I first began studying abuse in 1968 during my tenure at Juvenile Court in the Abuse and Neglect Unite. The idea of a cycle of child abuse was all the rage. I don’t remember what the theory was called then. But the theory was abused children grow up to be abusive parents. The same idea is expressed by the common statement: “Hurt people hurt people.” I don’t agree. And here is why.
Yesterday I was verbally abused and bullied. This woman wanted to force me to take an action I didn’t agree with. It went against my will and my better judgment. This happens all the time. People want what they want. Some have no scruples about how they get it.
When confronted, she used her history of abuse as her excuse. She threw her abuse feelings at me. She rapidly and loudly listed every single experience of abuse she may have ever experienced in her lifetime.
None of her history had anything to do with our conversation. She was trying to manipulate me. Without the words, her volume and tone said verbal abuse. She hit me over and over with her words. It really did feel like a beating.
I have mad coping skills, but limited physical energy. I live with a serious chronic illness. I must use good judgment and extreme pacing to function in the world. Her verbal abuse overloaded my medical conditions and landed me in bed all the rest of day.
I accept full responsibility for my well-being. Ending up in bed again all day is my clue to set better boundaries for myself. I have to be much more cautious about who I allow in my space. I’m on a learning curve with that. My desire for as much life as my health will allow me demands I learn to take better care of myself.
Today, when I politely severed contact with her, she blandly claimed she was triggered. No apology. No sense she had done anything wrong. She was sad that I would no longer be helping her.
Maybe she was triggered. Maybe not. Maybe she was just trying to get her way. Make me do what she wanted. I see that often.
Sometimes I saw it in my counseling practice. People who think having once been a victim gives them some special protected status. Somehow people believe they have a license to act however they please. Abuse does not give you a free pass on morality, ethics, and life’s consequences. It just doesn’t.
This is a real moral issue.
Categorically, it is wrong to throw your pain at other people. It was wrong for my abusers to do it. It was wrong for your abusers to do it to you. It’s wrong for me to do it to you. And it’s wrong for you to do this to others. You have the choice as to how you behave.
It is absolutely wrong to get your needs met using unwilling people.
It seems ironic that some seriously hurt people feel they have a right to harm others. That serious hurt people see other people around them as objects for their use. Other people are not tissue paper or furniture. They are not objects for and you don’t have a license to use them. It’s just as wrong for you as it was for the people who hurt you.
If I wanted them, I have a litany of excuses to behave badly, whine, complain, and stay stuck in my life. I could have been ugly to the woman yesterday. I could mistreat my husband when life is tough for me. I could treat my medical team to the frustration I often feel.
But, see, it’s wrong for me to take my painful experiences out on others. Even if they are inept, bad, wrong and mistaken.
My life is mine. And your life is yours.
How we live determines our life’s experiences. What we do creates the quality of our lives. Our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and attitudes create our inner environment. And, that inner environment decides the caliber of your life.
Most people think they are helpless. They believe that what happens to them determines how they live. That’s only partly true. What happens to us is only one small part. How we choose to cope with what happened is more important. That’s the largest part of what our lives will be like.
I could blame other people for my troubles and stay stuck in my life. I could live in a rage about my chronic illnesses caused by severe medical malpractice. I could live angry, unhappy, frustrated, lonely and friendless. I could wallow in what was done to me and remain a victim of life. I can choose that.
You can choose that. But it IS a choice. My choice. Your choice.
This is such a terrible mistake. I know. I remember my early efforts to grow and heal. I thought I’d suffered enough. That my early abusive nightmare of a life was a free pass to an untroubled life in my future. That other people should absolutely NOT bump into my sore places and trigger me.
You cannot control other people or life itself.
None of what I used to believe is true. I cannot control other people. You cannot control other people. It’s wrong to try. I cannot control cancer, tornadoes, doctors, criminals, or other ugly life experiences. I cannot control being triggered. I can only control how I choose to respond.
To spend your life trying to control the life experiences outside of you is like spitting in the wind. You end up all wet with your own efforts splashing back all over you.
This is a serious quality of your life issue. You can choose to spend your life tilting at windmills. Spinning in place trying to control others. You will suffer needlessly. Or you can work on healing.
You can heal if you choose to do the work.
You can take that energy and determination you were using to control others and work on healing yourself. You really are the only person who can help you. I know this as sure as I know my own name.
Abuse causes deep inner pain. It causes us to distort our lives from who we could be and what we could have done. I am the only one who can work on bringing me back to myself. You are the only one who can work on bringing you back to yourself.
And you cannot do this putting all your attention on other people. You certainly cannot grow by abusing others. You can only grow if you put that attention on yourself and work hard on your own healing. You cannot get there from here if you wallow in misery, blame others and throw your pain at them.
I think I’ll sum up what I’ve been trying to say. It’s wrong to harm others no matter your excuse. It’s self-destructive to cherish your pain. It harms you to concentrate on the wrong others do. And the path to personal healing from abuse is to look at yourself and try to grow. You can do this by choosing to participate in any growth process available to you.
This has been my attempt to make sense out of a series of experiences that troubled me and turn them into a positive helpful posting. I hope it does just that. Helping others is one of the ways I cope with my life. It means that hurts have been turned into something beneficial.
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