When we have been the victim of abuse, we are programmed to believe we are wrong. Typical words are; we asked it, we brought it on ourselves, you get what you deserve, and many more unconscious beliefs downloaded into our subconscious. Chapter 14 in my book; Why Bother? Because Self-Help is Never Stupid is titled, Dysfunction for good reason.
So how do we over-come these beliefs so that we can heal, move on with our lives, even come out of top? We do what Captain Kirk did; we change the programing. In our case, we change the engrained belief programs. Of course, first we have to gain conscious awareness of them.
The song by Nine Inch Nails – “Head Like a Hole” immediately comes to mind. If you wanted to discuss anything emotional my Dad would say, “I think you got a hole in your head.” The lyrics fit this post well. Nine Inch Nails -Head Like A Hole
In my book, Why Bother? Because Self-Help is Never Stupid, Chapter 4, I state:
“When someone has been raised in an abusive situation, they often don’t know any other way, so there is no reference to know that they are being abused. Nor do they recognize that they have been or are being subjected to more than one kind.”
Everyone has a strong desire to be part of a loving family. There is a collective societal belief that family always comes first, family the most important, family will always be there for you. Unfortunately for many survivors, family isn’t there for you, and we continually strive for acceptance that never comes. So how do we let go?
Maybe I’m a little slow, or maybe I just go really far into the depths of space and time for life lessons, but it finally occurred to me that expecting a survivor of sexual abuse, to sit at the family Sunday dinner table, where one of their abuser is still a beloved family member is like asking a veteran with PTSD to continually go back onto the battlefield.
Before running away from home in my 40’s, those Sunday family gatherings felt like going into battle with the Klingons, or the Romulans.
After I opened up, just one time, telling the family about my abuse, no one wanted to hear about it again. This is a complex issue to work through and heal from. They acted like this was normal and I should just get over it, and put it behind me. Reassurance, and support was never offered. That would have been kind and loving.
I always knew that they lived in denial, as did I until I broke the program of denial. While thought, and feeling are quite shallow, denial IS a Supermassive Black Hole — Muse. My father, rather than expressing compassion said, “If you buried it all these years, why would you bring it up now?” He was angry; how dare I shoot a photon torpedo at his superior warbird (that’s a Klingon battleship for those who don’t know). The famous words of both my parents was “keep your mouth shut and keep the peace.” To me their idea of peace is like trying to make peace with the Romulans, and dare I say… operated on warp, warped perspective that is.
Research now says that the effects of repeated, long term abuse on children, and teens, is worse than being raped once. Here is a link to an article by Allan N. Schartz, LCSW, Ph.D; The Deleterious Effects of Child Abuse.
Imagine asking a rape victim, to sit down and have a happy, cordial, loving dinner with their attacker. Imagine intentionally walking up behind a veteran with PTSD and playing a recording of bombs, and gunfire, then laughing about it. That’s how it felt for me. There was no safety zone, and was constantly on red-alert.
Regardless of what firing mechanism was used, I was told how “ridiculous” I was, and how they were just teasing me. Really? Is there any humor in sexual abuse, or any other type of abuse? The teasing was never directly related to the abuse because that was a taboo subject. It was important to lower my expectations of being validated, or encouraged to heal. Suggesting that would be nice was chided by ego. Had I been physically injured, a morsel of concern may possibly be expressed, but only after poking the origin of the pain. So it’s true, I did it to myself, I asked for it by placing myself back in the battle zone.
For way too long, I played into the idea of “you have to, because they are family.” So many times in trying to heal the dysfunction, I would hear, “you’re the one who sounds dysfunctional.” Wow. Talk about listening and responding from ego rather than from compassion.
I tried to get along with them by helping myself, knowing they were not going to support me emotionally, but was told that reading self-help books was stupid. Hence the words in the title; Self-Help is Never Stupid. Because I was constantly trying to look deeper and fix myself, I would get the PeeWee Herman, “I know you are, but what am I routine.” I never said I wasn’t dysfunctional, I was admitting that I was dysfunctional, and I wanted help, I needed help, and I was begging for help, but this wasn’t the Enterprise responding to an S.O.S. either, it was my biological family.
Even though I stuck around, and kept my mouth shut for many years about the sexual abuse, brought it up once and put it away again for another 10 years, I was accused of needing a 100% agreement to get along with them. A peace treaty with the Klingons and Romulans wasn’t going to happen.
My Mother while claiming to have read about the effects of sexual abuse, is clearly clueless, and blames me by saying “why did you go back”? Really? Go back to my sister’s homes who I loved dearly, who I thought loved me, who I thought would never endanger me. Can a pre-teen, teen brain really be expected to compute that both her sisters could possibly have married total creeps, Radiohead – “Creep” and that her family is completely dysfunctional, doesn’t know they are dysfunctional, and wouldn’t admit to it even if they did know it? Really, Mom? Why did I go back? Ignoring the fact that many of the occurrences happened in her home, under her own nose. Of course she can’t comprehend that, how can she since every time I tried to talk about it, she’d say “I can’t listen to this, I’m busy.”
To heal ourselves, we have to take that deep look into space and time, and see that the dysfunction didn’t start with us, recognize the invisible disabilities of the people we are dealing with, and move on using the conscious awareness, integrity and wisdom we have developed on our own.
To me saying “why did you go back,” is no different than asking me “why didn’t you just run away from home.” The question is not asked from a place of trying to understand, it’s asked from a place of ego, accusation, and blame; that somehow I asked for it.” Why did I go back? Like most survivors of incestuous abuse, “you just hope it will never happen again.” We have to stop blaming ourselves.
My mother says “you would never listen.” Interesting because from 13-16, I would beg to go to counseling. Her response was, “settle down, you don’t know what problems are, and you’d better pray to God that you don’t ever find out.” My father’s response was “there’s not a god damn thing wrong with you that a good crack in the ass won’t fix.” Who wasn’t listening? I listened to every single word.
Can we accept and forgive their inability to see? Yes. Do we need to continue to tow that broken ship back to space dock over and over? No.
From Chapter 4 in my book:
“Abuse is not acceptable and has no value in our world if our goal is to achieve inner and outer peace, freedom, and joy.”
We all want to be feel loved by family, but once you come to the realization that this is like the Kobayashi Maru, (the no-win scenario from Star Trek), do as Kirk did; change the program.
Did Kirk cheat? No. He refused to accept defeat. He said “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.” This is what all survivors, and anyone who is suffering must learn to do for their own comfort and safety. This is what we must learn to Transform Being Pissed-off, Numb, in Denial, or Emotional into Peace & Passion; the subtitle of my book.
Like Kirk, we have to make our own rules, change the conditions of what’s testing you, allow yourself to be an original thinker; be in command of the starship that is you.
If others see you as out of control, so what! They only see it that way because they have lost power and control over you.
It’s time to just end the insanity of all war. Stop hurting one another. I’ve laid down my arms. I’ve walked away. I’m not going to defend myself anymore against the claim that I am the one that’s hurting them. I didn’t start it but I am ending it.
For some of you it was a parent who abused you. Don’t force yourself or place yourself in a situation that triggers pain, and knocks you out of balance because of the societal belief that our parents and family love us even if they don’t know how or don’t show it. Their inability to be kind and loving is not our fault.
In Chapter 4; discussing belief about love and abuse: “Oh, they didn’t mean it.” Not meaning it doesn’t excuse it. “Abuse is not kind. Abuse is not compassionate; it’s not conscious.”
In the words of Spock, quoting part of the Prime Directive, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” It’s easy to believe you are the problem when you are one, standing against the many.
As more survivors stand up, we become the many which is the only way we can eradicate abuse and offer reassurance that we can, not only survive, but we can “boldly go, where no man has gone before.” In our case, beyond survival. One by one changing our conditions, changes the conditions for everyone and that is the only way, we survivors, will change the programmed condition of abuse.
If you like what you are reading, don’t forget to buy the book, available here on the website.
R.E.M. – “The Great Beyond” R.E,M. — “The Great Beyond”
Zoe Johnston — Alchemy – This song is about a broken romantic relationship, but the words could fit an abuse survivor’s feelings easily, so I’m including them here. Alchemy – lyrics Zoe Johnston – Alchemy