From “damaged goods” to feeling good

by Annie Kaszina on October 18, 2011

What do women almost always tell themselves when they leave an abusive relationship?

One thing they tell themselves is that they are “damaged goods”.

Isn’t it great how we think of ourselves as merchandise rather than human beings? 

I haven’t heard anyone come right out and say the words “shop soiled” yet, but damaged goods is a phrase that comes up time and time again.

Just think about it.

When you use the words “damaged goods”, exactly what vision does it conjure up?

For me, it has to be some item that has been on the shop floor too long. It’s past its sell-by date. It looks decidedly the worse for wear.  So, the only hope of shifting it lies in selling it at a greatly reduced price.  For it to be remotely attractive to a possible buyer, it needs a nice big red sale label on it, with the original price crossed out – but still legible – and the knock down price writ large on it.

How does that relate to you? 

Okay, maybe you aren’t as young as you were when you got into your abusive relationship.  Your appearance might have changed.  But the important thing is this: you’ve been treated like an object by your abusive partner for long enough to believe that’s what you are.  There’s the dishwasher, the car, the television… and you.

Why should you believe an abusive partner? 

In his eyes, you may well be a commodity, or an object – and that says a lot about his values… or lack of them.

But what do you really have in common with an object?

Not a lot.

You’ve allowed yourself to buy into your abuser’s story.  You’ve allowed yourself to buy into this brutalizing view of you.

Despite everything you do for other people you’re still telling yourself the story that you think is going on in an abuser’s head.

This week I’ve been reading “Woman vs Womaniser”.  It’s not a pretty read.  It’s about a guy who is an extraordinarily accomplished womaniser.  J.C. Johnson has a talent for living off women.  He uses them with the utmost cynicism.  He does so, he says, because they let him get away with it.  He treats them like cash cows – he has a talent for turning them into ATMs.

He had a very abusive upbringing. The Abusive Kingdom is almost a part of his DNA.  But here’s the thing: everything is always all about him.  Any technique is good provided it gets him the end result he desires.  He doesn’t see the women he exploits as individuals.  They are merely there for his convenience.

(In case you’re wondering, his purpose in writing the book is to “make amends”, to teach women what to watch out for.)

And so back to you and your abusive partner.  Like J.C. Johnson, he has never really made the time to see you.

That says a lot about him.   

It doesn’t make it right for you not to see you.  (It’s profoundly unfortunate that you were prepared to settle for a relationship with a man who never really saw you, but that is your issue to work on.)

So, here’s what I’d like you to do.  I’d like you to say “No” to his skewed vision of who you are.  I want you to take a blank sheet of paper.  That blank sheet of paper is you.

Now divide that blank sheet of paper in two, from top to bottom, with a single line. In the left hand column, list all your “damaged goods” beliefs.  Don’t hold back, do it.  Write them all down.

Aren’t they U-G-L-Y?

(N.B. Doing this may not be fun, but it is useful.)

Then, in the right hand column list how children, family, friends, co-workers, and others – not him – see you.  This is your time to list the good stuff; the stuff you habitually overlook.

You’ll see that you have two totally different, and incompatible lists.  Those lists are as incompatible as you and your abusive partner are.

His motto is “Do no good” – or at least “Do no good in the privacy of your own home”, while yours is: “Do nothing but good.”

Now what?

How about you cut that list in two along the central dividing line, and unceremoniously destroy the left hand list?  You can burn it, bury it in the garden, put it in a box or bag, and dispose of that box or bag, creatively, once and for all.

That list is the list of lies you once bought into.

Destroy it.  It’s damaging to your health.

Okay, okay, he’s damaging to your health.

Let it go.

Turn your attention to the quality aspects of you.  Put that list in your wallet, or on your bathroom mirror.  Read it twice a day.

It’s all true.

You just don’t believe it yet.

That’ll come.

You’re a recovering woman.  Be gentle with yourself.  Accept that wounds don’t heal overnight.

Provided you keep them clean – and  you have just cleaned them out – and provided you don’t try to do too much too soon, those wounds will surely heal.

If this tip has helped you, and you’d like more, you’ll want to explore the systematic approach to healing old wounds.

Start to treat yourself like a person, and watch the rest of the world – apart from goods damagers – follow suit.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie October 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Do you think women believe they are damaged goods (besides him telling her she’s not good enough) because they weren’t “good enough” for the man they were involved with to be “good” to them? I was so disturbed by the many posts on the “Dreams, Devils” entry because so many of the women were still blaming themselves for his failure to be a decent person. Soceity believes that if we had better boundaries he wouldn’t have abused us and it appears that many women in this small community believe the same thing. Decent people, decent men, do not abuse someone because they can get away with it. Cripes, he beats you up and then we beat ourselves up for allowing it. I didn’t allow it! How many of you did? Did you attempt to defend yourself? Its like saying rape victims brought it on themselves because they went out alone! The person who abused you is the only one responsible for what he did. I bet all of you can put loving, kind and decent on your list.

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Anne Marie October 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Julie,

I agree. The “only one who abused you” is the man whom you are trying to escape. He is not the woman in the mirror at whom you look every day. The woman in the mirror is stronger now…more aware…more intelligent. She has the power of knowledge and hindsight. She is not a victim anymore. She never will be again.
It is true that most of your family, including your children, will never understand the destructiveness of emotional abuse. I don’t know if that’s even important anymore. What IS important is that victims understand it, accept the past, and determine to build a future free of all abuse….from whatever the source.
As Annie would say, “You might have been Cinderella once, but the Prince just sucked….and who needs a wicked stepmother and two ugly step-sisters, anyway?” Next time,tell them all to clean their own…cinders…and just go to the ball and….dance!

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anonymous coward September 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm

My abuser was living in the same house as me for over a year. He abused me and even destroyed my house and broke glass, even outside and none of my neighbors, not one, ever called the police. I finally got rid of him and called the police myself…now Im being dragged thru the mud in my small town… people not only don’t care, they stand there and watch it happen, don’t do a damn thing except gossip about you later….yup, this is my world.

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