I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

Feeling My Feelings

As I've mentioned elsewhere, my major coping method of survival from abuse was not to feel. When the emotional level got heavy, I went numb. I didn't do that consciously, but it was my way to handle the trauma of  childhood. Once I became aware that numbing was what I did, I also realized that I needed to feel my pain--to reexperience the hurts of my past--if I wanted to be free from the past.

Here's how I did it, and this may not work for others. Each day I said, "God, help me feel my feelings." Followed by, "I feel my emotions." I usually spoke to my reflection in the mirror. I wanted that message to get into my core being.

Although I hadn't talked to a therapist or a pastor, I sensed that facing the hurts and feeling them once again was a step I had to take.

It took months before I became aware of how I felt; it took even longer before I fully accepted the abuse of my childhood. It took years before I knew I had been healed.

The journey wasn't easy, but I refused to give up. At times, I felt alone, unloved, unwanted, unworthy--and other negative emotions flooded through my soul.

Each time I felt my emotions, however, and thanked God for allowing me to experience them, the pain seemed to lessen a little. Now, years later, I can honestly feel my emotions.

Caring God, teach me to feel and to accept my emotions.
You made these feelings, and I want to honor them.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel Publications, 2018).


Preston Hill said...

Well said Cecil. I've often said with fellow survivors, "Feeling is healing." I know you've said similar things in your own work. I think it is very true. It seems to me that the greatest evil of all the abuse is that the pain is so overwhelming that my brain and heart literally cannot handle the turmoil... so it just shuts down. Its like my heart says, "Instead of being destroyed by more than we can handle, how about we compartmentalize and just choose not to feel? That way we can go on living." True. The problem is, in order to survive, I have to continue this "not feeling" in other areas of my life as well. But humans can't live for long that way. Spouses notice. Friends notice. They want my heart... they want the real me. It's dangerous, it's risky... but it is VERY worth it to feel again, to jump-start the emotions and get the blood pumping again. The best part is... God made me to feel. I am safe now, and I can make safe space to process all this pain. Once I name my pain, and feel it, I will be able to have the best gift of all... reunion with those who love me. If I choose to feel, abuse no longer holds the keys to my heart. Instead, my family and friends, my safe people, can have access to my heart. And my heart is VERY worth knowing and loving.

I think choosing to feel is the greatest rebellion against evil that I can enact as a survivor. It means that I regain agency and choose not to live as a captive to the effects of profound harm. Instead, I can make those wounds a deep well of fellowship and feeling with other safe people. Those deep connections spit in the face of evil's intentions.

Larry Clemson said...

I remember when I was young I would almost feel like someone else, it was kind of out of body experience. Today, I just check out. My mom is in the stages of dying & I find myself just
checking out & wanting to sleep - Not feeling
Thanks Cec for the prayer -
"Caring God, teach me to feel and to accept my emotions.
You made these feelings, and I want to honor them."

Cecil Murphey said...

Preston, Thank you for "feeling is healing." Never heard it said that way, but like it. And yes, we do have to use discernment in revealing ourselves. But it gets easier as we continue.

Larry, so sorry about your mother. Just be kind and patient with yourself. Allow your feelings (even no feelings) to take over while you're in this terrible time of what I call pre-grieving.