Hello. My name is Heath Stocks, and I am a recovering child abuse victim who was emotionally, mentally, physically and sexually abused for the greater part of my life.
I say recovering victim, striving daily to be a survivor, because abuse victims have a lot in common with those addicted to substances. In fact, many people that use have abuse in their past, or at least some pain that has created a story that leads them ever towards that shot, snort, pipe, or drink. Some were even introduced to their addiction for the purpose of being abused and, in that altered mind state, found themselves used.
Every day is a challenge to live free of the shadow of abuse, the internal dialog it creates and dictates, and an awareness of how it impacts both my thoughts, feelings, and actions. It is something that can alter awareness without warning, interpret the unknown with passionate hypersensitivity, and color every social interaction, in prison and out. Even the world can offer triggers that imply threats, sounds or smells or feelings that remind me of things decades past and, if I am not mindful, the boy in me whispers to hide, flee, or fight, now.
No, I’m not insane, as crazy as some of that may sound, but when one isn’t aware of what influences or motivates them does that mean they are more in tune with the self? The ego, if you will, not the higher self associated with the spiritual, but the child that is impulsive, insecure, needy, and is driven to prove something to someone, daily.
Recently, I listened to a podcast that was discussing the effects of negative self-talk, and for those that are not familiar with therapy terms, it is the stream of thoughts flowing above and below our awareness. You could say the conscious and subconscious dialog that is ever running, and the mind’s processing of all the information that comes in through our senses. When we are more aware of what we tell ourselves, about ourselves and others, then we can begin understanding why we do what we have a habit of thinking, feeling, and doing. It sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, it is and completely worth the time it takes to become aware of those messages because the messages and their effects are there ongoing. The problem is that we internalize many different messages from different sources, and depending on our emotional connection to those sources we assign a certain value to them.
In time, we have ingested so many opinions, judgments, doubts, fears, ideas, that we forget who said what and what we believe or why. It is enough to make your head spin, honestly, but is ignoring it going to make it any better? No. So, when my self-talk, or what I am telling myself about myself or others is negative, then the perception is going to shape the reality I am living. What you focus on you end up finding. This mentor was saying that when we were children, filled with dreams and goals, nothing seemed impossible or out of reach. We believed that we could do anything, become anyone, and no matter what anyone else said, we were going to be THAT. We didn’t know the how, but at that age, our imagination fueled our vision, not memories.
The older we get, filled with the negative messages of others, the scars of bad experiences and relationships, memories chain up the imagination so our thoughts rarely leave the small world our world has now become. The message was about being aware, paying attention to what you are saying inside, and then realize you are saying it to yourself as a kid. All those negative messages that we have internalized, absorbing experiences and words like a sponge, and now we abuse that little kid all over again. Instead of protecting, promoting, and empowering, we have become so calloused and hard that pain has become the norm and daily we cut ourselves.
What we, as abuse victims and addicts, share is that when we think certain thoughts, well, the brain releases certain chemicals associated with them so that we feel those thoughts. The more we feel them the more dominate the thoughts, and the more thoughts the more chemicals that fuel the feeling. Before long we have habitual thinking habits, which lead us to respond to chemical triggering emotions, and all without being consciously aware.
Imagine a child being abused, the messages that are created through that experience, and the more it is repeated the more messages it communicates. A complete script is written, a story told, and now abnormal habits of thinking lead to toxic chemical releases that over time alter one’s belief system and reality. Most people know that addictions actually impact the chemical balances in the brain, and it is why those that hurt seek those things that numb it. Why would someone do that, you ask, and the answer is sometimes its easier to medicate to cope then figure out the messages guiding our thoughts.
Sometimes the negative self-talk, directed at my inner child, comes from voices and experiences that can’t be explained or reasoned out. I don’t have answers for that little boy about what happened to us, so I listen to people with positive, uplifting, and educational messages. He and I have had to learn what love is and isn’t, what healthy relationships are and how we make them, recognize unrealistic expectations and what inspires such, and most importantly how to adjust our thinking to manage our emotions. Just as the addict has to reform their thinking, overcoming the self-defeating impulses that have become habit-forming, and over time discover the root causes of why they sought to chemically cope, to begin with.
Abuse victims seek to find their true self, beyond and free of the abnormalities the abuse creates and, as we truly see ourselves outside that taint, discover our inner uniqueness.
I hope that my sharing in this way helps someone better understand their own struggle, opens the door for change and reform, and lastly that God grant you the ability to overcome your personal battles. We, survivors of abuse, be it internal or external, can reclaim our lives with work, love, and time dedicated toward that goal. Share your story as openly as you can, empower and enable others, and seek help to manage and heal from those traumas that threaten our very being.
If you would like to listen to the podcasts that I have been referring to, then please look up Christine Hassler and Hassler’s “if you talked to your friends like you often talk to yourself, would you have any friends?” podcast and Dr. Joe Dispenza’s “Your personality creates your personal reality.” Any mistakes on content is only in my attempt to personalize the message, and I leave it up to you to interpret how to process what is said.
Please use this month to start a conversation about child abuse (especially if it’s your story), share information about protecting children from it, and how to spot the symptoms of someone who has endured it. All that I ask is that you remember someone they trusted did it to them, and it takes trust for them to talk about it with you. If they talk and share, then do all that you can to enable them to report it to someone that can help.
Please report it to one of the hotlines for abuse, follow up until someone does something, and never stop until something is done. In my own case, the police, prosecutor, my minister and even the state agency of DHS were undermined and mislead by my abuser and his father, a former judge. Support one another, offer up a collective voice and don’t give up.
You are worth the effort.