I would say the root of my resilience was my desire to survive. I used whatever situation came my way. I learned the “ways of the world” and was a sponge. I don’t believe I had strength as a child… what I had was a feeling of acceptance. Things were the way they were… so now how do I get to school? How do I eat? How do I keep my mother’s boyfriend from beating her to death? I developed a way to block out things that hurt me emotionally and looked at problems in a very factual way. I need food… so I will steal it. A man touched me in the wrong way… I’ll just pretend it didn’t happen.
As Christina points out, kids with trauma had to learn to cope. Survival was their number one priority. They may have engaged in shocking, desperate and self-destructive behaviors. When they entered our families these coping strategies—which we may not understand and which may be unpleasant and unattractive—carried over. To assist our children and ourselves in handling these behaviors requires a complex process.
We want to help our child forgive himself for past actions for which he may now feel shame. Our self-acceptance and compassion—as well as their own—opens the door to healing, and brings more choices and new solutions. It takes time and practice to internalize new beliefs and establish new patterns. Self-sabotage is slowly reduced and the changes are embraced.
Our child is no longer defined or controlled by the ugliness of a painful past. Forgiveness accepts the reality of past circumstances, honors the strength that carried them through, and validates the truth. As parents we love our children, not for what they endured, not for how they act, but simply because of who they are: our child.