The following excerpt comes from the Introduction to Heyward Ewart’s new book Soul Rape: Recovering Personhood after Abuse (1st Edition) by the Loving Healing Press (2012). For more about the author and his work, visit http://stjamestheelderseminary.org/About_Fr.html.
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Let’s take the whole bucket of what we think we know about mental illness, turn it upside down, and start all over again. What we consider psychopathology is most often an attempt to deal with somebody else’s craziness. The big problem is that there is no normal way to react to craziness.
There is no such thing as a disturbed child who is not trying to survive either outright abuse or some other absurd treatment by people who are supposed to love him. Children do not have mental illnesses that grow out of a vacuum. Their behaviors are set by the way they are cared for, not cared for, or tormented.
Abuse is the strongest form of communication there is. Child abuse is a rape of the soul. Maltreatment of a child gives him a false idea of who he is. Whether physical, sexual, or emotional, child abuse implants lies deep within the psyche, or soul, of the little boy or girl. Rather than fade with age, these lies grow as the little human grows, just like initials carved in the bark of a tree grow as does the tree. Rather than shrinking, the letters get bigger and easier to see. They are the lies that bind. They force conformity to a misconception of who we are.
In adulthood, it is of little importance whether someone has a positive self-image or a negative one, for each is a delusion. Self-image is a construct that is formed through other people’s expressed opinions earlier in life, combined with the experimentation of rotating personalities during the teenage years. Teens try to find the “pretended self” that will be best accepted by the people in his life. Therefore, early opinions plus experimentation form what I term the “adopted self”. Most adults believe that this flimsy concept is who they really are.
When a patient comes to me with a sense of low self-esteem, I tell him he has made a good start on grasping reality. Since the “self” is already damaged and minimized, it is easier to throw away altogether. The goal is not to have good self-esteem but to have no self-esteem. What needs to be done is to drop the whole idea of self, to take it off and drop it like an old coat.
Christianity is not a self-improvement program. It is a self-replacement program whereby the lies we have absorbed about our personhood are thrown off and replaced with a strong and joyful sense of becoming; that is, growing into the person our Creator intended. Once we have disposed of the chains of the original sin through baptism, we attain a potential that flourishes through God’s glorious plan for us and our willingness to cooperate with His grace. In His Kingdom, He does not choose those who are worthy but those who are willing.
Judaism holds the same premise, that God has a plan for our life. When we discover our calling, we begin an introduction to our own soul—the real and true self already created by God since before the beginning of time.
The lies implanted by child abuse are so deeply convincing that God’s intentions for His child are thwarted. It is the interference with the will of God that makes abuse not only devastating but literally evil. Blocking a soul from realizing God’s love for him and from accepting divine nourishment in the form of grace is every bit as evil as murder.
The nurturing and the healing of souls are rightfully the work of the church and synagogue. Priests, rabbis, and ministers who know nothing about psychology have been short-changing their flocks. The healing of injured souls has always belonged to the medical profession and later to professional psychologists and mental-health counselors, whether or not any of these practitioners have any concept of what a soul is.
The task of pastors is to connect people to God in a life-enhancing relationship that leads to eternal life. Our pastors may or may not be well-steeped in the study of divinity; that is, theology. But they are ignorant about the nature of people; that is, psychology. There exists an abyss between the two fields of knowledge.
Some seminaries do include a course or two in pastoral counseling in their basic curriculum, preparing students for ordination; but the subject matter has little depth. A pastor should at least be able to recognize when a member of his church has a mental disorder that requires expert treatment, and he should know how to conduct a group therapy session.
Well-educated and experienced mental-health professionals will always be needed by society, as will knowledgeable pastors. The point is that there is much knowledge to be shared between the two.
The lies implanted by child abusers are so deeply convincing that God’s intentions for His child are thwarted. It is the interference with the will of God that makes abuse not only devastating but literally evil. Blocking a soul from realizing God’s love for him and from accepting divine nourishment in the form of grace is every bit as evil as murder.
Child abuse and domestic violence are a dual pandemic. They are linked, for the first leads to the second, in my experience. Many professionals are surprised at this observation, but I have attempted to show the connection in this volume. An abused child becomes prone to abuse in adulthood. Although both subjects have been extensively studied, much of the literature deals only with a description of each. Rarely are they discussed together. Moreover, existing documentation tends only to describe in general how horrible child abuse is, both in degree and in frequency, and how hopeless the struggle of society is to stop domestic violence from continuing to skyrocket. Stopping domestic violence altogether has received little scholarly attention.
The literature is thus replete with accounts of what is happening in our culture, but little has been written about why. One of the most important factors in domestic violence has been overlooked in research and in practice; that is, the treatment of the affliction. Too often, shelters provide a haven for a time; but when the victim is released, she either returns to the same abuser or seeks out a worse one. Not only is the cycle not broken, but the victim becomes even more vulnerable.
The purpose of this book is to provide from real-life case histories a penetrating and hopefully unforgettable look at the murderous nature of child abuse. Vivid understanding of what abuse does to the soul must precede the development of effective treatment. Further, the intent is to show the destruction of the sense of self, which greatly limits the chances of a fulfilling life. Child abuse implants false messages about who one is. It is most difficult to live a successful life that is based on lies.
When clinicians and others with the power to produce change really see what child abuse does, the adult ramifications of this phenomenon, including domestic violence, can be treated with greater success.
ISBN: ISBN 978-1-61599-168-6
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Visit http://www.lovinghealing.com/ to learn more about the Loving Healing Press and browse its titles.