The NICSA Survey (Negative Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse) from AbuseConsultants asks if trauma survivors have felt an impact on their feelings of fear and ability to trust.
It is abundantly clear from the results of the survey that dissociative survivors of severe, chronic traumas typically have lives filled with fear.
For victims of childhood sexual abuse, fear becomes their constant companion, a way of life, a normal state of mind. Fear becomes ingrained in behaviors and in emotions, and it is wired deeply within brain activity. It becomes very difficult for the traumatized person to re-connect with a feeling of safety.
Fear locks the PTSD in place.
Or maybe, the PTSD locks the fear in place.
Either way, the past constantly affects the present, and overcoming the years of fear is a major hurdle in the life of a trauma survivor. It takes experiencing safe situations over and over and over to help balance out the years of trauma-based fear. One “corrective emotional experience” will likely not be sufficient for healing. Bunches and bunches of corrective emotional experiences are necessary.
In my years of working with trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder, I have found some of the following fears to be common.
- Constant fear and no sense of safety or security anywhere or any time
- Constant fear about something, anything, always
- No peace, no ability to relax, constant hypervigilance
- Inappropriate or extreme over-reactive responses to problems due to fear and ingrained beliefs that something bad will happen
- Always waiting and anticipating the next bad thing that will happen
- Very fatalistic thinking, preparing for doomsday — because bad stuff did happen so frequently, repeatedly, it was the one constant that could be expected — so it’s best to always be prepared for and expecting the worst
- Fear of public places, or interacting out in the world. Maybe this is a fear of leaving home, or simply a fear of interacting with so many new people.
- Fears involving grocery stores — makes shopping for food extremely difficult or simply more expensive at the smaller corner stores.
- Shopping malls, which are typically too stimulating and overwhelming, with far too many lights, sounds, flashing items, too much movement, crowding, and chaos.
- Churches — fears of judgment or demonization, or frankly, fears of being abused in the church or by a church member or church official. All too many DID survivors experienced variations of spiritual abuse.
- Schools — involving a fear of failure, a fear of not being able to concentrate or pass, an inability to be consistent in class, and lost time / missing time making it difficult to retain classroom learning.
- Crippling, debilitating fear can make a person housebound for extended periods of time — this clearly creates enormous difficulties in living daily life.
A close companion to overwhelming fear becomes the difficulties with trust.
When someone is so fearful, it is very difficult to trust. Years of negative, traumatic, painful, rejecting experiences have also taught the trauma survivor that trust is not necessarily a smart thing to do.
Once again, having a huge number of appropriate, safe corrective experiences will eventually make a significant difference. But this does not happen quickly.
In my years of clinical work, dissociative trauma survivors and victims of childhood sexual abuse experience a great deal of mistrust in some of the following areas.
- Not believing that anybody or anything can be trusted
- Severely damaged, or no sense of trust in God
- Severely damaged, or no sense of trust in people
- Great difficulty with expressing tender, vulnerable emotions with other people or themselves
- A belief that people can be dispensable possessions or dehumanized objects
- A deeply ingrained mentality that people are to be used or manipulated or controlled, including themselves
- Extreme difficulty in forming and keeping interpersonal relationships due this intolerable level of mistrust
- Often a belief that animals and nature are the only living things that can be trusted for comfort and companionship
- Repeated confused conversations and tangled interactions with other people because of a tendency for survivors to incorrectly jump to negative assumptions and perceptions based on past troubles instead of looking closely at the current day reality.
- An inability to develop or maintain a sense of self-trust because the defined sense of self was lost long ago during the abuse.
- Dissociative Disorders create amnesia and loss of time, and severe abuse creates a wide variety of alters with any number of conflicting beliefs and perspectives, making the ability to trust time, memory, and consistency within oneself not easily obtainable.
The struggles with fear and mistrust can affect a trauma survivor’s entire life.
The negative, painful, destructive lessons taught by sadistic perpetrators are hard to overcome and require a tremendous amount of therapy, healing work, determination, willingness, and persistence.
- How have feelings of fear and mistrust been difficult for you?
- What do you do when your fear overwhelms you?
- What do you do to build trusting relationships with other people?
- What have you done that was successful at helping to eliminate or remove these negative effects of childhood sexual abuse from your life?
I wish you the best in your healing journey. Be safe !
Copyright © 2008-2018 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation