Survivors struggle with many things. They have body issues, a hard time trusting others, and flashbacks. It is no surprise that survivors might find a place to hide in plain sight to lessen their pain.
This article will examine the armor that survivors of childhood abuse adopt to feel safe. The armor consists of stoicism, obesity, isolation, and dissociation.
Stoicism describes the endurance of pain or hardship without complaints or the display of emotions. Women use stoicism to hide in plain sight. However, it is also associated with survivors of childhood trauma who are men.
Indeed, society sets high bars for men to be strong and silent no matter what happens to them.
Men think that admitting they are injured is a sign of weakness. It is not, yet male survivors often hide behind stoicism because they cannot admit to themselves or others that what happened to them in childhood wasn’t their fault.
Stoicism, a lack of showing pain while enduring it, is both painful and dangerous as many men choose to die by suicide than work on their abuse issues. It is unfortunate that men find themselves backed into a corner, afraid to say anything, for fear they will be seen as weak and effeminate.
Changing Survivor Stoicism
People who feel they must hide what happened to them and keep it all inside must change how they think about what happened to them in childhood. Instead of feeling like the victim, survivors need to turn negative stoicism into the type of stoicism that sets goals and helps them to flourish as human beings.
Stoicism, when used correctly, helps survivors escape the behavior patterns that inhibit their ability to thrive. To thrive, one needs to understand what that means. It means:
- Peace of mind
- Strength of character
- Zest for life
Living a life where one is flourishing does not mean striving for perfection. Instead, survivors accept what has occurred and reach out to others for support. Even choosing just one person, such as a therapist, is practicing positive stoicism.
Survivors of childhood trauma also tend to be obese. It isn’t because they are lazy or eat enormous amounts of food. Instead, obesity is used as a barrier between the survivor and the outside world.
If the survivor was told they were attractive as a child living in an incestuous home, they find comfort in being obese because they believe they are keeping themselves ugly.
Obesity does not equate with ugliness. Yet, many survivors subconsciously (it is rarely a conscious decision) live with increased weight and suffer the health consequences.
Ending Obesity Formed Because of Trauma
One of the essential things survivors can do for themselves is to keep reminding themselves that they are safe today and that their extra weight is no longer needed.
That is a tall order for some obese survivors to accept. After trauma, where danger lurks around every movement and word, the world feels like a terrifying place. Childhood trauma steals a child’s ability to trust others and feel safe.
To end carrying extra weight for safety, survivors must work on grounding techniques and inspect their bodies in a mirror. That’s right, I said, looking into a mirror to understand that you are a beautiful creature, and your weight doesn’t change that.
It is also necessary to treat yourself with love and to erase those old tapes that tell you that you are no good and undeserving of love.
Isolating is an unfortunate way to hide in plain sight. Survivors often have the sensation that they are alone in a crowded room. This is because they avoid mixing with others, preferring to remain invisible.
Many survivors prefer to remain isolated and alone to avoid social situations where they might be required to interact. Sitting alone at home instead of meeting and making new friends and relationships, these survivors cannot form the lasting intimate relationship they crave.
Some survivors, especially those who are naturally introverted, get their strength in being alone, finding being with other people draining.
Ending Isolation Because of Trauma
The only way to overcome isolation as a response to childhood trauma is for survivors to force themselves to interact with others. This new behavior may begin with sitting with a therapist and working on the reasons for your isolation.
It is necessary to perform exercises such as calling an old friend or a close relative and begin talking to people or going out for coffee with them. Forcing yourself into social situations is the only way to overcome isolation.
Everyone dissociates. Road hypnosis is one form of dissociation that everyone has experienced where you become unaware that miles are passing and find yourself further along than you thought when you come to yourself.
However, for some people, especially those who experienced trauma in childhood, dissociation becomes a tool of escape. While dissociated, the brain goes into survival mode, helping the person to avoid unpleasant emotions or fears.
Dissociative identity disorder is wrought with dissociative episodes when one alter takes over the body from the others. Indeed, DID is the most severe on the spectrum of dissociative disorders.
Ending Dissociation Because of Childhood Trauma
For those who do not have alters, overcoming dissociation as your go-to weapon means forcing yourself to remain present in the moment. When you feel yourself dissociating, use grounding techniques, such as:
- Place your hands in cold water
- Use deep breathing
- Take a short walk
- Use your senses, such as sight, smell, taste, and hearing
- Hold a piece of ice in your hand
- Move about
You can employ many more grounding techniques to help you not dissociate. You will find great power in remaining in the now.
If you have alters and are prone to dissociation, work on safety first with your therapist, then you, too, practice grounding techniques such as always having reminders of today nearby, like a picture or a calendar.
Ending Our Time Together
There are many types of behavior that help survivors hide in plain sight. The problem is that if you are hidden, your needs are less likely to be met, such as love and acceptance. You become invisible to the very people who can help you.
The bottom line of this article is that hiding behind a survival mechanism isn’t necessary now that we are all grown up. You are beautiful, necessary, and loveable just the way you are. You don’t need to change a thing.
Come out into the sunshine and make yourselves known. You have much to offer this world, and we need you.
“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
– Benjamin Franklin