Some survivors spend years and years in therapy, support groups, taking classes and reading books and still feel broken. As an adult, they know it was not their fault, they know they have choices, they have spent a lot of time dealing with their unhealthy emotions including fear, shame and anger. But somehow it's all still there, just under the surface. This is often the "wounded child within" that we mentioned in Best Practice #2.
The trauma experienced by survivors of child sexual abuse can disrupt the normal process of child development. It can impact emotional development, social development as well as brain development. Trauma can also disrupt the way memories are processed and stored in the brain resulting in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When a survivor has PTSD, they experience a physiological response when a childhood memory is triggered leaving them with the same sense of fear or even terror they had at the time of the original experience. They may feel like they're having an anxiety attack. Their heart rate may skyrocket, their palms may sweat, they may lash out at others or completely freeze. All of this is common for survivors of trauma and child sexual abuse in particular. If you experience signs of PTSD, you are not alone!
While there may be some instances where it is beneficial to go back and look at childhood memories, you can make great strides in your healing process by just focusing on how your inner child is feeling and responding to the world around him/her today. So don't let the fear of facing past memories stop you from incorporating the power of inner child work into your healing process. As a matter of fact, we encourage you to integrate inner child work into your healing process from the beginning as it can make your overall healing process more comfortable, effective and maybe even shorter!
For some survivors, the impact of their trauma is severe and may result in Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). DID is characterized by two or more distinct identities or personalities that alternately control a person's behavior along with unexplainable loss of memory or time. Again, this is a common result of extreme trauma and you are not alone!
While the healing process for DID has the same goal of full integration as we discussed with the wounded child above, because DID is more complex, we recommend that DID integration work be done with the help of a licensed mental health professional.