Handling Feelings
All adults carry feelings that are rooted in their childhood developmental experiences. Adult survivors, however, may have particularly powerful feelings that are left over from their abuse. These feelings can be triggered by circumstances that are somehow reminiscent of the abuse and, in the context of being a survivor, may have particular importance. Anxiety is the result of not having known what to expect or how to act in social or family situations. Fear and anger are both natural responses to the threat or act of assault. Sadness results from recognizing that your parents or another trusted adult could abuse you. Shame and guilt tell you that you still hold yourself responsible for what happened.

Rage is the built-up reservoir of the anger that could never be safely expressed within your family. Frustration is the feeling you are left with when nothing seems to go your way. Confusion is a sign that you don't know why something has happened or what you can do about it. Alienation from others is the result of too many disappointments. Helplessness, hopelessness and powerlessness are the feelings that tell you that you are resigned to life as it is and may have temporarily given up on it ever being better. Your feelings always tell you something important about yourself, even if sometimes the message is frightening, troubling or saddening.

Survivors often use a number of mechanisms to numb themselves when the feelings get too strong. Some may adopt a "workaholic" lifestyle in order to avoid the feelings. Others may try to "stuff" the feelings by compulsive eating or to anesthetize them by drinking or using drugs. Certain feelings such as anger and rage may be so strong that they dominate a survivor's internal life and overshadow the other feelings that may also be there.

Learning to regulate the intensity of these feelings will be an important part of your recovery. For the time being, develop the habit of asking yourself what you are feeling at different times of the day. Run through a laundry list of common feelings and notice if and when you are feeling something in particular. Make a note of the feeling and try to identify what may have triggered it.

Go to journal questions for handling feelings

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Survivor to Thriver, Page 57
© 2007 THE MORRIS CENTER, Revised 11/06