It’s probably not surprising to read that the pain of child sexual abuse can linger into adulthood in sometimes invisible ways such as food addictions, depression, procrastination, and unhappy love relationships. Sometimes an abused child part is running, and maybe ruining to some extent, your adult life. I recently understood that in a very personal way and that understanding has deeply shifted and relieved guilt and shame that I carried for 26 years.
A few months ago, my fiancé broke our engagement. While I was making breakfast on the morning of the day we had scheduled an appointment to talk about ways to improve our relationship, he announced that he had decided to end our relationship. Period.
In addition to many other feelings and dealing with triggered parts, I was angry about how he had handled this decision. What I would have liked was for us to have a conversation and make a decision like this together. Among other things, it didn’t meet my need for consideration. I was having dreams. One morning, while still sleepy, I decided to use Byron Katie’s “The Work” to look deeper. That led me to remember the time, 26 years ago, when I made the decision to leave my college love – much in the same way I had recently experienced. Without talking with my partner to try to figure out how we could make some adjustments and stay together, I abruptly told him I was leaving. Ooooooohhhhhh! Ouch! That allowed me to be compassionate for my former fiancé. He must have really been scared in some way.
Then I used my Empathetic Presence skills to inquire about why I had handled that life-changing decision 26 years ago in such a secretive way. My sexually abused child part showed up. She had been trying to keep Self (me, us) safe since 6 or 7 years old, when the adults around her weren’t. (They didn’t know and I didn’t know how to tell them.) Her strategy for creating safety was to make secret plans. BINGO! Of course I made that decision to leave my partner in secret. Unconsciously, with the “help” of this child part, I didn’t feel safe to talk with him about what was going on for me and I was worried that if I talked with him, he would interfere with the decision this child part had made to keep Self safe by leaving. Forgiveness for her perhaps clumsy strategy was immediate. My inner parent part immediately understood and hugged her.
In a flash, the feelings of remorse and self-judgments of guilt and shame that other parts carried for 26 years dissipated. Inside, I felt a shift, a new level of wholeness, and a sense of healing and relief.
This happy ending (or maybe beginning) gets even better. I have maintained periodic contact with this man and told him about my new understanding. His words were: “I’ve been waiting 26 years to hear you say that.” This allowed a new level of forgiveness and understanding between us – an effortless healing.
My belief is that each of us will move forward into our next respective love relationships feeling a little lighter. Thank you Empathetic Presence practice!