Sunday, April 29, 2012

Guilt and Shame: The Vicious and Escalating Cycle (From the Beginning)

I left childhood with a great deal of guilt and shame. I was abused as a child and my experience never validated. Adults involved decided to handle things within the family and not expose the perpetrators, though they abused me and my female cousins in much the same way. The situation and the aftermath were handled despicably. I, therefore, approached puberty with anxiety, an unstable and insecure sense of self and a distorted perception of my role in relationships.  In other words: I was vulnerable to a predator; I had been conditioned to devalue my needs and give without question. I had been conditioned to feel ashamed of myself and would go long periods of time isolating myself, feeling unworthy of genuine human contact. I felt guilt strongly and absorbed wrongs of others thinking I had the mystic power of causing and creating feelings in others; they were not responsible for their anger, for example, I was.
Peter did not hesitate for a moment and began immediately to exploit my guilt and shame. He learned how to easily push these buttons to get exactly what he wanted. It was easy for him; I was raw. In a loving, equitable relationship, my painful past would have diminished and, with the right help, likely not have affected me after only a few years. Instead Peter took the opportunity to immerse me in a toxic environment constantly triggering me. [A trigger is an event in the present that causes a person to react as if in a past similar event. Generally it is seen as an over-reaction and confuses those around because the triggering event does not warrant the emotional response.] By being triggered continually, I became deregulated and was unable to develop a stable and securely grounded sense of myself. In a loving, intimate, warm, safe, and secure relationship, I would have slowly developed a healthy, centered self and learned how to care for myself. Instead I was embarking on the greatest abuse of my life and would live with its intensification for the next 20 years.
When we returned from our honeymoon we began a cycle that was brutal and accelerated over the years (please see figure below). There is disagreement in any relationship; when two people interact they are coming from two different perspectives, established from two different histories. Of course that will clash at times and it’s critical to learn to communicate effectively to maneuver, through the difficult times, back to a place of peace.
According to the book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, “One of the greatest needs is to understand and to be understood. In a verbally abusive relationship, the partner’s need to understand and to be understood is not met. On the other hand, her belief that her mate is rational and that understanding can be reached keeps her in the relationship. The fact that she can’t come to an understanding with her mate simply because he is abusive and will defeat her though abusive power plays is almost incomprehensible to the partner. Not coming to this realization, however, leaves the partner living in an incomprehensible reality where she is blamed for the battering of her own spirit.” 1
By not being validated in childhood, I was particularly sensitive to this. By Peter intentionally not validating me, he could sit back and calmly watch me unravel and then I became the problem. He could then judge me and analyze me, while the issue I was bringing up lost. And guess what? Guilt was activated. The finger pointed at me again; the problem was with me….every time.
According to Evans, “When the verbal abuser refuses to discuss a problem, he prevents all possibility of resolution. In this way he exercises control over the interpersonal reality. Partners are frequently left with a sick, hurt feeling that is never really resolved. There is no feeling of closure. Upsetting incidents may reoccur in confusing flashbacks because they haven’t been fully understood or resolved.” 1  
The saying “crazy is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result,” is applicable here: I was attempting rationality and reason with a person not capable. I was slowly losing my mind.
“All verbal abuse is dominating and controlling. Verbal abuse used to control the partner without the partner’s knowledge is called “crazymaking.” “The sustaining of power seems to be one key factor in crazymaking behavior. It appears to be a way of asserting dominance while denying its existence or the wish for it.”2
In a motion, after being abused in this way for 20 years, appeared accusation #2) I was mentally ill and refused treatment. I was an unfit mother.
1.    Evans P. The verbally abusive relationship:how to recognize it and how to respond. Avon Massachusetts: Adamsmedia; 2010, p.45.
2.    Bach GR, Deutsch R. Stop! You’re driving me crazy. New York; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1980, p.16.


  1. First Thank you for posting your blog.
    I have escaped myself from a partner very similar, its been over 12 years now, and I have started to write down the key parts in my life that just didn't make sense to me.

    I could never understand what it was or what I could put it down to. I just couldn't understand the "Why" behind everything.
    Thank you - Still reading.

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  3. I found your blog yesterday. I feel like I am reading a large portion of my own story. I was married 20 years as well and have been divorced for 3 years...not much has changed. It has bothered me that the divorce trauma has not ended so I have been searching for answers. I have always known my ex-husband has control problems. About 5 days ago I stumbled onto an article that prompted me to research psychopathy. I have been reeling every since. I can't believe I finally have an answer for all of those years. The most frightening thing, however, is not knowing how serious the situation actually was. It will take me a while to organize the puzzle of my thoughts and know where to go from here. This post hit every nerve in my body. I can honestly say in 20 years of marriage I was never given the gift of an ACTUAL RESOLUTION to any argument or fight that we ever had. It all went under the proverbial rug (I have a mental image of that rug still) I wish I had known how deep the pit was dug under that rug. I internalized every single last unresolved issue as my own knowing he would never change and if I ever wanted things to be different it would up to me. I wish I had known that NOTHING I could do would have ever been enough. Well, unless I just died, I guess.

    I'm on the tip of my iceberg and shaking all over. So much to process. Thank you for your words. I wish you knew how much they mean to me.


Thank you for your comment. Positive feedback and helping those that have experienced the same tragedies are what keeps me going.