Tag Archives: changing behavior

Of Ogres and Onions, Part 2

“Still Life in White” by Antonio Sicurezza (1972), (PD)

Self-hatred is not productive in the pursuit of change.  Self-forgiveness (as hard for abuse victims to accept as moderation) actually shortens the recovery time from what we may view as “failures” and backsliding.

But self-forgiveness is not a skill abuse victims are taught as children.  We must acquire it on our own.

Here are a few suggestions [1][2][3]:

  1.  Define the infraction, and identify the injured party.

In the context of attempts to move beyond our abusive past, victims are, for the most part, the injured parties [4].  We fail ourselves, and experience overwhelming shame.

The inner dialog goes something like this:

“How stupid of me not to speak up.  That saleswoman must have thought I was an idiot.  I’m sure she could tell I didn’t want the sweater.  I already have a nice sweater.   Besides, the new one is hideous.  If I wasn’t able to speak up in a department store, how am I ever going to speak up in class?  It’s too late for me anyhow.  It was ridiculous to think I could go back to school at my age.”

  2.  Put things in perspective.

Have you started World War III?  No.  Have you abused any children?  Again, the answer is no.  You have bought a sweater which can be returned, given as a gift, worn to an “ugly sweater” party, donated, or discarded outright.

  3.  Tease out the negative feelings.

You have, in a single instance, been less assertive than desired.  That can be remedied the next time.  You can visualize returning the sweater; can even memorize and practice a script.  You can buy sweaters to your heart’s content, and return them all.

And if a saleswoman is unimpressed with your taste, your demeanor, or your credit, what on earth does it matter?  The episode has nothing do with your school performance.  You simply projected your fears forward.

  4.  Be kind to yourself.

Ask yourself whether you would hold anyone else to the high standards you hold yourself, or criticize anyone else as harshly.  Chances are you are kinder to others than to yourself.

If you don’t feel “deserving” of kindness, try it anyway.  Encouragement produces far better results with abuse victims than rebuke. Continue reading

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Of Ogres and Onions, Part 1

“The Cat Facing the Ogre”, illustration from Puss in Boots, based on a drawing by Walter Crane (PD-Art l Old-100)

“Ogres are like onions…Onions have layers.  Ogres have layers.”

Shrek, DreamWorks

Almost any American parent will recognize the quote (above).  It is from a conversation between the main character and his donkey sidekick in the children’s film Shrek.  The statement is meant to convey the complexity of ogres.

Change

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate” (Rom. 7: 15 NLT).

Change – especially change for the better – is difficult for human beings.  Even the Apostle Paul complained of this.

The problem is not weakness of character.  It is our flawed nature, and the very complexity with which God made us (Ps. 139: 14) [1].  Nearly all our actions have multiple layers of causation and meaning (many of these unconscious).

What this implies for abuse victims is that a single psychological insight on our part is not likely to be support an overnight transformation.

That is not to say insights are insignificant.  Even when painful, they give us better understanding of (and better control over) our lives.  As important, insights are cumulative.  If we are patient and persistent, change will come.

Expectations

Our expectations for ourselves must, however, be realistic.  Even those who were never abused encounter challenges in life, and problems achieving their goals.  It is the human condition in a flawed world.  Weight loss programs and gyms have made millions off that fact.

We must not measure ourselves against a behavioral ideal that may be impossible for anyone to attain, abused or not. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse