As a sufferer of childhood abuse, I work everyday to assist others who have endured not only physical abuse but emotional abuse, verbal abuse and even sexual abuse. As an adult who once suffered through domestic violence as a child, I know the impact the abuse can have as you work through the issues of adulthood.
While not blaming all of our complications, as adults, upon the abuse as children, it is important to remember that there are key elements of your life that are, indeed, directly affected by the abuse you once endured. One key aspect for many adults who suffered from childhood betrayal and abuse is the process by which we learn to forget. For some, this “forgetting” of childhood abuse comes naturally while for others it is a process that must be diligently followed or even a combination of both. I speak from the combination.
While the domestic violence I experienced in my home as a child was of a physical nature, those who suffered from sexual abuse or even verbal and emotional abuse will, undoubtedly, follow the practice of forgetting these experiences. In doing so, we work through them in an effort to heal and cope with the newfound freedom our lives will bring as adults. This is often very complex for our families, friends and even perpetuator to understand as, in many cases, these individuals believe we should bring the issues and emotions to the surface, face them in a constructive setting such as therapy, and, thereby, learn to move forward with our lives.
I choose to believe differently. In fact, as an individual who has developed some loss of memory of my childhood, the episodes of violence I do remember are those that I choose to forget. As part of this forgetting process, I avoid every aspect of my childhood that would remind me of those experiences; avoiding the perpetuator, avoiding my childhood hometown and avoiding foods and drinks that I once enjoyed as a child. Essentially, I have learned to forget my childhood altogether and, instead, focus only on my present and my future. It is simply a coping mechanism using our ability to forget and let go.
If you are a victim of child abuse, domestic violence, physical, sexual or verbal abuse, you, too, may be experiencing the same level of amnesia, whether by choice or not. Know that you are not alone. In fact, the process of forgetting, commonly referred to as “selective amnesia” is quite common among abuse sufferers and, unlike the beliefs of traditional therapy, has allowed you to move forward with your life. In many cases, if the amnesia is brought about by the subconscious, it may not be necessary to delve into that subconscious through psychotherapy or some other means. Instead, accept that your body has provided you with a gift to recovery from a traumatic event, embrace your newfound freedom and move forward with a happy and healthy life.
For me, the selective amnesia has haunted for years, leading me to yearn to recovery details of my childhood that I simply can not remember. However, I know, in doing so, I may only be adding to the traumatic memories that I must now consciously forget which will only devote more time to a wasted past and prevent me from moving forward into a brighter future. To my family and friends, I simply say that I can not, and will not, allow another day to pass with my focus on traumatic negativity that will not provide a benefit to my life.