Posted by: Marie | November 5, 2009

(179) Can’t stop talking about it

Post #179
[Book study – Saturday, July 11, 2009]

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

Part Two: The Healing Process
A Stage of Healing: The Emergency Stage

[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.


Many women go through a period when sexual abuse is literally all they can think about. You may find yourself talking about it obsessively with anyone who will listen. Your life may become full of practical crises, which totally overwhelm you. You may find yourself having flashbacks uncontrollably, crying all day long, or unable to go to work. You may dream about your abuser and be afraid to sleep.

Tainun County, Taiwan by Martin Chen

Tainun County, Taiwan by Martin Chen

Total obsession with sexual abuse is more likely during this stage if you’ve forgotten your abuse [as a child] and then remembered [as an adult].

The emergency stage is not something you choose, yet it must be ridden through to the other side. It cannot be ignored. As one survivor aptly remarked, “It’s like learning a new word. Within days you start seeing it in everything you read, and you never saw it before in your life.”

The important thing to remember is that the emergency stage is a natural part of the healing process and will come to an end. The nature of the crisis is that it is all you can see. But there will be a time when you will not think, eat, and dream sexual abuse twenty-four hours a day.

Suggestions to survive the emergency stage:

– Don’t hurt or try to kill yourself
– Know that you’re not going crazy
– Find people you can talk to
– Get skilled professional support
– Get support from other survivors
– Allow yourself to obsess
– Do as many nice things for yourself as possible
– Drop what isn’t essential in your life
– Create a safe area in your home
– Watch your intake of drugs and alcohol
– Get out of abusive situations
– Sit tight and ride out the storm
– Remind yourself that you’re brave
– Remember to breath
– Develop a belief in something greater than yourself
– This too shall pass

Quotes 091


  1. Oh, man. I bounce around in and out of the Emergency stage all the time. Usually, it takes weeks to work around, but it’s there, in all it’s ugly forms. Wow, I am always amazed at the information out there that pulls survivors together in similarity.

    • Hi, Ivory –

      It is absolutely amazing how we experience so much of the same in our responses to trauma — even though we are all so different, we are really so much the same. There is comfort in that fact!

      – Marie

  2. Hi Marie

    Helping out with a victim support line, we find this is happening a lot to women and even men.

    Well done on providing some great suggestions to people, the more light that is shined on this issue the better.

    Good job

    • Hi, Jon –

      Thank you for your kind and encouraging words . . . I’m so glad to see venues developing in which it is “okay” to talk about these matters. Thank you for doing your part to support that!

      – Marie

  3. Great suggestions I think, thanks Marie.

    • Thanks, Evan!

      – Marie

  4. I can see why Even wanted to write a guest post in response to this one. This is so well-written and full of useful reminders. For me, I find that I go in and out of the “emergency stage” over and over again, sometimes years apart from each incidence. And almost every time, I need that reminder that I’m NOT going crazy. That’s a biggie reminder for me. Thanks for providing it.

    • Hi, Marj –

      I, too, am repeated impressed by the quality of the writing in the “Courage to Heal” book — they really give a plain language to a challenging subject.

      It sounds like, for you, the emergency stage is included in the cyclical/spiral pattern of healing, along with many other stages. That hasn’t been the case for me (for me, the emergency stage hit hard once and has been fading over time), but I’m less than two years into the process, LOL.

      Thanks for your input!

      – Marie

  5. Hi Marie,

    The Courage to Heal was the first book I ever read about abuse, almost 20 years ago. It did help me up to a point. I do feel that it kind of encourages opening up to the feelings of the past but then doesn’t really address how to heal them. I think it’s good at describing the damage abuse does, but doesn’t go far enough. A lot of healing methods have been developed in the last 20 years that I think are essential to know about when healing from abuse.

    Sorry, this is not a comment on the ’emergency stage’. Just wondering if anyone else had a similar feeling about that book…


    • Hi, Ellen –

      That is good information on the book . . . can you suggest other resources for the healing part of the process?

      – Marie

  6. I think, for now, I am out of the emergency stage. I feel a great relief after disclosing and talking with my mother. Now I am considering my “face to face” friends and thinking about who I might trust with my history.

    It is hard work.


    • Hi, OLJ –

      It is hard work . . . and, I found great relief in sharing my story with select people . . . it made the whole thing much less shameful for me. It was as if the badness was moving out of me.

      I’m proud of the work you’re doing!

      – Marie

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