Healing Shame: A Guide for Sexual Abuse Trauma Survivors
Shame can be an incredibly profound and pervasive emotion, particularly for survivors of sexual abuse. It often infiltrates every aspect of an individual's life, making healing and recovery seem like a Herculean task. The experience can leave survivors feeling inherently flawed, guilty, and alone. However, as dire as it seems, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and its name is recovery. One individual who has made significant strides in trauma recovery work is Janina Fisher, a world-renowned expert in the field.
Janina Fisher's work on trauma is centered around the concept of "structural dissociation," a theory that explains how traumatic experiences can cause parts of an individual's personality to become fragmented. In other words, trauma survivors may have different parts of themselves that carry different memories, emotions, and bodily sensations related to their trauma.
Among these parts, one might carry shame—a feeling of deep disgrace or guilt that one is inherently bad or unworthy. This part, burdened with the weight of the traumatic past, can make it difficult for survivors to develop a positive self-image or form healthy relationships.
However, Fisher argues that this fragmentation, although painful, can be a source of healing. By understanding and communicating with these fragmented parts, survivors can begin to process their trauma, alleviate feelings of shame, and integrate their experiences into a cohesive, accepting sense of self.
Healing Shame: Practical Steps for Trauma Survivors
Identifying and Understanding the Shame-Bearing Part:
The first step towards healing is recognizing the part of you that holds the shame associated with your traumatic experience. Acknowledge its existence and try to understand its purpose. This part might be trying to protect you, believing that if it carries all the shame, you can continue with your life.
Begin a dialogue with this part. Try to approach it from a place of understanding and compassion. Acknowledge the pain and guilt it holds, and thank it for trying to protect you. Remember, these parts are not your enemies; they are fragments of you that have been formed in response to unbearable situations.
Externalization can be a powerful technique for alleviating shame. By externalizing the shame - recognizing it as something that was put upon you rather than something that defines you - you can begin to release it. Remember, the abuse was not your fault, and the shame does not define your worth.
Seeking Professional Help:
Consider seeking help from a trauma-informed therapist. They can guide you through these steps, provide a safe and supportive environment for you to explore your feelings of shame, and teach you tools and techniques to manage these feelings.
Self-Care and Self-Compassion:
Finally, don't forget to care for yourself. Practice self-compassion. This means being kind to yourself, recognizing that it's okay to be imperfect, and allowing yourself to make mistakes. Recovery is a journey, and it's okay to take it one step at a time.
The journey of healing from sexual abuse trauma can be challenging and laden with feelings of shame. However, with the right tools, understanding, and professional support, it's a journey that can lead to recovery and a more compassionate relationship with oneself. Informed by Janina Fisher's trauma work, survivors can navigate their path toward healing, ultimately transforming their shame into resilience and self-acceptance.
If this is a process you would like help with, consider booking an appointment with Brain Botanics Therapy, to guide and support you with this process.