The impression of a hand on innocent skin eventually fades, physical bruises heal, broken bones and skin mend over time, but the broken spirit can remain. The sense of shame and insecurity continue, unfaltered by age, experience, or the myriad of dysfunctional relationships created out of the necessity to resolved the unresolved; such is the life of those who've suffered traumatic physical and emotional abuse in childhood and have been unable to break free. When we’ve yet to let go of the binds that tie us down, the binds that have broken us in the most critical sense, it makes parenting difficult. Our memories surface from beneath deep waters of fear, sadness, and need. In the darkest of moments, a child can become a catalyst for the unspoken traumas that linger, and the survivor of childhood abuse –the parent –becomes the perpetrator of those same abuses that have coalesced into what they call the story of their life. The cycle continues.
How do we know when the storm has passed and we are emotionally and psychologically equipped to become parents? Interestingly, many do not bother to ask the question. Instead, they vow to themselves to never be like their parents and forge ahead, ignorant of the trials that lay in waiting. The problem is that they may not realize the battle is not theirs alone. It trickles down generations like an inherited disease, striking in ways sometimes different, but no better. It’s easy to say we are over it. It’s much harder to actually be, over it.
The scars of emotional abuse hide well. They do not discriminate. They don’t care if you are God-fearing, perform your civic duties, or give to the poor. They don’t care if you have a good job and put on a very convincing façade of stability and contentment. Don’t fool yourself. They can creep out when you least expect them, filter themselves to the outer world, and attack those closest and dearest –unintentionally, of course. They are dismissed with words such as, “You made me mad!” or “I’ve had a bad day!” Justifications are the rule, and many who have emotionally abusive tendencies can be completely unaware of them. They sit at the seat of the unconscious, which drives much of our behavior.
So what do we do? The first step from someone contemplating parenthood, who has survived childhood abuse, whether emotional, physical or sexual, would be to get help. If you are already a parent, it behooves you to make sure you’ve taken the right steps toward healing.
If you live in the Kansas area and would like information on where to get help, visit the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse.