Sunday, January 27, 2013

Consider the Source

I used to believe everything others told me about myself. I had lost my own self-image and relied on what others said I was. When an abuser told me I was selfish for stating a need, I tried harder to have no needs. When an abuser told me I was dishonest, I searched my soul with suspicion. When an abuser treated me as worthless, I believed I didn't have worth. When an abuser told me I deserved punishment, I berated myself. When an abuser told me that I had no patience, I greived and poured out even more patience. I had no awareness that I was allowing abusers control me with their harsh judgements. But by trying to continually reshape myself to the other's demands--I was handing the other power to control me.

 I didn't evaluate the abuser's integrity or motives. I didn't ask questions. I figured that a father, a mother, a boyfriend, or a husband, would always tell me the truth because they claimed to love me. It didn't occur to me that people's words and motives could be vastly different.

 I was a very young child when abuse began and there was much I didn't understand about the world. After abuse and plenty of recovery work, I now understand why it's important to consider the source of words that wound. Has the speaker a reputation of speaking honestly with me and others? Is the speaker trying to force my compliance? Is the speaker angry? Is the speaker generally kind to me? Do I trust the speaker because they have won my trust with consistent goodness and honesty? Even more importantly, do I agree with the person's words? Do I have any idea what my strengths and weaknesses are? Would I have considered myself lazy, selfish, mean, stupid, provocative, slutty, etc. without the speaker's insistence? If someone else, besides myself, said or did as I have done, would I label them with the term the speaker is labeling me?

 Even a trusted friend can be mistaken about what our character is or about what our motives are. Misunderstandings happen. Abusive people aren't making honest mistakes in judgement, however, they are actively working on tearing down the self-confidence and security of the people they abuse. Their words aren't about speaking truth, they are about controlling and manipulating.

 If I don't keep a realistic view of myself that is independent of another's criticism, I can end up with a greatly mishapen view of myself that changes whenever the abuser has a reason to make me feel bad about myself. If the abuser can keep me focused on what a horrible person or inadequate person I am, then I won't be examining what he or she is doing or why.  If I believe I'm lazy because he or she makes me feel that I must be lazy, then I don't wonder why I'm doing the other person's work for them. If I think I am stupid because he ensures that I feel stupid, then I'm not able to question the rationality of the demands put on me. If I question my selfishness level because she says that I am selfish, then I don't have time to consider how selfish the abuser's behavior is.

When an abuser is running the show, criticism's are flung frequently. They are designed to hit us low and keep us down. The words of an abuser drag us ever downward, until we feel no self-trust or self-love. The tongue of an abuser leads to us feeling worse about ourselves with a hopeless sense that we are too little to ever be good enough.

To regain a more accurate sense of self involves breaking the isolation of abuse. We need input from healthy people who have no desire to manipulate and control us. We need space and time without the continual barrage of abuse to begin to hear our own inner knowing about ourselves. Three years before I left my abusing spouse, I began breaking out of my confusion and isolation. I began reading self-help books, working with a psychologist, reaching out in friendship to women who had healthier lives than myself.  These steps helped me to begin questioning the motives of my abusers and I began to discover that others saw many good attributes in me and disagreed with the negative judgements of the abuser. And miraculously, my confusion began lifting and I began to see myself in a better light. I also began noticing that all my chameleon-like changes to please the abuser never resulted in the abuser being pleased for any length of time. As I saw the futility of pleasing my abuser, I began to realize that maybe I could live a better life without the abuser.

Now I live without any abusers. My life is much happier. It has been a gradual process but I now like myself. I no longer will allow another to convince me that I am a horrible person who deserves abuse. It simply isn't the truth about myself, or about anyone else. No one deserves to be abused. 

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft