Women in Abusive Relationships: Back to Your Future! (pt.2)

Women in Abusive Relationships: Back to Your Future! (pt.2) April 7, 2009

(Update: All the posts of this series have been collected into one piece, Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How to Defeat Each One of Them.)

Okay, so as to the nitty-gritty of how, exactly, you can go about separating yourself from some of the less-than-helpful things about yourself that, in one way or another, you learned from your parents.

No matter how trite or hackneyed it may sound, the truth remains that the first and best thing you can do to begin transitioning from the life you have to the life you want is to get into counseling and/or a support group. The journey to healing is a long one. It makes no more sense to travel on that journey alone than it does to go on a safari alone. You’ll need a guide, help, support, friends, people who have been where you are and where you want to go. Reach out to such persons and groups. They’re near you right now, willing and able to take your hand. (If you’re stuck in a situation where you just can’t get involved in counseling or group therapies, please see the third-to-last paragraph of my post Women in Bad Relationships Need Not Fear Fear).

Also, please consider this:

If you manifest habitual self-destructive behavior (which, to one degree or another, everyone does—so rest assured that you’re hardly alone there), it means that through your behavior you’re trying to resolve something inside of you that, somewhere back in your childhood, went so terribly wrong that as an adult you’ve been compelled to spend a tremendous amount of your energy getting it right.

You’re looping. You’re playing the same internal track over and over again. You’re doing that because there’s something in the particular song you keep playing that you’re trying to clearly and finally hear in the way you need to in order to once and for all get that song out of your head. You’re trying to resolve something inside of you—something critical and fundamental to your understanding of who you are—that your parents, however indirectly, bequeathed to you very much unresolved.

What you’re continuing to do, through the way your self-destructive behavior makes you feel about yourself, is to revisit the scene of one or both of your parents’ crime against you. With everything you have you’re trying, in a primal way that your conscious, everyday mind is in no way prepared to process or handle, to right what they made wrong.

This post is threatening to blossom into 40,000 words. So let me just cut to the core of what I want to say here—and then maybe later I’ll see about more properly and thoroughly exploring it.

When you were a little kid your parents lied to you about who and what you were. You believed their lie, because you were a kid—and, like all kids, you knew nothing, and believed and loved their parents.

Now, as an adult, you are struggling—a struggle that is so core to your being that its primary manifestation is your problematic/dysfunctional behavior patterns—to puzzle out the difference between the real truth, and the false “truth” that you learned from your parents.

The lie your parents told you is that you are bad—wrong, inferior, inadequate, stupid, disappointing, only worthy of their conditional love. Whatever it was that your parents taught you about yourself—and through whatever unique means they instilled that message within you—what you learned about yourself was something very negative.

What makes this negative thing your parents taught you about yourself wrong is that no child, anywhere, ever, is bad or evil or stupid or wrong. They’re all good. They’re all great. They’re all perfect. They all deserve unconditional love.

You’re having trouble rejecting what your parents taught you about yourself because it feels like rejecting your parents’ truth means rejecting them. And that is something so difficult to do that most people never come anywhere near doing it: psychologically, it’s simply too much. Most anybody would rather spend their lives broken and miserable than they would do what feels like betraying their parents.

Unhappy, But Loyal. That’s internal motto of the miserable. (I wrote about this in Unhappy? Reject Your Parents.)

And there’s real nobility in that truth: for such people, love does win. It’s a terrible, feral kind of love—ultimately it is, in fact, a love of what’s wrong over what’s right—but it is love. It’s the ferociously strong love of a child for his parents. It’s one of the purest loves there is. The way people sacrifice their own lives to their parents is as touching and sad a human dynamic as exists.

Shoot. Even this summary is taking too long.

Next time, I want to talk about the means by which any person can go back into their past, and rescue the child they once were.

Or, more accurately, can be rescued by them.

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  • Lynn

    John wrote: "Remember: You, too, deserve to be loved, pampered, cared for, and respected. So let’s begin breaking the destructive cycles of the life you’re leading, and get you into the healthy, clean, love-based life that God, all along, has been yearning to share with you."

    You don't know how that comment has blessed me this evening John. THANK YOU.

  • Well, that’s great to hear, Lynn. Thanks.

  • Hjordes

    John, as someone who works with DV (domestic violence) victims I’d like to thank you for this great resource. There is an amazing amount of good, solid information out there on emotional/physical abuse. But your short blogs go right to the heart. Thank you so much for caring about women, encouraging us, and sharing your ideas. You’re right on.

  • Thanks, Hjordes. Coming from you, this means a lot.

  • Alva

    I just discovered this series of posts this morning and I honestly can't tell you how much they mean and how serendipitous it was that I found them today of all days.

    I am struggling with the past and how it has an effect on my future and most importantly, my now.

    My father left us at a very young age (it was by the Grace of God only that he was saved before he died a few years later, still estranged from us). This has created in me the consistent fear that every man will eventually leave me. As my friends say, "I'm so afraid that the bottom will fall out, that when it doesn't, I run and get the axe". The problem is that I continuously fall for the emotionally unavailable, the men that realize my past hurts, but aren't strong enough to overcompensate and make sure they don't perpetuate my fears. I can't help feeling like God asserted over and over again that he will never leave us, he'll go where we go (like Ruth), and his perfect love will drown out all fear. I need a physical man who will make the same promises and stick to them. I'm not afraid of being alone, I have a huge support system, but when it gets to the point that I'm on anti-depressants, like I was prescribed this week – I have to start making some changes. Thanks again for your help in all this, it is greatly appreciated.

  • Thank you, Alva. Thanks for sharing this very touching, very real bit of yourself.