My mother and father were both victims of childhood neglect and abuse growing up. Their unhealed maltreatment carried over to how they parented my siblings and me. My father would whip my mother, my siblings and me with his belt if we did not obey him. He would also yell, call us demeaning names, and belittle everyone in our family. My mother was unable to protect us from the abuse, because she was unable to protect herself from my father’s abuse.
Abuse and neglect can leave a victim vulnerable to a lifetime of mental illness and emotional problems, according to Psychology Today (1). At the root of mental and emotional problems is distorted thinking or believing concepts that are untrue about oneself and others. Children typically do not have adequate skills to cope with maltreatment and adverse experiences, which often leads them to develop anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, depression, self-blame, irritability, or mood swings. Left untreated, abuse can turn into trauma, which impedes healthy mental/ emotional development, impacting the way the victim thinks, feels and has relationships with others.
This happened in my case. When my father would whip me with his belt, thoughts of fear, terror, and panic raced through my mind. After the whipping, I would try to calm myself down, and a myriad of destructive thoughts would continue to flow in my attempt to process the abuse. ‘He hates me.’ ‘I can never do anything right.’ ‘What did I do that was so wrong?’ ‘What’s wrong with me?’ ‘Why doesn’t he love me? ‘How can I become invisible and unnoticeable, so I never make him mad again?’
Derogatory thoughts and messages I grew up with about myself were never corrected or refuted by my parents or siblings. I was too embarrassed to tell friends or teachers about the abuse. Hiding who I was and what my needs were became my maladaptive coping strategy. I purposely tried to never upset anyone, as a means to protect myself from violence, or someone getting angry with me. These negative perspectives I adopted about my value became realities that led to poor choices I made with friends, bad grades in school and growing disrespect for authority.
Until I started therapy, I struggled with anxiety, depression, fear, low self-esteem and I didn’t trust that people cared about my wellbeing. In addition to counseling, I read numerous self-help books to become more mentally and emotionally healthy. Over time these resources helped tremendously with my distorted thinking from childhood abuse. But I still had residual thoughts that affected my ability to be vulnerable, speak my truth, and be confident in my abilities and talents.
When I was 30 a colleague invited me to go to church with her. I had no spiritual foundation at that time and I had negative views about religion, due to the way I was raised. The pastor seemed loving, non-judgmental, kind and I didn’t think he was capable of abusing anyone. As I listened to him each week, I considered the possibility that he was telling the truth when he said how much God loves us and cares about our life. I was given a free bible, so I started reading for myself. I realized that God is loving and certainly in the business of miracles. God can heal issues I can’t, and others can’t.
“A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all.” -Matthew: 15:30
I had finished college and started a private counseling practice around the time I started going to church. Many of my clients had experienced abuse in their childhood and needed emotional healing. I also worked with children who were in emotionally abusive families. My personal background gave me lots of compassion for my clients. As my counseling practice grew and my faith in God grew, I began utilizing my spiritual knowledge along with all I had learned from my education in psychology. I would give my clients coping skills and loving support during their session and pray for them privately after their sessions. I would ask God to heal their emotional pain, trauma, depression and anxiety. I held healing intentions in my mind for my clients, knowing that God could do everything I could not do for them and they could not do for themselves.
I began to witness lots of answers to prayer with my clients. Marriages became more loving and harmonious, clients with anxiety stopped having anxiety attacks, clients who couldn’t work from depressive symptoms returned to work, children with Attention Deficit Disorder could focus in school without medication. Client after client that I prayed for became more emotionally well and higher functioning in their day to day lives.
Years went by before it ever occurred to me to pray for my own healing of residual abuse memories. I asked God to ‘Heal all my memories, wash them clean of the lies I received about my value growing up.’ I prayed this several different times. After I would pray, I would wait with my eyes still closed. I began to get a visual image in my mind of what looked similar to a reel to reel old movie of my memories. The memories were slowly being pulled from the reel, as if to take a closer look at each one. Then they continued to slowly scroll back around onto the reel as a love and truth edited memory. I felt that my childhood misperceptions, lies and misunderstandings were being energetically removed and healed by God.
God is love.
‘But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” -1 John 4:8
Unconditional love can help people emotionally heal.
The outcome of this spiritual healing removed my residual hurts, and doubts about my value. I live every day with peace of mind and I confidently speak my truth. I share my writing and counseling talents to contribute emotional healing to others, that they too may experience joy and live an incredible, blessed, fulfilled life.
If you have gone through counseling, read self-help books and still have residual negative beliefs from unhealed abuse or hurt, seek out God to become a part of healing your past. It is yours if you ask and believe it.
“For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:8
Mental wellbeing is a life that is possible and a life worth living!
Written by Elisabeth Davies, MC
Counselor & Author of Good Things Emotional Healing Journal: Addiction