Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Lasting Effects of Verbal and Emotional Abuse

Fear is a great motivator.  The fear of failure makes some work harder.  The fear of not living up to expectations causes some to do things that they don't necessarily want to do.  The fear of disappointing the ones we love can sometimes make us do crazy things.

Sometimes I feel surrounded by fear.  I fear failing as a mother or wife.  I fear change.  I fear confrontation. 

Fear can be caused by episodes of physical, verbal or emotional abuse.  A raised voice still strikes fear into my heart even though they are almost never directed at me and even then aren't in anger......a childhood of screaming has left a lasting impression. 

I fear the future and the things that I can't control.  I can't control if/when the neighbors call the police because my husband passes their house on his way to work.  I can't control if the officer comes here to see whats going on and I can't control my husband's reaction to it.  The worst thing is that frequently, I feel like I can't control my reaction to fear.  An unknown vehicle in my driveway has me hiding in the bathroom before I have time to analyze why I am running.  The phone ringing has my heart jumping before I ever see who it is.  Even the peaceful times are fearful as I wait for the next shoe to drop, the next thing to happen and wonder how I will ever face another day, another problem, another confrontation. 

Most of my adult life I have felt that I was conquering fear.  Opening up, trying new situations, exploring the wide world around me.  It is funny how 48 hours last fall (and subsequent events) can change that so quickly. 

Some days I wonder if I am crazy.  Who, in their right mind, is afraid to go home? 

People understand and feel sympathy for those who have went through physical abuse.  They can understand the fear the victims face.  The unseen abuse, the verbal and emotional barrage that others endure, isn't understood.  Often unrecognized, friends and neighbors place the blame on the victim.  She's too soft hearted, she obviously didn't understand, the offender didn't mean it that way.  Then there is the blame that is placed on the victim......"you are making trouble when there isn't any", "you were probably to blame for the screaming anyway", "it wasn't just you and nobody else is making a fuss".  I think that sometimes that is the worst part.  The inability of the offender to see the wrong is one thing, but the inability for outsiders to believe that such behavior is unacceptable is amazing.  Would you think it proper to yell at your dog that way?  Your neighbor?  Then you shouldn't be doing it to your child. 

I get that lots of people grew up with parents that we screamers.  For me, the screaming was the easy part.  The sarcasm was worse.  Two words can cut to the self esteem so quickly.  In two words a whole word can be destroyed.  "Why can't you ever do anything right" should NEVER be said to a child. 

Having lived with this behavior for 18 years growing up I was very eager to leave as soon as possible.  Like a good little victim though, I came back.  No matter how badly you want them to, things don't change just because you have grown up.  Control is not easily relinquished by those who have it, they just learn new manipulation techniques. 

I have really struggled as a parent to not repeat the sins of my parents.  When you always complied when faced with sarcasm and manipulation, it is hard to understand if that technique doesn't work on your children.  It was a blessing that my children are immune to such things so I had to take a cold hard look at the way I was behaving.  God has been teaching me so much!  In teaching me, I have realized that what was done to me as a child was unacceptable and the treatment of me in that way as an adult should have been unacceptable as well.  Coming to terms with that has been difficult. 

Why should I think I am better than that?  Who says I should be treated with love and kindness?  What have I done to deserve it?  Nothing.  Love should make those who love me treat me in a loving way.  I treat my children with love and kindness not because of anything that they have or haven't done, but because I love them.  They deserve to be treated with love.  I deserve to be treated with love.

I hope to continue tomorrow with what God has to say about fear.  No matter the causes, we can be free from it!

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