You Don’t Need To Be Emotionally Abused

by Annie Kaszina on March 31, 2015

Who taught you…?

Dion felt invisible – but like most emotionally abused women she wasn’t even aware what was wrong

“Who taught you that you didn’t matter much?” I asked Dion.

“What do you mean?” she replied.

That kind of blank incomprehension is common in my emotionally abused clients. They’ve been emotionally neglected  -and/or rejected – by key figures in their lives. Especially parents, and emotionally abusive partners.  When you’ve been given the message often enough – especially from an early age – that you don’t matter, you accept it as normal.  That’s what Dion had always done.

I rephrased the question slightly: “When you were growing up, did the key people in your life – that is parents, siblings or teachers – bother to think about what mattered to you? Did they even know?”

There was a long pause while Dion processed the question.  Slowly, she said: “I’ve never thought about it before.”

Then she started to think about it.

She remembered that her parents showed no interest in her passion: she was sport-mad, her parents never, ever came to one of her matches.

What do you suppose she learned from that?

She learned from that her parents weren’t interested in her; nothing she could do was important. What that meant to her was that she was never going to be good enough.

Good enough for what?

Good enough to succeed.  Good enough to be loved and cherished.  Good enough to have that lifeline of self-belief that she could hold on to through tough times. Unless you deal with these beliefs and get them out of your life, it’s going to be extraordinarily hard to recover from emotional abuse.

That really resonated with me, both personally and professionally.  I’ve seen it so many times in my emotionally abused clients, and I know it so well in myself. You can spend your life looking for the validation you have never had outside yourself.

But since you take it for granted that validation only has any value if it is E-A-R-N-E-D,  first you  look for validation from someone who is seriously hard to win over, and then  you make it your mission to win them over.

Can you see how that’s a hopeless strategy?  People who are stingy with their validation – which is just appreciation by another name – are… stingy. That’s who they are.  That’s how they behave. That’s how they get their sense of importance. (And that, of course, is exactly how emotionally abusive partners are.)

Don’t go barking up the wrong tree.

I’m sorry to say that that leaves you – as it left me – barking up the wrong tree.

With my mother’s death, my story with my family of origin came to a close.  When I look back on it, now, I’m still shocked – not so much by how they operate as how I did. Unconsciously.

There were all sorts of messages flying about to the effect that my feelings were unimportant because I was:

  • A girl
  • The youngest
  • Clumsy and hopeless at sport (nobody had ever heard of dyspraxia back then)
  • Stupid, allegedly – this despite consistently better academic results than my siblings

In fact, there were all sorts of negative messages flying around my family – generally. I took them to heart much more deeply than did my siblings.

Why?

Why do we do it?

I did it because that’s what I thought you did.

Why didn’t I react against the negative messages?

Because that’s what I thought you didn’t do.

Now, that may sound silly to you, and you’re perfectly entitled to think that.  However… I listen to women very much like you – and me – all the time.

What do I hear?

I hear an awful lot of: “This-is-what-I-don’t-dos” and “This-is-what-I-mustn’t-dos”.

You know what?

99.99% of them are… completely unhelpful. Most of them are justifications for putting yourself at the outermost edge of your own world, treating yourself like you matter less than the family car  – way less than the family pet – and being obliged to tolerate ill treatment. That’s what you learn in an emotionally abusive environment.

The bottom line is: especially in intimate family relationships, people  exhibit a lot of toxic behaviors. Mostly, they get away with them.

You probably can’t change that.  But you don’t have to collude with it.

Anyone who makes you feel worth-less is behaving badly.

They’re free to behave badly – more’s the pity. That’s what emotional abusers do. But you’re free not to buy into that garbage.

Who are they to judge you? Why should you let them?

I know that you could give me chapter and verse about why you can’t NOT let them judge you, but I don’t want to hear it. It’s not helpful. I suggest you don’t waste your time listening to it, either.

Instead, here’s something much more helpful you can do:  spend your time with the people who are prepared to validate you.  Stop hiding away, and let people see something of the real you. The ones who don’t appreciate it don’t matter. Focus on the ones who do, for a change.  See how your life starts to change.

And if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then get the support you need to help you take those first steps. You don’t have to be emotionally abused any longer. I guarantee you that will recover from emotional abuse. And it will transform your life for the better.

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