It’s funny how a lifetime of abuse can shape your outlook on life. The pattern of abuse is always the same however, because it is based upon the dynamic of Enforcer and Enabler. It is a relationship that never has any middle ground. Both roles are motivated by fear, which promotes a need to either control or be controlled. Being both aggressor and victim are active choices based on fundamental premises of survival. The underlying premise being: If I do not do this, then so and so will happen, either to me, or because of me. It is a weighing up of options that have very specific and limited outcomes, but that are essentially about preservation of self. However, it still takes both parties to perpetuate the relationship. It is an active choice for both, and as such, an unspoken agreement between the two. What makes this statement especially controversial is that no-one wants to admit that this is the case, except the irony therein is that this is why abuse exists at all.
Often however, victims of abuse will continue that dynamic within their own minds long after the act of abuse was committed. Victimhood is a mindset that is perpetuated by the individual belief in the need to survive. It becomes habitual. It becomes a character trait, and a way of life. It is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, however, it is still a form of self-abuse, or self-harm. Being concerned about survival promotes defensive behaviour, even when there is nothing to fight anymore. The victim becomes the abuser, because in being defensive others are targeted as would-be aggressors, even if they aren’t assuming that role, even if in fact they are being supportive and nurturing.
Most abusers were or are victims, they are one and the same person. And the hardest thing to do for either is to admit full accountability for their choices and actions, due to a sense of insecurity. The damage happens because they are both afraid and angry, and incapable of assuming personal responsibility, based on the belief that “It is them, not me, and there is nothing I can do about it”.
Both roles are akin to dealing with a caged wild animal who is only concerned with finding an opportunity or a route of escape. Whether in that moment, or in eventuality. Defensiveness is an attempt on the part of the individual to resolve current circumstances, however resolution only comes from admitting personal accountability. If you are ok with the world, the world will be ok with you.
Abuse makes hypocrites of us all. It also inspires a peculiar sense of humour. We all have our coping strategies. So here are a few things that really bug me about the Abuser/Victim paradigm, and some useful tips:
1. The act of saying sorry: Saying “sorry” is an act of submission not equality. It resolves nothing, and it is a an acknowledgment that harm has already been done, and that it may already be too late to fix things. Saying sorry gives people permission to act irresponsibly, repeatedly. It is a ‘Get out of jail free’ card.
Better still, don’t do things you are going to regret. Mean what you do and mean what you say. Find ways of channeling your resentment in creative ways that are unlikely to harm others. Saying sorry absolves nothing. If you are going to bash somebody over the head, then be responsible enough to admit that you thought it was a good idea when you did it, and that at that moment you were aware of the possible consequences, but chose to throw caution to the wind anyway. Be bold enough to admit that you are capable of being abusive, even towards those you love and respect.
Saying sorry does not foster trust, I’m sorry but it doesn’t.
2. Projection: People who criticise others for doing exactly what they themselves do. Don’t be a fucking hypocrite! Have the balls to take responsibility for your own behaviour before you deflect it onto others. If it keeps happening to you throughout the course of your life, chances are, it’s you. Be aware of who you are, and your behaviour. Be honest with yourself even if you don’t like what you see, it is still you, and nobody else’s responsibility. Only you can fix you, don’t make you somebody else’s problem.
3. Trust: If you want others to trust you, stop behaving like an asshole. No one has the right to impose their fears on others. Be bold enough to say: “I’m having difficulty with what was just said, or what just happened because I am afraid that so and so will happen.” (If this is not possible in actuality, then be bold enough to play that scenario out in your mind, frequently. You will be surprised at how changing your mindset can be incredibly empowering, and how instantly things and people around you will begin to change once you take responsibility. Yes, it really does work like magic. Trust me. There are no closed systems. There are no limitations, just you and your wonderfully infinite imagination. Your imagination is your biggest asset and your most precious tool, use it well. Don’t be a tool.)
4. Personal Responsibility: Be brave enough to say “I do this” instead of “You do this”. It’s possibly the hardest thing to do when you are acting defensively, but it serves to defuse rather than ignite a potential conflict. Be mindful that your reactions are yours alone, and have nothing to do with the other person. In any conflict, both parties are actively choosing to react in the way in which they are, and that the behaviours are quite isolated and separate from the other. It isn’t mutual and it isn’t interactive. Defensive behaviour is not conducive to resolution. If you cannot swallow your pride due to fear of losing control of your sense of safety, then be brave enough to walk away. Far away, until you are able to say “I chose to react in this way, and I wouldn’t want someone else to behave in this way towards me“. Saying “I” is more powerful than saying “You”.
Saying “YOU” makes victims of us all. Bloody stop it!
N.B. If any of this has upset you, then please remove yourself and reconsider the above points in the safety of your own mind. No harm was intended on my part. I’m just another hypocrite who is tired of abuse. As I wrote this piece, I have already taken my own advice into consideration.