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Going It Alone for Survivors of Abuse

Digital Art Painting
Digital Art Painting
Gun Legler

“Only the family, society's smallest unit, can change and yet maintain enough continuity to rear children who will not be "strangers in a strange land," who will be rooted firmly enough to grow and adapt.”
― Salvador Minuchin, Families & Family Therapy

The cohesive primal bond of the family affords one a sense of collective identity and enduring security. This tribal unit is where children are raised, where love is shared, and where roles and ambitions are defined. Ancestral and cultural ties deepen this profound experience of unification.

Yet, there are families in which toxic systemic cycles of abuse and generational trauma permeate the relational dynamics. In these toxic homes addiction, sexual abuse, violence and cruelty infiltrate child rearing practices. Long term consequences in adult survivors of familial abuse can be chronic and debilitating. Complex post traumatic stress, repeated victimization, suicidal behavior, addictions, eating disorders, and issues with intimacy are representative of the difficulties survivors confront.

In order to heal from the ravages of complex PTSD cultivating safety in one's life is critical. Tragically when familial abusers are unwilling and/or unable to address their emotional problems, they continue to perpetrate, creating a climate of danger and threat. In such cases the only recourse may be to completely sever ties and leave the family for good.

Condemnation and judgment is a common byproduct of choosing to leave one's family of origin. Protecting oneself by leaving one's family, irrespective of the damage and danger, is often characterized as sinful. The adage that 'family is sacrosanct' trumps objective reality. The exalting of an illusory ideal of family, at the expense of one's sanity is common. In spite of heinous evidence of abuse and malevolent motives operating within the family system, the onus is on the adult child for 'abandoning' their abusers.

Hence, taking the step to go it alone is nothing short of courageous. Reclaiming one's birthright to lead a productive fulfilling life does not come without sacrifice. The primal fear of one's aloneness in the world is amplified by the absence of a family, and the ostracism inherent in rejecting a stringent social prescription can lead to profound feelings of alienation. Bereavement and disillusionment are necessary parts of the healing process. So is creating networks of support that reflect individual preferences and needs.

Ultimately embracing the inherent need for love and acceptance from those who can offer it can encourage one to co-create reparative bonds that were absent in one's family of origin. Defining meaningful abstract attachments through artistic and spiritual exploration also serves to fill the void of ruptured bonds. The road of recovery may be demanding for the one that leaves her 'tribe', but it is a choice to save herself from certain psychological death.