Dealing With The Mistrust/Abuse Schema
So just as a refresher, the mistrust/abuse schema refers to the expectation that others will intentionally take advantage in some way. People with this schema expect others to hurt, cheat or put them down. They often think in terms of attacking first or getting revenge afterwards, In childhood, these people were often abused or treated unfairly by parents, siblings, or peers.
So what happened to me as a kid to cause me to have this as my main schema? When I think of my childhood, I only remember bits and pieces. I’ve managed to block a lot of it out for some reason. I remember a lot of unpleasant parts, but there are some good memories mixed in as well. So although I remember waking up at nights to hearing my parents screaming at each other, I also remember going to the beach and spending weeks there. And although I remember the abuse that I suffered at the hands of multiple people, I remember the time my dad took me to Burger King so I could get a Nightmare Before Christmas watch, which I wanted so much. I remember the unpleasant parts so much more vividly though. Thanks to therapy, I’ve come to terms with much of the abuse I dealt with, but there are still so many other instances that are still suppressed and only come up as flashbacks. It’s like I’ve forgotten more about being a victim than the average person will ever know.
How is realizing this stuff helpful for me? Acknowledging that my perception of the world may be skewed because of everything that has happened to me has been very valuable. It’s made me stop and think when my paranoia gets the better of me. It’s made me stop and not juudge people in such a negative light. It’s been a long painful process coming to terms with having been an innocent child who was preyed upon, but being able to comes to terms with it has helped me become more whole. It’s not been fun working through this, for example, my therapist encouraged me to journal, and I would get so upset as I was writing that I would down a week’s worth of pills to stop feeling all the emotional turmoil. Since my emotions were so unsteady, we eventually stopped trying to work through all the abuse that way and put it on the back burner for the time being. We’ve worked on coping skills, and contemplating the thought that I might be wrong about how I perceive the world. It’s been a few months, and I think I’m ready to deal with this schema without resorting to overdosing to cope with the emotions it brings up.
I mean it’s been super unpleasant typing all this out and I haven’t even gone into any detail about what’s happened to me, but I feel better for getting it out in the open. I’m sick of secrets, and of things being swept under the rug, and I refuse to be ashamed of the fact that I was once a victim of abuse. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to get a shirt that says ‘Abuse Survivor”, but I’m not hiding it from people anymore. I worked on an assignment in the hospital and the one thing that stuck with me the most was the statement that “You are okay when you can look someone in the eye and say ‘And I’m okay.’.”
And I think I’m finally to that point. I don’t feel that deep sense of shame in my stomach anymore. I don’t feel like I need to keep my eyes cast down anymore as I talk about this. One thing that has helped me through this schema has been my children. I look at their sweet innocent faces and try to imagine any circumstance where abusing them is okay. And there is none. It is in no way my kids’ fault if something happens to them because they are powerless at their ages. I was once that powerless too, even though it’s taken me years to admit it. I couldn’t control the events surrounding me as a child any more than my children can control what we adults in their lives do to them now.
So that’s it. I’m not keeping secrets anymore. I sincerely hope that getting this all out in the open is truly the healing balm that I need to become closer to being a whole person again.