Tag Archives: harsh self-criticism

Negative

Photographic negative of London’s “Big Ben” (picture taken from a bus), Author Diane from Chicago suburb, Source flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Photos used to come with negatives when I was a girl.  These were reverse images on strips of plastic film, with light areas appearing dark, dark areas appearing light, and colors reversed.

We would sort through our photos for the best, then resubmit the corresponding negatives for processing, so that copies and enlargements could be made from them.

Instead of storing images as patterns of darkness and light, today’s digital cameras store images as long strings of numbers.  Film isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary.  But negatives have something to teach us.

Hard on Ourselves

As abuse victims, we find it easy to be hard on ourselves.  It’s second nature to us – as if we were specially trained to see only the negative aspects of our lives.  And, of course, we were.

We question our every action, criticize our every decision – past, present, and future:

  • Why couldn’t we have avoided the situations in which abuse occurred or have prevented it outright? As if children had such options…or such power.
  • Why did it take us so long to figure things out? As if abuse weren’t incomprehensible to children, and understanding proceeded according to a set timetable.
  • Why do we keep making the same mistakes? As if abuse had not impacted us at a formative stage in our lives.
  • How will we ever leave our abusers, support ourselves, succeed at work or school? As if we were “damaged goods” for having survived an unbearable ordeal.

This ongoing critique should not be confused with a genuine effort to improve our character or atone for some sin [1].  It originated as an attack by our abusers on who we are, an attack on our very being.

Judgment Passed

Judgment has already been passed against us by our abusers.  We are simply carrying out their sentence – lifelong punishment for the failure to meet insane expectations, for the unpardonable “sin” of intruding on their lives.

But judgment was passed without any real evidence. Continue reading

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

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