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Complex-PTSD and Sense of Self: What Does Jesus Say About It? Part Two

Updated: 3 days ago

Well, hello there! (Big, deeply warm hug)

I’ve been writing about a person’s sense of self when it dawned on me that if I was trying to explain to you what a sense of self was, I wouldn’t be able to give a definition – so I looked it up.

According to the American psychological association’s dictionary of psychology, a sense of self is an individual’s feeling of identity, uniqueness, and self-direction.

I don’t think I need to explain to you what it means to not have feelings associated with an identity because, as an abuse survivor, you know that your identity, your worth, your value existed only to fulfill what your abuser needed or wanted in any given moment. And, because of this, you lost your uniqueness and any ability to self-direct; the only direction you were allowed to go was in the direction your abuser decided on.

If this is still you, if you are struggling with identifying your sense of self, I have really good news. It doesn’t matter who robbed you of your sense of self. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been gone or if it was never developed at all. Jesus is the Identity-giver. You don’t have to muster up your own identity, you don’t have to wait for some person to love you or somehow make you feel valuable. Believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time spinning my wheels hoping to find another human, including myself, who could tell me exactly what I needed to prove my value… all to find out, all I needed to do was ask the Identity-giver.

Your identity, according to Jesus, has multiple layers. The first layer is acknowledging and accepting that you are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). He created you and considers you a masterpiece. Your identity is rooted in bearing the image of God. God’s creation of you included both the physical and spiritual element of being human. In the book, life with a capital L, Matt Heard addresses 10 aspects of the physical nature of an image bearer.

“…embracing my humanity…will involve embracing the significance imbedded in the two primary realms of my existence: the physical and the spiritual. By physical I’m not just referring to my heart beating…"

1. "Relational: my connection with family and friends”

As image bearers we reflect God’s relational nature. He holds healthy relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit and He wants healthy relationships with us. God is a relational being and wants us in good and loving relationships.

2. “Sensual: my enjoyment of the ability to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.”

As image bearers we reflect God’s enjoyment of his creation--the beauty and satisfaction He finds in it all.

3. “Healthful: my body’s fitness and wellness and my commitment to rest and recreate.”

As image bearers we reflect God’s priorities and the things He considers good, including resting, recreating and caring for ourselves.

4. “Intellectual: my rational growth in knowledge about my world.”

As image bearers we reflect God’s intelligence. Although His knowledge is unchanging [i.e., He does not grow in knowledge because He has all the knowledge He will ever need], He finds beauty and goodness in our healthy curiosity and growth.

5. “Emotional: my ability to experience and express all my emotions in a healthy way.”

As image bearers we reflect God’s ability to feel and express Himself. By using our expressions for good, we reflect Him because He used expression to create and give life.

6. “Creativity: my capacity to be imaginative and generative”

As image bearers we reflect God’s ability to create. Have you noticed the imaginative beauty in His creation?

7. “Vocational: my ability to contribute to my world through my occupation.”

As image bearers we reflect part of God’s purpose for our existence which was to give us responsibility and gifts so we could care for the world He created.

8. “Material: my financial health and ability to acquire food, shelter, and clothing.”

As image bearers we reflect God’s desire to take care of His creation by providing food, shelter, and clothing.

9. “Cultural: my service in society and care for my culture”

As image bearers our cultural identities reflect the beauty in God’s creativity, ultimately meant to reflect the absolute splendor of the undefinable essence of God’s nature.

10. “Environmental: my appreciation of and care for creation”

As image bearers we were designed to find appreciation in, and care for, the rest of God’s creation.

The physical aspect of image bearing brings me so much comfort. In our human frailty, our DNA reflects an identity associated with our biological family. However, my unseen DNA as an image bearer connects me to my God, who is the true Identity-giver; you reflect Him in your physical body, in the physical world.

Let the discovery of your sense of self start with the knowledge and acceptance that you bear the image of God. I hope you can read my next letter about the spiritual aspect of your identity.

Comment below to let me know if you learned anything new about your sense of self in regards to image bearing.

Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have life abundantly” (John 10:10b). God created us as image bearers wanting us to know and believe that our identity is rooted in Him. With our identity in Christ as our foundation, He wants us to have a clear sense of self, knowing what we like and dislike, knowing to whom we belong, having a clear picture of what does and doesn’t bring us joy and a clear understanding of our why.

I hope you have a safe place to sleep tonight and a full belly. Praying for your mental health.


A yellow flower with red accents


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