- If your abuse involved a great deal of physical pain, or if you were physically abused as well, your brain may have gone ‘numb’ to protect you from the pain.
- After the abuse you had to find a way to carry on. It’s very hard to face up to the fact that those who should have loved and protected you, actually abused you or failed to prevent it. You may have had to go on living with them afterwards. This is an impossible position to be in. Your mind went ‘numb’, ‘spaced out’, to protect you from feeling how bad it was.
When you look at it this way, going numb is revealed as a very useful way of surviving. You did well to use it and survive.
But there comes a point when it’s no longer as useful. As a man, not feeling can be a handicap – one faced by many men, even those who haven’t been sexually abused as boys. This is because, in our society, men are not really brought up to have many emotions. It’s usually OK for them to get angry, but emotions like fear, sadness and vulnerability are not thought manly. ‘Boys don’t cry’, as the saying goes. Many men ‘space out’ from emotions because they’ve been taught as boys that it’s wrong to show them. On top of this you’ve had to contend with the pain of your abuse.
There are a number of problems with not being in touch with your feelings as a man :
- Feelings provide a lot of information. Recovery from abuse involves taking in new information and experiencing lots of feelings. Your feelings will tell you how you’re doing, what issues are around for you, what progress you’re making.
- Feeling ‘numb’ and ‘spacing out’ doesn’t help you when you have to make choices, decisions and plans. You can’t do this when you’re numb because your head is ‘somewhere else.’ Recovery is all about choices, decisions and plans. This pack encourages you to make lots of them :-
- Who should be in my Support Team?
- How do I get myself safe?
- Which relaxation methods work for me?
- Being ‘numb’ can stop you concentrating on sorting out your crisis and recovering. If you’re around people who aren’t safe, or your surroundings aren’t safe, your feelings will help you to assess the danger. Then you can do something about it. If you feel numb you’re more likely to put yourself in danger, or to stay in abusive relationships when you should get out.
- If you’re cut off from your emotions it’s hard to get close to people and to let them in. Dealing with crisis and recovery involves reaching out to supportive people. To do this you need to be able to establish close relationships.
- If you can’t establish supportive relationships you may become isolated. This may feel the same as when you were a boy. Recovery is very hard in isolation.
- If you ‘space out’ to deal with painful feelings that doesn’t mean the feelings disappear. They may emerge later, sometimes explosively :-
- Feelings of rage may reappear leading to violence.