Tag Archives: childhood abuse

Learning to Love

Self-loathing is one of the most difficult disorders resulting from childhood abuse to heal. Self-loathing constantly feeds itself, which makes it tricky to get a handle on. Its roots are very deep in the psyche, as it often is created well before the conscious self was formed, making it pervasive.

Imitation is our first way of learning. From a very young age children read their caretakers emotions and learn what gets a response. Usually a smile or laugh from one elicits the same from the other. If negative responses are all the child receives, which can be the case in an abusive household, the results are confusing. The child’s psyche struggles to find a positive result, and a large number of rejected responses can form the roots of self-loathing.

The abuse I received from my family taught me that I was not worth anything, that anything I did to please them was wrong, that my very existence was flawed, and that I did not deserve to be loved. Through my family’s actions, I learned not to trust any signs of love, as it could be followed by hatred or rage. I internalized this self-hatred within the deepest part of my being and it became part of my psyche, which is very hard to grow up with.

What is worse is that anytime I failed in life, anytime I was criticized, anytime I was rejected, it became a proof that I was worthless, and it hurt…very deep. This is how self-loathing feeds itself. So any success was quickly discounted. Success was fleeting, and failure was constant.

By the time I was school age, I was an emotionally crippled abused child with thick glasses. This made me a target for persistent bullying in school and the torment and rejection of my peers poured gasoline on the fires my self-loathing. I felt completely worthless and totally rejected from both my family and from society.

However this was normal for me. It was all I knew. I could not understand the happiness of others; I thought happiness was false; I thought that life was torturous for everyone. No matter how hard I tried to fit in or to imitate the “fake” happiness of others, I could not. So I thought I had even failed at being fake.

I did not learn social norms as a child, and my awkwardness with them further alienated me. To survive emotionally, I subconsciously learned to compensate through adopting unusual behaviours. One method was to isolate myself to avoid interactions that would potentially make me feel bad about myself. Another was to consider myself special.

I knew I was different from those around me, and as early as Grade 4, I realized I could entrance people with my voice. As written in earlier blogs, my eyes gave me more than one sight, my abilities to sense emotions in others gave me another type of vision. Combined with my growing intellect, these abilities formed the basis for my psyche to equate “different” with “special.” This then grew to an unconscious attitude that I was better than those that criticized or ostracized me. This was an important psychological system as it allowed me to grow; it was what kept me alive.

However, my “special” self and my self-loathing were in separate places in my psyche, and no mater how hard I tried they never combined until years later in therapy.

My self-loathing trapped me in a feedback loop. No matter what I did it somehow fueled these feelings. When I achieved something, I still felt “not good enough.” I could always find fault with it. I therefore became a perfectionist to try to control everything and everyone around me so it would not fuel my self-loathing. Yet, I also became very self destructive, in relationships and in life. Suicide was never far from my mind. I also had to deal with a very deep rage, which could be triggered the moment anyone stimulated my self-loathing with a single word or glance.

As I grew older, even though my self-loathing was creating an increasing amount of emotional pain, my “special” self increasingly compensated, fueled by my survival instincts. I would use my extended listening abilities to feed myself with the beauty of birdsong or raindrops to keep me alive. I expanded my “special” skills, reading voraciously, extending my senses, and watching people from the inside and out.

I eventually found a balance between my self-loathing and my “special’ self. I tried to spend as much time in the latter but the former never left me.

Finally, with an amazing therapist, I found relief from my self-loathing. He helped me to integrate the separate parts of my psyche to make it whole. First he helped me build a psychological safe place that only good feelings could enter and this isolated me from my self-loathing. Second he showed me how to break the feedback loop of self-loathing. He then helped me feel my accomplishments and not judge, diminish or discard them. Third he helped my re-parent. By emotionally divorcing my parents, I made new emotional parents who were composites of powerful, supportive, loving people/icons. I placed them in every memory of my life.

Over the years I have been gradually getting better. However, this is an ongoing process and even though I am now in my sixties there are still times I find another pocket of self-loathing. I have realized as well that my self-loathing was a habit, or an automatic system of behaviour. I had to realize that I could just accept a failure as a learning opportunity and move on without going into the pits of despair.

I am also now dismantling the false images of myself and the self-aggrandizing of my “special” self. I have to be honest and objective as to what are my actual accomplishments and what are constructs of my former damaged self. Some of these constructs have been with me a very long time so to dismantle them requires to remove a chunk of my psyche and to replace it with something new. This is like ripping out the walls to replace everything but the roof, and then once done you realize that you need to do sections again as the foundation was also rotten in places.

This is a lot of work, difficult work. In the meantime, it is rewarding. I find my relationship with my family and friends are getting better, and I feel emotionally cleaner. I still have work to do, and I am doing it.

To those that have remained my friends through all my struggles I thank you and honour you for being the wonderfully understanding beings that you are. Your understanding and friendship has been a big part of my survival.

Reaching In

When still quite young, I started to pay attention to what was different in my world from what most people acceptedRaine-Reusch very young as normal. I was surprised to find things everywhere, including in my own home. Regularly my mother would jump up from her chair and say, “company is coming, have to put the tea on” and then proceed to make tea, set the table, and put out sweets for a number of people. The moment she was finished putting the hot water in the teapot, there would be a knock on the door and the exact number of people that she made tea for would walk in the door. This would all take place without a phone call or any prearrangement, and our visitors would always say that they were just driving by and decided to stop in. I found that this kind of knowing to be quite common, although very few people questioned it or even paid it much thought. This made me pay more attention to what I was feeling and I started to focus on increasingly subtle sensations and become aware of what I had being sensing since birth.

One summer my family went to a lake where I spent the day scrambling amongst very large adult-sized rocks on the lakeshore. Somehow one shifted as I was moving between and my fingertip was crushed between two very large boulders. The skin was not broken but many interior blood vessels were broken. By the next day the finger has swollen to the size of a plum and had turned a deep blue colour, so we went to the doctor. The doctor said he had to relieve the pressure by drilling through my fingernail, but instead of giving me an anesthetic, he hypnotized me. I felt nothing as I watched him drill, and the fingered drained. The finger was fine, but I had discovered something fun and amazing. Copying his techniques, I started to explore self-hypnosis to poke pins through my skin and put my hands in flames without feeling anything, much to the horror and amusement of all my friends. I progressed to hypnotizing all my friends and poking needles through their skin, great fun for pre-adolescent boys. I understood from this experience that the mind was capable of much more than most people accepted.

My mother often told the story of not being able to take medications for my birth due to allergies, and that her Raine-Reusch at 8-9 yearsdoctor taught her a from of self-hypnosis instead. Most of her stories were a mixture of reality and fantasy, so her “facts” were never to be believed as relayed. However, in my preteen years she would often go into trance-like sleeps, how much control of these she had was hard to determine. The most memorable was when I was about 9 or 10, when at a dinner party she lay down and went to sleep to cure a headache. Wanting to go home early I tried to wake her, but she was totally unresponsive to my calls, prods or pinches. About an hour later she awoke without any awareness of my attempts to rouse her. I asked her to teach me her technique of deep sleep hypnosis, which I took to quickly from my previous experiences with hypnosis and this became the foundation for many of my deep meditations.

Later in my early teens, my mother had a psychotic break caused by a  of her alcoholism, menopause and the daily violent family arguments. Her condition worsened slowly over a few years until she would run around the house every evening screaming for hours, not able to recognize either my father or myself. Getting her to settle down and into bed was difficult. Somehow in the process I developed an interesting ability to get her to sleep. I would sit beside her head and “look” inside her brain. It was like looking down a long tunnel into a bright fog swirling around a vortex. I would see anger, rage, hurt, a lot of fragmentation, and the occasional bit of sanity swirling around. Through a strange combination of feeling/seeing/sensing I would reach in with my senses and grab her sane self and slowly pull it to the surface. Often it would slip away and I would have to go find it again. When I would eventually succeed in bringing it to the surface she would immediately become rational and totally cognizant of her surroundings again. Without my pulling her sanity to the surface, she would continue to rant for hours into the night. Although in the daylight hours she was somewhat connected, I had to pull my mother to reality every couple of nights for about two years before she was able to maintain a connection to reality for herself.

Being able to reach into brains became quite useful while growing up as a teenager in the sixties with people experimenting with drugs. I would be at parties where someone would start to have a “bad trip”, usually a frightening experience from taking too much LSD or similar drugs. I would again reach into their brains and contact their “sane self,” pull it to the surface and explain to them what was happening, and then assist them to maintain a connection to reality. Often I would then create an anchor to reality that I would attach to their psyche. After awhile I realized I could just anchor to reality those that I perceived were close to having a “bad trip” without their knowledge, while staying within proximity to maintain it. That way I would minimize anyone having a rough time while not attracting attention to what I was doing, in case anyone thought it strange.

© R. Raine-Reusch 2014

A Different Way of Seeing

I was born with very poor eyesight. The world for me was a collection of vague masses of ill-defined colours. I could see no clear borders, and I only could perceive details in sounds, smells, and other senses. I used my fingers, nose, ears, and even my tongue to navigate the world, and my senses became quite acute.

With such poor vision, the world outside the house was a big hazy place. I couldn’t see anything clearly, near or far. So it was very easy for me to get lost, and I often did. Over time I learned to memorize the layout and landmarks of places so I knew how to navigate, by creating quite complex spatial maps in my brain. Although I was very nervous about going to a place I hadn’t been before, if I had been there once I could get back easily. But I still got lost if my reference points were moved.

I couldn’t see anyone’s face so I couldn’t tell one person from another. Often, when I went out with my parents to a store, I would lose them, even if they were right beside me. So over time, I learned to recognize people from the way they walked, their body language, and from the sound of their voices. I became very good at this.

r3shortssept61My family was very dysfunctional. My father was an extremely critical rage-aholic. My mother would try to match his rage as much as possible. As my sister was seven years my elder, to survive she adopted the fighting skills of my parents. There were other problems. Over my childhood years, I suffered verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse. Although, outside of the house my family was amazing, always helping people, smiling and laughing, with everybody loving them. inside the house was a battle zone and a very dangerous place.

With extremely poor eyesight, in my early years I could not see anyone’s face to tell if they were angry, or happy – a necessary tool in an abusive family. I needed an early warning system to be able to prepare myself to either be hugged or thrown at a wall across the room. Somehow, I became sensitive enough to track second by second the shifting tides of the multitude of emotions in those around me. I could tell at a distance if someone was safe or dangerous, about to explode in anger or about to smile. I could perceive not only what they were expressing at the moment but also what was beneath the surface, emotions that they had not even begun to feel yet. I learned that although their voice may be smiling and they were happy on the surface, they could be very close to rage just a level underneath. This allowed me to know if I should be on guard or relaxed.

I also learned to track the effects of my words and actions on people I talked with. I started to talk directly to the shifting emotions I saw inside of people, rather to their exterior self. This behaviour, although automatic when young, I had to learn to turn off and on as I became older. It often unnerved people and alienated me from most of my peers. People told me that they felt uneasy around me, and it seemed like I could see right through them. In a sense, they were right.

Over the years I have learned to use this way of seeing to help others to understand their emotions and deeper traumas. I used it in my clinical practice as well as with friends and those in need. However, i still feel an element of alienation, as I am observing the world in a way that I have seldom been able to openly share.

© R. Raine-Reusch 2014