The Damage of Anger in Our Relationships

When I was a camp counselor, various stories were told at the end of meal time. These stories were meant to stimulate conversations for later, when kids and their counselor returned to their cabins for the night.

The following story hit me hard, so I’ve never forgotten it.
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“There once was a girl with a very bad temper.

The girl’s father wanted to teach her a lesson, so he gave her
a bag of nails and told her that every time she lost her temper
she must hammer a nail into their wooden fence.

On the first day the girl had driven 25 nails into the fence. “This is kind of fun”, she told her father. “But by the time I’m done hammering, I can’t remember why I was so mad!”

Over the next few weeks, as she began to control her temper,the number of nails she hammered into the fence gradually dwindled.

Finally, the day came when the girl didn’t lose her temper at all. She became so proud of herself and she couldn’t wait to tell her father.

Pleased, her father suggested that she now pull out one nail for each day that she could hold her temper.

The days passed and the girl was finally able to go back to her father and tell him that she had pulled out all the nails.

Very gently, the father took his daughter by the hand and led her to the fence.

“You have done well, my daughter”, he smiled. “But look at the all the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same.”

The little girl listened carefully as her father continued to speak.

“When you say things in anger, you leave a scar, just like these that have been left by the nails. Even if you say you are sorry, the wound will still be there.”   ~anonymous   

Later, I came to realize why it had special meaning for me. Unlike the girl in the story, my anger was used as a defense-mechanism – to protect me from my critical family. I learned, unconsciously, that anger made me feel stronger – People backed off!  It became so automatic that I didn’t even notice the damage I was causing.

But like so many of our childhood coping skills, I couldn’t even turn it off in circumstances that didn’t involve my family.

So when I heard this fable, I woke up.  I had to become aware of anger’s purpose for me.  I learned that my defenses were not who I was – they are coping skills. I had to decide that I didn’t want to be that way anymore – after all, I was no longer a child – and I learned, instead, to cope with the underlying feelings. I taught myself that being sad, confused or scared, were “okay”.

If anger is expressed without awareness, it will damage all of your relationships. Take the time to learn to communicate effectively; journal to learn to understand your feelings; get a book about Assertive Communication.

Things to Know About the Teenage Brain

Worth Reading – From Off The Web!

dreamstime_m_211796Behavior makes sense when we understand what causes it, and the most effective adult responses become clearer when the nature of adolescent development is revealed.

The brain is a great place to start. Adolescence poses unique neurobiological circumstances that can help to put teens’ behaviors into perspective. Understanding these aspects of adolescent growth will help us maintain an open stance so that we can build effective, authentic relationships with our teens.
Fortunately, adolescent brain research continues to evolve and give us answers about why teens do what they do.

So why do teens act the way they do?

dreamstime_m_41026164Reason #1: Their prefrontal cortex is still developing.

Longitudinal studies on adolescent brains tell us that the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until at least age 25! The prefrontal cortex is responsible for planning, organizing, and synthesizing all the information coming into our brain and figuring out what to do with it in goal directed behavior. Many of the behaviors most typically associated with teenagers –  poor judgment, lack of planning and foresight and ineffective problem solving—are heavily influenced by the prefrontal cortex’s immaturity.

REASON #2: Their mastery of emotional-interpretation is just starting to develop.

Continue reading

Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship

Worth reading from off the web!

womanInDespairPXfreeThere are three essential elements to an abusive relationship:

1.  Consistent occurrences of power and control over another

2.  Chronic feelings and displays of disrespect

3.  Unhealthy attachment mistaken for love

Abusers are highly deceptive and the victim, as well as others, have no idea that he is being abusive at all.  He purposefully undermines his victim’s individuality and confidence by dominating conversations and suppressing her identity, making her into a mere object for his purposes. He minimizes anything about her, including her opinions, accomplishments, concerns, feelings, or desires.  This causes her to do the same and she learns to minimize herself as well.

Abuse and respect are polar opposites

He has a chronic attitude of disrespect towards his partner.  A respectful relationship is not abusive and an abusive relationship does not contain respect. An abuser views his partner as his property, which allows him to feel powerful and in charge.

It is essential for an abuser to feel this way because he has a fragile ego and delicate sense of self. Without feeling more powerful than his partner he feels weak and vulnerable. Feeling any sense of vulnerability taps into his sense of powerlessness which he is unwilling to experience for any reason. As long as he sees himself in the “one up” position his fragile ego is kept at bay.

Abuse is caused by the belief system of the abuser. The abuser has developed a deeply ingrained sense of superiority and entitlement which does not go away by learning how to manage anger or resolve conflicts. Abusers use anger to control. They engage in conflicts to abuse their partner; show their superiority; and keep intimacy away. Since intimacy requires vulnerability, a feeling abusers avoid at all costs, they have no interest in developing such closeness.

Abuse is not the same as conflict. A conflict involves a difference of opinion. Abuse involves the need for the abuser to stifle the feelings, thoughts, opinions, and values of the abused. An abuser refuses to accept any accountability or responsibility for any of the problems in the relationship. His hallmark attitude is one of superiority and blame. It is not the conflict that is the problem. The abuser caused the conflict in the first place. There can be no resolution.

There is no way to “approach their partner appropriately,” or “pick the right time to address something.”

Abusers can choose any reason to blame his victim for an abusive incident. Abusers abuse because they choose to. It is the abusive mindset that allows them to abuse for a number of reasons:

(1) They are unhappy and they don’t know what to do with their emotions.

(2) They dump their rage and shame on others.

(3) They may have a narcissistic or anti-social personality disorders.

(4) They feel in control, powerful, strong, and superior, which helps them keep all weak, needy, and vulnerable emotions hidden.

(5) Some people abuse because they were taught this as children and operate out of this inner working relationship dynamic.

Whether abuse is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual, or some rendition of all of these, there are some basic components of abuse; these are: blame, criticism, neglect, oppression, minimization, rigidity, ridicule, lies, invalidation, lack of accountability, no remorse, no apologies, repeated name calling, double standards, violence, and a consistent lack of empathy.

Realize that abuse, like addiction, is a chronic “disease” that progresses with time, meaning it only gets worse.

Can an abuser be cured?

Of course anything is possible.

Here are the signs that an abuser is changing:

  • he is willing to be accountable to his spouse and others;
  •  he is willing to never have a sense of entitlement in any relationship, for any reason,
  •  he shows self-reflection and insight;
  • he stops blaming others or minimizing, justifying, or rationalizing his own attitudes and behaviors;
  • he listens to and validates others, including his spouse;
  • while he is never going to be perfect, when he messes up, he apologizes, shows insight into what he did wrong, shows remorse, and changes.

 

Abusers in recovery are just like alcoholics in recovery

Alcoholics can never even have one drink ever again in order to maintain sobriety. Abusers can’t be like “normal” people who may be rude or disrespectful at times. Recovery for an abuser needs to be different from what comes natural for the partner. Coddling an abuser and showing him empathy only exacerbates his entitlement. Recovery for an abuser requires that he does not allow himself to ever be rude, disrespectful, entitled, or invalidating ever again. Instead, he is humble and compassionate at all times. No excuses.

About Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Whittier, California (www.lifelinecounseling.org).

Edited for readability   Source: Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship | The Recovery Expert

Creating Trust in a Relationship

Worth reading! From Off the Web!

“I never dreamed he would cheat on me!” 

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Love may be intoxicating, but trust is what makes it safe. Trust is based on a shared understanding about what each person in the relationship expects of the other.

The wise couple develops an explicit, concrete agreement about what is and is not okay in terms of interactions with, and especially attractions to, people outside their relationship. When they have absolute confidence that the other person will stick with the agreement, they each relax and trust.

Here is How to Negotiate a Healthy Couple Contract:

  • Be Open About Your Expectations
  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Read the rest HERE:

Creating Trust in a Relationship  By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

How To Revitalize Your Relationship

Couples fall in love.  And if they love each other enough…  and if the psychological timing is right for both,  they will stay.  Maybe even make a commitment to make a future together.

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Aah! The magic!

Regardless of who you are, or your partner is, life together will inevitably create a predictable routine. With a rhythm in place, safety and comfort are born.

Eventually however, people fall into two traps (at least):

  • We filter our communication to avoid discomfort, and
  • We lose the exquisite feelings of the initial sense of love and wonder.

The Avoidance of Discomfort

I have a theory  that part of the magic of beginner’s love is the result of endorphins,  those magical brain-drugs that, in part, provide a block to our pain – In this case, to our emotional  and  historical pain.  With these lovely Blocks in place,  we feel invincible!  We become compassionate listeners,  creative lovers,  and have little or no anxiety about the usual worries –  like fear of rejection.  We are – truly – the Best We Can Be. 

But eventually our brain goes back to normal. We become sensitive to our old, unresolved wounds, and begin defending ourselves in the ways we did before. Most of us become extra aware of our partner’s responses to us, and subconsciously, build old familiar walls of self-protection.

Losing The Sense of Wonder and Vitality in Your Relationship

When we develop routines, the ability to see things as they are in the moment is sacrificed. In relationships, this can be deadly. Routines offer predictability, but when it comes to real people, we lose so much of who the other is when we mistakenly think We Know!

If you don’t believe me, answer the following questions.

  1. Have I changed, or evolved, in any way, during the last year?  Consider your opinions: views about the world, the universe; your neighbors, friends,  colleagues,  family members. Consider your desires. Your fears. Your dreams. Of course you have!
  2. How has your partner evolved during the last year regarding the same considerations?

When you become aware of what factors might be attributing to the loss of satisfaction in your relationship, you can look for solutions.

Ideas To Get The Spark Back

When you and your partner first got together, you had no problem listening and talking for hours.

  1. Invite your partner to talk about his/herself for 1/2 hour. Then switch.

When you were first together, you thought about your partner all the time.

2. Make a list of “gifts” for your partner, and give one each day. Gifts can be acts of caring (cup of jo, massage, love notes, spontaneous “love” texts, gifts of food or drink, holding hands), dates (tickets to an event or to go to dinner), and favors (cleaning, gardening, sexual adventurousness).

Ideas To Open Communication Again

I cannot emphasize enough – Being honest and open is the only way to grow and evolve in your relationship. If you feel a lack of spontaneity in your relationship, it’s probably because you have created defenses (walls), supposedly for protection. Most of our defenses were created unconsciously, much earlier in life. They have become automatic and largely un-articulated.

1.  Journal 

Become aware of how your mind works by writing your description of recent uncomfortable events with your partner. Write freely and quickly. Now set it aside for a while. Go back and read it when you can be objective, and notice any underlying beliefs in your story.

Next, ask yourself if you can recall feeling anything similar in your past (the younger, the more fruitful the realization).

2.  Talk To Your Partner About Your Insights 

Finally, consider sharing your insight with your partner to open up communication. Try to use “I” statements so your partner feels less defensive.

Example: 

“The other day … when you didn’t call me on my birthday…  I was amazed at how sad I felt!  My mind went to places like ‘s/he doesn’t care about me…  and ‘what do I need to do to be cherished?’ .  Then I remembered that my reaction was from and old wound.  You see, when I was little….” 

By sharing your process, you take responsibility for keeping the story alive. You acknowledge YOU, and in doing so, you become aware of what you want to be different. You empower yourself by accepting yourself!

 

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Why are all the great Christmas classics about depression? 

Worth reading – From Off The Web!

Depression on My Mind

Ever notice that the great holiday classic are about depression?

There’s George Bailey, the financially strapped father of a posse of rowdy kids in It’s a Wonderful Life. Then there’s Scrooge and the Grinch. And how about that Santa-denying mother in Miracle on 34th Street? Charlie Brown and his pathetic little tree.
Let’s not forget The Littlest Angel, a story about a little boy who dies, goes to heaven, can’t keep his halo on straight, can’t sing on key with the seraphim and misses his dog? Then there is that country western song little boy who want to buy his dying mama a pair of shoes. We have Elvis’ Blue Christmas and Do They Know It’s Christmas about people starving in Africa.

If you have depression like me, you’re probably already dealing with your own Christmas drama. The last thing you need is to watch a drunk father jump off a bridge on Christmas Eve. But there are lessons to be learned from these poor souls and how they pulled through.

They found gratitude. George Bailey’s gratitude came from seeing what the world would  have been like had he not been born. Scrooge’s gratitude came in a dream, when he saw how his selfishness infected those who crossed his path and how he still had a chance to change.

These are all stories of hope and gratitude – two of the most powerful antidotes to depression. For me, antidepressants are necessary and easy but they don’t give me hope and gratitude. That’s an inside job. The antidepressants give me the ability to feel hope and gratitude but I must do the footwork and find it.

This has been a particularly difficult holiday season for me. Hope and gratitude have not come easily for me. I have had to search for it. I finally found it last weekend when I got off my pity pot and volunteered at a local bike charity, that gave away of 900 bicycles to kids who probably aren’t going to have much else under their trees.

Those three short hours of watching kids pick out the bike of their dreams filled me with hope and gratitude – hope that there still is big beautiful world out there and gratitude that I had been relieved of the bondage of my sadness.
I wish I could tell you that there’s an angel who will lift you out of your black hole. I wish Santa could take away your pain with a present under the tree. But this is real life – not the movies. Depression is real. But if we take our medications and do some footwork, we just might find some hope and gratitude.

For me this holiday season, that’s all I really want.

About Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a reporter for The Palm Beach Post for 29 years and in 2006, began writing a column.

Source: Why are all the great Christmas classics about depression? | Depression on My Mind

The Effects Of Sexual Abuse

– WORTH READING from Off the Web!

a_losided_gaze_by_imaginaryevfan-d3j8gvt“I was four when my father first molested me,” says Dana (her name, like others in this story, has been changed for the protection of privacy), a 36-year-old program administrator in Berkeley, California. Her face and voice expressionless, she continues: “It started with fondling. He’d bounce me up and down on his lap, or make me play hide-and-seek, and then molest me when he caught me. I got very good at hiding, but it didn’t help. By the time I was 12, he was raping me several times a month.”

Until she was an adult, Dana told no one about this abuse. “My father said, “If you tell, I’ll tell everyone it was all your fault,” she says flatly. “I was sure they would all believe him. My father was a successful businessman; our family looked completely normal from the outside.”

Dana left home when she was 18; she was married at 20. “Joe was the most non-male man I’d ever met,” she recalls with just a hint of a smile. “He created a real sense of safety for me. He was completely passive, easy to control. When I told him about my father, he was very understanding. I thought that being safe for the first time in my life would be enough to make me happy.”

But eight years and two children later, the marriage ended. “I just wasn’t able to be there, emotionally or sexually,” Dana says. “In eight years I think we had sex 15 times. To the day we got divorced, we never had an argument, but we didn’t share much happiness either.” She adds, “You see how I talk about all this, without any feeling? That’s how I coped with being molested: all through my childhood, I was detached, unemotional. My mother tells me she never saw me shed a tear after I was eight years old. Shutting down was the best I could do as a child. But it just didn’t work for me as a wife.”

A 1985 study conducted by the Los Angeles Times concluded that at least 22% of all Americans–27% of all women and 16% of men–have been victims of child sexual abuse. Like Dana, most of these children never told anyone: only 3% of the abuse was ever reported to police or other agencies.

Incestuous abuse is any kind of exploitative sexual contact between relatives that occurred before the victim turned 18 years old, and it accounted for 23% of the abuse victims in the study. 41% were molested by friends or acquaintances; 27% by strangers. Two-thirds of those victimized were girls and 93% of their abusers were men. Not all abuse involves intercourse but the effects are similarly devastating.

The Psychological Effect

Untreated sexual abuse,” says Padma Moyer, MFCC, a San Francisco therapist who works with adults survivors of incest, “is a time bomb. Sometimes it ticks so quietly that even the victim doesn’t hear it. But if it isn’t defused, eventually there’s an explosion.”

The fallout from this explosion was reported in the book, Father-Daughter Incest (Harvard University Press, 1982), by Judith Herman. She found that 65% of adult incest survivors suffered from severe depression; 55% had sexual problems; 35% became promiscuous; 20% became alcoholics and/or drug addicts. For many adults who were molested as children, self-destructive behavior is the only visible clue that abuse has occurred. Selective amnesia is common among survivors, whose memories may be blocked by years of threats to “keep Daddy’s secret–or else,” and by the tendency of the childhood psyche to repress traumatic experiences.

Marriage is the spark that ignites the time bomb within many survivors, says Eugene Porter, MFCC, an Oakland, California therapist who counsels couples in which one or both partners is an incest survivor. “Making the commitment to marriage brings up all the issues connected with the betrayal of being molested: intimacy, trust, sexuality,” concludes Ms. Moyer. “And when marriage is perceived as an obligation to take care of their partners’ sexual needs, it recapitulates their worst childhood experiences–being trapped and unable to say no.”

If the abuse hasn’t been resolved, victims blame themselves for the molestation, Mr. Porter says. And the resulting disturbances – depression, anxiety, guilt, low self-esteem–often put a strain on the spouse. “On the one hand the spouse feels the urge to cure the survivor; on the other, there’s a resentment about having to take care of this vulnerable, fragile, often withdrawn partner,” he continues. Survivors often have difficulty forming close emotional relationships and trusting their partners. Many female survivors project the rage they feel toward their fathers onto their husbands.

Mark, 35, a copywriter in Oakland, California and his wife Ellen, 31, an accountant, says: “When Ellen and I first got together she told me she’d been molested by her brother all through her childhood. Neither of us knew at the time how much that would affect our relationship. All I knew was that every time we started feeling close to each other, Ellen would freak out: she’d accuse me of cheating on her; she’d say she knew I was planning to dump her; she’d start threatening to leave me before I could hurt her. Then she’d go into a deep depression,” Mark sighs. “Meanwhile, I was getting hurt, because no matter how I tried, I couldn’t convince her that I loved her. Finally, Ellen started seeing a therapist. Then she figured out that she was afraid to trust me; she thought I’d betray her the way her brother had.” When Ellen first asked Mark to see a therapist with her, mark was resistant. “I thought it was her problem,” he recalls. But eventually Mark agreed and now says that therapy saved their marriage. “She started being able to distinguish me from her brother,” he says, ” so she could interpret our interaction as it was–not as a replay of what he’d done to her. That took the pressure off me. I stopped feeling like it was my job to prove that she was entitled to be loved. We’re a lot more relaxed and loving now.”

Sexual Problems

Sex is a particularly problematic area of marriage for molestation survivors, whose most traumatic memories involve sexual acts.

Jane, a 35-year-old nurse in Oakland, California remembers almost nothing of her childhood years. But she knows that both of her sisters were raped repeatedly by their father, and her own out-of-control behavior and nightmares have convinced her that she, too, was sexually abused. “Before I got married, I’d sleep with anybody,” she says. “But with my husbands, I was totally disinterested in sex.” Sighing deeply, she adds, “I’ve never been able to believe that there’s any reason to make love besides that it’s how men use you. I’ve never had an orgasm. I’ve never been able to say no to a man, and I’ve never felt close or cared for.”

Many incest survivors have “flashbacks” while making love, says Julie Robbins, LCSW, a therapist specializing in child and adult survivors of sexual abuse. Women who had orgasms while being abused as children may punish their bodies for “enjoying” the abuse, becoming non-orgasmic, obese, or anorexic as adults, she says.

Some male survivors suffer impotence, most often under circumstances reminiscent of their molestation. “Men who have been molested, particularly by their mothers,” says Mr. Porter, “experience a tremendous amount of guilt. Society thinks of mothers as sacrosanct, virginal, so the self-blame among these men is acute. Also, mothers who molest often transmit an expectation of fidelity to their victim sons, which distorts male survivors’ view of what fidelity means. One patient of mine thought he was abnormal and deceptive because he occasionally fantasized about women other than his wife. Another was totally compulsive about sex as a reaction to his molestation by his mother, who had been quite insistent that she be his ‘only one.’”

Alcohol and drugs are used to dull sexual responsiveness, a well as the pain of repressed or remembered abuse.

“Until I started therapy last year at the age of 36,” says Laura, a legal secretary in San Mateo, California, “I had no idea why I could never undress in front of my husband, let alone have sex with him, unless I was completely drunk. Or, why I used to get smashed at parties, or whenever there were any strange men around. Now my memories are coming back; I know that my father was messing with me and I know I used drinking to keep myself from realizing why I’ve been so terrified of men all my life. But now I have two problems to deal with: being molested, and being an alcoholic.”

Breaking the Cycle

Perhaps the most devastating effect of childhood sexual abuse is that it has proven to be a key link in the multigenerational chain of emotional, physical, and sexual violence. Parents United, the nationwide incest treatment agency in San Jose, California reports that 80% of the sexually abusive parents, and 60% of the physically abusive parents they treat, were themselves molested as children. And, it is highly likely that children of untreated survivors of molestation will also be abused, both in and outside of their families. Eighty percent of the molested children treated at Parents United have mothers who were sexually abused.

How can adults who have suffered the anguish of childhood sexual abuse do the same thing to other children that was done to them?

Some molesters have sex with children because low self-esteem (due to self-blame for their childhood molestation) convinces them that no adult will willingly have sex with them.

Many women who were abused perpetuate the cycle – not necessarily by molesting their children, but by putting them at risk. “If a female survivor’s feelings and memories remain unconscious,” says Ms. Moyer ,”and she doesn’t examine the family dynamic in which she grew up, she may choose a husband like her perpetrator, and create a family like her own family. In that way, she may inadvertently lay the groundwork for her children to be abused.”

The tragic repercussions of multigenerational abuse can be prevented. In the past 10 years, researchers and therapists across the country have developed specialized treatment techniques that can help to heal the wounds of childhood sexual abuse, and thereby lessen its impact on future generations. “When people deal with what happened to them, and the pain of it,” says Ms. Moyer, “they’re much less likely to re-enact it.”

Therapy

Mr. Porter advises survivors of sexual abuse who are considering marriage and/or child rearing to tell their partners that they’ve been molested before proceeding. Therapy for one or both partners, and relationship counseling is recommended. “In my experience,” he says, “most women tell their fiancées; most men don’t. But the first step toward establishing healthy family is establishing honesty within the couple. Often the safest way to disclose is to come in as a couple and work it through together in the safety of a therapist’s office.”

What can a couple expect from the therapeutic process? The “disclosure phase,” Mr. Porter says – the breaking of the secret – often precipitates a good deal of stress in the relationship. The survivor worries about being rejected; the spouse feels confused and disoriented, wondering how he or she should feel, should treat their partner, etc. And, while feeling bad for the partner, they may also feel anger–a “why didn’t you tell me?” reaction. Therapy can help navigate these complex responses.

Spouses of survivors who must have ongoing relationships with their abusers often experience a range of intense emotions. “The first time I met Ellen’s brother,” says Mark, “I wanted to murder him…slowly and painfully. It was the strangest feeling to realize that this man was not only the person who had hurt the woman I love, this was also a man who had sex with my wife. Neither Ellen nor I could stand to be around him. First we stopped going to family gatherings; then we moved to California, partly to get away from him.” Ms. Moyer says that the relationship between an incest survivor and the person who molested her is usually either non-existent or problematic. “Survivors whose offenders are still living,” she says, “have a variety of ways of coping with that relationship. Many simply cut off contact. Many have minimal contact.”

Ms. Moyer states that counseling offers other great benefits. “It’s a stressful thing to go through,” she says, ” but it can also be a time of building a bridge of intimacy that can bring incredible love and solidarity.”

Dana began therapy shortly after her divorce in 1980, to work through the aftermath of the abuse she suffered from her father. A few years later, she was married for a second time. “This time around, marriage is really working for me!” she asserts.

“And I can safely say that being in therapy made all the difference. It’s been very painful, but worth every teardrop. For the first time, I went beyond knowing in my head that the incest happened – I connected with my feelings about it. Now, I don’t’ retreat emotionally the way I used to. I’ve learned to say no, and strangely enough, that’s helped me to become more sexual. I used to just do it and not be there, but now I’m able to acknowledge I’m a sexual person.”

But the greatest reward of the healing process she has gone through, Dana says, is watching her two children grow up happy and healthy. “I’ve taught them they have control.”

Working through this issue makes it possible to make conscious choices and to break old patterns. Says Ms. Moyer: “People who work to heal from child sexual abuse are changing the legacies of future generations.”

Edited for readability from:  meredithmaran.com/mag_bride_abused.htm

Meredith Maran is the author of many books including My Lie: A True Story of False Memory. She’s on twitter @meredithmaran