Tag Archives: self-blame

Rejection and Missed Deadlines

Messy desk, Author Sugar Pond, Source Mess (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic ).

One way to miss deadlines.  Author Sugar Pond, Source Mess (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic ).

This post was written together with Marie Williams whose remarks are in italics.  Marie blogs at Come Fly with Me, https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com.

Sometimes it can seem that the world is against us.  Wherever we turn, doors are shut to us.  We can never catch a break; are never cut any slack; keep running into walls.  We cannot find any support.

Sound familiar?  Rejection rules the lives of abuse victims…or does it?

Certainly, rejection played a major role in our childhood.  Let’s, however, turn that experience on its ear.  Let’s instead ask ourselves the unthinkable, whether abuse victims are trained to seek out rejection.

Cruelty v. Kindness

A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself” (Prov. 11: 17).

Treated cruelly in the past, abuse victims may tolerate cruelty from others, presuming it to be the norm or believing we deserve no better.

That is what we have experienced for much of our lives.  In childhood, we don’t know any different.  We cannot reason objectively because we do not have the mindset and the maturity to differentiate between good behaviour and bad behaviour from an abuser.  We willingly accept the crumbs we are given because for us that is better than nothing at all. 

But an older person may, also, settle for abusive behaviour.  Once your will is broken, you lose your sense of self.  Instead, you are continually looking for validation from your abuser.  Abuse and rejection can be mistaken for approval by someone whose view has become skewed.

Victims long for kindness, but may mistake it for weakness.

Though searching for love and approval, abuse victims don’t really know what those look like.  Being treated badly is what they have been conditioned to expect.  Kindness to them is something they are not worthy of.  Having for their formative years experienced abuse, that is what “feels right” to them.

Missed Deadlines

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven…” (Eccl. 3: 1).

We miss the deadline for school applications; fail to supply the required documentation for scholarships.  And are rejected.

We hand class papers in late, losing points despite having agonized over content.  We take make-up exams, having missed the scheduled test date; and drop out, rather than risk receiving less than an outstanding grade [1].

We ask favors from acquaintances and strangers; recommendations from people we barely know.  And are ignored or rebuffed.

We show up late for our driver’s test, then are upset at the DMV policy not to reschedule for another 30 days.  Yet, we choose not to pursue litigation to enforce our rights, when legal representation is available and cost free [2].

I was the other way. Too eager to please.  Too early for everything, and panicked if a few minutes late or even on time! 

Chaotic Home Life

Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind…” (Prov. 11: 29).

Often, these issues can stem from a chaotic home life.  As children, we had far greater concerns than the due date of a paper.  Perhaps a parent was chronically intoxicated, an “uncle” a little too interested in our development.  Perhaps there was no food in the house, and another beating just a few hours away. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Mercy Reprised

“Divine Mercy” painting in the sanctuary of the same name, Vilnius, Lithuania, Author Alma Pater (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported,  2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, and 1.0 Generic)

There are 275 references to mercy, like this one, in the New King James Version of the Bible [1]:

Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments…” (Deut. 7: 9).

If our emotions were not dampened by abuse – suppressed so that we could better endure the pain – we are likely to feel great compassion for other victims.

But abuse victims have difficulty applying mercy to themselves.  We do not, generally, see ourselves as qualifying for pity.

  • We should have known better than to be alone with our abuser…no matter that he was a loved one from whom it was natural to crave attention and positive feedback.
  • We should have realized what would happen…no matter that we were too young to understand.
  • We should have found a way to avoid the abuse inflicted on us…no matter that our abuser was an adult, capable of manipulating us and our circumstances.
  • We should have figured out how to make the abuse stop…no matter that our abuser had all the power, yet showed us no mercy.

This is our thinking.  These were our sins, sins for which we continue to punish ourselves to the present day.  Some of us even blame ourselves for “causing” the abuse. Continue reading

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Falling Knives, Part 1

“…A morning of tears, remembered fears
Withering looks from the past
Cut the heart, tear you apart
Pain racked soul heaves your body
Causing you to tremble and shudder

Cruel words spoken with loathing
With no care for the innocent soul
Who listens carefully
And believes this to be truly
The way things could be…”

– Marie Williams, Damaged People

Some days are darker than others.

Perhaps we have had an oppressive dream, now half-remembered. Perhaps an icy rain is falling, sharp as knives, and the weather determines our mood. Perhaps a misplaced word pierces our already injured psyche or our blood chemistry is off or the stars are misaligned.

Self-Criticism

Whatever the reasons – internal or external, identifiable or not – for abuse victims, particularly those of us suffering from depression, the most innocuous thoughts and observations can quickly morph into self-criticism, calling up faults and failures, real and imagined. No mistake is forgiven; no oversight on our part – however slight – is laid to rest for good.

Hour after hour, our criticism is unrelenting; our self-assessment, merciless. We may be able to defend ourselves against a single assault, even a dozen. But we cannot dodge the falling knives forever.

Emotional Flashbacks

The pain is searing. Old wounds are re-opened; new wounds, inflicted. What may seem insignificant to others can trigger repeated emotional flashbacks with childhood traumas not merely recalled but relived, re-experienced emotionally, again and again.

Minimizing the Abuse

To those unfamiliar with abuse, this description may sound overly dramatic. Surely, victims must be exaggerating. Actually, however, the opposite is true.

It is not uncommon for the victims of childhood abuse to downplay their suffering. Some will make excuses for their abuser, assuming liability for the abuse which is not rightly theirs. Why this tendency to minimize the scars of abuse, to downgrade the brutality of a traumatized mind and body?

Minimizing is a form of denial victims utilize in an attempt to deal with their trauma [1].

In denial, the brain tries to protect the psyche by refusing to admit the reality of trauma or abuse [2]. Details of the abuse may be shielded from the victim’s consciousness. The horror is diluted; the trauma processed in manageable, bite-size pieces. The victim is still adversely impacted, but not completely immobilized.

Fear, Shame, and Family Secrets

Victims may fear they will be overcome by the intensity of their feelings, should they accept the full extent of their abuse.

They may find it too painful to admit a loved one would treat them so callously. They may feel responsible for keeping family secrets. They may have difficulty connecting present day problems with past trauma. Continue reading

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If You Have Survived…

Sometimes, the critical voices from all sides can be overwhelming to abuse victims (and non-victims, for that matter).  Other times, the criticism of a single loved one will become the inescapable voice in our heads. This is a little advice to tuck away for such times.

If you have survived abuse or neglect, you are not a failure [1]. Having survived at all is an achievement. The scars you bear attest to your strength, not your failure.

It is not your purpose in life to meet the expectations of others, certainly not those of family members and other loved ones incapable of loving you in return.

Obvious as this may sound, make sure you seek validation from someone actually capable of giving it to you. Some people are simply blind. They lack the ability to see you clearly. Others may find it easier to focus on your imagined defects, than their real ones.

Anyone saying you should limit yourself, rather than use the gifts God gave you, may be worried about their own limitations. Criticism that convinces you that you can do nothing right will result in your doing nothing at all.

Self-blame is a paralyzing form of abuse. Try not to engage in it. If you’ve made mistakes, learn from them. That’s how life works for all of us.

Life is always better than death. Choose life… if nothing else to spite your detractors [2].  You have at least as much right to this world as they do.

[1] This is not to suggest that the victims of abuse and neglect who did not survive were, in any sense, “failures”. The label does not apply.

[2] Small joke.  Use every tool at your disposal, including humor.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Unbiblical, Part 2 – Sin Nature v. Abuse-Related Guilt

Christians speak regularly about the “sin nature” of mankind, the inclination by human beings to do wrong, as illustrated by wars and crime.

The following verses on the topic are typical:

“…[T]he imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21).

“ ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…’” (Jer. 17:9).

“ ‘Then I will…take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes…’ ” (Ezek. 11: 19-20).

“ ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies’ ” (Matt. 15: 19).

If anyone has experienced that sin nature, abuse victims have. Victims, however, have been more sinned against than sinning.

Unfortunately, the continuous emphasis on sin is likely to sound like condemnation to victims, when what they need is love, encouragement, and hope.

Christians should remember that abuse leaves behind deep scars. Victims of abuse may struggle with gender identification, sexual addiction or dysfunction, self-neglect, anxiety, depression, dissociation and related amnesia, drug or alcohol addiction, cutting, anorexia, bulimia, binging, and other issues. The majority of prostitutes are thought to be runaways, with a history of abuse.

Dealing with major problems like these is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the self-righteous. Merely living ordinary lives can take enormous effort and enormous courage by abuse victims. That victims, for the most part, accomplish this is amazing.

Victims should not be made a topic of gossip. Nor should they be subjected to snap judgments, whether about their morality or mental state.

Above all, victims should be reassured that they were not the guilty party in abuse; that, as children, they were wholly incapable of consent to whatever was done to them; and that God still loves them, despite all they have been through.

This series will continue next week with Humility v. Lack of Worth

 FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

 

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Good Works

Minimizing the impact of child molestation and other forms of abuse is a way of self-protecting that can lead victims to self-blame and self-hatred.  Negative self-image is often reflected in our inner thought life by an ongoing dialog such as, “I am worthless. No one could love me.”

That we may know on an intellectual level such statements are untrue will not necessarily reduce the power with which we invest them or the frequency with which we engage in them.

Though as abuse victims we may “feel” defective, the truth is that we remain God’s handiwork. He knew before time began the suffering we would be required to endure. Yet He entrusted us with good works – often arising from our very abuse experience – in complete certainty that we would accomplish these.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2: 10).

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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