September 2019

Looking into the mirror

This is something that we do every morning without thinking, we brush our hair, we adjust our clothing, we question ourselves as to how we look? So you would be right in thinking that this daily ritual should not need much thought because we are on automatic pilot. But for some, that could never be further away from the truth. We all stand in front of the mirror and judge ourselves it’s human nature. There are mornings when the image looking back at us clearly shows that maybe last nights one more drink was a mistake. We know that we will suffer from the after-effects of the alcohol and that very late night throughout the day, as we stare back at our reflection it leaves us with little doubt. We all find fault within our image and there is always something that we would like to change if only that were possible. Seemingly that the image we see reflected at us can be so very different as to how others perceive us, we see it differently because self-recognition is not always clear. In truth, we are our greatest critic.

Fear of the mirror is generally known as catoptrophobia it’s an all-consuming fear of reflection and at it’s worst can even cause the arrive of an apparition, and that image can alter with every glance. Written within those books of infinite knowledge they state that it’s an abnormal and persistent fear, which creates such extreme anxiety that those effected become completely terrified. This phobia can so often be caused by a life-changing traumatic event, and child abuse to my mind sits at the top of that list. The trauma created within child abuse is eminence and on a scale that in all truth is unimaginable, and that mirror for some seems to reflect with such gravity the abuse that still resides within. We can’t try to make any sense of the whys or wherefores because it can never be explained, quite simply it’s unexplainable, even to myself after many years on my journey. It still sits within me and it’s true to say that we crossed swords for so many years. It’s still recognised within and somewhat war-weary, but today, fortunately, we have been able to somewhat call a truce, but make no mistake the mirror is a formidable opponent.

So if looking into that mirror creates such unmanageable fear then clearly in all sense it needs to be avoided at all cost, right?

When you’re reminded repeatedly that the abuse you were receiving as a child was a punishment, well, mud sticks, even if you have no idea of the wrong deed. You are a bad seed, this was self-induced, quite simply, you are the devil’s spawn. How can that image when reflected towards an abuse survivor not be seen as bad or evil? So many adult child abuse survivors still believe that they had input, and by doing so they create within this dark image which is viewed with such revulsion. When your image is feared there is nowhere to run.

Negative thoughts within our self or others are stored in the brain by the amygdala, we each have one on either side of our brain. Among other things they are responsible for the brains flight or fight stressors, it’s where our survival instinct resides. When that stressor is induced calling for either flight or fight from the one thing you can’t leave behind i.e. your image, where can you go?

The image seen and reflected creates such bitterness, life becomes somewhat purposeless, and the pain felt towards their abuse is further prolonged. Their reflection towards them becomes somewhat contorted, well, that’s if they can stand there long enough in which to look. Within those feelings of disgust and revolution towards the abuse they rightly feel somewhat stuck, they come to believe, that no matter how they try, they will never be able to outrun the mirror. Rooms are walked within the avoidance of those mirrors and shrouds are placed either physically or mentally at all times upon that mirror. A reflection within a shop window can create that feeling of revulsion and disapproval, Why? The answer is very simple, somehow, they still believe that in which is so very wrong that within that reflection the devil still resides.

Changing rooms within department stores are surrounded by mirrors and the thought of using one is terrifying, to enhance or expose more than their facial image is a complete no go area. Because surely, everyone around them will then be able to see the abuse that they feel is emitting from every pore. The answer must be to take it home to begin the ritual of correct sizing in a mirror-less room of their choosing, even if that means returning the item tomorrow it’s the only way in which to avoid that mirror.

The camera has to be avoided at all cost because the fear of being looked at and that image recorded by others is unthinkable, that image will be scrutinized and the devil within will surely be recognised. They just can’t let that happen so they avoid any situation of being asked to smile for the camera. At times even the sight of that camera is enough to bring on a cold sweat, and so begins the mental arithmetic of scanning the room to avoid. The mental exertion needed within that avoidance leaves them feeling completely exhausted, sadly, it may take many years in which to be able to address this issue fully.

Body image and that mirror can be a real concern for an adult child abuse survivor, simply because, their body and its function as children was so completely messed up. They grew up with the feeling that their body is somehow dirty, a stain, that no matter how they try, it can never be washed away. Undressing in front of a loved one can also be feared, intimacy is only ever conducted when the lights are firmly in the off position. The thought of mirrored wardrobes within the bedroom would insight sheer panic, they would never feel comfortable with their installation. That reflection which is seen by them alone has been judged internally and it has to stay hidden, even from the ones that they love, which can be so very difficult for a loved one to understand.

It’s not difficult to understand why this poor body image and terrifying reflection will never be considered a friend. When a singular thought seems to grip their very soul, that no matter what their body is tarnished. Coupled with the overwhelming emotion that was wrongly placed within, that secret, that is a huge and cruel burden for any child to carry. Child abuse of an innocent can never be altered only survived, what was taken can never be given back, those memories deep within are there to stay. On becoming a child abuse surviving adult, well, they must feel that their life is beyond shattered. But if we are ever to believe that our soul still resides within, then we need to remember that the soul is imageless. But that’s a huge leap of faith and a mountain in which to climb whilst seemingly blindfolded.

For another to take an innocent and place them within such self-hate is beyond any words it would seem at this moment I possess, many can be used, but there are none possible, that can adequately describe child abuse. All children come into this world with little more than blind faith that they will be cared for, a recognition, which was founded within the womb whilst being carried throughout those nine months. How could they know just what awaits them? So many children suffer within child abuse and the actual figure is astounding, which then leaves them as adult survivors in the fight of their life. When you have an intense dislike of one’s self it’s so very difficult to feel that you can succeed in winning that fight and to be able to trust that others won’t judge you in your efforts.

Their worth has been so tragically diminished, it’s so very difficult to stay focused, as they walk towards the future on a new path of trust. The truth has left them so far behind that self-questioning is inevitable, and that first movement upon the road to recovery will take time to achieve. Self-love is not simply a state of feeling good for an adult child abuse survivor, it’s in finding the self-appreciation of any movement made however small. In truth, the more they learn to love that reflection in that mirror, the less of that self-hate they will inevitably tolerate. With that comes self-recognition, that nothing was given, it was always taken. They can never be anything other than themselves, and so it’s by trial and error that they learn to gingerly cradle their soul. By recognising who they are and not how they were made, will bring that understanding of the truth, finally, it will be seen. It was never their mistakes choices or bad deeds, it was the invasion of a new soul that did not have the resources in which to fight back.

Self-love is the foundation of everything and every one of us has access if only we dared to look…….

Acceptance

Acceptance is the action of receiving or undertaking something which is offered without the need for judgement, it’s the process of fact or receiving something as adequate valid or suitable. It’s a management process and a series of steps that need to be taken, to remove the need for alteration when the alteration is not required or possible. It’s the opposite of non-acceptance and it allows us to see and accept the reality of our own emotions or the emotions of another. Acceptance removes our frustrations when the world around us doesn’t quite seem to meet our expectations. Acceptance is to recognise another way of being without bending our purpose or beliefs, as we should also not try to bend the belief of another. Without compromising just who we are and neither should we expect that from another don’t we each walk our path?

The essential element of a valid acceptance can only ever be unconditional and absolute without conditions, we have to alter our thinking with regards to situations as being good or bad because they simply are. We need to see them as such if we are ever going to be clear within the management of our thought process. Acceptance of yourself or others doesn’t imply that you are either weak or giving up without any achievement. Acceptance whether we connect with it within our spoken words or our actions will never be effective until it is communicated from within and heartfelt. Acceptance removes that negative clouded emotion of needing to feel that we are right or another is wrong never bending with the wind, that emotion has no place within acceptance and it will never allow forward movement.

The description I have given above is the acceptance which relates between the interaction of two people, but there is a much larger implication within that description when we have to accept the past the present and we still fear the future.

For a child abuse recovering adult acceptance was something that they had to practise often as children, they had little choice other than to do so if abuse came visiting daily. I’m sure that if we were to pick at this word others may resonate far more with another but the wording matters not. When that child is within a place where there is nowhere to go and if they could do so there would be no one who would take them what else was there? Acceptance was the only thing left indeed at that time anything would have been better than nothing. Every adult child abuse survivor given time can find that place of deep tranquillity within, where acceptance is achieved, even within the depravity of the past where they were immorally condemned within its torture. Not an easy task for sure and that should never be said lightly, but the strength required in which to do so is already proven in their survival.

Acceptance from within will never mean accepting outwardly that an abuser had a rite of passage in which to abuse, in truth, it no longer concerns that abuser in the here and now it’s about finding that peace within. Acceptance will never mean that the past can be altered, unfortunately, that is here to stay. But at least within acceptance, it enables the ability to regain that long lost command of the past and its effect upon them in adulthood. Quite simply, by addressing that emotion they are no longer allowing that said abuse to have a permanent hold upon their future. Acceptance of the past makes it possible to begin to extinguish that burning pain within, but make no mistake, that is so very far removed from the acceptance of abuse or the absolution of those who choose to abuse.

Acceptance will never be reached until a place is found where self-blame no longer exists and we truly understand that emotion is misplaced. Until we let go of anger hatred sadness and guilt, not to forget the misplaced shame, abuse still holds on to the future. Whilst holding on to that relentless self-questioning of why me? and the ensemble of questions in the queue just waiting at the rear, we are forever stuck because these questions can never be answered. Unfortunately, we can never make those questions magically disappear, but what is possible is the removal of the urgent need to look for the answers where quite simple there aren’t any. Even if that were possible the questioning would become elongated and without peace.

But what is possible is to find a place whereon revisiting the abuse it will be within acceptance and where those all-consuming questions will no longer dominate above all else. Within that acceptance, regardless of the painful abusive past, they will find a place where there is a choice and they decide just what happens next. Choices are not always of our own making and for sure every choice with regards to the past was never their own. Emotional acceptance is thus a far better strategy than avoidance or holding on to those painful memories within non-acceptance. Within the ability to accept those horrendous experiences of child abuse, there comes a time of acknowledgement and power that’s absolute.

Child abuse survivors could never hope to reach a place within acceptance where they can forget their abuse, but neither should acceptance if found be seen as forgiveness, they have just reached the point of holding. Acceptance doesn’t mean that the abuse is minimised or the significance of the scar placed within is no longer felt. But resistance towards acceptance will forever leave us within non-acceptance, which will never bring light because by its very nature it’s a dark place to be within. When acceptance is approached with openness and fluidity and without expectation, we can stand in awe at the power of that movement. Acceptance doesn’t mean that we agree, and overly more, acceptance doesn’t mean that something is either right or wrong. It’s the realisation that we can’t change that in which is behind us and the recognition that life is still out there in front of us. No matter the past, when we accept and decide to live that life it’s a huge change of direction. They say that what we can’t accept we have to endure, well, it’s long past time to endure any further.

Acceptance may not always be what we think it is and it may just change a life……