Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's Not You, It's Me

I have found myself carefully picking my way across the battleground of what I believe. On the one side is what I know in my heart to be true, on the other is what the evidence demonstrates is true. Before I became a survivor of emotional abuse, I thought, like many, that recipients of abuse were weak. I think sometimes I still feel that way, deep underneath the things I have learned from councilors and books. I have been working for a long time on faith: on evidence of things I can't otherwise sense.

Neither of my two councilors used the word "abuse" at first. It wasn't until I read a book called "But He Never Hit Me" that I began the emotional metamorphosis necessary for me to label what had been happening to me. There is still a part of me that feels faintly ludicrous when I say it. So I still, from time to time, think about what got me into that situation . . . and how I can avoid it happening again. Statistics are not on my side. (But the Lord is!)

This story could almost be mine, except I was blessed to get out of it sooner. Unfortunately, I still deal with the effects within myself and my children on a weekly basis. (At least it isn't daily any longer.) I can't imagine where I would have ended up if the Lord had not blessed me to escape now.

One of the most consistent threads through all levels and types of abuse is the recipient's need for three things. As the story above says,
"Individuals caught in abusive situations are seeking three primary things: a voice, a sense of value, and validation. While our voice may be most easily found, our sense of value must be most consciously fought for, and vindication, we must understand, may never be forthcoming."
One thing I have found is that no one can validate my choices. Though it helps, it is all too easy to counter-argue. The sense of value must be built grain by grain, through building a thorough and real understanding of God and how He sees me. A lack of this sense of intrinsic value is what led me to becoming a recipient of abuse. I thought I had to prove my worth.

As for the voice, well, here I am. I will not be silenced any longer.

Part of the reason most recipients of abuse have difficulty escaping is because it is impossible to avoid the truth. As the woman in the above story relates, "[He] may have been abusive, but I enabled his destructive behavior." There is a feeling of guilt that is impossible to describe. Hope that things will change wraps you in chains, binding you to the "relationship". As she said, "Instead of living in reality, I held out for hope . . . ." Hope that there is some power, some magic combination of actions that will make the lie of happiness he gave in the beginning become true.

Part of the difficulty is reconciling the reality of abuse with the gospel. The scriptures teach us to turn the other cheek, to give the cloak with the coat, to walk the extra mile. They teach faith, hope, charity: the exact things an abuser uses to entice and entrap. He uses them deliberately, whether consciously or not.

How does a person who believes in those things reconcile them with the evidence that they do not work, that they, in fact, make things worse?

There is a message of submission in the scriptures, particularly in the New Testament, which seems to advocate utter inactivity when it comes to those who would harm you. The Old Testament teaches the opposite: to be the aggressor when the Lord commands it. So where is the balance?

That is where the Book of Mormon completes scripture. The truth is that both the Old and New Testaments are right. The point is not violence or lack of violence, it is following God's will. And, at certain times and places, it is appropriate to defend and, rarely, even take the fight to the aggressor. It is up to us to not use "God's Will" to justify actions that are anything but.

So how does this apply to abuse? One thing I have noticed, as I've gone back and read these scriptural teachings, is that they apply to enemies, not to family or friends. They are not applied to those who are held close to your heart.

Only the Spirit can truly teach each recipient of abuse when the time is right. Those who love someone who is a recipient of abuse must realize that leaving immediately is not always the best answer. It is wise to be careful when making the decision.

To those who wonder if they are a recipient of abuse, there is something important to understand about the psyche of an abuser. He "will do anything to keep you, but nothing to take care of you." He is a psychological stalker, all the more dreadful because he is someone you ought to be able to love and trust. Like the trapped unicorns in the Last Unicorn, you, the recipient of abuse, must discover that what traps you is not the Red Bull, it is not the covenants you have made nor the expectations of those around you, nor is it Haggard: it is you and your fears. You do not understand yourself, that you are strong and beautiful and free by definition.

Like many true stalkers, the abuser's purpose is to destroy you. He did not find you because you were weak, he found you because you are strong. You possess qualities that he, himself, desires. Somehow in his twisted mental outlook, he longs for what you have and believes that if he can own you, he can own the strength he sees in you. He finds, over time, that he can't own it. And when he realizes this, he tries to destroy it. Just like Haggard, he doesn't realize that he destroys the very thing he values when he tries to bottle it, and that he can never possess what makes you beautiful by trying to trap it.

There is one major difference between you, the recipient of abuse, and the one who abuses. You approach life with the feeling that it is somehow you, that you can somehow change to control the world around you. He does the opposite, he will grab anything he can affix blame to. He knows he has no control, and he is afraid. He believes that everyone around him has power he does not. If he can't blame you, he will blame psychological illness that he needs medication for (and the nature of the "illness" often changes over time), or some physical problem: no sleep, constant pain or other ailment. Perhaps he will blame his childhood (and it was terrible), or some vast current misunderstanding that made him act the way he did. He will always say, "It's not me, it's ________," because he can't afford to face the truth.

It is him. He is the captain of his ship. No one can grab the helm but him. He must realize that, and most importantly YOU must realize that.
"The ideal victim is a conscientious person with a natural tendency to blame herself." Stalking the Soul, Marie-France Hirigoyan
A recipient of abuse must find a way to say, "Yes, I have my problems. But "it" is not me. It's you."



  1. Wonderful post, SilverRain. I will be linking to this at some point in the future.

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  3. This is very astute on your part Silver Rain, it shows an awakening, which as you know is most of the battle. I believe your insight could help others (which is why you posted it I’m sure).

    You made many statements in this post that stood out, but there are a couple that were profound for me:

    “He "will do anything to keep you, but nothing to take care of you." He is a psychological stalker, all the more dreadful because he is someone you ought to be able to love and trust.”

    The nature of my work often has me dealing with the perpetrators of abuse (both child and spousal), the irony of abuse is exactly as you stated, often done by someone in a position of trust, by those that should be nurturing them instead of abusing them. Every case is sad in it’s own right.

    you said:
    “You possess qualities that he, himself, desires. Somehow in his twisted mental outlook, he longs for what you have and believes that if he can own you, he can own the strength he sees in you.”

    Thanks for this,This to me was very insightful. mostly the severely abused have been so mentally abused they are just shells of their former selves, any outstanding qualities they had are erased from the surface and are not easily detected. The deliberate destruction of another human being through abuse, is the saddest thing I have encountered in this life.

  4. Such a brave post, thank you.

    A thought came to me as I read this- Many years ago I was in an LDS womens' therapy group. The therapist moderating the group was a bishop and we often wrestled LDS doctrine in group. One week as we talked about our struggles he got very emotional and said very plainly and loudly, "When Christ said to be meek he meant towards him, not towards everyone!"

    I don't know the doctrinal certainty of that, but it adjusted my attitude to see that meekness can be situational. Honestly it gave me back a portion of the power I was giving away. It relates to what you say in the post about trying to live our covenants while others take advantage of our Christ-like qualities.

  5. Silver, I didn't know until reading your comment at T&S today that you were divorced. Hugs, sister.

  6. I loved this post too Silver Rain. I had an emotionally abusive relationship in college. When it got physically abusive I moved on, but I wonder if he hadn't hurt me if I would have had the guts to do so. Initially the relationship was wonderful. My friends often commented on how much he adored me and how I should move the relationship forward. But slowly he pulled me away mentally and physically from who I was. To this day I cannot believe how hard it was for me to break up with him. Wouldn't anyone want to get away from someone who said they were fat, ugly, stupid etc? But I had been sucked in. I guess I can be thankful he moved the abuse to physical so my mind could identify a trigger to move on.

  7. Excellent post. Truly spoke volumes. Thanks.

  8. Very insightful. Thank you for posting this. (My words do not portray what I am feeling. I'm crying. I feel like my chest might explode with all of the emotions. I'm still trying to sort out so many things.)

  9. Oh, Jen. I wish I could hug you. I'm sorry at the pain you are feeling.

  10. Thank you.
    I wrote a blog of my own about this... (I'm currently dealing with anger, and a lot of it, so I'm sure my post is oozing with it. If you don't want to be exposed to anger, don't read it. :)

    One of the replies was a theory about Christ and the teachings of "turn the other cheek".

    "There is a theory that when Jesus said to turn the other cheek, it was actually a subversive act. Because someone who sees you as an inferior would slap you with the back of the hand, offering your other cheek would force them to slap you with the palm of the hand, as an equal. It wasn't a call to accept abuse, it was a metaphor for demanding equality and respect from everyone, and saying that no one is inferior to anyone else."

    I had never heard that before, but I thought you might find it interesting. I did.


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