Since the time my recovery began almost two years ago, I have seen a dramatic change in the way I think, and feel, down to the way I cope with different situations. This is wonderful for me but alarmingly confusing to close friends and family members. I no longer fit into the standard criteria as I once did. One can’t quite put their finger on where to stereotype or categorize me.
Many time victims are looked upon as weak, after all, they let someone abuse them. Wrong! Survivors are some of the strongest people I know! They are resilient in every way and imaginative. Most of us have had to think of ways to survive when we were too young to begin to process what was happening!
Here is a great example of what I used to be like; I remember visiting my parents over the years and it didn’t matter how much therapy I had under my belt, as soon as I walked through the threshold of their front door the adult in me would flee and the wounded eight-year-old would enter in. I could never understand it. I wasn’t allowed to have any opinion as both of my parents sat in front of me judging my life and invalidating everything about me. I hated feeling that vulnerable in front of people who never had my best interest at heart. Their spirited acting skills of how much they missed or cared for me cut like razor blades across my already scared flesh. By the time I left, I would feel defeated and end up berating myself to a bloody pulp.
Although both of my parents have passed, and I never have to experience their malice again, abuse is something that many of us contend with daily whether it be in the workplace, school, family members, a relationship, neighbors or total strangers. Trying to navigate a world that uses emotional abuse as the norm is tough.
We live in a society that celebrates sociopathic and psychopathic behavior. The louder the abuse the more applause. I used to see it play out in the comment section of my posts all the time. I would watch as people would jump on the bandwagon while using a mobbing technique joining the one doing the textual smearing. Remember the ones calling you out for simple spelling errors saying how much it bugs them because they were English teachers? Well, guess what? You are not their student and they are not your teacher! Or perhaps you have the family troll who is committed to commenting on every post starting arguments. There are people who target you because they think they can.
So, I ask, how do you cope with this sort of dysfunction? You need a whole different skill set just to survive the insanity. On-line life is good practice for real life. You gain strength by validating what you are seeing. One needs to be able to identify abuse even in its subtleties. Once identified you need to deal with it head-on. Maybe you need to set boundaries or possibly eject this person from a front row seat in your life.
Real life is messy, your dealing with people face to face, you get to see a persons body language and the way they posture. You can usually pick up aggressive posturing right away. Clinched fists, standing inside your 12-inch invisible safety zone and facial expression. When people abuse they need to be held accountable, especially in a social situation. Remember, abuse is a choice right down to someone trying to knock you off balance by making a derogatory statement to you or someone within earshot.
Here are some profound statements I have learned to use in my recovery. When someone is invalidating your story or feelings I say, “I don’t need you to give me your opinion on my reality”. They haven’t lived through what you have so, saying something totally stupid or insulting doesn’t earn them a get off the hook card. Many can only understand what they have experienced themselves and as more victims join the fold it is just a matter of time until everyone is caught up and on the same page. Until then stand up for yourself, you lived through it, you have firsthand knowledge of what happened. It isn’t a conspiracy theory or some made for TV novel, this was your life, your experience!
Another statement is “I will not allow you to assume what my intentions are”. People are always putting their assumptions on others and it can be quite damaging. I myself have been accused of being mad at someone when I wasn’t. Or saying something that could be a possible “dig” or put down. When you are accused of thinking, feeling or doing something that you’re not it really throws you off balance. It makes you second guess yourself. It has the same effect as gaslighting and projection does. Stand strong because you know what you were trying to convey and as far as I know most of our society are not mind readers so they don’t have the right qualifications to assume anything.
People will show you if they value you! If they don’t then get the heck outta there! No use standing there trying to convince anyone. If they are a true friend or loving family member no explanation is ever needed. If it is an enemy, they will not listen to what you have to say anyway so you’re wasting your breath.
Non-Controlling ways of Communicating is another great way to get the ball rolling. Now, remember it doesn’t always work and especially with someone who is toxic.
Express how you feel,
I felt hurt or I was angry, I was disappointed.
Express your opinion,
In my opinion, this should have never happened, or I feel I have given you ample time to respond.
Ask a question,
How do you feel about this or why do you think this happened, or how can I help?
When the cocoon opens, you emerge as a standing survivor. You no longer fit the mold of a victim. This is where everything changes. You will be challenged by family members and friends because they no longer recognize you. Some will try to gain power and control by abusing you so they can put you back into their comfort zone. This won’t work! By now you have done so much work that you will never fit into anyone’s box again and that will bother many because to them you were only supply.
These are just a few things that I have learned from the long and difficult journey of recovery and healing. You can only take responsibility for yourself and your actions. This by no means makes the hurt and betrayal of others feel any better when it does happen, but now you know the burden is no longer yours to carry.