Challenging the past – life after trauma and abuse



This week it was pointed out to me that now when I say self critical comments I sometimes smile, as if in recognition of the fact I realise I have just said those words that epitomise my past; I’m stupid, or I’m pathetic seem to be regular terms which I use. Yet until a few months ago I didn’t even realise I did this negativity and critical thinking now I not only know that I do, but I am starting to recognise those times too, hence the smile of recognition as it dawns on me that I have done it again, put myself down when I know I don’t need to.

I don’t for one minute think I can just change the habits of a lifetime yet it’s progress to start acknowledging the times when I am in the words of my family, my own worst enemy. I think less of me than most people and why, because I was groomed into believing I wasn’t good enough, that everything was my fault.  I can’t say when all this began because it has in truth been all I ever known, even as an adult the contact I still kept with my abusers meant I was subject to a regular dose of criticism and negativity which just reinforced the work they did when they had access to me every day.

But I guess I am slowly coming to realise just how much I need to do to in order to leave my past behind,  the past which plagues my every day and influences and affects each decision and thought I have. As a child and even as an adult I have for many years existed in this world of negative connotations,  the automatic thoughts of negativity, self doubt and in many cases skewed thinking.

This has led me to think about why, why did the people involved do this to me and no I haven’t been self pitying here it’s more a logical question. Why do some people feel the need to put other people down, to make them feel inferior and worthless?

As I put away my suitcases this week in the loft and frantically  searched for something I had lost, one of my favourite pastimes – losing things. I came across a photograph of some of those abusers and it was hard at first not to react in a fearful way, in an angry way, but then I looked at it, at them and thought of the people they once were. my reaction and my thoughts even surprised me, there would have been a time I couldn’t even look at their photo without being sent into a frenzied panic.

Today I see them and in a way I feel pity for them, that doesn’t mean I forget but it does me I am taking control a bit, you see for someone to treat another human being in such a negative way speaks volumes about that person, the one committing the abuse. You can’t have much self respect if all you do is put others down, or hurt them in one way or another, you can’t look at yourself in a mirror and see any good if your life is about being so controlling of others.


My mother was a controlling person of that there is no doubt, yet she didn’t portray that outside of our home in a bad way, she wasn’t angry outside, she lived her life putting on a pretence , a show if you like. She tried desperately to be this person everyone liked, the so called pillar of the community, yet nothing could have been further from the truth in reality.

I realise now that she and many of my abusers lived a life built on lies, built on image and falsehoods, pretending to be some thing they weren’t. I pity them because they never changed, well as far as I know and that’s kind of sad really, they didn’t learn to change their negative behaviours  or adapt their belief patterns from their skewed thoughts of control and abuse. I have no idea what caused their behaviours nor do I want to, but it seems sad these individuals who had such a huge negative impact upon my life had issues which they never addressed.

You see I may have the negative thoughts of myself but I know what causes them and most of all I am with help changing my automatic thinking patterns and thankfully for the better. I intend to keep working on challenging myself when I put myself down, think critically of myself and demean myself. That doesn’t mean I will stop my automatic thought processes  but it does mean I will notice when they come into play and I will be able to internally at least think that wasn’t good, or more importantly still, that’s not true.

Now this is a journey of trial and error and so I am not setting huge targets, for me I’m quite happy that right now I’m just aware of  the self critical thinking I have. I know I also have issues with food, self image, anxiety, confidence, decision making, the list goes on and on.  My past has shaped me and whilst it won’t be easy and whilst I may know I don’t have to let it define me and that I can shape my  future, I also know that’s my logical head talking and not the emotional parts of me who don’t seem to be able to stop letting the past influence today, tomorrow and the future.

Now logically I know that my future doesn’t have to be shaped by my past, it is harder to accept emotionally, and so it’s hard to not let the past influence who I am, it’s hard to not allow myself to continue the negativity, It’s hard to change these habits, to amend how I think. I am making progress but it is teeny tiny steps of progress, accompanied by the familiar one step forward and two steps back every now and again.

But unlike the abusers I am not alone, I have a team of people willing me on, helping me change how my past impacts my tomorrow, my family and my psychologist they are helping me, they are supporting me.

I am being helped to recognise, to think and I hope in time to adapt the damage of my past, it’s a hope I once never thought I’d have, and it’s worth fighting to cling onto. It will be worth all the hard work even if I manage to change just one negative thought process, thats what makes me so different from those who hurt me, I am addressing the past, maybe that’s why today I can look at her picture and not immediately fear her; well not quite so much anyway.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

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