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Dealing with past abuse and neglect: Is it still a problem today?

by | Jul 1, 2022 | All

What is childhood abuse and neglect?
Sometimes people come into the counseling office unsure of whether or not poor treatment received as a child constitutes abuse or neglect. One may have received poor treatment from parents while growing up or sometimes from others outside the family (friends, relatives, etc). Here are the definitions:

Abuse = Treating another human with cruelty or violence.
Neglect = The process of withholding or the state or fact of being uncared for.

While abuse is usually clear (punching, hitting, an adult having sex with a minor, etc), neglect is harder to define especially if it’s emotional in nature. Examples of emotional neglect can be lack of nurturing, consistent lack of affirmation from parents, being treated as a nuisance, constant reminders that the child is too needy or costs too much, consistently speaking to the child with a cold and unfriendly tone, consistently dismissing a child’s opinions, lack of interests in the child’s activities, verbally aggressive tone, persistent fault-finding or criticism, repetitive ignoring the child’s cues for help in tasks. Abuse and neglect both leave scars on children, and if not properly treated will linger well into adulthood. Oftentimes, clients come to the counseling office with scars dating back to their childhoods. Abuse and neglect will not heal itself without spending time and effort to put it behind you.

What are the effects of childhood abuse and neglect?
Depression, anxiety, difficulty trusting others, broken relationships, anger/irritability, divorce, problems connecting with spouse or children, PTSD, difficulty with employment and underachieving at work, lack of ambition, preoccupation with the past abuse or the abuser; shame, humiliation, low compassion towards oneself.

What are some steps to overcoming my past?
1. Consider a letter: Whether or not your abusers ever see the letter is of no consequence. Writing it out and putting it on paper is therapeutic for you, the victim. Getting your feelings out of your mind can help free you from the past and also helps you make sense of your feelings. There’s something different about writing than thinking………………. If the person who abused or neglected you would be open to reading the letter and perhaps a conversation you may want to mail the letter.
2. Find forgiveness. Abuse or neglect will never be okay, it wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. BUT you have to learn to let go. Forgiveness is necessary if you are going to detach yourself from your abuser(s). People often resent having to do the work of forgiving. They feel in essence, “Why do I HAVE to do the work of forgiveness??? I’M THE ONE who was taken advantage of!! Don’t forget………..you forgive for YOURSELF, not for the abuser’s sake. Without forgiveness, you are inextricably forever tied to the person that hurt you. Your abuse could have been decades ago and you can live halfway around the world, but without forgiveness, you will still be connected. Be careful also not to confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. Forgiveness is mandatory, reconciliation is optional. The relationship could be so broken that you may not want restoration. Still…………forgiveness is the key that unlocks the chains of abuse or neglect.
3. Receive Professional help – a professional therapist who understands treating this issue can be invaluable in helping you get past the past.
4. Lean on your religious faith. FAITH CAN HELP……realizing that God loves you and is here to help can give you the power that you cannot muster on your own.
5. Find a good workbook on childhood abuse. One good workbook from a Christian perspective is “Reclaiming your Inner Child” by Ken Parker.

Perspectives has many good therapists trained in dealing with childhood abuse and neglect. One of them would gladly walk the road to recovery with you………..reach out today to get started.

By Eric Nordquist MA, LPC, NCC
Eric has nearly 20 years of full-time experience in outpatient therapy. He obtained his Master of Arts degree from Oakland University in 1995 and is a Nationally Certified Counselor.

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