Working with emotional abuse, severe neglect and invisibility
The effects of emotional abuse, feeling like a burden for others or unwanted have a profound effect on the child and future adult. In early childhood, caregivers’ affective signals and lack of contingent availability present a more common perceived threat to the child’s development of a secure sense of self than the actual level of physical danger or risk for the child’s survival. These “hidden traumas” of neglect, related to the caretakers’ inability to modulate affective dysregulation, result in deactivating responses to attachment cues. Children who learn to deactivate automatic responses never develop basic abilities such as co-regulation, emotional regulation, and self-care. In addition, in some households, having needs or expressing them may be dangerous and children are neither given the chance to trust others nor themselves. Experiencing other types of additional traumatic events will complicate the picture even more.
Since children must adapt to survive, victims of severe emotional abuse and neglect must develop strategies to deal with their experiences. These survival strategies become automatic and may be difficult to identify in adults. Clients often learn to ignore their emotions and their most basic needs, which makes them feel invisible, unseen, defective and ashamed. As adults they keep seeing themselves through the eyes of the people who have hurt them and tend to treat themselves in the same way they were treated as children.
In this presentation, participants will learn tools to understand and work with the effects of early attachment disruptions, shame and neglect, including feeling invisible, avoidance, distrust, and lack of self-acceptance. As therapists, modeling a new way for clients to learn look at themselves through empathy and compassion becomes crucial.