CK Reyes of Divine Purpose Unleashed ( http://divinepurposeunleashed.com/ ) has provided me with the spark of inspiration for this article when she recently left a comment at the end of my article "Blame Keeps You Stuck . . . " found at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2008/01/blame-keeps-you-stuck-incest-may-be.html .
In her comment CK talks about how blaming can keep us in the victim mode. Then she gives a list of three thoughts that can form the dynamic of blaming for many of us. Go read the rest of her comment at the above article link and come back here for my answer to her statement, "Until we stop blaming ourself, I think that this dynamic can keep the cycle of abuse going." And her question to me, "What do you think?"
My siblings and I were raised with the same dynamic about loving that CK mentions. We were taught to love our parents who then abused us either actively with sexual abuse and alcoholism or covertly by withholding love as a way of showing disapproval. From our dad, we were taught that the threat of physical violence and verbal violence were just a breath away from happening in our home. Silence was just effective of a weapon taught by our mother who also sometimes would slap you across the face if you said something she didn't like. I remember those slaps as being the most humiliating moments of my life.
We were taught to love our parents. In order to do that, for me, that meant stuffing any emotions that I felt because they had the potential to become violent and hurt others if they were released. That also meant protecting my mom from having to feel her own emotions so I also took those on. Don't ask me how that process worked. I don't have an answer. I just know that is what I did. How do you truly love someone else when your own emotions are stuffed and unfelt? I couldn't until I learned to feel the whole range of emotions many years later.
One of the unspoken lessons of this dynamic is, to quote CK, "The abuse must mean love." That was the lesson that I and many other children of abuse learned from our parents and their brand of love. I was terrified of people and being hurt. I was in love with the idea of being in love. How could I possibly know what love was? I thought I knew from reading books and from TV movies. Believe me when I say, that is not what love is. My parents thought me that being loved meant being abused. The books and movies said that when someone loved you, they would protect you. Talk about confusion!!!
The first boy that was brave enough (or arrogant enough to think he could outwit my dad) to ask my dad if I could go out on a date with him was also an abuser. I didn't see it at the time. All I saw was LOVE. I thought if he paid attention to me, he must care. He must love me the way that I so desperately craved to be loved, the way that I so desperately craved to be the center of someone else's world. I just wanted someone to protect me and take me out of my life. If this boy had asked I would have left home, run away (I knew my dad would never let me go.) and I would have become a battered woman. There is no doubt in my mind.
This boy saw me as someone weaker than him who could be manipulated and treated however he chose. What he did do was take me to his sister's house to borrow her clothes to wear because what I was wearing (I had spent hours trying to put together a pants suit.) wasn't good enough for our date, in his eyes. (That was my first sign that something wasn't right about this date.) We went out to eat and then to a bar on the Bossier Strip (Bossier City, Louisiana, 1970's). We then went to his lake cabin where we had sex.
You have to understand that in my mind sex equated to the only way that a man could love a woman. In my love dynamic, Love Equals Sex, otherwise a man had no interest in a woman. I didn't know that I could choose to say no. I didn't know that I had a right to say no if that was my choice. I am not proud of this part of my life and my daughter is learning about much of it now since she reads my blog articles. I was a needy, naive, hurting child at the age of 19. In many ways at 19, I was still that 11 year old who was sexually abused. So, I allowed the abuse to happen again, in the form of this boyfriend. I thank God that he only asked me out a total of four times and he never asked me to run away with him, even though on our first date, he made the comment that he ought to take me away from my dad. There was instant animosity between the two of them. They recognised each other as being made from the same mold. The fourth time that this boy asked me out, I had the courage to say no.
The next boy that asked me out was an alcoholic but I didn't notice it at the time. There was no sex with this boy because I had finally begun to discover that I could say no. Me saying no may very well be the reason that there was no second date. I would run across this boy on campus at college occasionally. He went back to his old girlfriend who would drink with him and probably also said yes to sex. Don't take that as a judgment against her. That is not the way I meant it.
Then, by the grace of God, I met the boy who was to become my husband. That is not to say that there wasn't dysfunction in our relationship. There was. We both came from families with alcoholism. Mine was more obvious than my husband's. His dad was a dry drunk, which means that my husband never saw his dad take a drink. He quit when he married my mother-in-law.
The third part of CK's dynamic is "If someone loves me, then they must abuse me and if they don't I need to find someone who will so I can be loved." My sister is my best example of seeing this constantly being played out in her life. (Joann is reading this.) I have watched her time after time be in a relationship with someone who abuses her emotionally and physically. This has probably been the most difficult part of my life---watching someone that I love being abused. It isn't something that I can change for her. I keep telling her that when she learns to love herself that she will make the changes necessary to find someone who truly loves her. This is something that I learned in Al-Anon. (I didn't create it. I can't cure it. I can't fix it.) We always manage to find the people who will treat us the way that we expect to be treated. When we love ourselves then we will only attract others who love us in the same way.
By the time that my husband came along, I was beginning to feel good about myself. I still wasn't healthy. I still wasn't dealing with the abuse. I was still choosing to pretend that if I didn't acknowledge the abuse, then it wasn't affecting me. God put people in my life that taught me that I had something good in me that was worth loving. I can look back at both of the boys that I dated and see the disaster that my life would be today if either of them had asked me to take our relationships any further than we did. Thank you God that they didn't ask.
What changed that dynamic for me? Learning to love myself. Was it an easy journey? No. There were times when others loved me enough that I could start to see that I was lovable. It started with small moments of feeling good about myself. It progressed to today when most of the time I really do love who I am, who I am becoming.
The hard part that I am still working on is loving the person that I was, especially the child that I was. Taking that child in my lap and holding her and loving her as much as I love my own son and daughter is something that I have learned to do. Doing creative things like writing and quilting are things that I can do that that child loves. Breaking the cycle of blame is done by loving yourself, loving all of yourself, especially the wounded parts that need your love and understanding the most.
CK, have I answered your question or just made more questions come to mind?
After reading over what I just wrote and going back to CK's question, I realized that I haven't talked about changing from blaming myself for the abuse to loving myself in spite of the abuse. Once I start writing, I am usually going with the flow of the words and sometimes get sidetracked.
Learning to not blame myself for the abuse was a big part of learning to love myself. Looking at children, especially my own children, helped me to stop blaming myself. I look at my children and know that if they were abused by an adult that it would definitely not be their fault. In abuse of any kind, the child is not at fault. The child is taught to think that it is their fault by the adult that abused them. It is called shame. Shame gets passed from the abuser to the abused. The abuser does this in order not to feel their own guilt. Children take on the shame because they don't know anything else to do. They believe the adult, especially if that adult is a parent. Have I completely let go of this shame in my own life? Probably not. Why do I say that? Because I am occasionally surprised to find another small pocket of it that pops up in my consciousness sometimes. I have learned to take out the inner child and hold her and hug her and love her each time that I find a new pocket of shame and talk to her until she knows that the abuse wasn't her fault. Will she/I ever be completely healed of this? I don't know.