Domestic Abuse Can Change Who You Are
A lifetime ago, as I sat on my bed unable to put my feet on the floor and get going, I cried to myself, "I am better than this! I deserve more than this!" I knew intellectually that my relationship with my husband Will caused me great harm, but I couldn't quite get my emotions and my mind to align. My head told me to RUN, but my emotions cemented my feet in place. The best I could to get out of that bed was to tell myself that today I would get through to Will. Today would be the day I led Helen Keller to the water pump . . . today Will would understand. Today, my husband would change and we would break through the walls between us. Today I would get it right.
With faulty motivation in place, I put my feet on the floor, wiped away my tears, and stood firm on an impossibly shaky foundation. I didn't understand so many things! I didn't understand that there was nothing . . . NOTHING . . . I could do to "get it right." I didn't know that my abilities to communicate, to be empathetic, to nurture and to believe in another person could not affect him. All of those great qualities in me fell dead at his feet.
I fell dead at his feet day after day after day. I woke up crying in the same cycle. And still, I blamed myself for not reaching him. My frustration caused me to act in extremely undesirable ways, too. No one likes waking up each morning feeling like a failure, but that wasn't the end of it. I could be really, really mean.
Abuse Caused a Change in Who I Was at Heart
My Reactions to Abuse Became Less "Normal"
Over the years, the person I learned to be while living in abuse became very unlike me. I heard myself say things to him that I never thought I'd say. I wished bad things to happen to him so I could be his savior. I wanted someone to do to him what he did to me so he could feel the pain, but no one could do to him what he did to others. He embodied super-human strength against pain. He didn't respond how a "normal" person would react.
And over the years, my reactions to his abuse became less and less "normal" too. I became ashamed of myself. My good qualities were no longer valuable - they had failed me, it seemed. I felt tempted to curl up in a big hateful ball of spite and venom, forsaking every gift God gave to me.
Changing Who You Are Causes Inauthenticity, Incongruity
Possibly the most harmful effect of abuse occurs when the victim "turns into" someone dissociated from their true nature as I had. Some abuse victims do become dissociated and feel like they sometimes watch themselves from outside their bodies. This can happen during abuse or when the victims feel forced to react in ways that protect them, but go against who they are (such as hateful reactions toward another person, toward their abuser).
Domestic Abuse and Dissociating From Our True Selves
Domestic abuse can fuel feelings of dissociation and incongruity (our feelings of being a fraud or feeling ashamed of our behavior). The abuser encourages those feelings by calling us hypocrites, weak, et cetera because validating our negative feelings keeps us under control. But it may help you to know that every person at some time feels a similar inconsistency between who they are and how they act. When an un-abused person feels this way, it is often as tough for them as it is for you to put their finger on the problem.
Abuse Changes Who You Are, But You Can Get You Back
Recently I read Brendon Burchard's book The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive. He claims that our drive for congruence causes negative feelings when our behaviors/thoughts do not match up with who we think we are. Likewise, when we set standards for our behavior and meet those standards routinely and habitually, we feel congruent and satisfied with who we are. When our self-image aligns with our thoughts and behaviors, we feel good about ourselves!
Mr. Burchard says a worthy goal for everyone is to "create higher standards and expectations" for ourselves and then "bring those standards and expectations into how [we] interact with the world." His mantra for us is
"Think more of yourself, and demand that your actions be congruent with the best of who you are and who you can be."
Of course, in the world of abuse, sometimes your basic survival instincts (such as "stay alive"!) outweigh the desire to be a congruent person. If your life is at risk, do whatever you need to do to stay alive, then get the hell out of there (How to Report Domestic Violence, Domestic Abuse and Hotlines).
But most of the time, we can choose congruity over non-congruity. If you will set a standard of behavior for yourself and then live that standard in your thoughts and actions, you will feel powerful. You will realize that you control you instead of feeling emotionally controlled by your abuser. When you feel more powerful, you are better able to see the truth of your situation. You will see that the abuse becomes clearer and focused further away from you (instead of you being the focus of abuse).
Today, I challenge you to pick one of your best qualities and LIVE IT. If you are smart, do something to make you smarter. If you are loving, do something to spread love through your environment (a word of advice: loving your abuser stops at their feet - they do not continue the cycle of love, so don't waste it on them). If you hate yourself when you yell, choose to speak only at a neutral volume. The possibilities are endless.
You get to choose who you are. I dare you to do it.
Holly, K. (2013, July 5). Domestic Abuse Can Change Who You Are, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2013/07/abuse-selfimage
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
I am sorry, but your other comment did in fact disappear into cyberspace. I didn't receive it. It sounds like you're scared of him, and I hope that doesn't mean you're in physical danger, too. If he hits, chokes, pushes, blocks your path, won't let you leave the room, pulls your hair, pinches, or otherwise lays his hands on you in a foul manner, that is physical violence. You could reasonably receive a restraining order if those things happen to you. If you feel as if you're in danger, I urge you to at least call the police/sheriff's department as soon as possible to discuss your options. Ask them what they would do (in theory) if you called them to your home for a domestic disturbance. Remember that if they do NOT take him away at that time, you will most likely want to leave with the police and stay somewhere else until he calms down (at least). I know it sounds like a lot...here is a safety plan that can help you think about these difficult things and plan for your safety whether you decide to stay or leave: http://www.verbalabusejournals.com/pdf/safety-plan-stay-or-go.pdf
I offer a mentoring service to people who are in a bad space (its free). My mentors have all been in abusive relationships and can understand where you're coming from as well as share their wisdom concerning how to make the bad space better. The only thing is that I don't allow them to use the phone (safety reasons), so all communication is done through email and you said that typing is difficult for you. (http://verbalabusejournals.com/help-with-domestic-abuse/)
If you can call someone to talk about your situation, I suggest the National Domestic Violence Hotline (http://www.thehotline.org). They're available 24/7 via phone or chat; their volunteers helped me through some of my bad space. They have lists of local resources that you can reach out to for help.
The second marriage was my undoing, because of me reacting to the abuse and not knowing my legal rights, I went to jail for domestic violence, me the victim, I was accused of being the aggressor, I felt so betrayed by the system. I wish I had reached out for help long before that day and worse than that I wish I had left the relationship when the abuse began, instead I thought I could change him.
Upon attending court ordered anger management classes, I realized there were MANY women of all backgrounds in the same situation as myself. What we learned was NOT to react or make decisions based upon our emotions, especially when we were hurt or angry. We also learned we COULD NOT FIX
our abuser, they are not broken, they feel ENTITLED. They think the world revolves around them and their needs. They utilize the emotional roller coaster ride to keep you off balance(walking on egg shells), so you will begin doubting yourself worth and intelligence. They pretend to smother you with attention in the beginning which is a RED FLAG, this is the beginning of cutting off everyone else involved in your life, so you will have no one to reach out to ( so it seems). Keep your contacts and DON'T let shame keep you in an abusive relationship.
Learn about yourself, what attracts predators to you? What are you attracted to in a predatory individual? Break the cycle...your life depends on it.
He criticizes me constantly...even when he's being "playful". He'll say things like, "you're the only person I know that would do that..." He explodes if I double tie the garbage bags, even if their full because he thinks he can fit more in and tells about how expensive garbage bags are. I constantly walk on eggshells around him and I'm afraid to be alone with him because he has such a temper. He travels a lot and that is the only time I am able to relax a little.
When I try to do nice things for him, like clean the house, he'll say "oh you must be having friends over." He is rarely ever thankful for the things I do for him and I literally fall all over myself while trying to make him happy.
Well, I have been questioning myself over and over again whether or not my relationship is really that bad. I know in my heart that there is something wrong and that no matter what I do, it will never be good enough for him. He treats me like a child and I feel like I'm working for him. I don't know what to do because we have children and I'm afraid he'll make my life a living hell if I left him.
Thank you so much for blogging about this. When you wrote about your nurturing and empathetic side, it made me cry. My husband is the first man that I have been with that finds these things annoying and weak.
For everything of mine they stole because I didn't give it to them, I stole something. For everything they destroyed because they were angry, I destroyed something.
I finally attempted suicide. When I was releaed from the hospital, I discovered they were going to punish me for doing that. I left, but I went back. I felt powerless and had no resources. They had my money, my belongings, they had destroyed all the goodness that was in me and my relationships with my children and family.
But I got sober. It took six months to plan, but I escaped while no one was home.
Now, incredibly - I let him back into my life and he has power over me again.
I'm smarter now and know my legal rights and tell him that i do. He no longer has his army to back him up because I let him into my world. But now I am at his mercy again because I believed his lies about how he wanted to make up for the past and help me and my children recover. It was all lies that became apparent the minute he signed the lease, just as it did the minute we got married. It's all about being used to further his spending agenda and furthering his financial prosperity.
Now I've cut it off. I will probably be homeless but will no longer have to worry about his approval.
Every night I cry and want to die. I have lost everything due to my stupidity about this man.
God help my family.