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Abuse and Nightmares

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I'm just having trouble trying rationalize my feelings toward certain things that happen to me.

When I was little my little sister became terminally ill, and as if often the case with families like that, all the attention went to my sister. Which was fine, I never resented that and I understood, but this also led to me having to stay with a family member. I often stayed with my aunt and uncle, and when they worked my 16 year old cousin would babysit. He was, to put it mildly, sicko...in a bad way. Things rapidly went from abuse, to molestation, to rape...I was 8 years old when it started and it went on for two years. I kept silent because he threatened me constantly, threatened to go after my even younger sister, and constantly reminded that my parents were too busy worrying about my sick sister...so I just kept quite. It continued to grow worse until my little sister died. But by then my parents were just so depressed, and I couldn't bring myself to tell them. I wasn't sure how my parents would deal with that, especially my father, his child just died and then to have to worry about the fact that his other daughter had been abused, I didn't know what that would do to him.

So I kind of shut down. I don't know how to describe what happened, but I kind of just turned into a robot. I functioned solely on neccesity, I took care of my little sister, decided it just wasn't worth it to think about it. I didn't enjoy my life at all.

But when I was around 14 I discovered Ayn Rand's philosophy. And I had a renewed love of life. I didn't just assume responsibility for things, and didn't think that I was doomed to live out a life of pain or numbness. I stopped living only to take care of my family. They never put that on me, it was jut self-imposed because I was confused and didn't know what to do. Things turned around for me, and I thought I was going to be all better.

But over the past few months, I've been having horrible nightmares. I have no idea why, or what might have caused is, but it's opened up such a terrible can of worms. It's hard for me to sleep, I feel sick all the time because every time I sleep i dream about it and it just makes me sick to my stomach so I can't keep anything down. And I hate it, because I feel so weak. Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty when I wake up, and I hate it because I feel so stereotypical and weak, and I tell myself "there is no sin worse then the acceptance of undeserved guilt." And I feel like such a bad objectivist. I know for a fact that there should be no guilt on my part, but sometimes I feel that way, when I feel sick or gross. I feel like a failure because I've given this creep a power over me that I he shouldn't have. I feel awful because I'm scared and I know for a fact that I shouldn't be. I know that it is completely within my power to be happy, and I am happy, but this is just causing me so many problems that I can't figure out.

I guess my question is, am I doing something wrong? I am a firm Objectivist, but I feel like the way I've been dealing with it doesn't reflect it. Maybe I'm jut confused or missing something.

Also, how could I further apply objectivist philosophy to this circumstance to help me to completely be done with it? Any time I've almost talked ot someone they talk about, "the eternal scars that just make you stronger" and crap like that. I don't want to have scars, I just want to be done with it, I don't see that it has to be something that will "never go away" like I've always heard people say when the give advice to those who've been through similiar circumstances. Any brief experience I've had seeking advice, it's always been a bunch of people who take some sort of morbid pride in their battle scars and wear "abuse" like a badge of honor...it disgusts me.

I'm sorry if my question or concern isn't quite clear, I really just could use some advice or help, instead of pity.

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The only way to be free from the abuse you suffered is to face it.

There is a passage from Dune that might help you. It's called the "Litany Against Fear":

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

Only you can decide how to face your fear. You could confront your abuser and bring charges against him. You could tell your parents. You could write about it. You could talk to a therapist. Or the process could be entirely internal, an acceptance of what happened as a part of you, as a fact, but not a part that can touch you anymore.

The next step to healing is letting go all of the negative emotions associated with your abuser and your abuse. Let go of your hatred for him -- your hate is the only power he has left over you. The most important part in this step though, is forgiving yourself. Whatever you think you could have or might have done is irrelevant. The past can't be changed. You can only change the now.

The last step is a rebirth. The rebirth of the person you are now, a person who has confronted her fear, has let go of anger and hatred, and has a new clean spirit, untouched, and free to choose her future.

Good luck.

Edited by Myself
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If your cousin is still alive bring charges against him and tell your family. I would attempt to get some sort of proof. A taped conversation, you confronting him or something. Anything that you know that you wouldn't if it hadn't happened (a private birthmark).

Another thing to think about is that this pervert has probably not stopped.

My brother was abused by a teacher. He suppressed it for a long long time and we, his family, never knew what happened, but looking back I now see how it affected his relationship with our Father and between us too. Almost 25 years after the abuse (it was a one time occurrence as far as I know) he suffered a mild breakdown which was essentially his mind telling him that he had to deal with that reality.

Get some help.

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My first thought is to seek professional help. That's the hard part...finding a professional that's worth anything, but it's key to getting over this. They know how to help you confront, deal with and get over the past, then move on. Dr. Hurd offers online and phone consultations if you're not in his area (he's O'ist friendly), or perhaps he can refer you to someone in your area? http://doctorhurd.com/index.php/component/...ge,shop.browse/

Second, there may be some lectures at the ARI Bookstore that would help you, but again, I would seek professional help as well. http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/products.asp?dept=54

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You have already taken the hardest, and most important step. Keeping his secret is what is at the root of this problem. By continuing to stay silent, you had allowed him to continue to act in abusive ways. By staying silent, you allowed him power over you, and that kept the fear of the threats he made a strong and personal emotion. By bringing it up, you begin to break this down. You take control of you, and in doing so put an end to the fear. By taking action you remove his control over you, and let go of the guilt.

The guilt you feel is not guilt over what happened. You were powerless to stop that at the time. The guilt is about not acting since then. The fear stems from the fact that you had, up till this point, done nothing. Therefore, if this was to repeat, would you do something now? I am sure that you would, but you had reason to doubt yourself UNTIL you began to speak up. Now you are taking responsibility for yourself in this, and insuring that something like this will NEVER repeat.

Burying the truth of what happened will not help you. That is just hiding from reality. Tell the people important to you about it. Bring legal action. Know that these memories, brought back up, will hurt you. But keeping them buried also hurts you. And letting them out will help you to heal, as you are no longer hiding what is real. Keeping them buried brings the nightmares, as you continue to hold fear and doubt, and your mind reacts to this.

The nightmares are your own subconscious mind pushing you to face this, get it out of you, and finally live with the truth in the open, instead of hiding from the truth, ignoring it, and acting like it does not exist. It is your mind trying to help you live up to whom you want to be. It is your mind doing everything it can to allow you to live as happy a life as you can. And it would not do this, until you are both ready and able to deal with the pain of the process.

It just has to get you past some very painful things. Things nobody should have to go through. And it is doing the only thing it can. Pushing you to speak up. Pushing you to deal with reality, instead of ignoring it.

Because you know, in both parts of your mind, that you have to, in order to be as happy as you can be.

You have already taken the hardest step.

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  • 2 months later...
If your cousin is still alive bring charges against him and tell your family. I would attempt to get some sort of proof. A taped conversation, you confronting him or something. Anything that you know that you wouldn't if it hadn't happened (a private birthmark).

Scariest thing I have ever done in the world, but I did it.

You were completely correct (you and the many others who said it). I think I knew it had to happen eventually. I came forward and told my family, and they stood behind me when I made the decision to confront him. However, in our attempt to make contact with him, something we have not done in years, we discovered that he is currently doing time in prison for selling/possessing drugs (ironic, considering neither me nor my father think this should be a crime at all).

Either way, things are finally getting delt with and letting my family, especially my father, who is also a strong objectivist, has helped tremendously.

Thanks so much to everyone for the advice and contributions.

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Scariest thing I have ever done in the world, but I did it.

You were completely correct (you and the many others who said it). I think I knew it had to happen eventually. I came forward and told my family, and they stood behind me when I made the decision to confront him.

I'm glad to hear you confronted your fear and took the first step toward ending what must have been a very painful chapter in your life. I know it doesn't need repeating, but I'll say it anyway -- you're doing the right thing.

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I'm not sure if you will like what I say, but I believe it can help you.

I think you did make an immoral choice back then (by your own standards and understanding at the time) by giving in to fear and letting him have his way, and continuing to do so for the duration of time in which it lasted. I think this is your source of guilt (and perhaps also of fear) - That back then you knew that what he was doing was bad, you knew that the right and just thing to do was to oppose him and put an end to it, and yet you didn't do it. It is very very understandable - you were a child and this was a very scary thing to do, but yet, you know that you had the choice, you should have chose one way but you chose the other and gave in to fear.

I once lied about something very big because I was afraid of the consequences if my parents found out - I still feel guilty about it today as I look back. It had no justification, and I knew it back then. I let fear take over me instead of dong the right thing - and I knew it back then as well. What made it worse was that I consciously held honesty as a virtue, and I was honest in everything else I did in my life.

Well, what to do? How to face the guilt? Accept it, realize its source, and make sure you make yourself the kind of person you can trust never to make such a choice again. A moral person, a proud person. I am certain now that no matter what happens and what disaster I may cause, I will do the right thing and tell the truth. It does not erase the mark, but it makes it insignificant, because the future is what counts and I know that now I am the person worthy and capable of enjoying it.

If the case were that he abused you once but you would oppose him (like tell your parents about it) - I believe you would not have felt so guilty and afraid. I believe the feeling of weakness comes primarily from giving in back then and not from the act itself.

Ask yourself if you rely on yourself to have the strength to do the right thing if a similar case happened today. Think of cases from your everyday life when something was scary to do yet right, and consider what you chose: If you constantly choose the right thing, give yourself credit for it, never forget that this is who you are now. If not, simply train yourself to be the person you want to be, a person you rely on to stand up for yourself.

Confronting the case and pressing charges was courageous and great - it was a choice to do the right thing despite great fear. Like Larsa wisely said it has the power to break the feeling that it is a personal thing, vs. he is just a freak, rejected by society (and I think he is much worse than a freak, he is a monster, thoroughly evil), and like softwareNerd said - never forget to give yourself credit and feel pride at finding the courage to do this. It is well deserved.

Make sure you separate what you did in the past from who you are in the present and who you make yourself to be in the future. Your past decisions are not an inescapable proof of your character, remember that! Who you are in the present is the inescapable proof of who you are.

When you trust yourself and value yourself - dealing with external threats becomes much easier. I believe it will be difficult for you to open up to strangers. After something like this, I'd imagine you'd have a great will to keep close everything familiar and safe and stay away from unfamiliar things (new people).

I think the way to get over it, if this is a problem, is to make good friends with which you share some personality traits that you like. This way you can see that there are new people out there which you can be intimate with, which are just like you in a way, and which you can enjoy.

I think a possible reason for your nightmares is that your consciousness is beginning to wake up after a long time of repression. Your mind wants integration, it wants to be whole, which means: putting the past to rest. Accepting its existence, and putting it behind, but still registering that it existed.

It's not easy to fully enjoy the present when one knows that at any moment one also ignores a huge chunk of one's life as if it never happened. There is no need to keep it in mind either though. I believe the right thing to do is to briefly as possible go over your repressed memories, without going into details - just tell yourself that they were real, they did happen, and that's it, once you do that train yourself not to think of them again, to forget as much as possible. They were real, but they don't matter and your goal is to forget all about them (forget - but still recognize that they did happen). That is the appropriate thing to do with bad memories that are no longer relevant to one's life.

If you could do this with a therapist, someone you can trust and open up to, I think it would be a great help.

I don't think that the way to handle stuff like what you went through are by opening up to the whole world, telling openly every detail. No. This IS a very private matter and you are right to want to keep it private. No one normal, even with a healthy sex life tells everyone what he's doing. I'd imagine some modern psychologist might give you an advice like this, which I think is destructive. One needs to be able to feel safe in the privacy of one's own mind, whether or not one has someone to talk to.

This concludes my advice to you.

I feel deeply sorry for what you went through and if you're worried about justice - I am sure the worst hell is the one the bastard lives in in his own mind. Not because of guilt - but because a monster like that cannot possibly know the happiness you are capable of. His mind is rotten and that's also how he experiences his life.

I wish you full recovery, which you deserve and can have.

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