HOW BAD WAS IT?
It’s hard for me to know!
PREVIOUS: Victims or Not?
REVIEW: “Feeling Sorry For….”
REMINDER: See ACRONYM Page for abbrev.
VICTIMs or NOT? (V = victim , P = Perpetrator / abuser)
ACoAs have tendency to get most things backward:
• Sanity tells us the TRUTH : We did go thru a terribly painful childhood – were very real Victims of our home, neighborhood, school, religion, & playground. We had no choice & very few options. We were Vs then, but we don’t have to be Vs any more.
• BUT the distorted logic of SELF-HATE says the opposite:
– it wasn’t all that bad (altho we do know it was)
– they DID loved us / they did the best they could
– we were NOT really Victims – just selfish, weak, bad flawed, hopeless – and will be forever!
As long as we hold this lie as our only reality, we can’t fully recover – & it’s why we get stuck. Before Recovery – & sometimes long into it – ACoAs’ reaction to our early trauma come in 2 major forms:
a. Perpetual: Many ACoAs are still actively living IN the old destructive patterns set out for us, & refuse to give up the V. ROLE. The attitude is: “I was then & am forever a casualty of my family / school / church….. I just can’t cope. You can’t expect me to function. I can’t do anything differently now because I’m so debilitated by those experiences. Someone has to take care of me”….
We stay loyal to our Ps so we don’t have to:
• do the lifelong hard work of healing our wounds (to feel)
• fully take care of ourselves as healthy adults, having ‘done that’ as kids, AND —
✶ lose the proof of what was done to us as kids! “If I get better, no one will ever know how much they hurt me, & I want everyone to see it & feel sorry for me!”.
It is a sad reality that most people in our culture assume that if someone ‘looks good’ it means that: they’ve healthy, always had it easy, must have come from a good home, don’t have any problems & never needed to overcome anything.
So, ACoAs who are looking for external validation for our trauma – from everyone – believe we can only get it if we stay miserable. This keeps us torturing ourselves unnecessarily, which is a great shame. We DO need validation, but gradually it has to be internalized, so that we always “know what I know” in all settings.
Re. Self-Pity – John W. Garner (Sec of Health, Education & Welfare) said:
“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” There is truth in this, but ACoAs have to be very careful – of getting things backwards again.
NEGATIVE: Perpetual Vs indulge in Self-pity, which is an emotion generated by the ‘poor-me’s (T): “Everything goes wrong for me, no one likes me, I can never get a leg up…” There is no responsibility taken for their actions – or more likely NON-actions – & always blame others for causing their woes.
POSITIVE: Having deep compassion for ourselves is NOT self-pity. Feeling sorry for the WIC is self-caring, a respect and sorrow for all the hardships we’ve endured – which we did not cause. This is hard for ACoA to do without disgust & annoyance, the way our parents & other caretakers felt towards us as kids.
We DO need to mourn, feel angry, be sad, feel the loss of time & opportunities our damage has stolen from us. That is NOT living in Victim mentality! The more we can feel these things the healthier we get. Mourning the loss of what we never got is a crucial part of Recovery, & the beginning of Transformation
b. Stoic: At the other extreme are the ACoAs (often Heros) who can’t admit anything bad happened to them. These believe we were not abused & that everything was fine. Even if we do sometimes say it wasn’t all great, we believe it was our fault. We walk around with emotional stab wounds, bleeding from unseen trauma & pretend nothing’s wrong.
Our closest & ‘dearest’ can carelessly spew their damage at us, YET we blame ourselves! We say: “But, they didn’t mean it / They didn’t know any better”…. What we’re actually saying is : “Since they didn’t mean to hurt me, I have no reason to be upset (I don’t want to feel anything)”. Phew!
• This reasoning is flawed because ACoAs are in fact sad, lonely, disappointed, hurt & angry! It’s not healthy for us to ignore what’s going on – inside or outside. Denying that we were wounded by our family and that we have many & complex emotions – is a way to victimize ourselves.
If adults are enraged by being mistreated over time, how much more so are children, who are dependent, vulnerable & powerless. Abuse & neglect is terrifying & humiliating, no matter what the reason for or motivation of the P. As kids, the longer we had to ignore bad behavior, the angrier we got – which then gets acted out on ourselves & others. EXP: Reason for the murder of Martha Moxley, seen near the end of the TV movie “Murder in Greenwich” (2002).
REVIEW of why we don’t want to “know what I know”. It’s because:
• the situation is futile – since we can’t change it – so why even notice. This is NOT the healthy Powerlessness of Recovery, ie. Letting Go
• it means having to S & I (leave home), be on our own, give up the WIC’s desperate wish to be taken care of
• it means giving up the WIC’s hope (demand) that they will get better, love us, turn things around, connect with us
• we’ll have to give up the illusory power of our S-H (I can fix people-places-things so they stop hurting me)
• we’ll have to feel the depth of pain about how badly we’ve been treated
• it’ll make us angry, & we’re not allowed to be angry at ‘them’ OR to WEEP about it!
Re. Pity for others
One way stoic ACoAs can feel superior & also deny our pain – is to feel sorry for others, especially our parents & mates. It may seem like a show of kindness & empathy on our part, but all it does is allow Ps to get away with being inappropriate & stay unhealed. Feeling pity for abusive & incompetent people is used to disguise our anger at them for not taking care of themselves & not carrying their weight in the relationship. Protecting someone else’s feelings from the truth (how their damage affects us) is not only arrogant, it’s abdicating our responsibility to ourselves – by giving someone permission to neglect us, beat up our Inner Child & disrespect our Healthy Adult!
• “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” ~ Harvey Fierstein
• “You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.” ~ Maria (from ‘Eleven Minutes’, book & play by Paulo Coelho)
Not letting ourselves feel ALL our emotions (high achievers, isolators, rescuers, caretakers, Mascots….), especially the old sorrow & rage, has a high price – it keeps us separated from ourselves and from others, making us ‘dead’ & alone – even if we keep busy, busy & have lots of relationships. RECOVERY is about moving out of the Victim Role into our True Self.
NEXT: Grandiosity vs Normal