I came across an article this morning about emotional manipulation and how to protect yourself. Having been in an incredibly damaging relationship with someone I am 99% sure is a sociopath, it spoke to me. Also having grown up in an abusive home…I see there are a lot of crossovers, and I guess it is unsurprising that I would end up in a series of uncomfortable, unhealthy and downright abusive relationships over the years.
To me, it was always the emotional abuse that was worse than the physical. I have only been in one relationship that included any kind of physical abuse, but my childhood had its share of physical abuse. Mostly though, it was the words that stung. The words and threats are what manipulated me into believing I deserved that kind of treatment. I always said I would rather undergo any kind of physical pain over emotional pain. I stand by that; my heart is sensitive, my tolerance for physical pain is sky high.
For those who would like to read the article, I will link it here: 8 Ways to Protect Yourself From Emotional Manipulation. I implore you to read it, even if you have not been through such a situation, it may help you understand others who have been. Empathy is incredibly important to me. Helping to understand victims will help them feel less alienated.
It drives me crazy when people get upset with the victim in such circumstances. Many people do not understand the victim cycle. You end up feeling brainwashed…it IS a form of brainwashing. If you want to be aware and able to help someone who is a victim of such an abuser, another good thing to read up on is gaslighting. This is a form of manipulation that has the victim questioning their own sanity. I have been there. I didn’t have anyone around me who understood what was happening. I was being judged, blamed and called crazy by a handful of friends and acquaintances who did not understand what I was going through. I eventually was strong enough to get out. But it wasn’t until JUST NOW, when I read this article, that I realized this happened to me in my home life as well. I was just mentioning it the other day, actually; so I am not sure why it clicked now. The Wikipedia article for gaslighting explains it all.
I blamed myself for many years as a child and into adulthood for the things happening around me. My father continually denied any of his abusive behavior, accusing us all of being crazy when we were brave enough to confront him. This is why I started to “punish” myself at a young age, moving from beating and bruising myself with heavy objects, to burning myself with metal items heated red hot or chemicals that would eat through my flesh, to eventually cutting. I started with a pocket knife my father gifted me and ended with a razor blade busted out of a safety razor. I cut myself so deep I went into shock, and thus began my desire to stop the self-mutilation I had by this time been entrenched in for about a decade. I thought my very existence was the reason my father was so angry, and I was making myself pay for it. Perhaps he was mad that I existed, but it was not my fault. I did not ask to be born and I certainly wouldn’t have asked to be born to this family. I finally realize it: It is NOT MY FAULT.
So. No surprise I would continue on the path of self-abuse for a long time until I tried desperately to get help. I find I still struggle (see: last relationship) but I am hopeful for my future now, perhaps for the first time ever. I feel very much free from many things in my past, though occasionally I am still haunted by particular memories. Many of my friends have also lived through traumatic childhoods; most of them, however, have made peace with their abusers and now have as healthy of a relationship as possible with their families. I fear I will get no such closure. My boyfriend told me he doesn’t know what he would do if he didn’t have the support of his family and knows how hard it was before he had that support. He told me he knows how hard it is to get where I have gotten without any help. HE ACTUALLY UNDERSTANDS ME. I cried so much I felt like a dried out husk of a human. My accomplishments and my struggles have never been acknowledged like that. He is proud of me. I don’t feel like anyone has EVER been proud of me, and if they were, they certainly didn’t say so. It touched me and it was exactly what I needed to hear and have needed for years. He gets me. I feel so lucky.
I can’t really relate to people who DON’T come from a traumatic background and/or don’t have some kind of chronic illness. Obviously the reverse is true as well. It’s difficult to connect with someone who comes from a wildly different place than yourself.
I am happy to say now that the people I surround myself with are positive people making changes in their lives for the better despite their painful history. This is an improvement over the years I spent doing damaging things with other damaged people. No goals, no plans, no care in the world but to forget the monsters inside our own heads. I thought I would not live to see 25, and I didn’t really care.
I dragged myself out of that pit, and I did it all on my own. I guess this is probably my greatest accomplishment. I quit cutting, I quit drinking (I do drink occasionally now but NEVER to get drunk and tend to veer away from hard liquor) I quit a lot of other things including negative self-talk. I felt like that was really stupid when I first read/heard about it but it is very important. I am less critical of others and less critical of myself. Not that I am perfect with it just yet but my quality of life has improved over the past couple years for sure.
I’m pleased with life now and have hope for my future. Eyes wide open.