This is a longer post…but please look at it from the perspective of being able to learn something without spending all the “real time” that studying and reading require! I tried to make the post easy to scan for the most important concepts.
There is a stage of life where we must face our personal realities…and the earlier the better!! The information on this post will not affect everyone, but for those whose trust has been seriously broken (even unintentionally or ignorantly broken) especially as a child and young person, this may supply some puzzle pieces to understanding who you are and why….not that we stay where we are, but we must get to know ourselves and what has shaped us to grow beyond this stage.
I’d like to share some “puzzle pieces” from Father Hunger by Robert McGee that have been very helpful to me. This is an excellent book!! It is not about blaming men!! However, we must face the truth about many people’s reality in our culture today.
It could possibly be a good book to read in tandem with another older trusted mature friend of the same sex or in a group setting. Sometimes we need someone with us who can say, “You’re on the right track. This is true. This is a good thing.” Sometimes we also need someone to say…”The truth is not nearly as frightening as your emotions think it is!! Hold steady. Give yourself time to emotionally process, but don’t quit! Keep walking the healing path! Keep putting truth into your mind!!”
The Child as Victim (content from chapter 8)
Obviously, we would all prefer a father who (did all the right things). Many of us, however, realize that we will never have this kind of father.
Isn’t it enough to find other people who will boost our sagging levels of self-esteem? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The person who encounters such a trauma eventually develops discernable patterns of behavior. Unless the root problem is uncovered and dealt with, these reactions may continue throughout the victim’s life.
We act in certain ways as small children when we don’t feel loved as we should. These coping behaviors are likely to be repeated again and again, applied to relationship with peers and spouses, and eventually passed along to our own children. Even though we may never consciously choose to do so, we become victims who act defensively.
A child may find it hard to feel loved by others.
A child may suffer because their perspective has been seriously warped.
A child may have grown up abandoned by his father, yet continue to defend him vehemently.
A child creates defenses.
Anger may be internalized.
A victim of abuse may spend much of his/her live searching for a reason when none exists, other than the truth: the parent failed to show genuine love for the child. It’s not uncommon for people to completely block out such incidents from conscious awareness. But later in life, stress may begin to trigger those painful memories. Or a parent whose child reaches the age at which he/she was abuse may suddenly recall these incidents.
Effects of victimization
If several of these descriptions apply to you, chances are that you have been victimized in some way in the past, whether you are consciously aware of it or not. The twelve symptoms listed below are indicative of any kind of victim.
- Fragility. Victims are very sensitive to being offended. When someone upsets them, it is difficult for them to maintain any kind of perspective. But don’t mistake fragility for weakness. Victims tend to become very controlling people. An emotionally wounded person feeling a great deal of internal pain is likely to lash out at anyone who comes too close. Though fragile, such individuals can still do a lot of damage if you aren’t careful.
- Extremes in perception. Victims tend to view people as either evil or wonderful. Things are black & white. Hostile feelings toward past abusers are often unjustly projected onto present relationships. It is very difficult for victims to allow their peers to be simply normal people with normal problems.
- Feeling misunderstood. Ever since being hurt as small children, victims desperately seek comfort and security, but they cannot fill that need simply by talking to another person. If and when they try to open up, they never feel that others truly comprehend what they are saying.
- Tremendous rage. Anger and rage are not simply a straight-line continuum of the same feeling. I think of anger as being somewhat object-oriented. If I’m angry at something, there’s usually a specific reason. But rage is more of a continual state—anger looking for direction. Victims have not usually been allowed to express anger, so the feeling sort of ferments within them until rage builds. In such a state, the least offense might trigger all those inner emotions. And rage can result. A common by-product of this process is shame. Victims don’t want to lose control, but just can’t help it. When it happens, they feel ashamed.
- Lack of trust or commitment. Trusting someone else requires a certain level of vulnerability. You must let down your own defenses in order for someone else to get to know you better. Some people enter into relationships much too quickly to be realistic or healthy. They try to force themselves to be vulnerable to others. This “pseudo-vulnerability” is intended to draw a similar response out of the other person. Solid relationship are built one piece at a time, little by little, with one person keeping in pace with the other. People who try to rush the process are almost always disappointed in their relationship and angry at those who don’t relate well to them.
- Lack of thankfulness. A victim’s life is immensely influenced by negative thinking. Thankfulness may overcome the negativity for a short time, but soon the much greater level of negativity again takes control.
- Demand for entitlement. We all have some innate sense that life should be pleasant, at least to some degree. For victims, this becomes another defense against the inner “black hole” of negativity. When these people marry, they expect their spouses to help them overcome those powerful, negative emotions.
- Assignment of blame to others. Victims are like a person with a broken rib who gets slapped on the back. The blow certainly shouldn’t have hurt, yet the pre-existing injury intensifies its effect. Victims are quick to find fault with others, reflexively transferring to someone else their own wrongdoings.
- Desire to punish anyone who offends them. Those with a victim mentality often find it hard to see any offense as a small one because of all the inner feelings they carry. Frequently, the only punishment that presents itself is to sever the relationship. Victims forsake a lot of potential friendships over rather insignificant issues.
- Continued victimizations. Victims continue to be victimized. They flip-flop between being just as aggressive as possible to being so passive as to let everyone walk over them. Then they get mad at themselves for allowing this victimization to happen to them again.
- Excuses. Victims can be geniuses when it comes to explaining why they are unable or unwilling to do something. Passivity generally marks their response style, expecting others to meet their needs.
- Continued struggles with the past. Victims remain victims when they never deal with the root problems that cause their pain. It’s like a splinter. Victims still carry invisible emotional splinters within them. They have never found the courage to trust someone to open the wound and get to the problem and extract it. They want the pain to stop but when someone become serious about dealing with it, they quickly retreat and deny that it’s bothering them.
…. I encourage you to bravely endure the process of having any embedded splinters removed from your heart and spirit. God is the Master Physician who heals and restores us to complete health. But you must do your part in holding still and bearing the pain of what will be an ongoing process rather than a momentary “ouch”.
I’d also like to share a short section from chapter 6:
As adults we may be better able to see that many of our childish definitions were actually based on misperception.
For example, what we may have defined as genuine “intimacy” might actually have been a severely co-dependent relationship. Mom’s “unconditional love” in regard to Dad’s drinking might really have been “enabling”. The “respect” we developed for Dad might be a lot closer to fear of an authoritarian tyrant. Even though we think we know the truth, we may actually be way off base.
The misperceptions we develop as children can stay with us for a long time to muddy up the waters of our adult relationships.
It is my opinion that this information could be meaningful to adult children of abusers, of alcoholics and/or drug abusers, of neglect, of emotional disconnection, or other seemingly more minor offenses.
Read this post with an open heart and then ask God to lead you if there are some genuine wounds that needs healing! Remember healing is usually a process, not an overnight fix.
To those who experienced basically healthy relationships growing up….this may help you understand those who have some wounded areas. And remember, there are degrees of wounds! We must be careful not to downplay or deny the “1” or “2” on the “woundedness pain scale” any more than we should ignore the “8” or the “10” !! Pain is pain. One wound needs healing just as much as many wounds!!
One last thought. We tend to give our what has been given to us. Some victims’ temperaments push them to act out their pain and anger toward people around them. Others turn the anger inward and it is they themselves who are harmed.
Regardless of our gut reaction, how important it is that we deliberately, on purpose, walk toward our pain by “owning” it and then consistently start putting truth into our minds!!
Another reminder! Truth has to come from outside ourselves, for rather than being able to view the world though the clear plate glass window of our soul, a victim’s window has a huge crack in it that affects everything they look at…including themselves!! Sexual abuse strikes at the very core of our identity, our being, our personhood!
As adults, we can let the abuse cycle continue on out of self-centeredness and fear…or we can do our own personal work of replacing the lies with truth and breaking the cycle for our children and other loved ones coming behind us!! That is the kind of unselfish love that leads us to being able to not only love ourselves as an authentic person but to love others in a way that builds them up, rather than tears them down!! Those choices leads to a fulfilling, fascinating life!! WE give out to others what GOD is giving to US!! Love and Trust!
However, we’ve got to learn what healthy trust is…and take the risks of “trusting” again. It is not the only place to start, but the safest place to begin that process is by entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ, for it is through Jesus Christ that we get to know God the Father. God is healthy in every way!! God is love! God is trustworthy!! God practices healthy boundaries and relationship principles in the relationship between the persons of the Trinity! We see His character all through the Bible! It is our relationship with God that gives us the ability to do what we can’t do on our own!! Jesus died to prove to us that God the Father is trustworthy!! It is the Holy Spirit who leads us and guides us and empowers us…as we ask!! The Bible speaks to every problem mankind will face. It doesn’t avoid the realities of humanity’s fallenness.
There is so many good things waiting on us to learn once we start on this healing path!!
Once you have processed the losses and wounds and asked God to help you find healing…. rather than sensing a running sore just under the surface of your heart, you discover a healed scar. You remember, but the emotions are not reactive now.
God often redeems our pain though our interactions with other people (as He opens the doors), which in itself is very healing!
You know when healing happens. It’s real. But we can’t force healing. We can’t make it happen. Rather, we must cooperate with healing! Yet we know when we’ve gone even one baby step up the spiral!! And that gives us the desire and courage to keep on!! It feels good to grow up, no matter how slow it may seem!!
Once again…”The truth will set you free”! It’s not just spiritual truth that sets us free from sin and a broken relationship with God, but it’s also emotional truth and relational truth that frees us from baggage and bondage!! The truth will set us free!!