There is no doubt that an adult with a loving and nurturing upbringing is different from the adult who was raised in an abusive home. Childhood abuse effects on adults can be severe and it often takes years and even decades to get over it or learn how to handle it, and that does not happen in all cases. For some, the repercussions last a lifetime …
“We are each responsible for our own life. No other person is or even can be.” Quote by Oprah Winfrey
I absolutely agree. We are responsible for our life. We make our choices, choose our path. It’s up to us to move on, isn’t it? Yes, that’s very true. It’s, however, a lot easier when you come from a loving home.
A Home of Violence vs a Home of Love
A child – let’s call her Ally – that is raised in a home that houses violence, threats, humiliation, and fear will grow into a broken adult. Ally was raised in a world of abuse and it is her only world, she knows nothing else. It is her “normal”; even if she knows that it’s bad and it hurts, it is the only home she knows …
As an adolescent we want to belong, it is important to fit in, but a child from an abusive home doesn’t always manage to fit in with its peers.
Ally struggles to find acceptance from the “normal” happy kids who are always content to go home, who do not dread turning the key in the front door, hoping that they will please please please be safe today. They know no fear. They have something that Ally desperately wants: love, security …a home that is truly a home and not a place of fear.
Her classmates think she’s weird, wonder why she is so shy, even seems easily intimidated or frightened. Why would she be that way if Ally’s dad is always the life of the party, the funny guy who tells the best jokes? Abuse is the farthest from their mind. Ally is just “strange”. So, her classmates ignore her, snigger behind her back, show her that she’s the odd one out.
Ally has a hard time at home and at school, and she seeks fulfillment elsewhere. She finds it on the street, with kids who accept her for who she is. They make her feel like she belongs. Their parents are nice to her, they welcome her into their home. Ally feels loved, and happiness is always related to being away from “home”.
As soon as Ally turns 18, she’s out of there, she packs her things and goes off to university.
Ah, so much freedom, people who don’t know her past and who do not think she’s “weird”. She finds friends. There are parties, freedom everywhere … Ally goes nuts with all the freedom, the lack of fear, the lack of shouting, threats, violence. She is free!
She spends her year partying like crazy and she fails her first year at university. She has always been an A+ student and she was expected to pass her first year with flying colors, but she doesn’t … and there is hell to pay at home.
She now leaves for good.
The Adult That Comes From an Abusive Home
As an adult, Ally has terrible fears. She never dares to say no to anyone, terrified of confrontations, people lashing out at her and punishing her for her “disobedience”. It leads to many wrong decisions …
She falls in love with a man who charms her into marrying him, but who turns out to be another abuser. She is back in a new version of her old “home”, her old “normal”; miserable, unhappy, and putting up with it, because she knows nothing else. Deep down, she is aware that there has to be something better, but it doesn’t seem to be for her, she doesn’t know where to find it.
After a hard beating, she runs and flees to the police. While waiting for the man at the front desk to attend to her, she sees a poster of domestic violence on the wall. She reads it.
Every single thing that is listed on that poster had been done to her, by either her father or her husband.
Every single listed misdeed …
And she suddenly realizes how much had been taken from her, from her childhood, from her spirit, everything. The truth comes crashing down on her, and – unable to stop the flood of tears – she cries right there at the police station.
Yes, we are responsible for our own actions, in every way, and everyone makes mistakes. Adults who come from loving homes can also make the wrong choices, definitely. That’s just life, isn’t it? As soon as we leave the cradle, life throws us a few obstacles and some bumps in the road, there’s no avoiding it. We do learn how to handle them, don’t we?
For an adult who has known not bumps but mountains in the road – and that only in his/her childhood – it isn’t the same. They tend to make the wrong decisions, based on how they were raised. Ally was plagued by low self-esteem and she always dreaded saying no which consequently often led to more hurt.
Others make even worse decisions, turning to drugs or alcohol that make them feel better about themselves and provide a temporary relief from their pain. Some have no idea how to be sociable, can’t make friends, live like hermits, are afraid to seek help, or just hate the world, and then there are others who even turn to crime.
Our Formation During the First 7 Years of Our Life
It is important to understand how our childhood shapes us. The first 7 years of our lives are a crucial time when we are fed information that we will subconsciously carry for the rest of our lives. Let that sink in for a moment.
If those 7 years are spent in an abusive home, then that is the information our brain will carry throughout our life.
Even if the first 7 years will not determine the future adult’s happiness, the growing brain lays down the foundation for social interactions, notions of love, relationships, and communication, by processing how it is responded to. If in the first 7 years of a child’s life its parents always respond to it with threats, physical violence, emotional and psychological abuse, then you have your answer … (source: Healthline)
I do not advocate making excuses. We are responsible for our lives, that is true. Nevertheless, it would be a lot easier for adults to make the right decisions if their childhood home had been filled with love, happiness, and security instead of fear, pain, violence, and no love.
Ally divorced her husband and she found a new home. She found herself. She learned to build up her self-esteem and to love herself. She found friends who love and appreciate her. Her fears did not leave her. It took her nearly fifteen years to get over the abuse, but in that time she also found much support and love which helped her to become her true self. And she is still learning.
Ally found forgiveness and inner happiness. She has a new normal now which knows no fear but love. Ally is assertive now and she has learned to say no.
Ally is me. Ally’s story is mine.
I know that there are many out there who can relate to “Ally” and what she has been through. It is fortunate that we no longer have to be silent. I am using my past to help other people now.
If you need to share your experiences, then this is a safe place to do it. I will not judge. Sometimes we just need someone to listen to.
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12 thoughts on “Childhood Abuse Affects Adults”
Wow, what a heart-breaking story. So glad you were able to leave your abusive situations and eventually find peace. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story in order to help others.
As a parent your story really resonates with me, especially about how impactful the first 7 years of life can be. Even seemingly small events or negative family patterns can really affect child development. It is an important reminder to be very mindful and respectful of my children, even on the tough days.
All the best to you along your continued path of healing.
Yes, we should always be mindful with what we tell our children. I am not a parent, but I am a teacher now, and I also do my best to remain mindful, even on tough days.
Thank you for your comment!
I am so happy for people like yourself who have no issues putting themselves out there so that others can be helped. Thank you for writing this, “Ally is me. Ally’s story is mine.”
Yes, abused children grow into adults, and without intervention, they live out how they were treated.
I am so happy you are on the mend. Please, continue to touch lives. You are appreciated. I have already shared your website – your story. Thank you.
Thank you very much for your comment! And thank you for sharing my article, it is much appreciated! 🙂
You are a brave soul Christine! So much respect for you after reading your story. I love how you shared your story to encourage others to do the same. Often times, we bottle up our negative emotions and events to a point that it changes our entire personality and therefore our life choices. The more we talk about the difficulties we went through in life, half of the recovery is done right there!
I had a friend who acted a little strange and because of this she was easy target of being picked on in school. As time passed, her and I got close and she once told me she was abused as a child by her own uncle. I didn’t know how to help her but listen and she said that was more than the kind of help she ever received! Your story reminds me of hers.
So glad you have created this safe place for everyone who needs it- Thank you!
Years ago I wouldn’t have been able to open up about this, but time and forgiveness have healed all wounds. Many people bottle up their negative emotions which can have disastrous consequences. It is indeed so important to talk about this. Even if a friend can “just” listen, only by listening you already give a lot of help, sometimes it is all someone needs.
Oh, Christine, I read this article with tears in my eyes. It is awful there is abuse in the world. And dreadful that often it is an ongoing cycle. I hear it so much, that women are going from an abusive parent to an abusive spouse. It’s devastating.
What I loved most about your article are the nuances you put into it. It is amazing how well you are able to look at yourself and deal with for instance the Oprah Winfrey quote. I admire you immensely for that. And I am sooo glad that you have been able to work your way out of the cycle. Marvelous, Christine!!
You have shown a couple of books by Gabrielle Bernstein. Which of those do you think is the best?
Even as a child, when I knew no other “home” life, deep down I always wanted to get out, leave the vicious cycle, but as a child I was limited … It took me more than a decade to battle my demons from the past, and I know that some people carry their past pain with them for the rest of their lives. A therapist can also be of great help for someone who can’t get over his or her past.
All Gabrielle Bernstein’s books are really wonderful. I have several of them, I bought May Cause Miracles, Judgment Detox, and The Universe Has Your Back. Super Attractor also received much praise. It’s hard to say which is my favorite, but May Cause Miracles is great because each chapter includes an assignment to put the theory into practice. I did those assignments, and they really help, they cause positive change in how we view ourselves and help raise our self esteem.
Yet another riveting and insightful piece. Thanks for sharing your story and using it to remind us how the early years play such a pivotal role shaping our lives.
I think statements such “We are each responsible for our own life…” do need to be qualified and put in the proper perspective/context.
And I think the way you have set out how our past has a way of influencing our decisions almost in an automatic or subconscious manner is very apt and something we all need to heed. Because in order for us to get to where we want to go we sometimes need to know where we came from.
When we do we are better placed to freely choose our responses to what happens to us, to freely decide how we behave today in order to reach where we want to be tomorrow.
Thank you again for such an insightful post.
Yes, definitely, statements like that – although true – need to be put in the proper perspective. Nothing is ever black and white.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment!
It’s true that if we grew up in a home with love, it would be so much easy for us to blend in the society and give love to our beloved ones. And, I felt shocked when you said, “Ally is me. Ally’s story is mine.” I can’t imagine the healing journey you went through, and it’s good to know that you finally conquered the fear and started loving yourself.
Did those books from Gabrielle Bernstein help you the most? I will love to recommend my friends to take a serious look at your article and her books.
Thanks for sharing your brave story,
May Cause Miracles is a book that helped me a lot when I went through burnout (which was caused by many factors, including the abuse). I highly recommend all of Gabrielle Bernstein’s books.
The healing journey after leaving an abusive home is long, for some longer than others, but is a great feeling to know when you’re making progress and putting the past behind you.
Thank you for your comment!