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Abuse

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Abuse

Defense Against Abuse Can Contribute to Narcissism

Another example of how defensive structures can contribute to narcissism is the person who was abused physically, sexually, or emotionally. He must develop measures to deal with his trauma, any of which will disconnect him from Essence. He cannot afford to stay in touch with his essential presence because this would put him deeply in touch with himself, confronting him with the full impact of the abuse. For example, he may develop structures such as obsessive thinking or defensive hostility to keep his experience shallow enough to deny his pain and helplessness.

Early Abuse is a Specific Cause of Alienation from the Core of the Self

It is well known that early sexual abuse, especially incest, and physical abuse as well, create havoc in the psychic equilibrium of its survivors and become a major source of suffering and conflict in their lives. Sexual and physical abuse confront the child with so much pain, and such intolerable conflicts, that typically the child shuts off the whole situation from awareness. Whether there is amnesia or only emotional isolation, there results a dissociation from deep experience of the self in general. “Unable to remove herself physically from the abuse, the creative child victim finds other ways to leave. Frequently this leaving takes the form of ‘separation from the self,’ or ‘depersonalization.’ ” (E. Blume, 1990) Since essential presence is the core depth of the self, it must be dissociated from, or it will tend to expose the painful events of the abuse. So early abuse is a specific cause of the alienation from the core of the self, and hence leads to the development of narcissistic disturbance. Early abuse, including sexual abuse, causes not only oedipal narcissism, but other forms of narcissism, depending on when it occurred.

It is Important to Recognize How Abuse Imprints the Soul

Strong and/or repeated impressions tend to become fixed in the soul, becoming part of her overall ego structuring. These impressions can be positive or negative, pleasurable or painful. Some of the most well-known and problematic ones are those due to painful or intensely conflictual experiences in early life. These include abandonment and loss, hatred and judgment, severe intrusion and lack of empathy, and so on. A specific subset of these is abuse. When the child is subjected to abuse of any kind, the pain and conflict around events and situations are so powerful that the impressions are quite lasting. We can see this in the many individuals who were victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, the effects of which can not only last a lifetime, but tend to structure their experience in painful and difficult ways. It is important to recognize how abuse imprints the soul, because many people tend to think that it is mostly a question of repression that needs to be undone and dealt with. This neglects the structuring effects of such powerful impressions, structuring that becomes part of the victim’s identity and character. This means that to learn to fully be free from such history one needs to work on the structures that have developed through this abusive history and learn to disidentify from them, or bring them to a degree of flexibility and openness.

Undischarged Pain of the Child

The child is very open, and can feel the pain and suffering going on in its immediate environment. The child is aware of its own body and can also feel the tension, rigidity, and pain in the mother’s body or anyone else it is with. If the parents are suffering, the child feels it. If the mother is suffering, the baby suffers too. The pain never gets discharged. We are not even considering the acts of cruelty that so many babies endure. Some parents take their own conflicts out on the child in physical abuse, neglect, or emotional rejection. All these things affect the child in the same negative way—there remains pain that is not discharged. So the natural movement is impeded, and the child doesn’t return to its natural harmony. There might be difficulty in the body of the child. Sometimes even when the mother acts in a loving way toward the baby she is feeling anguish, or self-rejection, or other negative feelings inside herself. The baby always feels this pain, and the mother isn’t discharging it for herself or the baby.

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