As a survivor of multiple forms of childhood abuse, I am aware of how damaging the abuse was to my sense of self, but it is what I think and believe today, that can either reverse the damage or perpetuate it. As children we may have dissociated, detached and pretended that we were not there even as unspeakable acts were performed to our bodies or cruel words crashed into our very souls. Now that we are adults, these mechanisms that served us well in the face of trauma keep us from living the lives we desire. We cannot create what we want, and enjoy it if we are avoiding, fleeing or detaching from our thoughts, our bodies and our very lives. We have to pay attention so as not to repeat the pain and patterns of our childhoods.

As abuse survivors we need to become aware of how we think and how we respond to the world around us for in this we will find answers as to why many of us continue to be unhappy, overwhelmed and often dissatisfied with life. Our thoughts and beliefs are our filters which affect how we receive information, how we process that information and how we respond to what happens in our lives. They are also predictors of what we will attract into our lives. If we are currently attracting lack, abusive people, conflict, physical or emotional pain or anything that makes us unhappy, it is time to pay attention to our lives and re-evaluate.

Paying Attention

•Watch how you react (especially when you overreact) to certain situations, what does this say about you and how you perceive what is happening. I used to get bent out of shape whenever my stepdaughter didn’t do something I asked her to do. I took this as total disrespect, like she what I say has no validity, like I was no one important to bother listening to. These were all coming from what I already believed about myself which is that I was unimportant/insignificant. I was taking it personally, like she was doing it on purpose and to me. Her not cleaning her room had nothing to do with me, it was her own stuff, that she needed to address. It was not about me.

•Listen to what you say and you will hear much of what you believe. Pay attention to what you say to your friends and family. I often said that crazy people were attracted to me and sure enough I attracted plenty of experiences to confirm this as truth, but it was me who was creating it, by saying it and believing it.

•Take a close look at your current circumstances, how does it reflect what you believe and think? Right now, I am overweight, I can write a book on how that reflects what I believe, think and feel about myself. I continue to work on it daily.

•Take a close look at the choices you have made in the past, how do they reflect your beliefs? Wow, this is another book, from the men I’ve chosen, to way I live my life; they all reflect what I believe about myself. Some good, some not so good.

•Pay attention to the way your body reacts to certain situations. Our bodies often respond even if we are not actually having a particular limiting thought. For example, when a man looks at me, I do not specifically say to myself, I am in danger, I am afraid, but my body reacts as if it is in danger. This tells me a few things about myself which I will need to further explore (I believe men are dangerous, I may not trust myself, I want to be invisible because I am afraid) The more I explore this the deeper awareness I will have about what is really going on for me.

•Pay attention to your daily thoughts, what are you thinking about as you are cooking, looking at yourself in the mirror, trying to decide whether to take a chance on something that could be good in your life. This is crucial, do this for the next few weeks, record it if you want in a notebook. You’d be surprised at what we tend to say to ourselves. How we think and what we believe directly contributes to our state of being. So if we are unhappy, we must look at the thoughts and beliefs creating this state.

•Pay attention to how you feel. This is extremely difficult for most survivors since we were conditioned to not express how we felt. Most of us hid our emotions as a means of survival and as adults we have lost touch with the ability to recognize how we feel and regulate it. Ask yourself what am I feeling and if you are able to identify it, sit with it. Be okay with feeling whatever it is, there is no right or wrong. If you need to cry, cry, if you need to bash some pillows or scream, find a safe place and do it. Acknowledging and expressing how you feel is crucial to your wellbeing. If you really want to do some self exploration, see if you can identify the thought, or series of thoughts that created the feelings. This is difficult but rewarding because you will often find a pattern you engage in frequently and once you become aware of it, you can change it.

The more self aware we are, the more efficient we will be at identifying thoughts and beliefs that keep us stuck and miserable. These are the ones we want to change. Be prepared though, as they are stubborn and have become a part of our identity. They are who we believe we are (pessimistic, cynical, crazy, stupid, abnormal) and they will have clear evidence from our reality, to support their case. Of course if you begin to accept that you create your reality, then you will understand why these beliefs are so powerful. It is because we believe them! They are our self fulfilling prophecies, the conditioning created from abuse, the untruths that can currently control our lives.

As adults we now have the power we did not have as children. We do not have to live inside this conditioned mind anymore, we can transform it. We are not destined to live “damaged” lives because we were damaged as children. We are not doomed to repeat history. We are not so broken that we cannot repair ourselves and come back to our natural state of peace, abundance and love. That state still exists within us in the form of our Higher Self, our Spirit. It waits for us to recognize it, to open our eyes to who we truly are. By paying attention, we will become aware of the layers of lies fed to us as children and begin to uncover our truth.

Author's Bio: 

Stephanie Gagos is currently working on her first book, My Voice of Truth: Reconditioning the Abused Mind and Body. She is also working on an anthology of letters by survivors to their abusers entitled, Letters to My Abusers: What I Couldn't Say Then. You can learn more about her and her work at or You can sign up for her newsletter at either site. The following community at Live Journal is available for survivors to discuss how they are reconditioning their own minds and bodies after years of abuse: