Sense of self

Last week in Group we talked about “sense of self” and how messed up and confused this is for survivors.

We started off with a couple of questions, and paired off to discuss:

  • What messages did you receive from childhood s*xual assault about who you are?
  • How might these messages have affected your sense of self – including your self-esteem/self-confidence?

Boy, tough questions. I was paired up with the Quiet One, who is quiet, and barely spoke for the first four weeks of group, but by last week was really growing in confidence. (It’s been so wonderful to see and share in her growth!)

Interestingly, the facilitators asked us also to pay attention to how we felt as we explored these questions – physically and emotionally.

I did my usual thing and fought back the tears not-so-successfully. I don’t like crying in group, but it’s actually one of the few places I feel completely safe doing it. It’s wonderful how supportive the group is – each and every one of them – and how we are able to hold each other’s pain, even when we can’t hold our own.

Anyway, the questions were tough, as you might expect… another big bl00dy elastic band, really. I was quite traumatised by the discussion, so was uncharacteristically quiet.  

Here are some of the things we identified in response to the questions:

What messages did you receive from childhood s*xual assault about who you are?

  • That I was disgusting
  • I was dirty
  • I was worthless
  • I was bad
  • I was an outsider
  • I was not important
  • I was responsible
  • I was stupid
  • I was broken

How might these messages have affected your sense of self – including your self-esteem/self-confidence?

  • I was held back from doing things
  • I didn’t know who I was
  • I lacked control
  • I wasn’t allowed to have fun
  • I never believed in myself
  • I put other people’s needs first
  • I was always apologising for myself
  • I wished I could be different
  • I wished I could be good enough
  • I wished I had someone else’s life
  • I never felt like myself

You get the drift. Easy to write here now, but not so easy to talk about. We also talked about how we felt discussing the questions – heavy, dark, reluctant, slow. The facilitators even commented on our body language (slumped) and our lack of energy.

Thankfully at about that point we took a break, although the low energy followed us into the kitchen for our usually buoyant tea and snacks.

Also thankfully, the facilitators had planned this session well. After the break we talked about what I think was my biggest learning for the session:

“These things are not who I am. They were imposed on me.”

Yep, true. Rationally I know it’s true – I just have to repeat this a few more thousand times to truly believe it.

And then we spent time reflecting on and discussing a different question:

What abilities, strengths, attributes do I now recognise?

  • I am a good person
  • I deserve happiness
  • I deserve good things in life
  • I am learning who I am
  • I’m learning to have fun (safely)
  • I am not responsible for other people’s happiness
  • I can say ‘no’ and the world won’t cave in
  • I am not weird
  • I can feel safe
  • I can learn to trust other people

What an uplifting discussion! We were all energised, and all left the group feeling strong and inspired! 🙂


3 thoughts on “Sense of self

  1. Kerro –
    I could just duplicate your list – sounds like a tough good session.

    “I was always apologising for myself”

    I still do that in many situations – taking blame for what happens, trying to fix things – I guess this must come from somewhere deep – thinking things were my fault.

    Take care,

  2. Sounds so difficult, but a great exercise. I would have had trouble coming up with that last list. This sounds like something good to do in a group where you would have feedback from others besides just the therapist. Great job!

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