Saturday, September 22, 2007
These stories are not new to me, having read hundreds of thousands of emails over the years depicting torturous and unbelievable acts of abuse. However, it always takes a moment longer for me to come to terms with mothers who turn on their own children, in order to gain the "love" of a man in their life. They themselves, abuse victims in the hell that is intimate partner violence. Part of me feels torn by the understanding that they face their own fear and pain and yet, I cannot condone the line that is crossed from victim to abuser.
There were so many levels to this particular case, but what I was struck by was an issue that screams true for so many women; needing a man in order to feel validated, worthy, loved. Often, women (and men) who are survivors of abuse will do find themselves doing things and allowing things to be done without questioning the impact of their decision. There is a laundry list of reason why such things happen, but one very important factor is conditioning.
If you are told that you are useless and unworthy each and every day of your life, parts of you, if not all of you will begin to believe it. There is truth behind the saying "thoughts are things" in that what you believe you become. If you are a vulnerable child your choice and sense of reality outside of your caregivers is drastically reduced and the name and expectations placed upon you will be your burden until you are old enough or fortunate enough to learn otherwise. For all of us, I believe this means being our own teachers.
A few years ago, I found myself in a relationship with a man who was quite older than me. I didn't realize at that time, that a large part of my connection to him was based on my relationship with my father. An odd and somewhat disconcerting realization, however one that looking back and being a survivor of incest, makes a lot of sense to me now. To make a long story short, I allowed myself to stay in this relationship and undergo behavior that I now see as abusive on many levels.
I fell in love with a man, and allowed him to control me in order to gain his affection and approval, much like I did with my father. The difference here is that I am no longer the abused child of 4 years old, but instead a grown woman making adult choices. The catch? On many levels, in the decisions that I made in that relationship (and others like it), my inner child, the one who learned what love was from her father, was still seeking love in the same way from men who could not give her what she needed. Self-worth, validation, self-respect, a true sense of self are all things that we must find in ourselves and that cannot be resolved by others.
I see myself as fortunate to have gotten out of that relationship before marriage or children. I can only imagine how much more complicated life would have been had my life changed even slightly to the left or where it is today. I see my mother and sister in my own experience, yet they were not as fortunate. My sister, passed and my mother having spent 30 years with an abusive husband. I see that choices that she made. I try not to judge her and yet, sometimes I do, still. I wish that all women and men will see their worth and never make the choices that will endanger themselves or their children. We must break the cycle now before it is too late.
I have a friend who lives her life in goodness. Like many of us, she is a caregiver. She spends her days helping others. She also lives her life in fear, each day looking over her shoulder and doing the best she can to stay safe. Her life, one of unbelievable turmoil and incredible strength. She fights for the rights of so many but like many of us, forgets or is sometimes unable to see how worthy she is of love, how much she is already loved or simply that she is not alone.
So, I write this short blog in response to the pain I shared in a moment of disclosure. A moment where the world came crashing down and the realization that what was normal, can no longer be that again, but that we must redefine what normal is and rebuild foundations. I speak to all of those that have experienced pain, confusion and fear.
To those who have been granted second, third and forth chances, that we should know that even in the darkest of hours; there is light. That there is love and friendship.
That there is hope. We all need hope.