Please help me welcome back one of our most popular guest writers ~ Pam Witzemann! In this post Pam shares about how seeing the truth in a bigger picture way, helped her to recognize what her inner critic voices were telling her. Truth was the balance in accountability that Pam needed to silence the lies those inner voices told her about herself that she had believed for so long as part of her coping method. This post is extremely content rich and I encourage you to read it through more than once! ~ Darlene
How The Truth Silences Inner Critics Voices and Healing Begins by Pam Witzemann
An abusive childhood left me with little self-worth and a damaged ability to trust and form healthy relationships. I have lived most of my life with both a strong inner and outer critic. The inner critic tells me that I’m defective and responsible for every bad thing that happens to me. The outer critic tells me that most human beings shouldn’t be trusted because they are all potentially, dangerous. Both my inner critic and outer critic lie to me and they present themselves as my greatest obstacle in healing from the abuse I suffered during my childhood. Truth is the balance in accountability I need to heal from childhood abuse. Only the truth has the power to silence my inner and outer critics, who are never satisfied until they fully disable me, driving me into deep depression and isolation from others.
Human beings are social creatures. I am a human being and I too am meant to enjoy relationships. However, my early childhood taught me that I wasn’t quite human and the second half of my childhood taught me that all human beings, not just my alcoholic parents, were dangerous. I decided that if I had the choice, I’d rather not be a human being and I spent several decades of my life seeking safety through various forms of isolation and very limited close relationships. As a small child, my isolation was involuntary and imposed on me by poor health and by the way my parents chose to treat my unhealthy condition. From birth, until age seven, I spent most of my time in bed and usually, I was medicated with alcohol. All during my elementary school years I was often, sick and kept in bed. I had a deep longing for something that I didn’t understand, an empty, excruciating, emotional ache; but I grew used to being alone and that state of aloneness became my safe haven from the alcoholic drama that characterized my home life.
During my teenage years, when relationships are of ultimate importance, I learned to relate to other young people, most who were emotionally damaged as I was, through drugs. Together we sought the safe haven of emotional and physical numbness, by abusing ourselves with drugs. This led to my being sexually abused by men who tempted and lured me with the promise of a place to live away from my abusive, chaotic home and an endless supply of the drugs that allowed me to isolate in the way I felt most comfortable.
This drug induced state enabled me to tolerate the payback they required, of sexually abusing me to gratify themselves. As a minor child on the streets, I was the victim of several other crimes and I learned to view the world as wholly dangerous and a deep, mistrustful fear of others was set in cement. By the time I was nineteen, I suffered from full blown post-traumatic-stress-disorder symptoms. I didn’t understand my emotional symptoms but my inner critic never failed to lay all the blame for the crimes of abuse I had survived, squarely in my lap. At the same time, my outer critic induced crippling fear by constantly, reminding me that the past could repeat itself or that something even worse was likely, to happen. My inner critic told me that it was up to me to prevent bad things from happening and my outer critic told me to avoid relationships, hide, and as much as possible, live my life as an invisible person. My life experience taught me that the only true safety from others was in not being seen by others and by avoiding contact as much as possible.
Like many survivors of war who suffer from PTSD, I moved to the country and spent ten years living as far away from civilization as I could get. I did have my husband and a few primary relationships but I avoided most people and most social situations. It was me against the world and I had no idea that my thinking was skewed. Others who had a sense of safety in the world seemed foolish to me. I didn’t know that it was I who was lacking and I still can’t help but see those who are completely unafraid of others, as practicing a form of denial. My trauma-experience taught me that it was me vs. them and I lived my life in constant survival mode. I clutched my children close to me and trusted very few people outside of my immediate family. I didn’t talk to anyone about the things that happened to me on the street because I believed it was my fault and I was ashamed.
I dissociated from that portion of my life and tried to become a different person. While my outer critic kept me afraid of the world without, my inner critic kept me fearful of my past being discovered and I lived the worst years of my past, over and over in the form of flashbacks. Fear was my overwhelming response to the many layers of abuse related trauma that formed my childhood. Fear was my way of life. I didn’t trust me and I didn’t trust anyone else, either. Some respond to their outer critic by acting out against others but my response was to batten down the hatches and disappear. My response was to never fully trust, period.
During that time, I found faith and my personal, spiritual relationship with God began. I did find some healing through spiritual means, by learning new behaviors and making my first attempt at true relationship, by choosing to trust God. However I was too emotionally and psychologically broken to even relate to God in a healthy way. My choice of church was driven more by my need to hide from the world than by any kind of spiritual leading or enlightenment. I chose a very strict practice, with lots of rules, and a lot of teaching on being separate from the world by adherence to the rules. There were some good people in my church of choice but it was also, a place where people who want power over others find many useful tools for controlling people. My hiding place couldn’t protect me from what I feared most; abusive human beings, and much of what my family and I endured there had nothing to do with spirituality but everything to do with evil being cloaked in good and abuse disguised as religion.
This was the experience that finally, showed me the fallacy of living a fear-filled life in hiding. This is when I began to face my past and myself with the truth. I’m not talking about the ultimate Truth that also, was instrumental in my healing but the truth about my life, the things that happened to me, and how those events taught me to relate to myself and others.
It was truth in both forms that pushed the doors of my self-imposed prison open and silenced the lies my inner and outer critics constantly bombarded me with thereby granting me the inner silence I needed to be able learn how to become more like the woman I was intended to be.
Knowing and embracing the truth about me led me to full acceptance of the child I once was. I no longer view her as less-than and not quite human. I don’t blame her for the evil things that adults did to her in her broken, innocent state. That little girl is part of me and I love her. She is fully part of the woman I am today and I would not be better off without her or her experiences. Together, we stand up to those abusive inner and outer critics that crippled us for so long. Together we are as one woman, beginning to enjoy that which should belong to all human beings, the joy of relationship.
My greater sense of safety in the world comes from the security I have found through truth. I am secure in my relationship with myself, with my God, and I am better able to keep myself safe in relationships with others. I am able to enjoy relationships with others, as I was never able to enjoy them before. The truth has made me whole and no matter whether my relationships succeed or fail, no one can take that wholeness from me, ever again.
As an abused child, I was never allowed to grow and become a complete person but I have the victory over my past. I’m the adult now and I have the power of my adult choice to keep that little girl safe and make sure her needs are met. I have claimed ownership of me and though my inner and outer critics still whisper their lies, I silence them with the truth and they are no longer allowed to cripple me. It is self-ownership through truth that is allowing me to trust myself first and then others. It is impossible to learn trust without first embracing truth because real trust consists of truth.
My early relationships were based on lies and it was those lies that formed my inner and outer critics. My new sense of safety in the world doesn’t come from the world at all. My sense of safety lives in me.
Please feel welcome to share your own thoughts and stories here.
If you are interested in how Darlene discovered and uncovered the false messages that were holding her back, “Emerging from Broken ~ The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is available for download. Click on the book image in the upper right side bar.
Pam Witzemann is a long-time native of New Mexico. She is a writer, painter, landlord, wife, mother, grandmother, small-business co-owner, child-abuse survivor and overcomer. Emerging from Broken has played a big role in empowering her in her struggle to overcome the emotional damage caused by a childhood of abuse. In her own words, Pam is an avid supporter of the work here on Emerging from Broken and is honored to share her story in support of that good work.