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
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.
at 2:19 PM