YOUR ABUSIVE PARTNER DOESN’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH HIS ANGER; HE HAS A PROBLEM WITH YOUR ANGER. One of the basic human rights he takes away from you is the right to be angry with him. No matter how badly he treats you, he believes that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. The privilege of rage is reserved for him alone. When your anger does jump out of you—as will happen to any abused woman from time to time—he is likely to try to jam it back down your throat as quickly as he can. Then he uses your anger against you to prove what an irrational person you are. Abuse can make you feel straitjacketed. You may develop physical or emotional reactions to swallowing your anger, such as depression, nightmares, emotional numbing, or eating and sleeping problems, which your partner may use as an excuse to belittle you further or make you feel crazy.
In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.
The abuser’s mood changes are especially perplexing. He can be a different person from day to day, or even from hour to hour. At times he is aggressive and intimidating, his tone harsh, insults spewing from his mouth, ridicule dripping from him like oil from a drum. When he’s in this mode, nothing she says seems to have any impact on him, except to make him even angrier. Her side of the argument counts for nothing in his eyes, and everything is her fault. He twists her words around so that she always ends up on the defensive. As so many partners of my clients have said to me, “I just can’t seem to do anything right.” At other moments, he sounds wounded and lost, hungering for love and for someone to take care of him. When this side of him emerges, he appears open and ready to heal. He seems to let down his guard, his hard exterior softens, and he may take on the quality of a hurt child, difficult and frustrating but lovable. Looking at him in this deflated state, his partner has trouble imagining that the abuser inside of him will ever be back. The beast that takes him over at other times looks completely unrelated to the tender person she now sees. Sooner or later, though, the shadow comes back over him, as if it had a life of its own. Weeks of peace may go by, but eventually she finds herself under assault once again. Then her head spins with the arduous effort of untangling the many threads of his character, until she begins to wonder whether she is the one whose head isn’t quite right.
There certainly are some women who treat their male partners badly, berating them, calling them names, attempting to control them. The negative impact on these men’s lives can be considerable. But do we see men whose self-esteem is gradually destroyed through this process? Do we see men whose progress in school or in their careers grinds to a halt because of the constant criticism and undermining? Where are the men whose partners are forcing them to have unwanted sex? Where are the men who are fleeing to shelters in fear for their lives? How about the ones who try to get to a phone to call for help, but the women block their way or cut the line? The reason we don’t generally see these men is simple: They’re rare. I don’t question how embarrassing it would be for a man to come forward and admit that a woman is abusing him. But don’t underestimate how humiliated a woman feels when she reveals abuse; women crave dignity just as much as men do. If shame stopped people from coming forward, no one would tell.
All people cross the line from childhood to adulthood with a secondhand opinion of who they are. Without any questioning, we take as truth whatever our parents and other influentials have said about us during our childhood, whether these messages are communicated verbally, physically, or silently.
There is a moment in our healing journey when our denial crumbles; we realize our experience and it's continued effects on us won't "just go away". That's our breakthrough moment. It's the sun coming out to warm the seeds of hope so they can grow our personal garden of empowerment.
Dissociated trauma memories don't reveal themselves like ordinary memories. Like pieces of a puzzle, they escape the primitive part of our brain where the trauma has been stored without words. These starkly vivid and detailed images are defined by our five senses and emotions, but there is no 'story'. So we are left trying to comprehend the incomprehensible while trying to describe what doesn't make sense. Healing is about collecting as many pieces as possible. It's finding words for what we are seeing and feeling - even when it sounds crazy. It's daring to speak our truth until it makes sense.
It takes Wonder Woman courage and Superman strength to heal the wounds of our abuse... because it brings change... and we are inclined to hold on to the stability we created in the chaos of our past experiences. So imagine more. Take small steps. Be guided by your personal truth and not the impressions left by the bad guys in your childhood story.
In addition to reaching out for help, you will also need to reach within yourself. Your biggest ally will be your emotions. Through them, you will learn more about what really happened to you, how the abuse affected you, and what you need to do in order to heal. Your emotions will enable you to reclaim the self you long ago hid away.
Our abusive parent didn't give us the gentle, encouraging nurturing we needed. But healing invites us to give our inner child the kind of loving empowerment that will help us reach our potential and celebrate our spirit. Move past what you wished you could have experienced and embrace the uncommon, sweet possibilities of being your own best parent.
He had suddenly the clearest understanding he had ever had of the way his father had gone so wrong. A man's strength was supposed to be against the outside world; to fight it back from himself and from those he took under his protection: his wife, his children, and for a man strong enough, more people still, people like his employees. To turn it inward, against the very people you had been given the strength to protect, because you couldn't deal with the outward fight, was the ultimate weakness.
There are many heartfelt reasons for pushing our childhood sexual abuse to the edge of our lives and one amazing reason to embrace a healing journey; it reunites us with our shining, colorful, joyful spirit.
Stuffing our memories might become familiar over the years, but it requires a mental vigilance that separates us from our inner world. It's building our lives making sure we never step on any path that might lead us to the tender and scary places we carry within us. We don't dare explore the unknown. We can't allow new possibilities. And yet, those are the very paths connected to the core of who we are beyond our abuse.
Logic becomes a loud voice when the wall of our past abuse begin to crack with awareness. But that's our adult speaking. The child within, who had the experience, talks to us through flashes of insights. Trust your perceptions. They are a powerful guide in healing.
There was a moment of hesitation in which Joe looked into her eyes, and she looked back without flinching. Many a time, he had been at the same game with her, and she had always crumbled, bowing to his will. Now, he must have realized he was looking into the eyes of a stranger. She was someone he could not recognize, a foreigner inhabiting the body of that old Clairey, the girl he had abused, intimidated, and broken. Clairey decided then and there she would no longer cower before him. It was almost as if she were daring him to strike her in their unspoken exchange.
In the weeds of childhood sexual abuse, we are the sturdy flowers that kept reaching for a slip of sunshine and a trickle of water so we could grow into wildly beautiful, singular people. Together, we are creating a colorful bouquet that is changing the world.
So many moments of potential holiday joy got buried in the pain of our abuse. Now these days offer us a chance to give our inner child the gift of caring. Sometimes it's as simple as asking, "What do you want?" Most often the answer is a small thing. Be a Santa to your wounded child and feel the healing passed forward to you.
Clairey tasted the bile rising up in her throat, could smell the pathetic fear she was giving off, and they were as familiar to her as waking and sleep, as hunger and thirst. In her time of peace there with Ellis, she had nearly forgotten the taste and smell of it, how her joints became liquid and her mouth became sour. That was what violence did to her.