My brother and his wife drove from Georgia to Michigan, arriving yesterday and probably staying until Thursday. My brother joined the Army when I was in 6th grade. Since then, I’ve only seen him a few times when he came to visit, and have talked to him several times on the phone in recent years. He appears to be a very decent guy. He’s visiting all the family while he’s visiting here. They are all going to visit at various times today. We are going to try to visit to tomorrow morning IF EJ isn’t in agony from his back and doesn’t have to visit the chiropractor and IF none of my other family is there at the time. I’ve never had an opportunity to visit with my brother without other family around, and they (the other family members) have always set the agenda and taken over the conversation. Long story short, this is all stirring up a lot of painful, anguishing thoughts of the abuse in my family.
I do not want to get into great detail about the family in which I grew up, but I would like to say that I am a victim of emotional abuse. My Mom was very manipulative, controlling, and deceptive. She favored her compliant children and rejected those who wouldn’t submit. I was a favored compliant child and very close to my Mom until I got engaged to EJ. I believe my Mom saw my future husband as a rival. She ended up rejecting me and turning most of my family against me. I was the third of six children to be disowned.
Decades ago, rape victims were silent about what happened to them because if they reported the rape and their case went to court, they were put on trial more than the rapists, as if somehow they deserved the rape. At one time, women who were physically abused by their husbands were told that they needed to be better wives–that they must have done something to cause their husbands to abuse them. I don’t think that many, these days, would advise an abuse victim to stay with their abuser. People are now aware that abuse is not the victim’s fault, and that the abuse tends to become more violent if a victim stays. However, there is a form of abuse that few recognize: emotional (or psychological) abuse.
With emotional abuse, there are no bruises to point to, no broken bones to prove it happened. The abusers can be so manipulative and deceptive, and appear so loving and charismatic, that people–even the victim herself (or himself) find it hard to believe that abuse is happening. People often make excuses for the abuser (she is probably just wounded. He doesn’t know how to love. I’m sure she really loves you…) and advise the victim to love her abuser more or forgive more. When victims try to share their story, they appear petty, unforgiving. They aren’t believed so they end up being silent, struggling and suffering alone.
You want a picture of emotional abuse? Read the book T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton or watch the movie Tangled. In T is for Tresspass, the nurse is an emotional abuser, appearing good while she is abusing her patient. Kelsey, the main chararacter, shows what it’s like for those trying to deal with abusers. In the movie Tangled, Repunzel’s fake mother, the witch, sounds very loving, but she is actually controlling Repunzel with guilt and shame so she can use her. How could Repunzel be so terrible as to disobey her dear mother who just wants to do what is best for her??? Repunzel’s struggle between joy at her newfound freedom when she escaped from the tower, and guilt over being such an awful daughter describes my struggle to be free quite well.
A victim has to fight very hard battles to be free of emotional abuse. She has to seek truth in her life–about others’ dysfunctions and her own–and keep hold of it. As I began to recognize dysfunction, I realized that I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I liked/disliked, I struggled to make decisions of my own, and I had no personal boundaries in place. I also felt guilt over the problems with my family, and have thought, “If only I had done this or that…we wouldn’t have had these problems.” Over the years, I have been growing step by step into healing and freedom. I have come a long way, so I know who I am, I like who I am, I know what I like and dislike, and I don’t have a such a need to gain others’ approval. I continue to fight to overcome the effects of dysfunction in my life. Part of my fighting has been to finally make the decision to separate from my family–or most of them–as long as they remain abusive. This has been an anguishing decision for me. When I have contact with my family, even indirectly, I have to fight again to overcome fear, guilt, feelings of suffocation. I then reread information about emotional abuse to remind myself that I am not crazy, I’m not making this up, it’s REAL.
The book, In Sheep’s Clothing – Dealing With Manipulative People, has been very helpful to me in understanding my family. Here is an exerpt from the book: http://www.rickross.com/reference/brainwashing/brainwashing11.html
Other websites about emotional abuse are: