Posted by: Marie | September 13, 2009

(145) Lasting effects – Part 1 of 9

Post #145
[Book study – June 15-17, 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.


Writing Exercise: The Effects

Write about the ways you’re still affected by the abuse. What are you still carrying in terms of your feelings of self-worth, your work, your relationships, your sexuality? How is your life still pained, still limited?

Angkor Wat by Martin Chen

Angkor Wat by Martin Chen

When I first read this question, I sat in deep thought for about two minutes, then I decided I was way too tired to answer the question that night – I decided I would tackle it the next day.

The next day came – I decided I was too busy with paying bills and doing laundry and washing dishes – it would just have to wait another day.

The day after that came – I decided it was a good day to shampoo all of my carpets.

The day after that came – I decided I needed to add quotable quotes to my blog posts – and to rearrange my furniture on my newly clean carpets.

Almost two weeks have passed since I first attempted to answer this question. I have cleaned everything, sorted everything, gotten every part of my life organized, got my mother switched over to digital TV and high-speed internet . . . I have done everything I could think of to avoid answering this question.

When I think about what I would write — should I ever sit down and start writing – I get nearly sick to my stomach. All I can hear are the echoes of the mantras of my childhood — screaming, stabbing, bouncing around in my head:

– “Oh, it’s not that bad!”

– “Don’t be such a cry baby!”

– “Nobody wants to hear about your problems!”

– “You don’t have anything to complain about!”

– “Nobody likes a drama queen!”

– “Good girls take it like a soldier!”

– “You don’t know how good you have it!”

– “People from our family don’t have those kind of problems!”

– “Suck it up!”

– “Tough it out!”

– “You’re over-reacting!”

So, to think about writing it all down, creating a list that covers all the ways in which I am currently impacted by my childhood – well, doing that amount of complaining in one sitting is the equivalent of committing a very black sin (to go back to the context of my childhood). It is downright unforgivable.

I don’t want to pull it all out and look at it. Every bone in my body says I’m not allowed to do that. I don’t want to look at it – it might be too ugly to bear. I really don’t want to put all of this on my blog – everyone will think I’m a malingerer. I’ll be giving power to the negative. (Now I’m starting to sound like Dr. Barb!)

But, because I am resisting it so hard – well, that tells me I need to do the exercise and I need to share it on my blog. I have granted myself one relief: I will allow myself to insert into my writing, as often as I feel necessary, disclaimers that indicate producing this prose is directly opposed to what I would “normally” write – it is way out of my comfort zone and I really don’t want to be writing or publishing it. I really, really, really don’t want to be writing or publishing it – are you clear on that?????

However, I can see value in naming all my demons in one sitting — I have never really looked at how bad it is. I have a habit of minimizing how bad it is by either not admitting how deep the overall discord runs or by keeping my focus on one very specific, very painful symptom. By sitting down and listing it all in one place, all at one time, I can get a much better feel for what I’m working with here. If I were dealing with a money management problem, I would start by laying out all my bills and debts on the table in front of me. I guess this is similar.

I ate an entire pint of B&J’s coffee/toffee ice cream while trying to screw up enough courage to write the first word. This really sucks.

Okay . . . here it goes . . . I’ll start with a “doozy” . . just to get it out of the way . . .

Dysfunctional and/or non-existent relationships

This covers relationships of all types, but it is especially applicable to romantic/sexual relationships.

I have little hope that healthy romantic and/or sexual relationships will ever manifest in my life.

If they do germinate, I have no hope they will last.

If they do last for any period of time, I have no hope that they will be healthy or that they will meet the needs of both parties.

From puberty to my mid-30’s, I was very willing to do almost anything to gain a scrap of attention from a man. That usually involved having sex with him within 2-3 hours of meeting him – sometimes I didn’t even know his name. If a man was willing to give me continued attention, I was very willing to put up with verbal abuse, physical intimidation, disrespect, emotional absence, etc. in order to receive that continued attention.

By my mid- to late-30’s, I was less interested in putting up with the crap; by age forty, I was done with all of it. Now, I prefer being isolated and alone over being in the company of a beau. At least I don’t have to do twice as much housework and three times as much primping just for the “privilege” of having him around.

I now believe that there is nothing about me, in a love-interest context, that a man (or a woman) would find interesting and worthwhile. I used to have sex appeal, but that disappeared in the last 5-10 years. I am good for doing domestic chores, but I am no longer willing to carry that burden for someone else. Those two assets were the only assets I had to offer – and they are no longer available for barter. So, I now have no hope of ever again being of interest to a potential beau (male or female).

In my world, men come in three varieties: the oblivious, the selfish and the self-righteous. The oblivious don’t know I exist and don’t want to know I exist.

The selfish will do whatever it takes to make sure their needs are met while investing the least possible amount of effort into meeting my demands and silencing my complaints – my needs and desires are not their concern, they only care about what I can do for them.

The self-righteous have good intentions – they believe they know what is best for me and take great pride in applying constant pressure to force me into conformity with their version of reality. Their means can always be justified by their intention. They consider non-compliance a fatal character flaw. My needs and desires are not their concern, only my salvation.

People tell me there are other varieties of men on this earth. I have yet to get to know any of them on an emotionally intimate basis.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

Quotes 040


  1. Marie, it’s as if I wrote this post myself, though I haven’t yet gone back to the book, even though I should. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi, Kerro –

      I think there are many people who are having and/or have had the same experience . . . I think there are many of us.

      Thanks for your input!

      – Marie

  2. Hi Marie,

    I was surprised to learn your age – you look younger in the photo.

    Once you got around to writing it certainly flowed!

    Looking forward to part2.

    • Hi, Evan –

      Wow! Thanks! Well, to be fair, that photo is probably five years old, but people who know me in 3D say it looks current.

      Thank you for the encouragement . . . it is nice to receive affirmation that it is “okay” to dump all that “stuff”. This is the very first time I have had that freedom.

      – Marie

  3. Marie –
    I’ve been reading your entries for awhile – I’ve been working my way through Courage to Heal also. Similar to you – I found I would put it down for awhile. Realized I had put it down for two months when I got to the section of Remembering. Thanks for sharing your insights as you worked through this.


    • Hi, OLJ –

      I think it is wise to be careful about pushing too hard . . . it takes time to process and absorb all of the information and the memories. I am at the point of “Remembering” in the book right now (September) . . and, I have had to set it aside as my workload doubled with the start of a new school year . . . I knew it would not be wise to try to handle the heavy work load and handle emotional drama at the same time. So, the book has been sitting for a month+ . . . I’m about ready to jump back into it.

      I appreciate your support and kind words!

      – Marie

  4. Thank you for writing and posting this. I have a lot of these same issues/feelings and it is really a great help to feel less lonely is this journey of recovering. Thank you for your braveness and strength. Jenny

    • And, thank you, Jenny, for reading it and for not saying to me, “You shouldn’t complain so much!” This is the very first time in my life I have had the opportunity to freely say everything I need to say, without being told I shouldn’t say it. It is a very healing experience.

      I think there are many people who think these thoughts. We are not alone.

      – Marie

  5. I can relate to what you say about “Dysfunctional and/or non-existent relationships” even though my story is a little different than yours. The end result is pretty much the same.
    It’s great that you have been able to write about it. I can’t even talk to my T about it yet.

    • Hi, lostinamaze –

      I think there are many of us who are dealing with the “same end result” . . . I’m glad we can have a community in which to encourage each other.

      Do find that talking to your T about something usually happens before or after you are able to write about it?

      – Marie

  6. I GLAD that I found this space in which I can see other people’s comment to see that I am not alone in this (sometimes painful/ sometimes blissful) journey. For me the effects are so tangible every single day, that sometimes I am afraid of being losing my mind. MY life is actually becoming more limited (I think) in some situations and I feel numb and paralized. Oh, well …not a good friday.

    • Hi, Atabex –

      I think it is very common for us to feel like we are “going crazy” . . and for good reason. We are dealing with stuff our psyches were never designed to handle. So, the crazy feelings are a “normal” response to extreme stuff.

      I am so sorry you are feeling more limited and numb and paralyzed . . . sometimes that happens on the path to healing. Earlier in life, we hid away stuff that was too painful to handle. So, now that we are addressing that stuff, we start really feeling the pain — and it is distressing.

      There is good reason for us to feel that much pain/fear/sorrow/paralysis as we move through the stuff – because the stuff causes us to respond that way – it is a normal response.

      The good news is that there can be freedom and lightness of heart on the other side – if we just keep moving through the stuff.

      Thanks for staying in touch!

      – Marie

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