How Abuse In Childhood Manifests In Adults & Ways To Cope

Children who are abused by their parents without fail show signs of that abuse in their adult years.  This post addresses some of those signs.

Abused children grow up believing they have no control over what happens in their lives.  This is because abused children are not taught that they have the right to have boundaries or even to say “no.”  That faulty thinking often carries into adulthood when the abused child finally realizes that he or she has as much right to have boundaries as any other person.

Abused children also grow up into a false person of who they really are.  Children want their parents’ love & approval.  It’s only natural to feel this ingrained need so strongly.  With healthy & functional parents, it’s a good thing.  With abusive parents however, it’s not so good.  In fact, a child can be so starved for their parents’ love & approval, they learn to live in whatever way they believe is pleasing to their parent(s).  A child whose parents tell her she needs to be a nurse when she grows up may become one, all the while hating her line of work because she really wanted to be a teacher, or vice versa.  Sadly, this can continue until that child gets to know the person that God created him or her to be & discards that false self.

Abused children grow up not in touch with their emotions.  Abused children are often told that their emotions are unacceptable.  Usually the only acceptable emotions in a home with abusive parents are the emotions of the abusive parents.  They criticize their children for having a bad temper when they are righteously upset at being abused.  They call their children oversensitive & mock them for their emotions.  These children learn quickly the best way to deal with their emotions is not to deal with them, so they push them deep inside so they don’t have to feel anything.  While this is a useful survival skill with abusive parents, it doesn’t serve anyone well long term.  This child needs to learn to trust his or her emotions, to recognize them & find ways to cope with them in healthy ways.

Abused children often become people pleasers.  Children whose parents abuse them learn quickly the best ways to avoid abuse is to please their parents.  If they can just be good enough, smart enough, talented enough or pretty enough, their parents won’t hurt them anymore & will love them, they believe.  Sadly this mentality carries into adulthood, & that abused child is an adult who worries about pleasing other people at any personal cost.  This adult is angry, bitter & miserable, yet feels unable to make any changes.  Realizing what is happening is the first step.  Once that has happened, learning about boundaries & developing healthy self esteem will help tremendously.

Abused children learn not to trust their instincts.  Narcissistic parents love to gaslight their children.  Gaslighting in its simplest definition is when someone distorts another person’s reality in such a way that the victim learns quickly not to trust their own instincts or perceptions, often even their own sanity.  Children whose parents gaslight them grow up with instincts like every other person, but they lack the ability to trust those instincts.  As a result, they frequently end up in situations that are bad for them or abusive relationships.  Even if they felt somehow that something was bad for them, they ignored it since they don’t feel they can trust themselves to know what is best.  Learning to trust your instincts after a lifetime of gaslighting is NOT a fast process, but it is possible.  Listen to your instincts, & observe what happens.  Chances are, you’ll see those instincts were right time after time.  The more it happens, the more you learn you can trust your instincts.


Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

4 responses to “How Abuse In Childhood Manifests In Adults & Ways To Cope

  1. Thank you for your this blog post. I so appreciate your work. I liked when you said “Sadly, this can continue until that child gets to know the person that God created him or her to be & discards that false self.”

    One understanding that has helped me is to realize that this takes time. The feelings and instincts I have right now are not my own. They have been programmed into me by my narcissist parent. I need time to deprogram myself.

    Jerry Wise did a video on this that I found helpful. Below is the link and transcript of parts that resonated with me.

    Don’t let your emotions run your life. While emotions may be important for healing and may be important for professional healing and may be important for living life, focusing on emotions are not good when dealing with enmeshed relationships or narcissistic relationships that we have.

    In unhealthy relationships most of your feelings you have resulting from the interactions with narcissists are false, or what I call systems feelings. They’re not real feelings. They’re systems feelings. They come out of the relationship system and you are supposed to feel that to keep you in check. They’re not your real feelings. They’re the feelings you feel because of this interaction. Because of the patterns between you and the narcissist are fake, not real. They are activated inside you to keep you subservient and to keep you enmeshed with the narcissist. But they’re not your true real feelings. They’re feelings that are supposed to keep you connected to the narcissist.

    Begin to live a life of abstinence from love and approval. Particularly love and approval from your family and the narcissist.

    Go slow. It takes an emotional backbone and the ability to go without love and approval of others to change us within a relationship, now that’s very important. Because we’ve kind of been addicted to this love and approval. Though we’ve never gotten it, we still are addicted to it. Trying to get it, or at least a pseudo level of approval, we might get occasionally. So it keeps us coming back for our fix.

    Work on self-approval, self-love, self-care


    • Thank you! You’re very kind Doug 🙂

      It absolutely takes time. I wish it happened quicker! But deprogramming yourself after a lifetime of programming isn’t going to happen overnight!

      That video sounds fantastic! Thanks for sharing! Those are some very wise words. Emotions are great, but true, they can’t rule you. There has to be balance. Recognize them, honor them, but don’t live solely by them.

      And giving up the need for love & approval from abusive family is so freeing! It’s not easy at first but once you do it, it’s like a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes! I am slowly learning to be okay with me, and not be concerned with what my family or anyone else thinks. I am looking forward to learning who God created me to be. God is the our only true parent if we let him be. I appreciate that you always remind us to pray.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Good for you! One thing that helped me was to remember that these people are very dysfunctional. I don’t want to be what they think is ok! I hope that helps you too!

          So true.. God is our only true parent! And He’s such a good one too!!

          🙂 You’re welcome! I know in the midst of things sometimes it’s hard to remember to pray because you can be overwhelmed with emotions. That’s why I remind people to pray so often.

          Liked by 2 people

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