How One Trauma Led to Several False Beliefs

Overcoming Trauma
in the mind of a child

I remember when I was talking about my first memory of being sexually abused. As I was speaking out loud about the details, being prompted for other tiny details and trying to remember even the thoughts I had about the trauma, I suddenly realized that I thought I could have stopped it. That ONE single belief caused a whole spiral of other problems for me and developed a very strong set of lies in my belief system. Because I thought I could have stopped the sexual abuse from happening, I also took responsibility for it happening. That led me to believe that I was a bad person. None of these thoughts were conscious. They happened as a result of that first subconscious belief that I could have stopped an adult from sexually assaulting me.  Because I thought I could have stopped it, but I didn’t stop it, I was filled with guilt and shame.  Guilt and shame that wasn’t mine, but guilt and shame that I thought was mine.

Here is the breakdown:

This went around and around in my mind, not so much the trauma, but the conclusions that I had come to about it and as other things happened in my life, they just automatically went through this new grid that had formed when I took the blame for the child sexual abuse that happened to me when an adult female babysitter decided to lay me out on a table and violate me sexually. I was just a small child; powerless to fight. I left my body. I remember leaving, floating up (still naked) to a corner above my head, hugging my knees in fear, cold, shock and helplessness.  

It wasn’t just the trauma event that I had to look at in order to face the pain of my past, it was the belief system that I developed. In looking at the grid that I put things through and how that grid got set in place I was able to realize that certain foundational beliefs were WRONG.

The first belief that was wrong was thinking and believing that I could have stopped that woman from sexually abusing me. Truth ~ I could NOT have stopped it. I asked myself HOW I could have stopped it. Then I thought of all the ways that I “thought” I could have stopped it in my childlike mind. Through that process I realized several things, one of which was that I thought because I had left my body, I believed that I had literally become two people and that I (and this second person I became) should have been able to gang up on the abuser. Upon deeper examination of that conclusion, I realized that this belief was actually impossible.

I thought that I should have screamed. I thought that I should have bit her, kicked her, grabbed some sort of large object to club her with. I believed that my passivity was consent. I was so angry with myself because I thought that I submitted to her. I had no idea that I thought any of those things deep down. They were hidden in my belief system. I don’t even know if I had those thoughts then as a small child, or if I added them later when I was older but they were there none the less.

And I also had to realize that I believed I had in fact become two people. (which is not the same thing as believing that I could have fought her off if there were two of me.)  All that had actually happened is that I left my body as many young children do. It is a very effective survival technique. But I did not actually become two people and I had never really realized that my child mind believed that I did. I also realized that I thought I should have fought and didn’t realize that not fighting does not mean consent. As I mentioned, some of these conclusions can be added when we are older too. Looking back on the trauma and wondering why we didn’t fight leads to more self blame and shame. The truth is that we had no choice. Period.

Because of all these wrong beliefs, I took responsibility for the trauma and violation.  I blamed myself. I didn’t realize how that had happened, I didn’t think about it, I didn’t consciously know that I had taken the blame, but that is what happened. In realizing that these were my beliefs, I was able to replace those lies with the truth.

This became the system that I learned to take apart a trauma or memory; I looked at the event and the details that surrounded the event the way that I describe in the above article. It does not have to be a sexual or physical abuse trauma. It can be an emotional abuse such as being neglected or a time when you were not believed. By the time I looked at three events in my childhood this way (only one of them was sexual abuse) I was able to realize how my belief system began to develop.  I picked apart a memory, every detail I could remember, the room, the colours, the curtains and doors, remembered thoughts, fears, shutting down. And I looked beyond that to the beliefs that I formed in order to cope and to process the trauma. I looked at the thoughts that I didn’t realize I had. I only looked at one trauma or one situation at a time. I tried to stick with just one tiny memory at a time and the beliefs came forward. Sometimes quickly, sometimes over a few days but always a new kind of hope came with it. The hope came from knowing the truth could set me free and now I knew how to FIND the truth.

I felt a HUGE relief when I understood more deeply where the feelings of shame and guilt came from and was able to realize that I had believed false things that through a series of thoughts fears and survival methods had become my truth, but that “that truth” was not true truth.  

In my next article I will highlight how OTHER, perhaps more normal negative childhood events join up with those traumatic abusive events and make one huge big mess in the belief system.

Please feel free to comment, share your own stories or share you process of an event if you like.

Exposing Truth; One Snapshot at a time; 

Darlene Ouimet

Related Posts: Self Esteem, My value and learning to LOVE my self

 Coping methods~ Trying to escape Myself (with 80 comments in the discussion)

But how do I recover emotional and other abuse?

52 response to "How One Trauma Led to Several False Beliefs"

  1. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th February 2011

    I assume that you are refering to John’s comment that nobody does things with the intention of hurting someone else. I agree with you Renee, some abusers delight in hurting others. It is sick.
    This is not just about sexual abuse by the way. Many emotional abusers take pleasure in tearing someone else down; I often think it if for the purpose of making others as miserable as they are.. “how dare YOU be happy when my life is so pathetic” type of thing.
    Thanks for posting,
    Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Renee/A Resurrected Spirit Posted: 27th February 2011

    I disagree with John. My abuser took every bit of pleasure from abusing his sibilings or other innocent children and women. His Favorite saying was”You wanted that, YOU enjoyed it”. Yeah right I can’t tell you how high my blood presure is right now! I did not grow up to abuse or take pleasure of seeing others abused.

  3. By: Lynda ~ Coming Out of the cRaZy Closet Posted: 26th February 2011

    Darlene, I admire the wonderful BALANCE in your writings. How you maintain such a sometimes delicate balance with all these posts and issues and different personalities and perspectives, simply amazes me.

    I wanna be like you when I grow up… even if you are 10 or more years younger than me, you come across as so wise and HEALTHY.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th February 2011

      Awww Lynda!
      Thanks! You know, I am really wise and healthy and I am even helathy enough to SAY that! But this was not always so. Just keep going forward! We all deserve this freedom and wholeness. We all deserve to thrive and live in fullness! I did not think that life could be this great, but it can and it is.
      I am so glad that you are part of EFB!
      Hugs, Darlene

      • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th February 2011

        Hi Everyone;
        I just published the follow up post to this one. I expand on just HOW we conclud that mistreatment, abuse and being devalued can actually have been our own fault. More on how the belief system develops. You can read it here: How Blame, Guilt and Shame get Misapplied to Self
        Hugs! Darlene

  4. By: Shellie Paparazzo Posted: 26th February 2011

    I just recently started following this blog and thank you for being so honest and sharing your story. I’m not sure where my false beliefs started, probably when I was very young and was told by my parents that I was stupid and would never amount to anything, and also shown lots of pornography, leaving me to believe the only use I had was for sex. I’m not in a place where they have counselors who are real good at helping people sort these things out, but I hope someday to be able to straighten it all out and with all of the complications of the later sexual abuse, physical abuse, and the drugs and alcohol and other unhealthy coping skills I developped over time.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th February 2011

      Hi Shellie,
      Welcome! I think our belief systems start very young. I also believed that I was only valued for sex or for the way that I could make other people feel valued. I was raised to believe that my only value was in my looks or appeal to men. I write this blog to tell the broken and hurting world that it is possible to straighten all of this out. There is hope. I have done this and I have a full and happy life today.
      I am really glad that you are here and hope you will share often!
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: John Posted: 26th February 2011

    I am frustrated by the fact that so many people are obsessing over who is to blame and how they should be punished and who we are better than and who we are worse than. The truth is we are all wonderful at times and we are all evil at times we all deserve to live and we all deserve to die. Nearly everything we do could potentially hurt someone and nobody does things for the purpose of hurting people. The only things thing that heal people are love, respect and knowledge. No one is worthless and no one is noble, we are all messed up and we all cling to hurtful things and we are all hurt and we have all hurt others. Then only way we can heal is to concentrate on doing more good than harm and trying to show love (not tollerance, or other such phoney nicness) to all. When we concentrate on figuring out who is really to blame then we stir up our own anger and probably that of the person whom we blam. If you know someone is being abusive to someone else then you should confront both the abuser and the abused and tell them you want to do whatever you can to stop it, and then you must do just that. If there was abuse in the past then healing needs to take place not just aknowledgement.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th February 2011

      While I agree with you that we all are wonderful and also that no one is perfect, I don’t think that people are “obsessing over who is to blame”. Everyone is at a different stage in their healing process. I understand your frustration, I feel it sometimes too, but the success of recovery depends on acceptance of where people are “at”. I find that “telling others what to do” doesn’t work so well and “telling or confronting” abusers is not so easy as it sounds. I was in my forties when I confronted my mother… and I felt so much shame for not having done it sooner. When you say that people “should” just do certain things, you place blame for anything that they can’t face yet and that DELAYS healing. My own healing was delayed by stuff like that so I try to stay away from those kinds of statements.
      The one thing that is the most important to the success of this blog is that we all stick to sharing about ourselves and refrain from giving directives.
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Another Abuser Posted: 26th February 2011

    I also struggle with that fear that I will be like my parents. Looking back at all that I have learned about myself and my family system, I’ve realized just how toxic the enviroment I grew up in was. The abuse I participated in, is not me. The real me is nothing like that, and yet the pressures and abuses in my own life at that time, and the complete lack of respect for individuals in my family led me to “pass on” the abuse. I recently found out that more than one situation of sibling incest occured in my family, and yet my parents refuse to admit that they set up an abusive system that created that kind of disfuction. And Darlene is right, it is hard to recover when you yourself passed on the abuse. I feel so much shame over what I did, it is hard to feel worthy of respect or healing or trust.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th February 2011

      Hi “Another Abuser”
      something you said is worthy of highlighting. Among other things you said that the complete lack of respect for individuals in your family led you to “pass on” the abuse. There are several things about that statement that really helped me to recover and move forward with my life once I understood them properly. (remember I had to stop trying to understand my family, let go of the guilt and shame I had and focus on MY recovery ~ the rest fell into place AFTER I did that)
      I had to understand that I had LEARNED the behaviours that I passed on. I did not learn to even respect myself because no one respected me. You were taught that lack of respect. The only way that I could forgive myself in all of this was to see it differently. I did not grow up and suddenly just KNOW BETTER. I grew up in a toxic family system, and I though it was normal. I had to somehow realize that truth before I could move past that stick point of thinking that I could have been so much better of an adult then I was. You deserve healing the same as everyone else does. You were not born broken. You were broken by the devaluing actions of others. Some may never forgive you, but that is okay as long as you can forgive you. If we are going to change the world, it will be done through the healing of the victims.
      Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Lisa Marie Posted: 26th February 2011

    Vicky, I can relate to that. Although the outcome was not even remotely as horrific.

    Vicky says: “My friend’s a police officer, and he told me that a guy broke into a woman’s house intending to rape her in front of her young son-the guy didn’t care WHO was there to watch. The woman, in a panic, got away from the guy and ran out of the house w/out getting her son.”
    How could someone leave a loved one like that? I know, I’ve seen it. My best friend stayed with me a lot when her daughter was a baby. She used to put her only feet away in the living room when sleeping while we were in the kitchen. One night it was late and we were talking and I kept hearing a noise from the front door area outside. I guess I allowed my nerves to get to me. Because after hearing what sounded like the front door opening, I swear I saw someone walk through the front room. She must have noticed something was off because when I screamed and jumped up to run away, she was already two seconds ahead of me, and just about trampled me to get away. Leaving her daughter in the room, that one would have had to go through to get to the kitchen. Lucky for us there was really no one there, and it made for a good laugh.

    And now to the point of this, and yes there is one lol. It is the natural fight on flight response. It takes over in situations where there is danger. My bestie is the most awesome Mom, and would do anything to protect her children. When the brain is measuring up a situation in the milli-seconds of time it takes, your brain makes the split second decision to fight or run. If they brain doesn’t think it can win it will make your legs go, whether you like it or not!

    I can’t stand it when people place blame in situations like these because it’s a natural reponse to get away. But you’re right, there is no shortage of simple minded people to come out of the wood work to blame the victim. No one really knows what they would do until they were in the same situation, and should keep their mouth shut.

  8. By: bearcourage Posted: 26th February 2011

    Thank you “Another Abuser” for putting yourself out there like that. We are in the process of trying to see abusive past for what it was, a victimization. In doing this, we are desperate to understand why our abusers (there were 5 all of which was relatives) did what they did. Recently we have begun to teeter on the fact that the abuse may not have been something we could have controlled but it has been a very long road and still a work in progress. To be honest, our greatest fear is that we will become our mother (the main longest standing abuser). I can rationalize intellectually that we are not her and will not become her but there is still that deep fear. Being MPD/DID, there are several of us that experienced the abuse and view same events in different ways which seems to make things more confusing at times. Probably one of the scarest things we have encountered as an adult was the realization that our family was not the norm. After meeting our husband’s family we saw for the first what a normal family that cared about and for eachother was really like. It took years and years to understand that they were not faking it just because we were around but were actually good people that cared about eachother. I think it was then that we came to realize that our family, eventhough they were our norm, was far from normal and that wasn’t how it should be. Thank you Darlene and all the others for putting themselves out there like this, you are all helping so many people crack through the shell of secrecy that is child abuse in this world.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th February 2011

      Hi Lisa Marie
      Instinct does take over, and both you and Vicki make good points about how people can be so judgemental about other peoples reactions to fear.
      Thanks for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hello Bearcourage and welcome
      You highlight an important point here when you say “I think it was then that we came to realize that our family, even though they were our norm, was far from normal and that wasn’t how it should be.” That is so important to realize. When we are children born into that type of dysfunctional family environment, it DOES become our NORMAL… and it is hard to change the belief system that developed because of it.
      Just one thing that I wanted to mention also: It never helped me to try to understand why the abusers did what they did because every time I saw them as victims ~ I felt bad for them too, and that seemed to make me want to excuse their behaviour. And that NEVER helped me to get over any of it or to deal with any of it. So while it is extremely important to realize that we had NO control over what happened to us, it is also important that we don’t find and make excuses for the abusers.
      My biggest fear was also that I was going to be like my mother. I think that fear might be what ensured that it didn’t happen. That fear is one of the things that spurred me on to find a way to recover.
      Thank you for being here!
      hugs, Darlene

  9. By: carol Posted: 25th February 2011

    i found it really hard to be around children when i was younger, i could be the loving aunt but htat meant i could do it as and when i wanted and not as a duty because it was my child. spent my whole 20’s saying im a better aunt than id ever be a mother, because i knew i would not be able to cope with the pressures children put me under due to how i was parented. it didnt matter that i had taken classes or learnt how to so things correctly, my instinctive reaction is to punish for defieance. it has taken me years of healing and education to understand how to manage my outburst of verbal or want to use physical abuse. i found a way to say what i felt but make it more pleasent took away the negativity i wanted to spew. that i had been taught to spew and use to a child. it has been hard and i still struggle because me and my child are trying to set boundaries in similar areas and we are clashing but it will pass n hopefully we both will have learnt a better way of coping and reacting to things when we feel of balance in a situation

  10. By: Another Abuser Posted: 25th February 2011

    While there was physical and psychological abuse in my family growing up, I have no memory of being sexually abused. I was a parentalized sibling from a very young age, and trained to be physically and emotionally abusive to siblings under the guise of “disciplining” them, and I did. I was overwhelmed, immature and tired, and I was afraid of getting punished myself if I didn’t get sufficient co-operation out of the siblings I was in charge of. I also ended up being sexually abusive as well. Some was possibly excessive sexual exploration with siblings close in age, but when I was a teen there was a period of several months where I was sexually abusive to a sibling 12 years younger than I. I never touched her, it was all exibitionism and asking her to touch me, but as an older sister looking back, I feel sick about the whole thing. I knew it was wrong even at the time, and I can’t explain why it happened. I know that I was lonely, angry and depressed, but I knew it was wrong, and it never should have happened. I feel so guilty about it.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 25th February 2011

      Hello “Another” and welcome to emerging from broken

      It was so important for me to realize that the things I learned and ways that I learned to be were not my fault. As you say, you were trained to be physically and emotionally abusive to your siblings. You were also given a responsibility that you were not old enough to have. This is so unfortunate and it is a big part of the “missing bridge” between adulthood and childhood, that I so often write about. We are trained to be this way, and then we feel this guilt and shame for it when we grow up, really believing that somehow we should have known better. And we get this all mixed in with a million other things. It really is complicated to sort out, but it really can be done. And sometimes, just because we know “logically” that it is wrong, (like doing hard core illegal drugs is wrong or eating a whole cheesecake is wrong, or going 30 miles over the speed limit is wrong) we don’t really understand why we do it anyway. And when there is this kind of guilt, we can get really stuck with going forward in recovery.
      I really admire your courage in sharing this.
      Hugs, Darlene

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