Having experienced physical and emotional abuse myself in childhood has helped me to understand and empathise with a client’s impaired view and concept of themselves. I too had a low level of self-esteem or worth. I too had expectations of further abuse, rejection and exploitation, and I also found it very difficult to trust anyone to get close to me either emotionally or physically. All of which I compensated for in several dysfunctional ways. I have no doubt that this heavily influenced my decision to find out as much as I could about the effects of abuse upon child development – which eventually led me to become a psychotherapist and to help other people along their own path of understanding and healing.
We are all capable of child cruelty but most of us can control our own emotional reactions and physical impulses, and can divert our anger and frustration elsewhere. Others are less able to do so and then treat children in a cruel and careless way – often out of ignorance rather then malice or deliberate intent.
Children arrive into this world pure, vulnerable and dependant; they have no cruel intentions or desire to annoy, or be a burden to, anyone. Sadly too many babies and children are treated and punished ‘as-if’ they were a deliberately annoying and hostile adult who just happens to be inside a baby’s body – a small fragile body that must then suffer the impact of a fist, a kick or even worse.
A ‘care-giver’s’ lack of empathy, compassion, love, common sense, and their own unresolved abuse and traumas can all lead to child cruelty, due to the deficits in the immature adult’s own brain functioning.
The traumas experienced in childhood have an immense impact upon a developing brain – particularly if such traumatic events are experienced prior to the age of 3 years because these are ‘pre-verbal’ memories which can’t be properly linked and associated with a story and then be told to other people, or even fully understood. Instead they remain as a silent, but still raw and bleeding, emotional scar held in every cell of the child’s body, which is then carried through to adulthood – unless emotional and bodily (somatic) release of the pain happens in a sensitive and therapeutic way beforehand.
I have worked with many clients over the years who have experienced profound trauma as a result of the physical beatings, verbal and emotional abuse and in many cases sexual abuse too. They all perceived themselves as ‘different’ to other people; as ‘damaged’ and somehow ‘defective’. It is very important to ‘normalise’ these self-concepts…which doesn’t mean agreeing with them, but explaining that it isn’t surprising that they feel this way about themselves because of what they have experienced and endured. It is even more important to explain how their brain has been impacted by their experiences, and by the lack of care, love and adequate bonding.
The most important aspect of all in their healing process is knowing that their brain, mind and consequently their bodily memories can be changed and improved. This leads to a different perception of themselves, of their past experiences, and the unhelpful and limiting decisions they had made about themselves in childhood – which in turn influenced what they expected, and got, from life. I have always passionately wanted to help them to find a path forward, of their own choosing, that gets them to where they want to be.
Existing therapeutic approaches favour one or two aspects of an individual and the therapy is then focussed upon these – which misses out the rest of the person/client! I am an advocate of a ‘whole-brain and holistic’ approach to therapy which includes working with the body and it’s stored memories as well as with the mind and brain – the emotions, thoughts and ambitions. I believe in demystifying therapy and giving people information and skills to bring about real change.
Our early childhood traumas will have laid down deep mud in the bottom of our personal ‘pond’ – which has been keeping the waters murky and the surface of the pond troubled. TREP and QPP have been designed to clear away the layers of mud and to bring effective long lasting relief and improvements in a short time – as well as being inexpensive and fun!
By Maxine Harley (Msc) www.maxineharley.com www.the-ripple-effect.co.uk www.qpp.uk.com