Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Stranger in His Own Body

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"I felt cut off from my own body and from my sexuality," one man said. He added, "Something inside was stolen from me."

It was a sad story and one I had heard before. The sexual abuse had stopped years earlier; the psychological assault continued. His perpetrator still held on to his mind.

Some boys unconsciously learn to "leave their bodies" while the molestation takes place. That's their escape and the way they survive. The problem is that they don’t fully return to their bodies. It's as if the abuse didn't happen to them, but only to their body. That may sound like some form of schizophrenic separation—a split within the personality.

I understand that because of the repeated physical abuse from my father. When he beat me (and he did it regularly), in an unexplainable way, I was able to move outside myself and experience no pain.

Not being hurt by the beatings enabled me to survive childhood, but it did more. Not feeling pain numbed all my emotions into adulthood.

I had to learn to feel again. Each morning I prayed, "God, help me feel my feelings." It took months, probably two years, before I felt true pain and enjoyed honest pleasure.

Friday, April 25, 2014

"How Long Will It Take?"

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

An old joke says a man went to a therapist, and after being diagnosed, the new patient asked, "How long will it take?"

"Come in once a week and it will probably take about a year."

"But if I come in twice a week, can I do it in six months?"

The joke is that it's not the number of times in the therapist's office, but the inner work the man does for himself. And the issues of life can't be rushed.

After I publicly stated that healing is a process, one man came to me and said, "That was exactly what I needed to hear. I kept asking my therapist how long it would take, and he avoided giving me an answer. Now I understand."

It's not the length of time in therapy, as a member of a support group, or doing individual work. It's the quality—the extent—of grasping and internalizing the insight.

Twenty years ago, when I first began to work on my own abuse, I was part of a small group. "John" had been in therapy for 15 years before we met. I moved away after four years. And many of the things John said in our final meeting were almost the same words he had spoken four years earlier.

It's not the length of time, but the quality of the work that counts.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Healing Is a Process

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

At a seminar in El Paso, I said, "Healing is not an event; healing is a process."

One man said, "I needed to hear those words." At age 43, memories of abuse by a church deacon began to surface. He had gone to a therapist for nearly three months. The question he had planned to ask me before the seminar was, "Why am I still not healed?"

Without knowing his question, I gave him the answer when I spoke to the entire group—something most survivors could have done. We'd like to believe that we have a moment—a special insight—and we're free forever.

I wish it worked like that.

We need the experience of enlightenment, awareness, or what we refer to as the aha moment. That's where we begin. Once we face the reality of our abuse, we start down a path of healing. Notice I used the word start.

None of us knows where the journey ends.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Confidence to Speak

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

I handled my abuse with amnesia (a form of denial) and was fifty-one years old before the first memories trickled back to my consciousness. As the painful memories emerged, my wife held my hand and my friend David gave me his shoulder. They encouraged me and infused me with confidence to speak about my molestation.

Every time I spoke about my abuse to anyone else, it emboldened me to speak more freely. But I didn't tell my family of origin or my own children. I made dozens of excuses for myself, such as:

* It no longer matters.

* They don't care.

* What difference does it make?

* I talk about it to others; why should I have to bring in my siblings or my kids?

* It will only stir up anger and hurt.

* They probably won't believe me.

I lived and grew up in a dysfunctional family. We didn't talk about secret things. When I was growing up, my family didn't even use words like pregnant. My mother would say, "She's that way." Her emphasis on those two words made it clear to me what she meant. It also reminds me of the way life was in those days.

A thought came to me one day. Perhaps speaking to my siblings would bring healing for all of us. Perhaps all of us could face our painful childhood—even though our issues were not the same.

Most of all, I admitted to myself that if I opened up, it would help me. By the time I was able to face my abuse, my parents were dead, and both my abusers were dead.

I opened up and truly shattered the silence. To my surprise, my three surviving siblings understand what I went through.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"Have you told anyone?" I asked the twenty-year-old man.

He shook his head. "Only you." He went on to say, "They wouldn't understand." He referred to his family.

"How do you know?"

He shrugged. "It wouldn't do any good. They won't believe me."

Our conversation went on for a full minute before he admitted he was afraid to tell his family. I pleaded with him to speak up—but only when he was ready. "We have a term called 'the conspiracy of silence,' which means that no one in the family talks about it. No one admits the horrible, shameful acts. The suffering continues."

"It was no big deal for you, but to me—"

"It took me seven years to speak up," I said.


"That's right. And the longer we wait to tell anyone, the easier it is to pretend it didn't happen. Or to convince ourselves that it's not important."

My response surprised him because I talk openly and easily about the issue of male sexual abuse. I keep talking about it to help others—and to help Cec—get to the other side, which is freedom. Deliverance. Total victory.

I'm still on the road to healing. "Even so," I told him, "shattering the conspiracy of silence was one of the biggest, most positive steps I ever took."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Being Healed

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

Abuse causes most of us to end up with little self-esteem (although some become braggarts or bullies to hide the truth). Because we were overpowered as children, control is often a big issue for us as adults—fighting for it or surrendering to those who threaten us by their words or presence.

Because someone we trusted betrayed us, many of us are slow or unable to trust others. We may freeze when someone unexpectedly touches us. Some of us slide into substance abuse to deaden the pain. Sexual dysfunction is common.

That's not an exhaustive list, but I mention them because they're symptoms of long-term issues. Even to be aware of them isn't a cure, but it's like a doctor analyzing our disease and prescribing the medicine.

I'm not quite healed, but I am being healed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

More on Recovery

This post is from an email Roger sent:

There was a huge disappointment and a lot of anger too when I was told it would probably take over ten years for me to recover from what was done to me. All my life I had minimized it. It was not violent or painful most of the time, and it was my father, so how bad could it be? And yet here I am 15 years later and still struggling with the effects of PTSD from it. ALL of my relationships have suffered and continue to at times be difficult.
When you are in something like what happened to me, there is no reference to "normal." What is, is just what is, and you live with it as if it were normal because it is all you know and probably all you will ever know until someone or something reveals the lie. It can turn your life upside down, and maybe that is a good thing. 
Getting around "healthy" people and learning what healthy relationships are like can make you envious and sad by comparison, but it can also help you navigate back to healthier life choices. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Recovery #2

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

At the beginning of our recovery, we may assume full healing is imminent —which I did—because we're unaware how severely we've been damaged or don't realize that our wounds have been festering for years.

For many, the abuse took place during a short period of time. It could have been a one-time assault or something that happened repeatedly for three or four years. Regardless of whether once or forty-six times, the molestation worked like an undetected virus that invaded our souls, went systemic, and infected every part of our psyche. Among other things, abuse destroys our ability to see ourselves as we are.

How could healing not be difficult and time-consuming? The core of our being is at stake. We need to fight, not just for ourselves, but for our families and others around us who’ve been touched by the abuse we endured.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

Our abuse took place in secret, and it happened when we were young and innocent. We lived with our hidden pain for years. I turned fifty-one before my memories flooded over me and forced me to learn to cope with my painful childhood.

Here's a statement I've adapted from Voice Today, an organization that works with survivors of sexual molestation.
A victim of murder feels no more pain;
A victim of childhood sexual abuse feels pain for the rest of his life.
You may challenge that last phrase, "for the rest of his life," but I believe it's true. Terrible things were done to us and it takes a long time—years—the rest of our lives--to work through the process and to undo the damage. All our lives is accurate because the damage is deep and it's painful.