A plank in the 2012 platform of the Republican Party called for illegal immigrants to leave the United States of their own accord. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate that year, took quite a bit of flack for supporting the approach (grandly titled “self-deportation”) .
But this is not really a post about illegal immigrants.
What abuse victims have in common with illegal immigrants is that we both self-monitor. We are, in other words, inclined to observe ourselves closely in the effort to project an acceptable image, an appearance of “normalcy” and control, whatever the turmoil within.
By itself, self-monitoring is not a bad trait. Even people who have never been abused worry, from time to time, whether their feelings and responses are normal. We are taught from childhood to play nicely with others, and not run with scissors. Those unwilling to adjust their behavior to society’s norms are likely to be aggressive and uncompromising.
For abuse victims, however, self-monitoring involves more. For us, it provides camouflage, and is the tool which allows us to fake normal.
Self-monitoring is a natural response on the part of victims long berated for their thoughts and actions, for their very existence. Victims cling to it, rather than trusting themselves to behave in an appropriate manner. That is understandable. Like illegal immigrants, we would prefer to go unnoticed.
Unfortunately, ongoing assessment of our own performance distances us from the present moment, depriving us of real enjoyment and the zest of living. Every thought, every word, every action must be guarded, as we continuously analyze and re-analyze ourselves in the attempt to “fit in”.
While constant self-monitoring deprives us of spontaneity, it does facilitate acceptance by others, at least on a superficial level. Self-scrutiny to such an extreme can, however, become an obsession. We may inadvertently craft a new form of bondage for ourselves, censoring every breath . Continue reading