Symptom Explainer: Why Abuse May Feel Unreal

Feeling like what happened to you isn’t real is a very common phenomenon with survivors of child sexual abuse. Here we will look at what fuels this sensation. Some of the main factors include poor memory, denial of trauma, personal downplaying of trauma, societal pressure, and emotional/psychological abuse.

Poor memory of childhood trauma is often a combination of the dissociative factor. Dissociation allows the mind to disconnect from events often blocking the memories from being accessed in the usual way. Sometimes leading to complete amnesia of events, but even more, often having the event be blurry or third person. The processing of trauma memories being encoded differently from other material which can make it feel like it isn’t real. Also, forgetfulness of childhood is common and no one remembering all of it. These factors make it really difficult to be able to understand what happened to you and be able to work out what happened making it feel unreal.

Denial of abuse is common. It is something common to try and not deal with the emotional impact, try and stave off the pain or not wanting to truly accept this could happen to you or by people who love you. This often happens to make it hard to deal with any of the effects of abuse you can’t trace and understand how trauma is happening. So even after accepting that it logically happened this thought pattern stalls trauma processing in the future.

Playing down traumas severity and importance acts much in the same way stunting the ability to deal with and understand trauma. Failing to integrate trauma can have a big influence on being able to really work with and believe you understand everything. Integration is the process of understanding trauma as part of you and being able to work with the effects.

Society’s view of abuse, mental illness, and sexual violence hurts survivors and can add to not accepting and understanding our trauma. The way abuse is talked about general presents as one of three narratives “abuse makes a person violent/the will abuse other” ( IE. cycle of abuse model. common w/ true crime & news)” and “abused children are flinching messes. They must be helpless, infantilization” (often becomes tragedy fetishisation) and lastly “yeah so we depict abuse but it means nothing” (think Harry Potter)”. This is common in fictional and nonfiction media alike and makes it hard to really to see our stories portrayed in a way that is affirming and gives survivors and nonsurvivors alike the wrong idea about abuse.

Mental illness is almost never talked about accurately at all. Generally switching back and forth between romanticization and demonization. We often see young tragic mental ill young people who get healed fast and mildly generally telling stories of depression, anxiety and stereotyped PTSD. Or demonization common with people who act impulsively, lack of self-care, hallucinations, alters and other ‘scary’ mental illness. Not having access to read information and relatable narratives makes it hard to look for healing and understanding to believe we could be suffering if what we learn is so wrong,

The emotional and psychological abusers can force us to think it never happened, or at the very least wasn’t actual abuse. Gaslighting, guilt-tripping, social control and emotional neglect make it so hard to believe our own minds, our own feeling and leave us with no way to talk about our feelings.

-Admin 2

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