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  • For trauma survivors: How NOT to give up

    People who have endured trauma as children are taught that they should give up. At the hands of an abusive adult, a child has to learn all kinds of ways to survive. Sometimes it’s possible to escape or hide, but not very easily if you’re a kid, and fighting back is almost never a good idea.  

    Unable to escape, children most often learn to give up struggling. Accommodating the abuser is most often the only way to survive. That strategy involves dissociation—vacating consciousness, leaving the body by refocusing one’s whole attention elsewhere. Focusing on something else so completely that one can mentally disappear.

    What abused children learn is that they cannot prevail against adversity. Traumatized children who grow into adulthood often carry with them those skills of giving up right away. They become adults who do not try harder to succeed when they meet failure.

    It’s ironic that adult survivors are some of the most successful people around. They survived the most harrowing circumstances of their childhoods!

    Terrible experiences become crystallized as trauma in the body when there is no opportunity to heal at the time of the injury. When we look at child abuse, we know it is conducted in secret, without any advocate for the child, without any helpful witness, and without anyone who will step in and stop the abuse. That lack of recognition is what marks people: that lack of help.

    How not to give up

    The way to heal from trauma is by experiencing positive relationships.  Truly positive ones, safe ones.  In a positive relationship, we learn to persevere.  We learn that we CAN prevail against adversity.  We learn that we are strong and we can be the boss of our lives.

    Get this:  The positive people in our lives are like mirrors to us of our beautiful selves, our strong selves.  The positive people in our lives are like cheerleaders. We succeed at the things we attempt when we are supported by these people. By believing in us, our friends and loved ones help us to achieve things we may never have thought possible.

    So the next time you feel like a failure, seek support.  Don’t try to go it alone. That didn’t work before and it won’t work now.  You need love and care and attention. Ask for it.  You can start by asking a therapist, a teacher, a mentor, a clergyperson, a healer.  Be with somebody good who sees you and cheers for you. 

    Watch the video of this bear cub, and see how the support of our loved ones can help us win against even big odds.

    Copyright © 2023 by Marilee Snyder