Healing from sexual abuse trauma with spirituality

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Sexual abuse is a scourge of our society.

We all know someone who has been sexually abused and we are all affected, directly or indirectly, by this social catastrophe.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the therapeutic approaches used by mental health professionals rarely allow sexual abuse survivors (particularly victims of incest) to heal. Most professionals harbour the belief that they can improve victims' lives to a certain extent, but a complete cure is impossible.

Upon learning this, women who have managed to survive by the skin of their teeth, find their sufferings increased. They want to live and not just to survive. They want to be fully alive rather than merely survivors.

As a psychotherapist, how can I truly help people if, from the very beginning, I do not believe in their potential for healing?

How can a human being who puts all her trust in me believe in her healing if the message I convey to her (consciously or unconsciously) is negative or fatalistic? What are the limits of traditional psychotherapy? How can I make up for these shortcomings? What is the importance of spirituality in the healing process?

These are the many questions I have faced in the past and tried to answer to the best of my knowledge and experience. I, too, was the victim of sexual abuse, including incest, and .

Transcending psychological theories, statistics and what the professionals told me, I was able to free myself completely from the chains that bound me to my past abuse.

After trying traditional psychotherapeutic techniques, I turned to a more holistic conception of psychotherapy where you work not only with your brain, but with all the other dimensions of your self (brain, heart, body and soul). I believe that an ignorance of spiritual life is at the basis of our refusal to believe in human potential.

Today, we have proof that traditional psychology has limits. What are they?

  • Traditional psychology emphasizes rational intelligence (the brain), to the detriment of the three other types of intelligence, which I will discuss later. Traditional psychology strives to understand, analyze and make associations. But this is not enough! To attain liberation, we must engage in exploration not only at a surface, rational level, but at a deeper level.
  • The university training of mental health professionals is based mainly on Freudian concepts. Although Freud has contributed greatly to our understanding of what it is to be human, he has severely wronged sexual abuse victims. In his time, he did not believe patients who dared to reveal that they had been abused by their fathers. Instead, he told them that they were confabulating or fantasizing and were hysterical. Trying to protect their fathers' reputations, he waited until 1924 to finally admit that these patients were telling the truth. Although this happened a hundred years ago, this destructive mentality still persists today, and prevents abusers from taking responsibility for their actions.
  • Freud may have even abused his own daughter. It is obvious that many of his studies are biased.
  • In traditional psychology, spirituality is a taboo subject (Freud was an atheist and did not believe in a divine power). In traditional psychology, you do not work with your body, despite the fact that it is the door to all wounds and traumas.

As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done to remedy things.

To make up for these shortcomings, it would be beneficial for both patients and psychotherapists to work in synchronization with the four types of intelligence. The therapeutic approach that I propose does not aim to eliminate current techniques, but rather to complement them.

As a psychotherapist, I favour a blended psychological, physical and spiritual approach. This is an integrated approach in which we work with our four types of intelligence simultaneously.

Physical intelligence (involving the body) allows us to be in touch with our feelings, our blocks and our traumas. Emotional intelligence (the heart) allows us to get in touch with how we feel about these sensations. Rational intelligence (involving the brain) allows us to observe what is inside us without judging, to make links between our past and present and to analyze and understand. Spiritual intelligence (involving the divine essence or soul) helps us to, with humility, re-experience our wounds and live through new states of awareness.

Through meditation, contemplation and internalization, we can access the root of life, our divine essence. In this sacred place that is impermeable to evil-a place of strength, light and love-our original harmony is constantly reborn. It gives us the strength we need to live through this difficult process. Bit by bit, we achieve serenity and find meaning in our lives.

We can spend our entire lives recounting and grieving over our past experiences and not be healed since we are disconnected from ourselves.

It is disconcerting to see so many people come to consult me who have already been in therapy for several years but have not yet become aware of what is going on in their bodies. They are dumfounded when they realize that they are not connected, but disassociated.

We can only become integrated, transcend our wounds and BE by connecting with our body, heart, brain and soul. This is why it is so important to work with all four types of intelligence.

By working with all the dimensions of a human being, psychotherapists will be better able to help people who have been deeply traumatized and guide them, step by step, to a complete cure.

In addition, the type of psychological-physical-spiritual psychotherapy that I favour can be used by any person who wants to experience deep personal growth, regardless of the type of trauma that is holding them back.

I hope that, one day, we will see this approach used in our universities, better equipping our future mental health professionals to help the community. Our society will be deeply enriched, more creative and healthier.

There is hope!

Little by little, professionals are becoming aware of the limits of traditional psychology. Some have even dared to integrate a physical and spiritual approach into their practices.

Blanche Landry is a psychotherapist and author of Le secret de Blanche (Blanche's Secret), Éd. de l'Homme, March 1999.

A few crucial points to take into account in the healing process:

  1. Believe in your own healing, despite everything.
  2. Learn how to trust yourself again, to take responsibility for and manage your well being (the psychotherapist is there to guide and support you but you are the only one who knows what is best for you).
  3. Live in the here and now. We live in the present. We heal ourselves in the present. (Wounds from the past resurface in the present so that we can free ourselves from them.)
  4. Take the time you need to assimilate each step or new stage of awareness. (Respect your own rhythm without getting trapped or trying to escape.)
  5. It is important to free any suppressed anger that emerges in the present. This is the mainspring of healing. If I do not free myself from the anger inside, I cannot be liberated.
  6. Do not force yourself to forgive. Forgiveness comes naturally after you have freed yourself from suppressed anger.
  7. Develop a sense of humour since it helps us avoid overdramatizing our life and experience personal growth. This does not mean engaging in denial or self-abnegation but rather learning to accept our own vulnerability, to practice humility and to develop a more positive view of life.

It is important to understand that the time required for complete healing depends on several factors:

  • A person's experiences
  • The degree of his or her belief in healing
  • His or her determination to be healed
  • The type of therapy used
  • The time spent in interior work