Outgrowing the Pain


Questions:   Was I abused?

                      Has the abuse affected me?

                      `Will I be okay?

Coming to Terms with Abuse:

Denial:  Defense Mechanism that protects a person from anything that is too painful.  This can seem like a wall, that keeps others from getting too close and keeps the   thoughts away.

This can also be a sense of fearlessness like ”nothing can hurt me”.


Acknowledging the Abuse: The definitions of abuse have changed and the first reporting law was written in 1964.

Physical: Hitting, pushing, biting, punching, slapping, kicking or burning that result in injuries such as burns, scratches, bruises, welts or internal injuries such as broken bones.

Sexual: Any adult or child that forces, tricks, threatens or coerces a child to have any kind of sexual contact with a person. Showing films or pictures or telling them explicit sexual  stories. Touching children inappropriately. Forcing or encouraging a child to have sex with family members. Etc.

Neglect: This occurs when a parent does not feed a child or provide the basic necessities such as clothing, shelter or medical attention. Leaving a child alone that cannot care for him/herself is neglectful since there are potential dangers.

Emotional Neglect: This occurs when parents don’t take an interest in their child, do not talk, hold or hug the child or are generally unavailable to the child.

Cruel and unusual Punishments: Inappropriate punishments for the child’s age or understanding.

Psychological Abuse: This occurs when a parent calls a child names, belittles the child or block every attempt the child makes to accept him/herself. Threatening a child with abandonment can make a child anxious and fearful.


 Accepting the Abuse: It is difficult to accept that one has been abused. Sometimes we attempt to erase it by:

Minimizing: It wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t all that bad.

Rationalizing: There were too many kids. They did the best they could.

Selective memory: I know it happened but it is hard to remember.


Healing From Abuse


Anger: Anger is a common response to accepting that there was abuse.

Many expressions of anger are inappropriate and are unhelpful.

Learn constructive ways of expressing anger.

One way is to explore your anger is to ask, What do I feel helpless about?

                                                                       What do I feel hurt about?

Physical Exercise: releases tension in the body and can bleed off some anger.

Writing in a journal can help express anger safely.

Learn new skills like, problem solving, conflict resolution, setting limits and assertiveness.

Avoid anger buildups by staying aware of your feelings.

Fears:   As memories return, one can feel intensely unsafe and out of control. Some of this is normal, but if it interferes with living, you need some help.

Shame: Many believe that the abuse was because they themselves were bad. It takes time to realize that the child is not responsible for their own abuse.


Aftereffects of Abuse


Difficulties with Trust: This is a large are affecting many areas of life. If one doesn’t trust one’s own perceptions, reactions and feelings, life with others is next to impossible. The less you can trust, the less you have friends. You are more isolated and this makes it more difficult for you to meet others to make friends. It is hard to open up enough to make any friends. Trust is learned in childhood. We had to trust that we would be fed and kept safe. If this trust is broken or never developed, it is difficult to restore. One way not to be disappointed is to not want or need anything from anyone. To protect your self from pain or unwanted touches, you may just turn off or go into a “trance”.

The material for this handout is from Outgrowing the Pain, by Eliana Gil.
Joan Wells at Counseling Works prepared the handout.
Telephones: Pager/Voice Mail 210-203-2057.