Tag Archives: bad parenting

Punishing Ourselves, Part 2 – Emotional Hunger

“Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors Brought to Jacob after Joseph Is Sold into Slavery” by Diego Velazquez (1630), El Escorial (PD-Art l Old-100)

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3: 21).

Human beings inherently crave connection.  When our basic need for relationship is denied, abuse victims can develop an intense emotional hunger.  Some of us attempt to satiate that hunger with food, others with possessions, still others with sex.

But these will not satisfy us.  So the emotional hunger returns, and the cycle begins all over again – each time destined to fail.

Punishment and Reward

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age.  Also he made him a tunic of many colors.  But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him…” (Gen. 37: 3-4).

The reward – whether of food, material things, or sex – becomes punishment.  Each stop gap measure has negative consequences.  Each leaves us feeling empty.  Our sense of worthlessness resurfaces with renewed force.

Then the reward used to stem our emotional hunger becomes, itself, a source of shame.  It takes more and more food/things/sex to bring us even temporary relief.  Our desperation increases.

Punishment and Self-Forgiveness

“ ‘…inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’  And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25: 45-46).

Consciously or not, we ache for forgiveness, someone to take the guilt away.  And there is Someone who can do that.  In fact, He longs to do that.  He died on a cross to do that.

But we did nothing to “deserve” abuse.  We do not, therefore, need forgiveness for our abuse.  What Jesus Christ does to relieve us of the false guilt for which we have been punishing ourselves is reveal a truth it would have been too painful for us to accept as children, i.e. that our parents and caregivers were the ones at fault.

Where their love failed us, His will not.  And the life He offers us is everlasting.

This series began last week with “Punishing Ourselves, Part 1 – Numbness and Deprivation”

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

Punishing Ourselves, Part 1 – Numbness and Deprivation

Isolation cells at Fremantle Prison, Australia, Author Gnangarra (CC-BY-2.5-AU)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

And Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear!’ ” (Gen. 4: 13).

Though there are some hideous punishments inflicted on children, I will not be focusing on those here.  I want instead to talk about the punishment we inflict on ourselves.  The two are linked.

As abuse victims, we come to believe ourselves deficient, sinful, unworthy of love.

We may be told this directly by curses, blows, and cigarette burns, or indirectly by food, warmth, and shelter denied; by affection, comfort, and encouragement withheld; by the absence of laughter, except at our expense; by the absence of protection from sexual predation; and, above all, by the absence of hope.

Whatever the details in our case, we come to see ourselves as guilty.  We may not be able to name the sins we committed to “deserve” our abuse.  But we are certain of our guilt.

It is as if we bear the mark of Cain without ever having committed the crime.

Punishment and Deprivation

My soul has been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is” (Lam. 3: 17).

Those of us who were deprived of the basic necessities as children may deprive ourselves the same way as adults.

We cannot keep the refrigerator full or the pantry stocked.  We have difficulty using the new sheets, and may prefer sleeping on the couch or floor.  We resist purchasing a favorite food or appealing item of clothing for ourselves.  We take time off from work only reluctantly for a vacation.

Collateral to this, abuse victims who were physically and/or emotionally starved may hide food (or money and valuables) in secret spots around the house or yard.

While it may be painful to us, none of this behavior is a sign of “insanity” on our part.  It is simply a residual scar of the abuse inflicted on us, the rational response to irrational circumstances. Continue reading

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