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…….