I follow the MeToo movement closely because it addresses a reality that is central to my existence. Sexual abuse trauma dominates my emotional life. I was never sexually abused, however, my mother was. Her sexual abuse impacted her ability to be a mother to me. I recently became aware of the depth of this reality when I read a paragraph about what it is like to be in relationship with a narcissist.
A relationship with a narcissist is a desperate relationship where you
are always feeling vulnerable, worthless, hated, constantly explaining
yourself, silenced, punished, and traumatized. What is it that you are
actually doing wrong? Nothing!
This describes what it was like to be my mother’s daughter. Extreme abuse can engender a particular type of narcissism–one that is based on an absence of self. My mother, a victim of sexual abuse, needed to throw her own negative feelings about herself onto me in order to live with the unbearable wound of her experience. I experienced my relationship with my mother as always feeling a need to defend myself and the surety that there was no love or margin for error available to me.
The dominance of this felt sense in my life became clear to me one day while I was preparing for a medical test. I was extremely nervous about the procedure and, try as I might, I could not find grounded presence. Thoughts of random moments in the past in which I felt traumatized by interactions with others kept surfacing. There were so many from such a wide variety of different points in my life that I became completely overwhelmed. I paused with this sense of overwhelm. A new realization eventually emerged—it wasn’t about the fast shifting narratives floating through me.
In the space that the pause created, I asked my body what it needed. I began to experience the feeling of being unloved and the urge to defend myself from outside attack as my constant state of being. While this was a very unpleasant realization, I held space for this new feeling. I was able to find compassion and love for this wounded place. Then I noticed that I had stopped finding arguments and justifications for why I should not be attacked. A great sense of relief opened as I held space for this wounded place in this way. This experience was the beginning of a new way to be with the something in me that felt unloved and attacked.
The experience of being my mother’s daughter and my internalized version of her was frequently supported by other difficult life experiences living as a woman in a patriarchal society. This new relationship with the something in me that feels unloved and under attack is now in my consciousness. I know that when I am feeling unloved and under attack, being with this something with compassion and love helps the wounded place find a way to heal. Creating arguments and justifications only deepen the trauma. The more I acknowledge and honor these root feelings, the more they heal and the obsessive thoughts of past narratives fall away.
At the same time, the collective consciousness of women and men around the world has been awakening to how sexual abuse lives in the bodies of its victims. By allowing sexual abuse to be so tacitly and widely acceptable in our society, we have created a class of people who struggle to love and accept themselves. In turn, people like my mother sometimes never become aware of the how their own trauma has transformed them into the perpetrators of trauma in others.
The Me Too movement so far has addressed what happens to abused persons and demanded consequences for the abusers. There is also a need to educate our society about the depth and breath of the impact of abuse and to provide ways to heal for all those impacted by abuse. Wholebody Focusing stands in the forefront of practices that can support healing from trauma.
I look forward to continuing my own journey with the wounds of sexual abuse and the journey that is awakening around the world.