Tag Archives: abuse and boundary issues

Moving Day

I awake from a dream about moving day.  In the dream, a friend and I are both dancers in the chorus of an off-Broadway musical.  Poor as church mice, we fantasize about a stage success that will bring us fame and fortune. 

In costume, she is graceful and evocative.  In life, she is warm and enthusiastic.

My friend has approached me to ask for help in relocating.  I have never been to her apartment before.  We run a gauntlet of threatening catcalls from men, as we approach the place. 

One actually forces his way into the apartment, but my friend fends him off with a drug dose she has stashed above the door.  She does not lock the door on his departure.  I feel uneasy about this, sure he will return. 

The apartment, itself, is beyond shabby – a tiny, windowless room, exposed to the weather.  The place is furnished, if one can use the word, with bits and pieces of broken objects.  My friend treats these tenderly, as if they were priceless.  Meanwhile, she must rely on a nearby restroom, for lack of an alternative. 

She has no packing boxes, and has not begun to sort through what she will take and what she will leave behind.

It strikes me that this dream is a metaphor for the after-effects of child abuse.  Often, the exterior we present to the world is like a play.  We dress in costume, adopt the mannerisms we see around us, in an effort to fit in. Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

The Abusive Workplace

Photo Courtesy of One Connecticut

You work for someone vain, self-centered, and vindictive.  Someone who knows less about the job than you do.  You put in longer hours than he/she does, but his/her name is the one on the door.  You do the work, but he/she gets the credit.  You can’t remember the last time you received a raise.  And still you keep trying to please.

Sound familiar? A recent study indicates that the American workplace is “grueling, stressful and surprisingly hostile” [1].

We may view our work as a calling, enjoy our chosen field, and meet some wonderful people in that field.  Or, depending on the economy and our particular situation, we may not have much choice as to our job [2].

But we stay at some jobs far longer than we should, a fact which can negatively impact our confidence, our self-esteem, our relationships, and our health.  Why?  An abusive childhood can be a contributing factor.

Abuse can impact not only our personal, but professional lives.  There are many reasons victims tolerate abusive work environments and dysfunctional bosses.

Abusive Management Style

Does your boss manage at the top of his/her lungs?  Does he/she rant and rave over the least mistake…sometimes over no mistake at all?  Is scathing sarcasm his/her favorite style of communication?

Just as parents, spouses, and lovers may be bullies, narcissists, paranoiacs, or other abusive personalities, so too can bosses [3].

No Limits

Even work that is intellectually challenging and emotionally engaging can by physically draining.  In an ideal world, we would not have to choose between inspiring work and livable working conditions.  But ours is not, unfortunately, an ideal world.

As abuse victims, we set no limits for ourselves, exceeding all reasonable expectations.  We take work home nights, to the shore with us on weekends, and away on vacation. There are always more files, more cases, more projects.  Paperwork has a permanent place on the dining room table, and the nightstand beside our bed.

That fact facilitates avoidance.  We have no time for a personal life.  The endless hours we spend at the job, and the emotional investment – the very problems at work – serve to keep personal issues at bay.

The lack of limits, also, feels familiar.  We were raised in a setting where love required self-sacrifice to the point of self-destruction.  Reasonable boundaries were not allowed during childhood.  So we do not recognize them (and do not establish them) as adults.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism can play a role, as well.  Victims may strive to achieve unattainable levels of perfection.  That we fail demonstrates, again and again, to us what we mistakenly assume is our inherent “deficiency”.  In effect, we are compelled to re-enact the emotional experience of our childhood. Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Abuse of Power, bullying, Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Lovelorn, Part 1

Chocolate box (

Chocolate box (“OK, not exactly the gift…”), Author Chrys Omori (CC BY-2.0 Generic)

Society glorifies romantic love, but is rather harsh toward those who do not succeed at it.  The lonely.  The heartbroken.  Unfortunately, many abuse victims fall into this category.  Strangers to real love, we tend to stumble in our pursuit of it.

There used to be advice columns for the lovelorn.  Miss Lonelyhearts – a Depression era novel by Nathanael West about such a column – has been the basis for several movies, an opera, and a Broadway play.

There is still a great deal of poetry written about lost love.  Just Google the topic.

These days, anonymous sex and hard core pornography are readily available.  Craigslist has discontinued its infamous “adult” section.  But ads for prostitution (included among them ads trafficking children) can easily be found online [1].

While pornography and anonymous sex reflect on the decadence and dehumanization of our society, they offer no real solution for problems of the heart.

Relationships – challenging enough for non-victims – can be a minefield for abuse victims.  This is an overview of the problems victims may encounter with relationships and intimacy.

Boundaries

Having been repeatedly violated, we are likely to have difficulty with boundaries.  We are either wholly without defenses or guarded by high walls.

The first (a total absence of screening, since our childhood boundaries were so often ignored) allows others to take advantage of us easily.  The second (over-compensation, in an effort to protect ourselves from further violation) makes it hard for anyone to approach us.

Trust Issues

Consistency and faithfulness were not modeled for us.  We, therefore, expect betrayal; see enemies where there are none.  This can result in needless insecurity, jealousy where there is no cause.

Even the most loving partner will tire of proving his/her devotion in the face of repeated, groundless accusations.

But accusations need not be limited to infidelity.  We may experience innocent statements as hurtful or insulting; may strike out at a partner who is at a loss to understand what s/he has done wrong.  We, in turn, may be at a loss to explain.

Control Issues/Violence

Of course, there are individuals who are genuinely controlling.  Abuse victims may, unconsciously, select for partners like this – responding to what is familiar to us from our families of origin. Continue reading

24 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Rape, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women