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Why is it so hard for one to open up about an abusive past?

How to you summon the courage to share? What are the reasons that one may keep such terrible things locked inside? How does one overcome this fear of sharing?


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    May 16 2013: Hi Kate,
    There are some good comments already on this thread with insightful understanding of why it is difficult to open up about an abusive past.

    It was difficult for me to talk about what happened in my home, because it felt so odd, crazy, dysfunctional, and horrible. As a kid, I imagined that families were all like the Brady Bunch....caring, loving, kind, helping each other all the time, supporting each other and comfortable with their family.

    I was comfortable with my mom and 7 siblings, and our father was very violent and abusive. As a kid, I didn't realize that this behavior was common in many families. As an adult, I volunteered at a shelter, and the stories I heard over and over again were unbelievable. When I realized that the behavior was MUCH more common than I ever suspected, it gave me the courage and motivation to speak publically about it, which I did for many years, in addition to volunteering in the shelter.

    I also volunteered with the dept. of corrections doing programs mostly with offenders of domestic violence.

    There is stigma. We do, as children living in challenging circumstances block things from our minds and hearts. It was when I was speaking with collage students and facilitating discussion groups that I started remembering quite a bit that I had blocked because of the fear. As the students asked questions, it stimulated memory of situations that were difficult to talk about. There is pain with reliving the experience, there is fear of judgement and labeling, shame about unacceptable behaviors, that as a child, we had no control of.

    What I discovered when speaking about it however, is that most people are kind, accepting, and compassionate, which gave me the courage to continue speaking about it, and it was healing for me.
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      May 17 2013: Thanks for sharing, you’re a shining example of how an abusive past can be vanquished to being just part of the past, and joy and success can be in everyone's future.
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        May 17 2013: Thank you for sharing as well Don. One of my messages, is that WE CAN move through the challenges of having lived with abuse. It IS part of the past, an experience I learned from, and hopefully can help support others in a similar journey.
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        May 22 2013: Yes Kate, it is a common response, and I think it is a built in protective mechanism. Perhaps we only remember certain things at a time when we are able to deal with the memory? Healing, may continue for our entire lives, as we explore information.

        In my 20s, I thought I had it all figured out....I understood many things on some level, and I thought....ok....I'm done with that!

        In my 30's, with more exploration, more information, understanding and acceptance, I thought.....there...now I've got it!!!

        In the 40s.....similar...more exploration, information, understanding, etc. What I started noticing, is that each new discovery gave me the motivation, confidence and courage to face more, with myself and others who were on a similar journey.

        So, you get the picture....now close to 70 and still exploring, which I will be doing until I take my last breath.

        Healing does not usually happen overnight, because we can keep delving for more and more information if we wish. The first steps are sometimes difficult, and once we get the hang of it, I find it fascinating and empowering, as well as healing:>)
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        May 22 2013: Thanks Kate.....mutual admiration:>)
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      May 31 2013: It is interesting that you point out that you did not discuss these matters in part because they felt odd and crazy and you thought other families were like the Brady Bunch. Just as commonly, I would think, and I expect this has been reported already in this busy thread, kids don't share things because they think what they are experiencing is very common and what all children experience at home, so why mention it?
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        May 31 2013: Good point Fritzie, and as far as I am aware, I don't think this has been addressed in this discussion. It often depends on what a child is experiencing in their neighborhood.

        My siblings have a different perspective than mine for example. When they were young there were many large families in the neighborhood, and apparently, there was abuse in a lot of them. My siblings often say it was happening everywhere in the neighbor, so they didn't think anything about it....they thought it was common.

        By the time I was born 9 years later, I was the only little kid in the neighbor because most of the kids had grown up, so all the other houses were pretty quiet.

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