It’s Not Just Other People Who

by Annie Kaszina on November 4, 2006

“I am lucky in that I have never experienced physical abuse, but I
have experienced verbal and emotional abuse, and strangely enough, I
have recently realised that some of the worst of it has been from
myself! How many times in the past have I verbally beaten myself up for
making mistakes or doing/not doing something I should/shouldn’t have
done?" So wrote one reader recently.

How many times have we all done that?  And how often do we continue to do that?  I know I have.

Sure,
we weren’t born like that. And it is never anything we should blame
ourselves for. You were most likely taught to rubbish yourself by an
abusive partner or parent; or maybe you learned in the schoolyard,
thanks to someone else’s abusive parent(s). It happened. And it was a
powerful, life changing experience – sadly, for the worse – that was
all too frequently reinforced over time.

Whenever and wherever it
happened, you weren’t equipped with the defences or the resources to
deal with it. Why would you be? Most people choose not to bring up
children programmed, from an early age, to engage successfully in
extreme verbal combat. (Although some children who grow up in a violent
home prefer to identify with the aggressor rather than the victim.)

Still,
the point remains, you can walk away from an abusive relationship and
continue to do the abusive partner’s work. Every time you harbour a
negative thought about yourself, you are doing your destructive
ex-partner’s work. You are giving credence to his harmful, distorted
view of the world and the place he ascribed to you in it.

Your view of the world is quite different.

How
can I be sure? Because, whenever I talk to abused women I invariably
hear two versions of who they are. There is the negative one, which has
become as familiar, as much a part of them, as an old smelly trainer.
And there is the realistic one; the account of their qualities that
they recite, but don’t dare to internalize and believe.

If they
really were as good as they think they might be –which they
unquestionably are – then why didn’t their partner acknowledge it? Why
didn’t the people who have ill-used them, hold back, blinking, dazzled
by the light they cast?

I believe their partner did notice, and
was attracted by the light, at least at first. But setting the lowest
value they could on you, was the most effective way they had of locking
you into a binding contract. If they let you really feel you were worth
more, why on earth would you hang around and settle for second and
third best? If you felt like a pearl would you really settle for the
pig sty? (Whereas if you felt like swill, a sty would feel just about
right.)

In the end, the point of view that is shouted longest and loudest prevails.  And that point of view was not yours.

Yet the small voice of self-worth will not be silenced completely.

There
is a learning in there, somewhere. Shouting down is effective, but so
too is nurturing ‘talking up’. And it is something you can do for
yourself. You don’t even have to worry whether you believe it or not.

Experience has already shown you that you will
believe what you hear. So you can say to yourself – preferably out
loud, because that works faster – that you’ve made an honest mistake
and you’re doing pretty well; you’re coping the best you can in the
circumstances and, you know you will go on to cope even better.

Simply by doing that you start to replace the abusive partnership with a nurturing supportive partnership – with yourself.

The
truth is you are ok and valuable irrespective of what you get right and
wrong. The only question is: how quickly are you going to see it?

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