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SITE: re. Categories of abuse
NOTE: This series will have many lists of abusive behaviors, in many categories, & from different perspectives, so there will be a lot of over-lap in headings and examples. This is deliberate. As kids we HAD to ignore, trivialize or forget what was done to us, & then act out those self-destructive patterns in our everyday lives.
We must identify exactly what happened before we can change it, & repetition is useful in breaking thru our denial. Also, reading or hearing something in different wording & context can more easily get past our defenses. The main (but not exclusive) focus of these posts is on Emotional Abuse.
ABUSE : It can happen just once with someone, or when we’re subjected to a bully for a short while. But usually it’s a long-term pattern of behavior by a severely damaged, cruel, angry &/or mentally ill person who uses their position (as parent, boss, teacher, mate, older sibling or friend, community leader…. ) to intimidate others who have less personal or social power,
OR to take advantage of those who by nature or training are more accommodating & compliant.
While most people act unkindly, even cruelly on occasion, when provoked or under great stress, what we are looking at here is ongoing attitudes & actions that tear us down, body & soul. Even when they seem intermittent, over time they wear at us !
• In general, Abuse is any communication or behavior designed to control & enslave others – to keep them ‘in their place’, to keep them from leaving, to punish them for not being who or what the perpetrator expects, or to make them into what he/she wants! It is done by continual fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion & manipulation. Abuse is any form of intrusion into another’s psyche.
It will include verbal, physical, sexual and/or emotional attacks, financial, intellectual or spiritual tactics, ranging from mild to lethal. To not respect privacy, to be brutally honest with a sadistic sense of humor, be consistently tactless, to expect too much, to denigrate, to ignore…. causes pain.
• Most people automatically assume ‘abuse’ only refers to physical harm – yelling, hitting, beating, broken bones …. so will firmly state: “I was never abused growing up”. However, because human beings are made up of 4 interlocking categories (PMES = Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual) we can be wounded OR encouraged in many ways at each level.
Therefore ACoAs can honestly say that we were severely & regularly abused by our damaged parents (& other authority figures) , especially in our emotions (Es). Since honest emotions are NOT widely recognized, valued or encouraged in our society AND in dysfunctional families, we ended up ignoring or minimizing them in ourselves, as well as in others, especially if we didn’t get physically or sexually attacked as kids.
• Most of us never felt loved. Regardless of what our parents said, or how they felt about us in their own minds & hearts – their distorted way of treating us was not an expression of healthy Love. So to compensate, we look for that everywhere we go, & from everyone we deal with. This makes us vulnerable to a subtle form of abuse – being ‘over-loved’, needed & depended on too much, OR being over-protective & infantilized. These are actually ways to treat us as an extension of themselves, as an object rather than a separate being, or a means of their personal gratification. It’s never about what the ‘beloved’ really needs or wants.
The most successful perps are “stealth abusers”, being indirect & sneaky, so one have to actually live with them to see & experience it. Being consistently selfish, controlling & mean is an immature reaction to earlier painful life experiences when the abuser was totally helpless. They use it now as a defense against their own S-H, rage & shame. It’s about trying to finally feel powerful, assert their identity, create safety & predictability, to be master of everything in their environment – to never feel vulnerable again or have to face their original wounds.
It’s irrelevant whether perps are being deliberately abusive or just unconsciously acting out their damage. The effect on others (us) is the same! This of course also applies to how we treat others.
While the majority of physical & sexual abuse is perpetrated against women & children, men in both hetero- & homo- sexual partnerships are also emotionally & physically battered. And now we are beginning to hear more about peer bullying and elder abuse. Studies show that women with any kind of major disability are at greater risk, as are unemployed men in a household where the woman works.
Victims can be of any age or gender & from any socio-economic level. While standards are different in various cultures, it occurs in virtually all countries. Because it is often learned at an early age, being abused (learned helplessness) is passed from generation to generation like a family disease, called the inter-generational cycle.
Victim’s reaction to abuse
Very confused – Do I have a right to say, or even think, that what’s happening is really Abuse? I doubt it. After all, sometimes the other person is nice to me and fun to be with, says they can’t live without me, or tells me they’re sorry. And the abuse isn’t always obvious, other people like him/her, so I may just be making it all up! Is how I feel (self-doubting, drained, fearful, angry, frustrated, hopeless …) about what the other person is doing, or am I just over-reacting?
NEXT: Victims or not?