A serious subject.
In my seminars and coaching sessions as well as in therapy I am faced over and over again with the consequences of how physical punishments during childhood can affect the adult life.
I have to listen very carefully to realize somebody is indicating physical violence in his childhood. That’s because the subject is still a taboo and above all very shameful for people. However, if somebody shows signs in his biography like “I was raised in a strict way” or the father “was quite authoritarian” or “the mother tolerated no contradiction”, I become quite alert and ask what the person means by that.
Then one hears about violent slaps in the face and beatings with pickets, belts, leather whips, tree branches, coal shovels, carpet beaters, canes or bare hands etc. The moment was often unpredictable. If the “parent was in a bad mood” if “one did not get away fast enough” or it became a regular dreaded weekend ritual on Saturday evening.
I also ask up to what age the physical abuse occurred and how it stopped. Mostly it stops in puberty, however, for others it lasts until the age of eighteen or nineteen years when they decide to leave home. The parent sometimes stops by himself, but sometimes also when the youngster clearly threatens the parent. Mostly boys get hit, especially the oldest ones but also many girls.
How adults deal with the memory of blows in their childhood?
A frequent form is trivializing it.
However, mostly recognizably in the conclusion “This has not harmed me!“
I always understand this sentence as the attempt to solve the conflict between the positive picture which one has of their parents and the scenes where one was physically abused.
The displacement is also frequent.
Over and over again people report to me that they have no memory of the first eight or ten years of her childhood. No picture, no feelings, nothing. Only within the scope of common work a piece of painful memory sometimes comes back again.
Which results do blows in the childhood have on an adult?
The results are various. I want to tell you about only some of the consequences and decisions which I’ve encountered during my work with clients.
- Fear and loss of trust in relationships.
To be beaten as a child is always a situation where the child makes unconscious decisions. Where it painfully learns what can happen in relationships.
It learns about power. It learns that one cannot trust someone they’ve trusted and had faith in.
It learns that one isn’t safe. Something bad can happen at any moment. Possible results can also be feelings of helplessness, being at the mercy of somebody, feeling abandoned. These can be symptoms which one as an adult has over and over again.
- Limited possibilities to resolve conflicts.
Those who have been abused feel helpless and humiliated. To deal with that in the future there are only few strategies. One is left alone — and secretly despises the presumably stronger one. Another way is to swear to oneself self that such a thing will never happen again “later in the life”. Namely because one becomes strong.
- Problems in the development of one’s own identity .
In my seminars every now and then I meet kind men who are understanding and considerate, never are they loud. On the one hand these are pleasant people, but one can assume they may have problems with their aggression. These people often feel that they lack a sense of masculinity.
If one looks at the biography we usually find violent beating experiences. When I ask how this all fits together, I sometimes hear the clear sentence: “Only men hit!” Or: “I never wanted to be like my father!“
Those, who get battered, experience that feelings, convictions or rules of other people are more important. As a child we can hardly make a distinction between ourselves and the others. Cannot see, for example, that the parents are overcharged from time to time (which is definitely no excuse for hitting).
Mostly the child searches for a reason for the castigation. Above all if the apt parent does not apologize and gives the responsibility for his disengaging to the child, the child ends up feeling guilty. Because one was too cheeky or talked back. Because one is bad at school. Because one is living in general.
He, who has been hit, learns early lessons about his value.
- Demarcation problems.
If one has been hit as a child, he or she experiences a massive border injury. And subsequently often has problems to differentiate him- or herself accordingly as an adult. So saying no, or not always pleasing everybody, or risking to disappoint someone etc. and to feel ones limits, to respect and to deal adequately with it, can be difficult.
- Problems with own children.
He, who has experienced violence as a means of education, sometimes feels the tendency to behave in the same way with his own children. This danger is particularly stronger, when somebody hasn’t accounted for the past. Some relinquish their wish for own children completely because they fear they might not be able to control themselves in difficult situations and of also becoming a bruiser.
- Uncontrollable aggressiveness.
As a battered child one experiences tremendous fury and rage, but these violent affects must be suppressed and be edged out. However, suppressed feelings do not disappear. Often they find their way in destructive actions against other (criminal activity) or against oneself (auto-aggression, suicide, drug abuse).
What can you do?
There is no easy answer. But in general I can say that remembering what you have experienced is the first important step as opposed to edging out or minimizing what happened.
It is important to step out of the “childhood trance”, because you consider your own experienced pain to be less important than your parent’s motive or the facade “What will other people think?”
If one is a victim of abuse at an early age, one makes decisions for their whole life.
Next steps can be to face up to the painful experiences. In some cases it might also be helpful to seek professional help.
Sometimes parents regret later in life what they have defended for decades. But often one is faced with renewed lack of understanding and a wall of the ignorance (“This never happened. You’re imagining things!”)
Professional help sometimes also helps to find a usual way for itself in the internal weave of recollections, displacement impulses and confusion. It’s better to get become active in life in the end after all and taking good care of oneself rather than remaining in the position of the victim, the abused child.
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jeecis, red deer and ana.knipsolina