Denial and bargaining often overlap – when the denial becomes too great the bargaining phase usually takes over. During the bargaining phase the parent/carer will acknowledge that something terrible happened but they will try to convince themselves and others that there will be no trauma associated with the event. This is the ‘yes but’ stage of the recovery process. The therapeutic task in this stage is to overcome family myths and social stereotypes and misinformation that allow child abuse to take place in the first place, preventing victims and parents from talking about it and about the impact it has had on their lives.
Looking back the bargaining phase seems the hardest to accept actually occurred, you may even feel ashamed that you tried to ‘brush it all under the table’. But believe me the process is perfectly natural and if anything gives your healing journey the kick start it might need.
One form of bargaining is pseudo forgiveness. This occurs when a parents go straight from the denial stage into the forgiveness phase without experiencing other emotions associated with the abuse.
True forgiveness doesn’t come straight from denial, it emerges only after a complete understanding of what has happened has occurred, including the nature of the wrongs and where the responsibility lies. Forgiveness in this instance doesn’t necessarily mean forgiving the perpetrator. It may mean forgiving yourself, the sibling for not reporting the abuse earlier and lots of other associations that harbour resentments.
Bargaining also raises it’s head after the victims first admittance that the abuse actually happened. Once the abuse is out in the open the euphoria of the secret being lifted is often followed by the victim thinking that that was all he or she needed and now that the weight has been lifted they are free to continue their life and forget about the abuse. This of course isn’t true. the same is true for parents or guardians of the victims. After the initial shock they sometimes bargain with themselves that ‘everything will be alright now that it is all out in the open’. Unfortunately that isn’t true either.
Again a good way of dealing with the bargaining phase is to write a letter. Write a letter for each side of the story. For example write a letter arguing your point and then write a letter arguing against it.
Another side of bargaining is requiring outside proof that the abuse actually happened. In other words the inability to trust your own siblings version of events. Evidence of this nature is very hard to come by. Adults very rarely admit they were abusive to children so the only evidence is that of the emotional scars left on their victims. Trusting your siblings may at first be difficult. but ask yourself – would they really lie about something as important as this. Trust their own feelings and emotions and trust the way you feel as well. Don’t be tempted to deny them just to save yourself from admitting the abuse took place.