed to re-wire – is knowing and believing I am worthy of respect and being treated with kindness and love. I learned the opposite of this in my childhood. I had no self esteem, considerable shame and self hate issues and knew nothing else but being abused. So, I have needed to learn what the appropriate messages and beliefs I need to accept, and then write and say and hear those same positive messages and tell myself over and over. That repetition, is vital to re-wire those deeply entrenched belief systems within my brain.
Another example is shame. And this is a terribly painful and deeply entrenched issue so many childhood abuse survivors have to deal with. Many don’t even realise they have pervasive shame issues. As it often looks like depression. So, actually understanding what we are dealing with, is a complex process in itself. Because you cannot change inappropriate thinking, beliefs and emotions – if you don’t even understand what they are, and why you have them.
I have also come to understand, that even when I think I have dealt with a certain issue that required new thinking and beliefs…… triggers can occur – where my brain jumps straight back to my old belief systems. And I have to stop, and remind myself and tell myself again.
I do feel like this is such an important part of healing. And healing is about changing ourselves. It’s about developing healthy belief systems; about understanding and implementing healthy boundaries. It’s about developing healthy lifestyles – that we do deserve. And we can only change what we acknowledge and are prepared to confront honestly and then deal with appropriately.
I do also know, this process is one that can only occur when each survivor is ready and able. That will be different for everyone. For some this will occur in their 20’s and that’s great. For some this may not occur until they are in their 50’s, 60’s etc. Which is absolutely okay. For me it wasn’t until my 40’s. And this process will take different timespans and will be impacted by the level of stressors and support – or lack of – we have in our lives.
So, I believe we need to not be hard on ourselves about this. We do not need to beat ourselves up. We need to approach this with self compassion and patience with ourselves. (Which I know is a challenge in itself). It does not change overnight.
As with all areas of healing, it takes time. We don’t need or deserve anymore shame, so, however long it takes, is absolutely okay.
If it takes years and decades of abuse to form…….. it may take a long time to heal. No shame needed.
(Interestingly, you may note I have repeated myself within this blog post. And I have intentionally left the repetition there – as it is another example of the repetition I need to hear, and many others need to read and believe for themselves).
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
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