From the time a child becomes even remotely self-aware, the messages he or she receives begins to have an indelible mark on his or her self-image. For the majority of children, this is a time of joyful self-discovery and growth. However, it is at this time when negative input can have a devastating effect on the young child’s healthy development.
Emotional and mental abuse is often discounted as being much less serious as other forms of abuse. Unfortunately, in many ways, these forms of abuse may be worse as the victims are frequently unaware that the messages and treatment they are receiving are neither healthy nor true. A child who is told that he or she is not worthy or deserving of affection or respect does not have the experience to refute these messages. Instead, they incorporate these messages and make them a part of their identity.
As the child grows and is continuingly fed negative or abusive messages, she frequently begins to view herself as somehow being bad or inferior. Outwardly, this may not be noticeable to most others, but there may be cues that all is not well. Even if the child excels in school or in other areas of life, this may actually be an attempt to convince himself that he is actually a worthwhile person. Sadly, no amount of success can overcome the interior self-talk that works to constantly reinforce the idea that he is destined for failure.
As long as the abuse continues, the young person becomes more accepting of the idea that no matter how hard she tries, she will one day be found out as a fraud or a failure. Positive comments from others usually aren’t enough to overcome what has now become ingrained in the victim’s head as the reality that one is simply a bad person. While many may believe that it is easy to block out or overcome these negative messages, the victim often is unable to believe the words of anyone else – especially if the abuse was carried out by a trusted family member.
The area where the damage from this type of abuse manifests the most is in relationships with others. While it may seem counter-intuitive to push away healthy interactions, victims often self-sabotage any close relationship out of the conviction that the other person will eventually walk away of his or her own accord. Another reason that relationships often fail is that the victim is unable to believe that she is capable or worthy of being involved in a truly healthy relationship – be it with a close friend or even with an intimate partner.
It is possible to heal from this type of abuse, but the road is long and requires commitment and perseverance. The hard work is worth it and victims will be stronger for it. Those who have been through this pain are the most compassionate and loyal people as they have endured the darkness and loneliness and they seek to ease the pain and suffering of those around them.
Writer Bio: Angela Mose
I am a mom of 7 who has successfully homeschooled for 20 years. I was married for more than 25 years and have recently started my life over. I have a passion for writing and music and when the two can be combined, it is utopia. A Maryland native, I am planning to relocate north in the near future and will continue to strive to learn and experience new things on a regular basis. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home while exploring new ways to increase my knowledge and skills and help improve the lives of those around me.