Deciphering insidious messages (guest blogger)

Written by Amie on January 22, 2015 – 11:37 am -

I have a guest blogger!

This is the first time I have had a guest blogger on my site. I really want to post this because I believe it will be very helpful for many people. Many (probably most) people have been exposed to dysfunctional and abusive behavior. If you were exposed for many years to dysfunctional behavior, chances are very good that you are still suffering as an adult from the messages you absorbed and didn’t even realize it. It was just “normal” behavior. Until we begin the journey of questioning depression/anxiety/anger, we most likely will not notice the interactions that feed these conditions (for lack of a better word). These interactions feel so familiar to us that most of us assume there is something wrong with us when we walk away from the interaction feeling miserable. Rather than go inward with the feelings (depression), some people explode with rage and either hurt themselves or others. Early on in my healing process, I had no idea why I still felt horrible after being with certain people. And then I figured it out. Their actions never matched their words. Their energy was saying one thing, but their actions another. Their words were not really expressing their truth, their words were being used to manipulate people and situations in order to fulfill their need to stay locked in their abusive behavior. The rest of this post will be written by a guest blogger.

 Abusive behavior and what it looks like 

*I am using “he” rather than write out “he/she” each time.

As long as the abuser has you (and all of his supporters) questioning YOU (the victim), the focus is off of him. When the focus is taken off the abuser, he does not have to face the fact that the problem in the relationship is his past and continued abusive ways. Instead, he can blame you for causing problems, and not “forgiving” (when in reality the true issue is that you simply held him accountable for his abusive behavior, you stood up to him when nobody would, and he sees this as you causing problems) Abusive people lie, blame, and deny and they are masters at all of these. They play the victim, and could win an Oscar for their performance. Anything to avoid facing the truth of what is actually happening. Their supporters (enablers) all flock to defend him. However, even the supporters will claim they are not supporting his behavior. Instead they say they are supporting both the abuser and the victim. (this is not possible). They say things like, “but he loves his family”, “he would do anything for his kids”, (EXCEPT WHAT HE NEEDS TO DO, WHICH IS SAY HOW HE HAS CHANGED HIS ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR) If you ask him to tell you how he has changed (because you want to know this before agreeing to be around him again), you are called demanding and controlling. The enablers then use guilt, shame, and lies to try and shut you up from speaking the truth. The abuser will tell the enablers lies in order to keep them believing he is the victim (like saying “I did admit what I did to her”,or “I have changed”,or “I have done everything possible to fix this”) and then say something different to the victim. (like lying about what really happened, not, in fact, admitting the truth).

Guilt, guilt and more guilt. Oh, and some shame too

Another way to attempt to guilt you is to ask you, “what would God want you to do?” (As if these people have this answer! lol) And then they ask, “Can’t we just start anew?”(this being said over and over, even after the abuser has had multiple chances to repair the relationship) “Can’t we just start anew” is another guilt trip laden remark. The person asking this question just wants you to shut up and stop trying to make the abuser and enabler change anything. Let’s start anew means, let’s sweep it under the rug like we always do. They want to go back to the way it was, but SAY things have changed, when in fact, they haven’t changed a bit.

People in dysfunctional relationships like things to stay the same. They may not like the behavior of the abusive person, but be sure, if you try to break the cycle at all, you will become the “hateful angry one” who is a “troublemaker” who is “always arguing with people”. The list goes on and on…Anything is used to put the focus on you rather than where it belongs.

Actions always speak loudest

The words of abusive people never match their actions. This feels so good to finally realize why it never felt good to be around them in the first place. I could not figure that out. They tell me, “My intention has never been to hurt you”, which I used to think, ok, well they didn’t mean to. I would still feel crappy, but I thought it was just me. When in reality this statement actually means, “I will not take responsibility because I didn’t mean to hurt you.” So hurting someone and not having to apologize is ok if you say you didn’t mean to? Also, if the abusive person continues to hurt you, their words mean absolutely nothing. They just say these words because they think it gets them off the hook from having to take responsibility for their actions. They don’t want to take responsibility for something they believe you deserved because you “disrespected” them by simply disagreeing with them.

“I have unconditional love for you”- doesn’t this statement  sound nice? If you have to tell someone you have unconditional love for them, then its very possible you don’t actually have it. Your actions  would show unconditional love, there should be no need to have to tell someone. When this statement is used in conjunction with the fact that the abuser refuses to take the steps needed in order to heal the relationship, (that they, in fact, ruined) they are trying to guilt you into changing your story, trying to get you to stop saying what is true. They want to be in denial, so they use what most people think is a loving statement, in hopes that you will feel bad enough setting boundaries that you will just let it all go, sweep it under the rug again. Again, trying to make you into the perpetrator because you are the one speaking out, you are the one rocking the boat.

 

Dictionary of abusive/dysfunctional statements:

1. “We are definitely on different pages” (what an abusive person actually means-Your thoughts and opinions are crazy/wrong/don’t matter, and mine are right, so there is nothing we need to talk about. You are crazy for even thinking that.)

2. “I’m sorry you feel the way you do” (what an abusive person actually means- It’s not my fault. You are very wrong about what you are saying. I will not even listen to your thoughts because the way you feel is wrong/bad) This statement is used to minimize ones’ feelings, to make you question yourself.

3. “You need to forgive” (what an abusive person actually means-Lift up the rug and let’s forget about all this that happened.You are bad if you can’t just forgive, forget, and move on) ** This being said even though the abuser has not admitted to the abuse, nor have they made any changes. (And I know that because I was with the person recently,and they exhibited the same abusive behavior)

4. “You are just hateful and angry” (what an abusive person actually means-this is your fault this mess is still going on. Anger is bad, you shouldn’t have anger.)

5.”My intention was never to hurt you” (what an abusive person actually means-I am not responsible for what I did to you. I will not take responsibility for my actions. You should feel bad that you think I would ever mean to hurt you)

6. “Don’t you think we have analyzed this situation to the fullest and we could resolve these issues?” (what an abusive person actually means-there is no hope of me ever taking responsibility for my actions, so can you please go back to accepting abusive behavior. And, btw, I have no intention of ever changing, but since I said the words “let’s resolve these issues”  to you, I am able to tell people I have tried everything, but its YOU that won’t accept my efforts. So its your fault this mess is still a mess.)

7. “Let’s focus on the positive” (what an abusive person actually means-stop calling me out on my abusive behavior, you are just so negative, angry and hateful!)

8. “But he/we have done so many good things for you” (what an abusive person actually means-be grateful for the good things, ignore and be okay with abusive things. Good things should outweigh the hurt.)

9. “You don’t really feel that way do you?” (what an abusive person actually means-you should be ashamed for even thinking that! You are bad/wrong/crazy. Your feelings don’t matter.)

 

Practice Questioning everything!

These are a few of the statements that I have learned to decipher. Whenever someone says something that makes you feel bad about yourself, question it. Ask if there is guilt or shame being used to try to manipulate you. Question what is truly going on. If you frequently beat yourself up over day to day interactions, stop, become aware, and practice looking within to learn more about yourself and what is happening inside you. When we do this, we take our power back from abusive people. Please feel free to comment with any messages you have absorbed from being in dysfunctional relationships.

 

Here is Brene Brown talking about how to stop a shame spiral.

 

 

 

 

 

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“It could be so much worse”; words used to diminish your experience

Written by Amie on August 3, 2013 – 3:20 am -

Diminishing my feelings

A few years ago in therapy I uncovered a conditioned belief that was ingrained very deep inside me. It came with the message, “be thankful, you don’t have it nearly as bad as many other people have it, it could be so much worse.”  This message felt so real to me that I also began to use it against myself. I would remind myself, “this isn’t that bad, you shouldn’t feel so bad because you know there are other people who have it way worse than you do.” It took me a long time to dissect the shame and guilt wrapped up in this little package of words that was used by others in my life to try to diminish my feelings and experiences. I believe these words were said with a goal in mind. (maybe on a subconscious level, maybe not). The goal in my opinion, was to allow the person saying these words to remain in denial. If only I would just stay quiet, if I would just swallow my thoughts and feelings about any given situation, if only I would just pretend that everything is “normal”, then the people around me could remain in denial. If I spoke the truth about the dysfunctional behavior, others might be forced to face the truth of certain situations.

how do you define “worse” in this situation?

This phrase has popped up again a couple of times in the last few months. I thought I would write about my experience because I’m thinking there are others who are familiar with these words and are in the process of figuring out why they trigger a feeling of shame or maybe anger. I want to validate your feelings of confusion around this.  If someone tries to diminish your experiences and emotions by telling you, “it could be so much worse”, please know they are trying to avoid facing something in themselves. These words are used when someone is trying to avoid feeling their own truth, when someone is denying what is true in their life. These words are used to project a person’s discomfort onto the person speaking the truth, in hopes of lessening their own inner feelings of truth. Your feelings are valid, you have a right to feel as you feel, no matter how bad other people have it. There are always going to be people who have things worse than you do, or I do,etc.  Also, how do you define “worse” in this situation? That could be another discussion by itself!  The fact that someone else may “have it worse” doesn’t change your feelings! You have a right to your feelings no matter what someone else’s situation is. (and feeling your feelings and talking about them does not mean you don’t have compassion for others and their experiences).

guess what happens when a person keeps “shutting up”? 

It took me so long to understand what was really going on when I was told to “be thankful, it could be worse”. I internalized shame and guilt when I heard these words. I felt ashamed that I could be “so selfish” as to think *my* feelings should matter. Who was I to think I could have any issues at all when there were so many others whose issues were way worse than mine! I am so grateful I figured this out and unraveled the insanity of this brilliant little phrase used to manipulate and control. I was able to step back to see the big picture. By diminishing my experience, it shut me up. When I shut up, others around me could stay in denial. If I shut up, we could keep playing the pretend game of “everything is so great! our situation is normal! I didn’t do or say anything hurtful.” And guess what happens when a person keeps “shutting up”? Depression. In a big way. By being told numerous times that my experiences and feelings were nothing compared to others, I internalized the message, “I don’t matter, my voice does not matter. If I keep everything inside, it will make others happy”. And so I learned to not “rock the boat”.

until I started rocking the boat

That is, until I started rocking the boat. And really, “rocking the boat” to me just means I started speaking up and saying what is true for me. I think of this as a positive thing, but not everyone agrees. Some are not yet willing to own their words and actions, and that’s okay, I understand. But that doesn’t mean I am going to stop saying what’s true for me. And it doesn’t mean I will go back to pretending all is well. It is interesting that if a person is not ready to hear the truth, they instead decide to blame the people who are speaking their truth. The message being sent is something along the lines of, “if you speak up and tell the truth, you are a bad person. You are a trouble maker, why can’t you just “forgive”, *you* are ruining relationships, it is your fault we are divided.” This is unfortunate, and sad.

All I really want

Because I remember very vividly what it feels like to protect myself at all costs, I understand being in denial and I understand not wanting to feel the pain of my experiences and truths. Because of this, I really can’t be angry with people who are not ready to face their pain (even though it could mean an end to their suffering). Being vulnerable and taking ownership of your experiences is not easy work. It can be very difficult, in fact. But it is part of being a healthy human being. Feeling the pain of things we are faced with in life is part of the process while on the path to finding the truth of who we really are. It is part of the process of taking back the power we give away when we suppress our emotions so that someone else can remain in denial. All I really want from others is for them to show up in an authentic way and to be vulnerable enough to own their experiences.

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