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Telling your story vs. learning to cope

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Posted 18 June 2002 - 09:21 AM

I'm not dealing with csa but it wasn't one time rape...it was several times rape over months.  Talking helps me.  Before I go I'm a wreck and sick but after I've done it I feel strong...I've helped to make it so one less person has to come here.  In  less than 2 hours I'm talking with a reporter with the news paper...I'm in the mess part right now.  But after it's out I know I'll feel wonderful

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Posted 18 June 2002 - 12:19 PM



What an interesting thread!

<i>These people go on to say that the "old way" of searching for abbreaction and catharsis did not work but rather it caused people to decompensate and become dysfunctional. The process of talking about details evoked strong affect (fancy word for emotions/feelings) that survivors were ill-equipped to deal with.</i>

My question here would be: what were the dynamics surrounding their telling? Did the survivor themselves feel the need to tell? Were they in a position of feeling they HAD to go through the details in order to move to the 'next stage' of healing? Did the therapist present 'telling' as the only way to healing? Was the telling done slowly or quickly? Was the survivor's input gained at all stages to feed back into the process? Was adequate work done prior to the telling in ascertaining what other forces/issues were at work in the survivor's life? e.g. did they have good coping mechanisms? did they have space in their lives between jobs and relationships to put in a lot of time to healing? was medication available if required?

<i>They recommend not disclosing the details or memories and focusing on how the abuse affects your life today and learning to cope in relation to that. They say that identifying how abuse influences your thinking and actions and then effecting change in those areas will increase the quality of your life and there is no need to go into any detail about what happened. </i>

I don't think that this is untrue or unwise, but I would say that it was a partial representation of the healing process. As I 'unwrap' my memories, and reactions I feel more liberated, and more free. Words I thought I could never type can now come out of my mouth. I feel a more complete person, and as though I am beginning to integrate the internal and external 'me'.

One of the problems is our uniqueness - as well as the abuse there are thousands of other factors that have shaped us. It's extraordinarily difficult to say who I would be now if I had never started this journey, or who I would be if I had started it earlier or later.

I believe 'healing' encompasses a plethora of choices, but I do firmly believe that 'telling' has been at the root of *my* personal healing journey. I was so profoundly ashamed of the details of my abuse, but now I am much less so. This lack of shame has permeated through to other areas of my recovery. Being able to say 'I was raped anally' has made it easier to say 'I have a desire to SI'. It has made me less ashamed of *me*.

Well that's my thoroughly unscientific two cents
Take gentle care

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 12:08 AM

I have found myself to develop more problems the more I keep the details in.  I believe for myself in order to ever get out of this pit, I need to purge my soul so to speak.  In other words I need to get out the poison.

I don't think I am either coping or healing at this point.  More like being a coward and hiding from it ...

#4 Monika

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 04:58 AM

There's a lot of wisdom here, which I adore. Em, you'd be a great person to test the validity and reliability of research ;)

It seems to me that telling someone that they "can't" talk about what happened b/c you know they can't handle it would be both shaming and disempowering. It would  somehow reinforce the myth that csa, sa and multiple rape is unspeakable. At the same time I can understand the fear that telling could be retraumatizing or at the very least bring up strong, intense feelings that will be difficult to ride out. In that vein it makes sense to me to do work around safety and coping first... to make sure that the survivor has the requisite skills needed to deal with intense emotion that is invoked throughout the healing process.

I've never told much about my own experience. I think I'm releasing more and more at a very slow pace. When I look back I don't see how not telling served me. I developed a severe eating disorder and engaged in extensive SI...all the while being plagued by my experience but not talking about it (people wanted to focus on what I was doing to myself and never wanted to get to why I was doing that to myself...oh, not to mention that I flatly was not believed when I attempted to tell on a few occasions--but that is a story for another day.)

At this point I appreciate shoring up coping skills as I 'wake up' emotionally and learn to be more present in my life. And at some point I think I just may see the telling in therapy as freeing... or at least I hope. I'm not there yet and won't be for a while. But knowing telling is an option to me helps...as opposed to feeling like there is some moratorium on it b/c someone has decided that I couldn't deal with it (and maybe I can't, who knows, that all remains to be seen) that would only increase my already great sense of shame.

And, yes, I definitely respect survivors who have no desire to tell... it is different for everyone. For some reason that made me think of Judith Herman's "trauma dialectic" the intense need to tell coupled with the intense need to avoid it at all costs. I understand that greatly... I'm betting a lot of us do.

Take gentle care,

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Posted 20 June 2002 - 03:39 PM

wow, great thread, i am interested to know what organization is writing about that, and to an extent I agree.
I think that there are some therapists who think that if the person has a strong cathartic experience it is a good thing, because the therapist has their ego tied into experiences of intensity.   My background is yoga and chinese medicine and in oriental medicine 5 elemnt theory we have 5 core emotions that we want to be able to access to be whole: courage, righteous anger, passion, compassion, and reflection.  There is a stress emotion asociated with each of these.  Abused children often get contracted into one of these roles, they become either a perfectionist, caretaker, invisiible or rebellious.  When you just keep telling your story over and over again and get retraumatized because the therapist does not have the skills to help you access the other emotions, you are just stuck. I cied and cried about everything and only felt depression and grief and compassion for my abuser, and the people helping me thought they were raally doing a good job because of the intensity of my experience. BUt I was a broken record.
It was financially and emotionally draining and did not help me until I found a teacher who could help me work with the other emotions, and who gave me some brain integration skills to synthesize the information in a different way.    I was so sick of paying people to just cry. On person told me that I just had to cry until all the tears were shed, but it was wrong.  I have been told that what I am describing is flooding.  Probably though this is pretty individual.  I have to take really good care of myself whenever I disclose in any way.  take care, sister moon  

#6 Kala

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Posted 24 March 2003 - 01:32 AM


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Posted 24 March 2003 - 01:16 PM

I think it is good to talk about the details. When a memory comes up, talk about it. I used to try to keep the memories locked away inside and concentrate on coping in life, but I came to realise that the two go hand-in-hand. Without talking about the details of my memories, without telling my story, I wasn't able to cope and to heal.

Just my two cents. :)

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Posted 17 July 2003 - 09:10 PM

**possible trigger**
Just for myself, I have to go over the parts I know about that happened (I was drugged.)  But I believe it is more difficult to deal with an incident like rape when you have been drugged.  This is because (I believe) the memory is still there somewhere in your mind, needing to be dealt with. I also believe that things do need to be faced and dealt with for any kind of recovery to really take place. That is my opinion, of course.

When someone is drugged, they still know what happened because the symptoms are there afterwards, as real as anything, and they can't be denied. I'm speaking of the pain and other evidence. But your mind isn't able, consciously at least, to  go over the incident and leave it behind. But I believe (I guess I could be wrong) the emotional and psychological scars are still there, in the subconscious, especially if the victim were not totally unconscious the entire time the incident was going on. I believe this was the case with me because is remember bits and pieces. But of course the drugs erased it from conscious memory.

Hugs -- Lee  

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Posted 14 August 2003 - 09:40 AM

I cant tell a person directly, about the details of my CSA.  I can write about it here, but I cant tell anyone, not even counselor.  I can talk about most of it, but somethings i just cant say out loud, I dont know why but I cant.  
I kept my CSA a secret for 15 years, and finaly after talking to loved ones, counselor, and all of you here, I feel alot better.  Sometimes I have flashbacks while talking about it, but in the long run I feel better.  I dont think that Secrets can be healing.


#10 Monika

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Posted 18 June 2002 - 07:33 AM

I'm definitely curious to hear your opinions.

I have come across literature and conference information that suggests that telling your story and talking about details of the abuse is nothing more than retraumatizing (most of this is said in relation to CSA as opposed to what they termed one time rape). These people go on to say that the "old way" of searching for abbreaction and catharsis did not work but rather it caused people to decompensate and become dysfunctional. The process of talking about details evoked strong affect (fancy word for emotions/feelings) that survivors were ill-equipped to deal with. They note people who have had to take disability leaves, become suicidal, self-injurious, develop eating disorders, become profoundly depressed and sometimes psychotic all as a result of attempting to deal with their abuse histories.They also note many surivors are reluctant to go into detail about their experiences, many who report they "can't say it."  They recommend not disclosing the details or memories and focusing on how the abuse affects your life today and learning to cope in relation to that. They say that identifying how abuse influences your thinking and actions and then effecting change in those areas will increase the quality of your life and there is no need to go into any detail about what happened.

So, I'm wondering...what do ya'll think about this?


#11 Elle

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Posted 18 June 2002 - 11:43 AM

Really interesting thread, Rain!

My experience wasn't with CSA, but with rape. Like so many areas of life (nature vs nurture anyone?), I think there's a middle ground between talking and coping. I don't think silence is the answer, personally. I tried it and it #### near killed me. But I also know I have to be careful with talking. It's easy to be overwhelmed with emotions.

This is really relevant to me right now as I have been doing a lot of really hard work in therapy. After some sessions I've come home very upset, overwhelmed, definitely feeling poorly equipped to handle what I've invoked. Interestingly, though, for me these feelings seem very "old." I was assaulted almost 15 years ago and went through #### trying to pretend it didn't happen. Your post mentioned SI, depression, and a host of other problems survivors can face. These were issues for me when I *didn't* talk. I feel they were a byproduct of silence.

I can handle all this now, as I never could before. And that's what I remind myself when I feel overwhelmed.

Talking about what happened is extraordinarily difficult. Still. But I have felt a kind of release aftwards, like a long-held tension inside me unclenching. This has been a profoundly transformational time for me.

Identifying how abuse influenced your life and effecting change in those areas is a good idea, and I think it's integral to healing. But I don't think you have to make a choice between that and not disclosing details. There's no rule book, though. It's different for everyone. There may well be some people who cannot survive the telling, who need to develop coping skills instead in order to live. I imagine that for these people, talking might come later (putting myself in this category). But it's not for me to say what's right for someone else'e healing.

Take care.


#12 linnea

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Posted 18 June 2002 - 07:19 PM

Here's my two cents worth, Rain...

I believe there is some validity in the statement that retelling can be retraumatizing - but I also believe that for true healing to take place that the telling of the story is vital.

I think the question is - is the "decompensation" of people in working through abuse the cause of the problems or was it the abuse itself?  The proverbial chicken or the egg arguement...

CSA promotes the development of very effective childhood ways of dealing with surviving the abuse and getting through it - you name it, survivors have done.  They were reasonable, creative, wondrous things that a child dreamed up and put into action that got them through whatever it is that got them through it.  The problem is when you take those childish things into adult life and the problems get bigger and the coping mechanisms become less effective.

Dissociation was a gift to me as a child - as an adult, it has not served me well and as I have worked through and walked the path of the "talking sure", it is a response that used to be an automatic response to stress that I have not experienced in nearly two years...

Numbing was also a dear friend - it served me very well not to feel - but it has led me to some poor choices in relationships, robbed me of the richness of many aspects of my life.  How I avoided the pitfalls of drug and alcohol addiction was by sheer will, but oh, how tempting it was for me - so much so that I knew in the depths of my being that I had to run from it.  It left me dead inside that although to the rest of the world I looked so together and "functional".  That appearance of functionality led me to the course of events that led to a series of rapes by the same person, which led to a pregnancy, which led to an adoption (that I have never regretted the choice), which has led to the heartache that only a birthmother can tell.

Not telling led me to the brink of disaster - I just looked functional.  It was because my inability to deal with my past that led me to decompensate - not the telling of my story because I still wasn't talking to anyone!

I do agree that folk who don't know what they are doing retraumatize csa survivors when the only thing they know how to do is get people to talk about what happened to them, but they don't know how to help them know what to do about it.  The telling of your story over and over and over again isn't necessarily helpful - the telling is only one part of the process, only one step...

I don't believe you can force people into talking about their experience before they are ready is helpful - it can only do more harm.  It is one of the reasons why hypnosis is scary for me - if my mind isn't letting me in on it, it must know something about me that I don't - which is that I am not ready for that information and if and when I am - it will come to me and I can embrace it, knowing that I am ready to deal with it.

Focusing on how the abuse affects your life today and learning to cope in relation to that, identifying how abuse influences your thinking and actions and then effecting change in those areas will increase the quality of your life...  It is work that must be done and I think it should be a focus in treatment and in the healing process.

My most recent therapist comes from a cognitive therapy background - in fact he is one of the leading researchers and experts on that form of therapy.  He specializes in working with depression and I was his first client that he really worked with that dealt with ptsd and the level of sexual abuse issues that I had.  I think he would tell you that the telling of my story was a major turning point in my personal journey from his perspective as a therapist - but the work we did together also helped to identify some basic core issues, that my past was a part of creating, look at how it was affecting me in RL and how to develop more effective coping mechanisms...

If folks had had effective coping mechanisms to begin with, would they have come to bits when they talked about what had happened to them - probably not to the degree we are talking about.  I'm afraid that approach can easily minimize the initial trauma and delay true healing.  If people aren't ready to deal with the abuse, then there is a need to focus on the other stuff and help them develop better life strategies - but the other issues will always pop their ugly heads up at the most convenient time, it will always demand attention until it is dealt with - one way or another.

We all walk a similar but very unique path here.  It's why it is so important to find help that knows what they are doing.  There are a lot of therapists making money off of keeping people in pain.  There are also some who are making money from these folks because they aren't willing or able to do what it takes to move past it.  

Enough of a ramble - hope is makes some sense...

#13 els

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 04:28 AM

I have always been very cynical towards the "you have to tell it all in order to be able to heal" thought...
I really don't think that for me it's necessary.
Telling everything into detail, remembering everything,... I don't even want to.
I do think it's important to tell parts of my story.
Like... erm... suppose my T and I are talking about shame. And she's telling me how she doesn't think I have anything to be ashamed about. You know how you can think at a point like that : "If only you knew..." Well I do think that whatever is on your mind on a moment like that is something you should tell, because it's obviously a major issue, that is influencing the way you feel and think. But not every detail, not every (hidden) memory has that power.

I'm also very cynical about "forced" memories... You know, where you and maybe a T work real hard to get memories to surface. I think it's dangerous. Memories will surface when it's their time. Forced memories... I think that indeed they will do more harm than good. But that's just my opinion and I'm not a professional in any way.

One more thing though...
My T keeps telling me that one of the most important needs of a person is to be validated in the way they feel.
Of course you need to tell at least part of your story to be validated.

I think my conclusion for now is that it's probably different for everyone.
The most important thing I think is to follow yourself, follow your own needs, and not let you force into something by anyone just because they happen to have a degree.
If you need to talk, talk.
If you need to remember everything, look for your memories.
It's our journey. We decide.

Els x

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 06:13 AM

A tough topic, but a good one.

I think I can relate to both the "telling is freeing" and the "telling can lead to disaster" theory.

Personally, I have dealt with everything in silence, and the silence was killing me, I developped an ED, SI'd, suffered from depression...tried to kill myself...until I somehow overcame all this crap and stuffed my memories far far away.
I thought I was "over it" and I was finally where I wanted to be in life after my graduation from high school.
But some months later, I felt something coming up again, and as I had internet by then, I thought I needed to talk about it to find closure.
I went into random chat rooms looking for people to talk with anonymously and then disappear again.
Most people thought it would help to "get it out" and talk about how it happened in details...I found myself crying in front of the computer, but fortunately, at that time i was emotionally stable enough to be able to do it without being  triggered...I can only imagine how devastating this would have been if I was in the emotional situation I'm in right now.
But telling was freeing and empowering and helpful in the first place...I ended up finding someone online who was very understanding and became my boyfriend, I found different survivor sites and after some months there I felt comfortable telling some people in real life.
I know that it was basically shame that kept me silent, and by telling I have broken that shame, I can accept the fact that I have been raped without fearing the opinion of others.
But...talking about the rape and dealing with my issues has brought more memories back...memories of the abuse from my ex that I had never seen as bad enough to hurt me before, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, SI, EDs...recently very strong thoughts about suicide...I have failed at uni and in my function as a scout president, and I'm basically as lost and helpless as I was at 15 when "it" happened.
I often wish I had not opened that door and kept silent because before telling I was fine, and I know that talking has triggered everything to come back.
I don't know, I guess it would have come back sooner or later if I had kept silent, and I know the problem was not telling but telling without being in the situation to do so, without having the necessary coping skills.
As I am on meds now and am starting therapy, I think I will be able to do it, and I think that telling will have a great part in my heling, but I can definitely see that telling your story without the emotional equipment can be extremely dangerous.


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Posted 20 June 2002 - 12:28 PM

Just to add the thought that being forced to tell your story by a therapist and then being send home triggered and without any coping mechs does suck.
Just got to know that first hand...still growling at the T


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From: Telling your story vs. learning to cope

By Wil in Wil's Blog, on 05 June 2013 - 10:38 AM

I've just had a conversation about this with my T. It was good to hear her say that there's no 'right' way, or 'right' balance to this. I knew as much, but I needed the confirmation.

For me, it's gone in little steps, and very slowly (infuriatingly slowly, most of the time). And most of it has been more to do with me engaging with what happened, than about me telling somebody else. But I feel like I'm a good way down my healing path now.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with what was happening. But equally, I couldn't think of it, not the details, anyway. I so wanted to tell. I'd practice in my head for hours about what I could say, I'd gear myself up to say it...but I never managed it. I could never really imagine what would happen afterwards, though, even in an ideal world. I became a nervous wreck.

I had the opportunity in my teens to talk to a child psychologist about it, but as he could barely be bothered to remind himself of my name, let alone my case details, I couldn't disclose anything to him at all.

For ages, I couldn't think about it. Like literally, I'd try and think about it, and my mind would just shut off. I'd end up thinking round it, or more often than not, just switching off and zoning out completely.

By the time I was in my late teens I had every PTSD symptoms going, I was a mess, too paranoid to go out, never speaking to anyone, terribly agoraphobic. And I was getting psychosis with my depressive periods. I'd get totally fixated on little flashes of it, over and over again for days. Ugh. It was hard to tell what was real then. I spent a lot of time drinking it away. I cried loads, deeply and often. I think people knew that stuff had happened to me, but I could never admit any of it. I acted like the suggestion was almost funny. I was like this all through my twenties and early 30s.

When I was raped I tried to tell my mum. She didn't believe me. I didn't tell the police, I couldn't face it, and I assumed they wouldn't believe me either. I still regret this.

I saw psychs and MH staff periodically and accidentally but never admitted anything. They mostly acted like if I couldn't tell, then I was weak and silly, and that I deserved every bad feeling that I had. Ah, the caring profession......

Once a nurse asked me directly if anything had happened (I was haven't some trouble letting her do my smear). I was too shocked at being asked to tell her the truth. She was quite cross with me. Other girls, she said, have REAL problems. I felt for years that I'm missed an important opportunity here.

When I could think about it a little more, I started getting tics (saying No loudly, grunting, turning my head sharply) - the clearer the image, the stronger the tics were. I still get these, sometimes, but less so now. But it was important for me to get to this stage...

...cos the next one was actually being able to put everything (or at least, a lot of it) in the right order, in my head. I had some very bad MH episodes during this period, and for many months I felt completely obsessed and quite consumed by it. I really felt that that was all that was in me.

A couple of years ago I felt ready to get some help. I spoke to my pdoc - no details at all, just said that the CSA and R had happened.

Then I found PA! And read, and read, and read (I could hardly stop), and was totally overwhelmed by so many people trying to hard to work through their awful experiences. And I was more relived than I have words to express, to find that my feelings, my reactions, the things that had changed in me were not unusual at all. And I started posting, and received so much fantastic support. Honestly, this is what made the biggest difference to me.

Then I found a T. I've been going for about eight months now. I believe I have been lucky this time. I was very apprehensive at first, and distrustful. But I feel a thousand times more relaxed there now. My T knows my quirks. She knows never to touch me. She talks to me very clearly. She explains why she says things. She accepts what I tell her and never makes me feel bad or guilty about it. She looks for ways to move forward instead of dwelling on the past. She pushes me to be kind to myself, and teaches me how when I don't understand how this can done. she never compares me with anyone else. I needed all of this, but I didn't know that when I started seeing her.

First I talked about how I am now. And how I've coped so far. And then about the guilt. And then the anger. And sort of worked backwards, from the R to the CSA. And more recently, about other bad stuff that happened, that 'd not even thought of in that context before. If it's hard, I type it out and give it to her. Sometimes I give her posts I've made on PA. I think I'm finally able now to put the CSA away for now, which is a massive weight lifted from me, and inspires me to continue with T. I still have never told the gritty, revolting details, and I flit between thinking that I need to, that it's essential, and then thinking that it's unnecessary. If I ever choose to disclose, I will probably start by writing everything down and posting on here first, before sharing with my T. Actually, I think I'm starting to do this today....

I told a nurse, very recently. She was kind, and angry on my behalf. I had never thought that someone might react like that. If I did physical contact, I'd have hugged her.

I have no intention of telling anyone I know in RL. It's too late to tell my family now, and I think that just very recently, I've come to terms with this. I would never share it with anyone else. I can't think of a single reason why I would ever want to.

Source: Telling your story vs. learning to cope

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