We all have that inner child part that is waiting to be rescued. It doesn’t require something awful to happen in our childhoods. At some point in our childhoods, we were not treated fairly and our needs were not met. This is natural. Children are born with needs that are hard for adults to meet. And so, deep inside, there is a part that waits for those needs to be met by others.
This insatiable and global desire for a hero to rescue us manifests everywhere. We see it in our movies and books about super heroes of all shapes and sizes. We see it in those co-dependent relationships which never seem to meet our expectations. And we see it in the anti-trafficking movement. Continue reading →
How many people in your life would qualify as the “A-word”? You know those people who are nasty and manipulative and selfish, the people who are only interested in what’s in it for them. And I label them as abusers. (What word were you thinking of?) They aren’t necessarily punching you or sexually assaulting you, but their behavior is abusive on the emotional and mental levels.
Sometimes I wonder if trauma survivors are more prone to come across abusers. I wonder if there is a sign on my back that says, “I was horribly mistreated by my parents so that makes me more likely to succumb to your nasty bullying behavior.” (That message may be a little long.) And while I could spend hours, even days, feeling victimized all over again, I know I have to look at this from a different perspective. It is not possible to change the abusers. It is not possible to avoid the abusers entirely. While I am proud to say I have learned to set better boundaries, the abusers will always be around. I have to understand how I am reacting to them internally. My reaction must change. Nothing else can. Continue reading →
I recently read the first two Harry Potter books to my eight-year-old twins. They were astounded by them. My children’s entire lives shifted forever when Harry saw Quirrell standing in front of the mirror at the end of the first book. I knew it would be surprising to them. The brilliance of the Harry Potter stories is their unpredictable nature. And since my children are still processing things as black and white, they just received a mind-blowing lesson in “things are not always as they seem”.
But I have a truly shameful revelation to make. I had never read these books either. I know. I may have been the last person on the face of the Earth who had not read them. I am not sure why. I have always loved fantasy stories. I filled my childhood with unicorns, wizards and fairies just to keep distracted from my reality. But I was already an adult when the Harry Potter series first came out. And I was living in a world of obligation. I didn’t make time for my own entertainment. And my dissociated brain had trouble focusing on books, so I usually didn’t read unless required by school or work. Of course, I went to the theater for the first couple of movies like the rest of the world. But as is usually the case, the books are in another league. Continue reading →
My family members were masters at squashing rebellion. It is what any good (or bad) dictator learns how to do before all else. It only takes one person to rise up against you, one bad link in the chain, and the empire can fall. Personally, I could not imagine depending on the fear in others to maintain the life I want. It sounds like a lot of work to keep that house of cards intact. But many are willing to try it because they think it is the only way to have power and control. And honestly, what can be easier than teaching children to fear you … especially if they are your children? I believe this actually works most of the time. I believe there are thousands (or more) of children who never speak of their devastating childhoods, who spend their entire lives deeply hating their parents while going through the motions of one big happy family, even arranging the perfect funeral for their parents in the end.
My parents were expecting everything to happen just like that. After all, it is what they had done for their parents. And who are we kidding? Their parents did it too. Unfortunately for them, they had me. I have a rebellious side. I have always had a problem with people telling me what to do. I told far more people about their abuse than they expected. They had to do far more cover up than they had planned. And then, at 38 years old, I blew the lid off the whole thing, denying them their self-ascribed right to abuse their grandchildren and keep the cycle going. I know they feel like the victims. I know because they told me. They told me I was breaking their hearts and that they didn’t deserve this treatment. They never expected this to happen. But unfortunately for them, they had me. Continue reading →
The other day, during my presentation to an audience of medical professionals, one of the doctors asked a good question. “Many of these victims eventually become abusers, so what do we do when they start abusing others? How do we treat them when they are no longer a victim but a perpetrator?” I didn’t have an answer for his question. It is true that many victims of childhood violence will turn that trauma on others if they don’t get help. It is easy to focus on our victimhood. We have been wronged horribly and we deserve to be heard. As a matter of a fact, I believe most people spend a lot of their time focused on how they have been wronged. But there is another side to us. There is the angry, raging person who is fed up with this world. There is a criminal.
You have probably heard about the Rolling Stone article discussing the prevalence and denial of sexual violence at the University of Virginia. Or maybe you haven’t heard because unlike me, you are not an alumnus of that University and do not follow hundreds of Facebook pages devoted to sexual violence. Needless to say, I have been inundated with the article and comments from others. And my reaction has been strong.
My strong reaction is not because I am opposed to violence. It is not because UVA is my alma mater and I am concerned about its future as a school. It is not because this happens at every school with almost the same response from administration. My reaction is much more personal.
When I was growing up, I suffered all types of abuse, but I find the most difficult to overcome was the abandonment and neglect. While my abusers stayed in my life (to my dismay), they emotionally left me before I was born. They neglected me in my early life by not meeting my basic needs. So while they were still around, they were not, unless of course, they needed something from me. This feeling of abandonment was exacerbated by the bystanders who walked out of my life while I hoped they would help me.
In my adult life, I struggle to find gratitude and appreciate what I have. It seems as though the people, animals and things that matter to me the most are appreciated the least. It seems that way, but it isn’t the case. As a child, I “learned” that what mattered to me most would be taken away. In some cases, this was a result of manipulative parents who would use my favorite things against me so they could break me. They would also remove my favorite people from my life because they were dangerously close to exposing the family secrets. And their methods certainly worked. So, I developed a defense mechanism. Continue reading →