Archive for the ‘Effects of abuse’ Category

Sleigh bells? Something’s ringing….

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

My tinnitus (persistent ringing in the ears) became noticeable to me in 2005 or so. Recently, it seems to me to have gotten yet louder. I can hear it when things get only vaguely calm or quiet.

In doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that mychronic dizziness may, in part, have led to the tinnitus. (My dizziness is caused by the orthostatic hypotension that I inherited from my mother’s side; I’ve been dealing with it since I was fourteen.) Also, apparently long-term severe stress can cause or worsen the malady.

How ironic: After years of mocking me for my dizziness, my husband now claims  that he is the one with the hypotension (which started, no doubt, shortly after he starting having his period) and that he suffered years of stress resulting from spousal abuse (he likes to tell people that I beat him up regularly). And now I may go deaf because of it. It’s almost funny.

The genesis of extreme behaviors

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

My sister and I were recently talking about how those termed “codependent” are viewed as being either subservient (“doormats”) or controlling (“control freaks”), and sometimes both (by veering between the two). We agreed that this makes quite a lot of sense, when considered within the context of childhood abuse.

We spent our formative years being required to do whatever we were told, no matter how much we didn’t like it. “Obedience” and “submission” were the primary ideals of our parents and their supporters; there was no greater sin than “rebellion”. So of course we got good at being doormats; it was explicitly required of us, and necessary for survival.

But we were also held responsible for everything that annoyed or upset others. Somehow, no matter how little power, influence, participation, or even knowledge (or physical presence) we’d had, the outcome was our “fault”. So of course we got good at frantically attempting to anticipate every outcome, desparately trying to steer things in less-damaging directions. We were going to be punished when things went south. We’d have been stupid not to try to steer things north. This was implicitly required of us, and greatly enhanced survival.

Why do we veer between the two? Because these are the only two options we knew growing up. In addition, anything in that vast middle ground of moderation and balance was decried as “phoning it in”, “doing things half-assed”, or other, more critical terms. If we did something, we were supposed to “do our best” and “give it our all”.

What the healthy world calls “moderation” was a punishable offense in our world.

Family traditions

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I always swore that I’d never do, to any child I had, what my parents had done to the kids they’d had. I worked very carefully not to marry my father. Instead, I ended up marrying my mother. Which may be worse.

I worked so hard at my marriage, trying to help my husband succeed, to feel good about himself, to be happy (or at least maybe not always so angry). I didn’t marry him the way he is now. But somehow, over the years, as he became more and more distant, more and more angry, more and more critical, I slid slowly back into the patterns of my childhood. Instead of being an emotional punching bag for my parents, I became the punching bag for him.

It was hardly how I’d meant for things to end up; I didn’t chose this end. But I got there anyway. And along the way, I tolerated way too much that was way too bad, and for way too long.

How much damage have I done to my son? What has he unknowingly internalized about how to treat women in general, intimates in particular? About how to treat family? About how to stand up for himself in a healthy way? Or will he suppress and erupt instead?

Have I passed down my family’s craziness to another generation?

“They seek it out.”

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Have you ever heard somebody say that people who were abused as children or in intimate relationships “seek out” abusers? The idea seems to be that we are trying to “recreate” an awful experience in order to “do it right this time”. To me, this seems mostly to be a way of dismissing our pain, blaming us for it and minimizing the causes and effects of abuse.

And it doesn’t stand up to close examination of either the logic or the facts.

Think about abused children. More specifically, think about the child who are preferentially targetted by child abusers like pedophiles. Did these children somehow want what happened to them? Did they seek out the creepy guy in the rusty van?

And did the creepy guy seek out the happy, healthy, confident, cherished child? Or did he look for the kid who’s already hurt, already broken? The one who has already spent way too long doing things he didn’t want to do, things that hurt him (and maybe others that he cared about); the one who is already desparately lonely and unloved?

The pedophile looks for kids who are hungering for any kind of apparent affection, who are already used to doing things they think are probably wrong, who are used to not having choices. They look for the broken, the damaged, the hurting, the defenseless.

Does that mean that their victims deserved it, or somehow brought the abuse upon themselves? Most rational caring people would say, “No, of course not!” And they would be correct:

The pedophile’s victims didn’t ask to be abused in the first place, and they didn’t “seek out” their revictimization. Why are the abused so likely to be revictimized? Because their hunters are looking for the weak.

Think about a nature special, where the lions are stalking the herd of wildebeest. They somehow manage to pick out a weaker member of the herd. Usually, I can’t tell any reason for the one they’ve picked out. But they know. It’s their business to know. They can sense it. Do we say that the wildebeest they’ve chosen “sought out” the lions, that it wants to “recreate” some traumatic event from its calf-hood? Of course not; that would be nonsense. In fact, we would probably easily accept the premise that the lions’ target has no idea what “signals” it is broadcasting to the lions, and dearly wishes that it weren’t.

In much the same way, those children who are vicimized by their families and then revictimized by others, both inside and outside their families, do not “seek out” their new suffering. They don’t know what “signals” they’re broadcasting, and likely dearly wish that they weren’t.

I believe the same reasoning holds for adult survivors of intimate abuse, whether that abuse happened in childhood, adulthood, or both. We have been broken, and we don’t realize the “signals” we’re broadcasting. We don’t seek out our new abusers; they find us, just like the creepy guy with the van found his lastest child.

We didn’t break us, we didn’t damage ourselves. And we certainly aren’t “seeking” out the opportunity for more of the same. I wish others would do us the respect of putting the blame where it belongs.