Complex trauma is ongoing and/or repeated interpersonal trauma/abuse, caused with a captivity environment, where there is no perceived way to escape.
If this is endured within childhood, the child often fails to learn self care, appropriate boundaries and fails to develop a healthy self esteem.
For adults enduring complex trauma e.g. domestic violence- the self esteem and capacity for self care the survivor may have previously had – can be slowly destroyed, reduced and can become almost non existent.
Self esteem and self care are linked. They both lead to an increase in self worth, which complex trauma survivors can have a lack of.
The following is 8 ways a survivor can start to build, or re-build healthy self esteem, self care.
1. Know The Abuse Was Never Deserved
A survivor of complex trauma, often feels the abuse they endured, was in some way their fault. The perpetrators of the abuse often tell the survivor it is their fault, as a way of shifting blame to the victim. And this is another layer of the trauma endured.
It is needed to know – the victim was never at fault, the abuse was never deserved, nothing the victim did or did not do – means they are at fault, in any way.
The responsibility for the abuse was always 100% the perpetrators.
The accountability for the perpetrators actions, lies 100% with the perpetrator.
No-one should be blaming, shaming or shifting shame, about abuse. Including the survivor.
Part of healing is to come to understand this.
2. Self Talk About What A Survivor Does Deserve
Once a survivor fully understands they did not ever deserve to be abused, they can begin to have the self talk needed, as to what they do deserve. And always deserved.
A survivor deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, care, kindness and compassion. And they always did deserve this. The fact that someone abused them, does not in any way mean they deserved to be abused or mistreated.
Developing this positive self talk, takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes times to re-wire belief systems and the way we talk to ourselves.
This is vital, for the healing to begin.
3. Understand Healthy Emotional Boundaries
During complex trauma/ongoing abuse, appropriate boundaries are trampled over, by the perpetrator. This includes emotional and physical boundaries.
If the survivor was abused in childhood, often the child does not learn appropriate and healthy boundaries, as they were never modelled. Learning healthy boundaries, can be a difficult step, but it is possible.
If the survivor was abused in adulthood, their boundaries will have been slowly destroyed by the perpetrator. This may have been a slow process, where the perpetrator gradually reduced the victims needed boundaries. The survivor can learn to rebuild healthy boundaries.
Healthy emotional boundaries, protect us from harm and toxicity. They protect our healing process. They protect the survivor from projecting any of their issues onto others.
They are vital to a healthy individual and are an important part of healing.
4. Learn To Dismiss Toxic People’s Opinions
Toxic people think in irrational, manipulative and selfish ways. They also often have delusional belief systems about themselves. Their thinking is not based in honesty or kindness to others.
Survivors need to understand whatever a toxic person/abuser said about the survivor – will no doubt be lies too. The perpetrator may project blame onto the victim. This is a classic manipulations tactic. They may accuse the victim of being the abusive one. This again is more manipulation. These are just a few examples.
As part of healing – a survivor comes to fully accept – the perpetrator was dishonest, and in no way should the survivor believe their emotionally abusive opinions about the survivor.
5. Learn What Is The Survivors Responsibility & What Is Not
Complex trauma survivors often have a difficult time understanding what is their responsibility to deal with, and what is someone else’s. Often survivors feel like they are door mats to everyone else’s issues, and need to learn where to draw the line. And they don’t know how to change this. Some don’t even realise they need to change this.
Often survivors also feel they need to help and fix everyone – as this may have been their role assigned to them by toxic people, when they were being abused.
Buzz words like ‘co-dependent’ are used a lot by mental health professionals – based upon people taking responsibility for someone else’s issues, when in fact that issue is not theirs to deal with.
Learning what is our own responsibility, and what is not, helps a survivor to focus on themselves, and not take on other people’s issues.
6. Develop Own Interests & Hobbies
Survivors of complex trauma, often do not have a belief of their own self worth, or that they deserve happiness and joy for themselves.
The self worth of survivors of complex trauma – is often based upon what they do for others. In order to heal this, a survivor learns to develop a life, where their own needs, own interests and own happiness, is important and deserved.
Survivors of complex trauma, are often very creative and interests that built upon this creativity, is very healing. Examples of this are arts, crafts, hobbies.
7. Taking Care Of Our Bodies & Physical Health
Physical self care is challenging for complex trauma survivors. When abusive people have treated us so badly, it’s hard for many survivors to know they do deserve to treat themselves well, including their physical health needs.
This includes healthy diet, exercise, learning symptom management skills like deep breathing, guided relaxation, yoga (which is excellent for trauma survivors), better sleep hygiene, regularly showering/bathing, massage…. and all the little moments of self care we can increase like resting when needed, reading, listening to music, relaxing bubble baths and many more.
Practising this, and increasing our physical health needs, helps increase a survivors self esteem, and this can have a very healing and positive effect.
8. Trauma Informed Counselling/Therapy
Therapy with a quality therapist, can really help a survivor build up needed self esteem and self worth. An empathic therapist will have this in mind when building up the therapy relationship and will want to build up the client’s positive self talk.
This takes time and does not happen overnight. Those core beliefs complex trauma survivors often have – of not being deserving of good, takes a lot of effort and time to change.
But, the persistence is so worth it.
I encourage every survivor of abuse and trauma, to know they do deserve kindness, care and compassion……. and that starts with self.
The most significant growth of self esteem and self worth, start when we change the way we think about, and treat ourselves.
I always say to survivors – even if you don’t believe you deserve it, keep telling yourself that you do. This helps re-wire the brain, to a more healthy and deserved way of thinking.
For more information on Complex Trauma and how to manage, cope and heal, please see my Website @ https://www.healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.com/
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
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