IS IT ME, OR -
are they the crazy ones?
Previous: ACoAs dealing with Abusers – Silence (Part 1)
Read post: “They did the best they could” (July 2010)
REMINDER: See ACRONYM Page for abbrev.
2. SPEAKING UP
Unhealthy : Many times ACoAs will push our opinions on others, trying to be heard & convince someone of our point. It can be in the form of ranting, repeating the same thing over & over, having a tantrum or being preachy. This happens most likely when we’re with someone who clearly is not interested in what we feel or think – but we refuse to accept it, & keep trying! We think that if only we could wear them down OR figure out the ‘right way’ to say it – they would hear us & then we could get our needs met. It’s classic ACoA to want validation from the very people who can’t give it!
Taking care of ourselves means we have to ASK for something (don’t expect mind-reading) or just express our point of view. It is important to let others know what we want, but this must be done…
i. ….once we’re sure we know what our real need is in a given situation (respect, stopping an abuse, getting info or a service….), so that we’re direct & clear, rather than assuming someone should know. That’s only legitimate for infants, who can’t talk yet.
ii. ….from our Adult ego state, not from the WIC. It means short, to the point & unemotional. This works most of the time! Reasons for us to speak up to the abuser are:
• putting the Perp. on notice that we’re not available to be their Victim. It represents self-esteem, knowing we deserve respect
• standing up for our WIC and the Healthy Child. It’s our job as Loving Inner Parent, especially since no one did that for us, growing up. The focus is on what’s healthy for us rather than trying to control others. We are not speaking up for the P’s benefit – ever! It does not matter that the P. may not be able to hear us, much less expecting them to change. The WIC can hear you. Be your own champion!
iii. ….by asking the right person:
• If it’s someone you already know well, always check with yourself first : “Can they provide what I’m asking for or am I barking up the wrong tree?” DO NOT chase the impossible. We just humiliate ourselves, get furious, self-hating, then hopeless.
• If you’re asking a stranger (like ‘Customer Service’) & you don’t get what you need from one person, keep trying until you get someone who knows what they’re doing, & can supply your request – if it’s actually possible & realistic! When we don’t give up, we succeed more often.
b. Not Talking
Unhealthy – see previous post
Obviously there are times when the safest, wisest thing is to be quiet & walk away, but the reason for doing so has to come from our healthy Adult, not the scared or angry child. It’s really hard for ACoAs to let someone think they’ve ‘won’ over us. When we’re dealing with anyone who is unreasonable & totally into their narcissistic position, then fighting to get our point across is futile. If we push it we just make a fool of ourselves.
Reasons to be quiet, when:
• you are wrong, & need to admit it, if only to yourself
• the situation does not allow you to win, no matter how hard you try
• it means saving your dignity (instead of controlling, showing off, getting even, punishing ….)
• faced with a volatile person looking for a fight – especially if you’re not trained to handle it (physical or verbal)
• dealing with someone who always needs to be right (& others always wrong)
• confronted with an authority figure who can harm you (boss, cops…)
• dealing with an active addict – they’re not in control of their reactions & can’t listen to reason
Silence or Denial? Can you save yourself from getting run over by a car if you’re blindfolded & wandering in the street? NO! ACoAs keep suffering – unnecessarily – as long as our eyes are tightly closed to the damage others do to us, even inadvertently. Yes, sometimes we are the source of our pain – from the WIC or the PP – which can be corrected with compassion & eliminating harmful self-talk. However, when someone outside of ourselves is being mean, selfish, crazy or cruel towards us, it causes us pain – just as it would for anyone. Sometimes even more so because of our earlier wounds. By recognizing when our pain is coming from the bad voice or another person, we can eliminate ALL our Self-Hate.
EXP: You get shot by stray bullets in a nearby gunfight that you have nothing to do with. You don’t die but are left having to deal with severe injuries that take a long time to heal. You didn’t do the shooting, so you didn’t cause your wounds – even if you unfortunately happened to be in the vicinity. So why do ACoAs blame themselves for the abuse received by sick people who spray their damage all over us AND everywhere else?
WE need to be clear that we don’t cause someone to abuse or neglect us, & therefore don’t create the resulting pain! Yes, it is up to us to:
• say something appropriate, &/or to get away from them
• to tend to our emotional wounds in a safe way
• to correct any thought distortions that may sneak in
BUT we were not the source of the mistreatment! It’s not our fault the other person chose to act in a certain way. The clearer we are about who is responsible for what actions – theirs vs. ours – the kinder we can be to ourselves, & the pleasanter our lives become.
Validation - We may need someone to help us identify ‘who did what’ but this has to come from other, healthy sources – not the P. It’s one reason Al-Anon stresses “Detach! Let go” – with love, with hate, with humor… any way possible! Remember, you wouldn’t demand that a person blind from birth would see what you can see. Don’t chase abusers – for anything, especially to admit they’re wrong!
NEXT: ACoAs: Partner Abuse