According to experts, 15% of adults have been sexually abused or assaulted, at least half of them before the age of 18. This unique form of emotional trauma can have wide-ranging negative consequences, from relationship difficulties and anxiety to addictions and weight gain. Fortunately, by addressing the underlying beliefs, perceptions, and meaning associated with the sexual abuse, you can resolve the trauma and set you free.
Goodwin Hypnosis’ Todd Goodwin describes an example of sexual abuse and obesity:
“I had a 30-year-old client (let’s call her Anna) whose significant obesity since age 18 was clearly rooted in emotional trauma. Anna had a habit of overeating when stressed. She knew how to eat properly but could not do so consistently. When I first met with Anna at her initial consultation, I asked her if she had experienced anything traumatic. She immediately burst into tears and revealed that when she was 12 years old, her mother took her to a physician who sexually molested her during a physical exam. To add insult to injury, her mother sat only a few feet away, watched the entire act, and did nothing to intervene. Amazingly, she and her mother had never discussed it even once.
Anna’s trauma consisted of her memory of this experience, her self-judgment, and her perception of her mother’s disloyalty and lack of support. The resulting anger towards her mother and herself was “eating” at her.
Anna also felt shame, which is an extremely toxic emotion and quite common among those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. It is not the sexual abuse itself that causes shame but the self-abusive and self-blaming interpretation of the experience. One reason for the association between shame and sexual abuse is that certain religions have labeled sex “bad” or shameful, and so the judgment of the act can lead to beliefs such as, “I’m dirty,” “I’m a bad person,” or “I’m not worthy of love.” Those beliefs generate shame, self-rejection, or self-hatred, which often leads to anxiety, substance abuse, addictions, and significant weight gain.
After Anna’s first consensual sexual experience at 18, she suddenly began to gain weight, eventually totaling 100 pounds over several years. She knew that the weight gain was the ultimate effect of her stress, but she did not realize how critical a factor her emotional trauma and shame had been. When someone cries at the first mention of a traumatic event, it’s a safe assumption that the wound has not healed. In fact, I have found that if you can feel emotional discomfort when recalling an experience, it is still affecting you at an emotional, physiological, or behavioral level, even if only slightly.
Unfortunately, simply talking about her experience, feelings, and irrational thoughts and behaviors would accomplish little, even if we were to do it for months. After all, she had already done that. If conscious, rational awareness were sufficient to resolve trauma, talk therapy would be fast and effective, and few people would suffer from anxiety or addictions. Subconscious resistance to accepting and releasing the past causes emotional suffering, and deep acceptance is essential to emotional healing. That is where hypnosis and NLP work phenomenally well.
We did a few sessions to neutralize her traumatic memories, establish a strong self-worth, and forgive herself and her mother. Anna immediately noticed that her eating habits were much better, she was more relaxed, and her temper around her mother had improved.”