Posted by: Marie | September 1, 2009

(137) What do I feel?

Post #137
[Book study – Saturday, May 30, 2009]

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
(Third Edition, 1994)
by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Part One: Taking Stock
Effects: Recognizing the Damage

[Table of Contents]


Green text: Quotes/Summaries from the book
Gray text: My words

This transformative work (the entire series of blog posts relating to this book) constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright law.


Where are you now? (Feelings)

As a child you could not afford to feel the full extent of your terror, pain, or rage. The agony would have been devastating. You could not have done arithmetic with other second-graders had you known the depth of your sorrow.

On the Walk by Martin Chen

On the Walk by Martin Chen

Because your innocent love and trust were betrayed, you learned that you could not rely on your feelings. The feelings you expressed may have been disregarded or mocked. You were ignored, told you had nothing to worry about, molested again.

If the adults around you were out of control with their feelings, you got the message that feelings led to violence or destruction. Anger meant beatings or furniture thrown across the room.

You may have learned to block out physical pain, because it was too devastating or because you did not want to give the abuser the satisfaction of seeing you cry. But since you can’t block feelings selectively, you simply stopped feeling.

Can you recognize your feelings? Tell the difference between them? I can pick out three – angry, depressed and giddy.

Do you have trouble expressing your feelings? I can express them in writing, but I feel it is inappropriate to show them outwardly.

Do you value feelings or see them as an indulgence? I think it is inappropriate for feelings to affect my behaviors, so I feel angry at myself when they do.

Are you comfortable with anger? Sadness? Happiness? Calm? I tolerate anger – I’m unfamiliar with the other three.

Do you feel confused much of the time? Yes – I have no idea how to function in the world.

Do you experience a wide range of emotions or just a few? Just three – anger, depression and giddiness.

Are you prone to depression? Yes. Nightmares? Yes. Panic attacks? No.

Have you ever worried about going crazy? I often wonder if I already am mentally ill.

Are you afraid of your feelings? Not afraid, just overwhelmed.

Do your feelings ever seem out of control? They control me – I measure “success” by how much of the time I’m able to function on a basic level despite my feelings.

Have you ever been violent or abusively angry? To some extent, usually when I feel bullied and I feel the need to bully in return.

Quotes 048


  1. Thanks Marie. Being overwhelmed by feelings is a big one. I’ll be interested to follow how dealing with this unfolds. I’ll be interested to see if it is by doing little bits (my preferred approach) or some other way.

    • Hi, Evan –

      I’m finding that the only workable way is in little bits . . . it’s not just one emotion or one triggering situation . . . it is a multitude. So, I am identifying each trigger and associated memories and dealing with that . . . then moving on to the next one.

      Thank you for your insight!

      – Marie

  2. Hope its going well and feeling good.


  3. Interesting, I was just thinking about this today. I have had people comment to me how I always seem to be on an even keel no matter what. But if they only knew what goes on in the inside. But as a kid I had to block it all out and I guess that i have carried it out into adulthood. I often wonder how I can let go of that control without losing control. If that makes any sense.

  4. Hi, lostinamaze –

    I think we pretend in order to survive. I really like this sentence from the book: “You could not have done arithmetic with other second-graders had you known the depth of your sorrow.” That sums it up for me.

    And, yes, I get the control thing . . . I become frozen and paralyzed when I maintain a death grip on control, and I become frozen and paralyzed when I start to let go . . . I’m still working on finding that middle ground.

    I’m glad you are working your way through all this stuff!

    – Marie

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