Rebuilding Boundaries

Whenever I have contact with my Mom/family, I go through a cycle over and over again. With each contact, I have to re-work through what I already worked through before. Maybe some day I will hold firm to it. the cycle is:

I think, “Maybe she/they are really trying to reconcile….”

  • I try to reach out.
  • It doesn’t go well. I am criticized, guilted, shamed, blamed, or accused–sometimes with angry accusations and sometimes with “sweet” manipulative words (see the fake mother in the movie “Tangled.”
  • I feel suffocated and trapped, and I want to escape.
  • I feel guilty for wanting to escape.
  • I wonder if I really am the monster–the one who is unforgiving, angry, and the cause of all the problems.
  • I feel confusion, turmoil, pain, anger, sadness.
  • People tell me that I ought to forgive and love and not give up on the poor wounded abuser who is just loving the best she can.
  • I feel confusion, turmoil, pain, anger, and sadness.
  • I re-examine my actions and motives and realize that, no, I am not what they say I am, and I am NOT TO BLAME for what they are doing.
  • I re-read information about abuse.
  • I feel sick and ashamed that ONCE AGAIN they drew me back into their lives and abuse.
  • I realize that I can set boundaries.
  • I set boundaries.
  • Sometimes I get guilt/anger from my family for being unloving and uncaring.
  • I stand firm.
  • I don’t hear from my family for awhile.
  • They try to contact me again.
  • I think, “Maybe she/they are really trying to reconcile…”
I’ve been struggling with the “re-examine my actions and motives” stage and I am moving into the “re-reading information about abuse” stage right now.

I believe that generally when dealing with other people, we ought to:

  • Not get offended easily.
  • Ask God if we are seeing the situation accurately.
  • Realize that no one is perfect and we all fail and make mistakes.
  • Be patient with other’s faults.
  • Repent if we have wronged others.
  • Forgive if someone wrongs us (and asks for forgiveness).
  • Respect others’ boundaries and freedoms, even if we disagree with them.

If everyone did this, everyone would live in harmony. However, some people are abusive and they do not respect others’ boundaries or freedoms.

What I have struggled most with my family through the years is that when I try to describe the situation with my family, people advised me to forgive, and love, and “lay down your rights,” and not give up on my family…as if this is a small little tiff among healthy people that can be easily resolved if there was communication, love, and forgiveness. In giving me the advice that they do, they plunge me into greater confusion, turmoil, guilt, and shame. They do not understand that what I am dealing with is ABUSE. Would they tell a person to stay in a relationship in which she was being beat up every few days? Would they tell a rape victim to “just forgive, because the rapist is probably just wounded and is loving the best he can”? Emotional abuse is ABUSE. It has been called “emotional rape” because the abuser does not respect the victim’s personhood, boundaries, individuality. He forces his wishes/beliefs on his victim against her will.

What is Emotional Abuse? It is “any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased. In emotional abuse, the other person might place unreasonable demands on you and wants you to put everything else aside to tend to their needs. Emotional abuse could be a demand for constant attention, or a requirement that you spend all your free time with the person. However, no matter how much you give, it’s never enough. You are subjected to constant criticism, and you are constantly berated because you don’t fulfill all this person’s needs. Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect….”

If you have a relationship like the one with my family, I suggest you googled “emotional abuse,” “personality disorder,” “emotional vampires” or “setting boundaries. A very good book to read is In Sheep’s Clothing – Dealing with Manipulative People. You can order it on Amazon.com. To read an excellent exerpt from the book, click here.

I am a victim of emotional abuse. 
I am not crazy. I do not have to live with constant criticism, guilt, shame, blame, or accusation. When “loving” words are used to manipulate and guilt, it is not love. It is not wrong, unloving, or unforgiving to set healthy boundaries of respect. EVERYONE has a right to have himself and his choices respected. Healthy boundaries are ESSENTIAL. No one has the right to control others against their will or to punish them for not doing what he wants. I do not have to live with this crazy drama. I do not have to live as a victim. I can choose to overcome it, and enjoy life.
For my, EJ’s, and JJ’s emotional health and protection, I choose to have no contact with my family. I realize that they will resent my boundaries, and will likely renew their efforts (anger, guilt, blame) to make them crumble. However, I have the right to set them–and I will. God will have to deal with them because I cannot.
I will rebuild my boundaries. Maybe this time they will hold firm.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
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