Brenda M. Bomgardner (@BrendaBomgardnr) tweeted “There is a way to the other side. It is living a life based on your own unique values.” She is talking about the life you’ll create during and after healing from abuses of all kinds.
The trouble lies in defining what values you, the abuse sufferer, want to define as yours after digging yourself out from under the pseudo-values your abuser demanded you to incorporate into your Self.
Isolation From Other People
Isolating their victim tends to be the first step abusers take in the beginning of a relationship. Isolation is very important – my abuser found it imperative that I rely only on him for information, companionship, and the roof over my head. He had to become the person who provided all of my core needs so I had only one person to turn. He wanted there to be only one voice inside my head – his.
This makes sense because if he were going to control me, the more I acted, thought, and felt like he did, then the less work there was for him to do.
“Being isolated” is the first state of being victims accept from their abuser. Once I accepted him as the only voice of reason, the rest of the pieces fell into place. I soon began isolating myself from my own voice, too.
Isolation, Abuse, and the Change of Self
I isolated myself from my Self because my Self seemed to cause the most trouble in the world I’d created with my husband. He judged me, my Self, to be incompetent in every way unless my Self agreed with his Self. For example, I believed in a solid work ethic like he did so I was “allowed” to keep that belief.
On the other hand, I believed that my art (I painted) was of value whether I sold it or not. He believed my art was valuable if I could make money from it and wanted me to paint murals on the walls of McDonald’s. Because my Self couldn’t accept his belief and maintaining my own argument against it caused me pain, I quit creating art.
I stopped identifying myself as an artist because doing was painful. It was as simple as ringing a bell for Pavlov’s dogs. Classical conditioning caused me to salivate at his approval and whimper at his disapproval. Once the first bell rang, the others were easier to obey.
I lost my Self for almost two decades.
Exiting the Haze of Abuse
When I realized I suffered abuse in 2008, it became clear to me that I was not the person I pretended to be. Finding joy in my abusive relationship required me to do things that raised his ire. In order to return to my Self, I had to condition my Self to a new set of bells.
Despite his disapproval, I felt compelled to act in accordance with my heart and soul. And yet I’d been ignoring my voice for so long that it wasn’t always clear to me. I felt like I was a riddle waiting to be solved. I was excited to unravel my mystery, and that excitement created courage to stand against him.
Mistakes Made In Abuse Recovery
He, not the abuse, became my enemy. That was my first mistake. I stood against him as often as I could. I argued the opposite of him when agreeing with him made more sense.
I thought to myself, “if I’m NOT the person he labels me to be, I must be the opposite!” My faulty logic caused more trouble between us until I realized the error I’d made. Sometimes, my abuser was right about me. It made me sick. I didn’t want him to be right about anything!
What I’d done was absorb his assertion that life was black and white. When applied to my Self, that idea didn’t work. I was in fact shades of gray. A beautiful, metallic grey more apt to be called silver, but I was not the direct opposite of what he believed me to be.
Detachment from the Abuser
Soon after, I realized that my abuser was human, like me. The abuse he inflicted upon me was inhumane. The Abuse was my enemy, not my abuser.
Suddenly it all became clear. I fought this war against me, not him. To win, I had to allow my voice to reign supreme – my true voice complete with the positives and negatives of my Self. It was my job to strengthen my positives and diminish my negatives.
I didn’t have to diminish him. I didn’t have to control his thoughts. I only had to control my own.
Healing From Abuse
The process of healing from abuse begins when you are able and willing to define what you value. You must separate your Self from your abuser’s lackluster version of you.
Ms. Bomgardner is right. Successfully reaching “other side of abuse” requires you to live by “your own unique values.” The challenge lies in your ability to define your values and then strive to hold yourself to those standards no matter what goes on around you.
You are important. Your life and destiny depends on what you value. Setting boundaries is your first step to defining what is important to you.