Child Abuse and Why Self-Reproach Keeps Resurfacing

Let us examen why self-reproach—when having gone through child abuse—keeps resurfacing.

You can be your own worst enemy!

Self-judgment is very often present when you suffer from the symptoms of child abuse for a long time.

Thoughts such as:

  • Why am I not able to get over this?
  • Why do I still get so worked up and angry?
  • I feel so stupid for still having these reactions/thoughts/emotions!
  • Why didn’t I fight or escape the abuse(r) at the time?

Feeling overwhelmed continuously, makes one develop a certain set of coping mechanisms. Guilt and self-reproach being one of them. They obscure from oneself from feeling the underlying core emotion fully, while simultaneously allowing them to persist. That’s the conundrum you may find yourself in. And, it makes it difficult to move away from these coping patterns of self-reproach and self-judgment.

Child Abuse and Honoring the Perspective of the Inner Child

In these situations, you need to practice holding a dual state of awareness.

Feeling overwhelmed continuously, makes one develop a certain set of coping mechanisms. They obscure from oneself from feeling the underlying core emotion fully, while simultaneously allowing them to persist.

When your child abuse symptoms of anxiety, anger or sadness get triggered, there are two perspectives present; your adult self, who feels that the emotional reactions you are having, are out of proportion to the situation you find yourself in, and the association taking place, through older hurts and emotional residue, is still desperately clinging to those parts of the past; your unresolved, vividly emotional childhood memory.

From the perspective of an adult, endowed with more rationality, it is easy to fall into any form of judgment. From a child's emotional perspective, that hurt that you're experiencing is viscerally real and the ‘out of proportion’ element is the unresolved emotion from the past, realistically impacting the present.

How to Use Dual Awareness in Bringing about Healing of Child Abuse

Can you hold and give value to both perspectives, the adult and child parts of yourself, equally?

When you hold both parts equally; without further reacting to your pain through self-reproach and judgment, nor getting over focused or sinking into the emotional pain; this is where you start to build up resilience by staying with 'what is'.

And healing from child abuse and complex trauma is a process. It is firstly, to see it from this healthy dual perspective of awareness, that cancels out further self-judgment and reproach. That in itself will make the underlying emotion more apparent and available, along with possibly, memories related to your personal experience.

Building up Resilience and Containment

What happened to you cannot be changed, but the emotional investment in the past can still be released or integrated.

Do you tend to go into guilt or self-reproach when your post-trauma symptoms flare up? Leave your comment below.

  • Susan says:

    My PTSD is due to years of domestic violence/abuse/control…i did walk away 9 years but the last 2 years have taken it’s toll I am having my first psychology appointment on Friday and I’m petrified

    • Roland says:

      You will be alright. The first 5min you’ll be nervous till you settle in.

    • Kelly says:

      I know that feeling Susan – the hardest part is getting into the door. Once you’re there, and you realize that it is a safe and loving space, things will start to flow and settle. The fear is normal…the bravery to conquer it and go anyway is what makes you strong! 🙂

    • Terra says:

      Don’t be scared, it’s your 1st step to releasing those negative feelings, I go tomorrow to my 2nd appt. With someone I already worked with, deep breaths, one issue at a time, I wish you alot of luck, And crying does help,

  • Janemarie says:

    I feel like I am in a never ending prison, I’m dying to get out and live life, I don’t know how to. I’m desperate to be free

    • Roland says:

      Please get in touch through through private message by contact form.

    • Teresa. says:

      I can understand your prison comment Janemarie, but I now keep myself in the prison as it is safe from the evil world.

    • Terra says:

      I can so relate, my own mind feels overwhelmed and like it is closing in on me, it’s a bad feeling, talking helps for a day or so then the trap comes back, I hope you can find a way to get thru this, in whatever ways are comfortable for you

      • Kristi says:

        That’s the hard part…. getting out is not not comfortable but it gives freedom once you are there. It’s ok to be nervous or scared but when you step out of your comfort zone and stop letting the fear control you, that is when you find help, hope, and freedom. That is how it worked for me and sometimes the struggle comes back but finding the solution gets easier each time.

    • Trace says:

      Me too.

    • Lucia says:

      i am the same.
      The prison SO sofisticated.
      Coping mechanisms make sure that nobody can ever see the prison i live in as to the outside i ride on high wave of adrenaline that i make look as if enjoyment, while suffering like an amimal inside…

  • Annie says:

    I like the dialectical approach of holding equally both the child and the adult perspectives.I have found through personal experience and in working with clients that in order to be able to do this, that the necessary time, patience and unconditional love and acceptance is key. Respect, honesty, reflection, caring, vision, being willing to tolerate distress often takes someone else being a steady witness who is not frightened or put off by emotional reactivity – someone who is well grounded and healthy. Sometimes that person is hard to find.

    • Roland says:

      Well said. Fully agree.

    • Kelly says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write your comment, Annie…your words ring true and will help me to articulate what I need from those people in my life who are trying to understand how to help me. They may also help another person in need, so thank you!

  • Lou says:

    Very interesting especially as this is very much somthing im going through at the moment trying to rationalise my feeling deep pain trying to surface ! So hard at times ..

  • Sara says:

    I am having hypnotherapy for cptsd and felt i was progressing well but now seem to have gone backwards and lots of tears, anger, anxiety, frustration at crying for stupid, things. Do you think hypnotherapy is enough?

    • Roland says:

      It really depends if your therapist is well versed in working with cptsd and has done enough work him/herself to be able to hold the space.

    • Terra says:

      Crying is never for stupid things, it’s such a flood of emotions you feel, I do alot of it, I feel better afterwards, good luck

      • Michelle says:

        But how do you cry??? I have been in therapy for 5 years twice a week and haven’t been able to shed one tear.
        If sadness happens to come numbness will follow straight away

  • Melody says:

    Yes. I tend to go into guilt and self reproach. I have just discovered that I would punish myself for making “mistakes” just the way she spanked me so hard it left bruises when she was “potty training” me. I was only 2 yet I remember what she did. I’m 42 now. She hurt me for doing something normal and natural D going to the bathroom.

  • Will says:

    It’s been 52 years since I was raped. I just want to let my 7 year old self rest and heal. I have such a great future laid before me. I need the power and the courage and desire to step forward into it. I am really tired.

  • Cheri says:

    So am I understanding you to say, that by simply allowing both perspectives to be held without judging or condemning either, it allows both “voices” to be heard and felt? This is enough to heal?
    I can relate to shutting down a triggered response ASAP b/c it’s so damned painful but never acknowledged it as judging or condemning. Am I on track with you?

    • Roland says:

      Holding both perspectives and negating self-judgment is a start into the process of healing. It is moving through the different emotional coping responses. When doing this you might feel more the intensity of the initial hurt(s) which needs addressing then. The difficulty is that when we come close to that we easily feel overwhelmed again and want to disconnect hence we keep pendulating between extremes. The art is to slowly come close to the initial wound to be able to really digest and process it. In the presence of another, who helps holding space, this process will be accelerated.

      • Helen says:

        How do we do this, Roland? Any resources on it?

        • Roland says:

          Hi Helen. When we start to take away the importance we put on guilt, blame and self-reproach it moves us a layer deeper where the emotional pain (in the body) is held. By slowly on approaching that one give boundaries to it and assist in processing the emotional residue.

          • Helen says:

            Thanks, how do we take away that importance?

          • Roland says:

            It’s by first seeing that you are doing it. That dissociation works in that fashion to go into guilt, blame, shame, self-reproach and many more as to not feel emotionally overwhelmed. When that becomes clear to you, you can exercise more control over it by shifting from the head and its thoughts into the body.

          • Helen says:

            Thank you! that makes a lot of sense.

  • Lee says:

    Roland, I really appreciate your using the term “Dual Awareness” in trauma recovery in this way. Although I have experienced this during meditation practice …I’ve never heard it applied to inner child/nurturing parent … it makes perfect sense … and a really useful tool. Thank you.

  • April says:

    I was diagnosed with PTSD years ago and there many factors that could have brought it on being molested as a child by a family member, my mother passing, being torn from all my siblings, nasty divorce, my ex in hiding with my children, never feeling like I belong anywhere. I feel guilty for no reason all the time. I feel overly emotional at times and emotionally numb other times. My psychiatrist told me I should write a book because she was amazed at all I went through. I do not have a psychiatrist now. I don’t even know where to start as to heal.

  • Jinni says:

    Shame and guilt are always lurking. I feel like I’m being tortured by my mind almost daily. I was sex trafficked for over 10 years. It started when I turned 17. I still think I should have gotten out of there sooner, although the first time I left or didn’t come back without their permission they sent someone to punish me horribly later. I knew something was going to happen, I just didn’t know when, where or who. I learned my lesson and went back. You don’t leave unless they say you can, or you get raped and beat out by the men in charge. That’s what had to be done for me to get out. I’ve actually had run-ins with the man that was sent to teach me a lesson almost 4 yrs ago, at the easter carnival at church. I ran to my car to get something for my daughters and he got me… I’m even constantly looking over my shoulder since i was 17 and I still didn’t see him. He was in the car next to mine. Bastards!!!

  • Maree says:

    Thank you so much for posting this today. This is exactly the state I found myself in this week at my counselling appt…..beyond reproach. It is such a confusing feeling having both adult reaction and child reaction at the same time. Nice to know it is actually a normal reaction to past experience and present triggers… to get it under control….Lol

  • Ayesha says:

    Lots of guilt & sadness. Its very difficult when people treat you like you not good enough and that its wrong to feel what you’re feeling at any given time. I have always felt like the odd one out…there are days when its so challenging but one has to push through…

  • Hele says:

    Wow, Roland, your description of the duel perspectives is spot on and oftentimes I am aware of each one. For me, self reproach is more evident, but is no longer a huge issue because the parts mainly work together now, as best as possible, given the age differences. Sometimes when my T asks a question, I get varying answers based on the experience of that self.

    • Hele says:

      Well, to clarify, I have the awareness, (in the therapy setting only), but not yet the ability to have it work to cancel the over reaction when I am triggered. To be able to do that would be HUGE for me.

  • Summer says:

    Hi, all.
    First, I’m sorry we’re all here. I hope we all can find healing and learn how to nuture and heal our damaged inner-children.

    I wanted to make a few statements and perhaps get a few opinions from others that are further along than I am in their recovery.

    I think alot of what is keeping me personally from healing is that I feel no matter what I do, I’m spinning my wheels. The negative thoughts, though irrational from my now-adult perspective are still there and haunt me daily. I can’t function as most people do, and I negate myself even more internally because of it.
    Also, I know I’m blocking out some specifics and periods of times when traumatic abuse took place.
    I was young; very young, and abuse continued until I cut all ties with my the abusive people.
    I fear that any advancement would lead to me remembering horrific events that I have blocked out and I’d regress quickly into a state of psychosis.
    Has anyone else experienced this?
    Any information, opinions, thoughts, or ideas would be so appreciated.

    Brightest blessings to you all and thank you in advance for any replies.

  • Amanda-Amelia says:

    Yip. I do get that a lot. We’ve been working on getting the pieces of me that feel this to come to terms with present and past. I just yesterday had such an incident again after which the illogical guilt and self-reproach came again. Me myself and I tend to try and work together to understand why “we” feel this way and what we can do to make it better and not brush it under the carpet. Thanks for this article, it came at the best time I could’ve seen it.

  • Cd says:

    I have a hard time accepting the abuse. I’ve been in therapy for a year. Was referred to a trauma specialist… But she’s leaving in August. I feel I will never get thru trauma processing. So frustrating to be on a time table. I’ve enjoyed your articles.

  • Tiffiny says:

    Just realized, why my mom is so mean and distant unless she needs something. I’m 36. I ruined my teens and my relationship and life because my mom and dad are narcissist, I was always told everything was my fault and I’m drama.. I spoil everyone and still get ignored 🙁 having a hard time trying to let go, now my sister is her scapegoat, and it killa my heart..i have a huge heart.. not sure where it came from.. My mom has none

    • Helen says:

      I am sorry for your suffering. It sounds like your mom may have had her heart torn out by suffering too… strength on your journey. Keep strong, keep going. Look Up.

  • Heather says:

    I have done many self help books, seminars,therapy and have healed my little girl inside of me however I am still haunted by sexual abuse as a child.Many unanswered questions, really bothers me that I cannot remember when I lost my virginity,when the abuse started and for how long? Feeling threatened by feeling that other women or females generally,not feeling adequate or beautiful ? I was raised in a home with six brothers and my father was a drill sergeant in the army..My mother never seemed to nurture the female in me,or she was threatened? not sure.. would just like to eliminate this feeling of self doubt and fear of rejection by my husband

    • Roland says:

      Hi Heather. Great you made a lot of progress in your healing journey. As what I read from your comment part of the hurt though abuse still acts itself out as self-doubt and fear of rejection. Instinctively we always want to move away from pain though healing comes by sitting with the tough parts. If you a little help get in touch by private message.

  • LisaZ says:

    This was pretty timely in my FB feed. I went to a gathering at a campground with a bunch of other families (friends). The first night there, I backed my vehicle into a tree. I had a VERY hard time staying present and grounded. It brought me back to an old experience in my teen years that was handled extremely harshly by my “family.” And it brought up all kinds of feels of shame for making a mistake that was highly visible in a group of people I’m still getting to know and of course want to put best foot forward. Thankfully it’s a group of awesome people, many of whom told me their own stories of similar events, and who helped remind me it wasn’t a big deal, etc. I was able to re-examine some of the past event with my “now” skills and somewhat able to accept what is and be a little more gentle with myself. It helped that I went through the exercise of what would I say to my own offspring- the answer of course being to check they were okay, feel the feelings, then look at the series of decisions that led to that outcome and see if there was any information to learn where different decisions might have led to a different outcome. No judgement, no shame, just learning from the event and moving on. Easier to do for offspring than myself, but it helps. 🙂

  • Tam says:

    Stll working through grief loss childhood sexual abuse domestic violence abuse ive been working on this for years and still struggle with feeling frozen. I can’t make friends. Trust is hard. Socially awkward. Learning to accept in my older age.

  • Trin says:

    I constantly feel like I wish I could just be/live/flow in the moment like everyone else ‘seems’ to. Without over analyzing/judging/getting frustrated and anxious. The whole of it is tiring and it’s hard not to think it would be easier to just do more avoid/ignore/get busy and live in ignorant bliss. …which I don’t because I know it’s not healthy and are just more steps backward.
    It’s also annoying when someone is doing something that triggers me and then it feels like Iam to blame because of my overreaction to the situation- even though others without my past experience would say they would have felt the same way.

  • Sue says:

    I get frustrated & angry with myself & at the child ( me ) for not getting over it and blame myself. So the
    guilt & self reproach, would rise it’s ughly head.
    I was trying to runaway from the reality of what the child went through.
    Now I give the child my protection, understanding & acceptance. Learning to love “them” heals you too. It’s hard & exhausting and trying to change long standing beliefs that people have forced on you.
    I just have to remember that the only person who can change me is me. So taking responsibility for myself & building boundaries to protect all my trauma selfs, isn’t selfish. It’s paramount to recovery.
    I am learning to ignore the internal voices of self reproach & constant criticism. I use to do anything for someone to acknowledge, accept & love me, unconditionally.
    Only to find out, that the only love you need is from yourself.

  • Shaun says:

    I understand it wasn’t my fault but I can’t stop hating myself. I was sexually abused from the age of 3 until my early adulthood. I was gang raped on a regular basis. My mind knows somethings not right.

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