That Familiar Thing

I have pondered a lot lately about domestic abuse. The complexity of it is that it has many faces and sometimes it is hard to see beneath the surface to recognize it for what it is, both to the abuser and the victim. I have had a personal experience of it but I cannot tell you that I know how to recognize it right away.

There is a familiar pain that follows it though, and if one is sensitive enough that familiar pain is the only trigger you need to know that something isn’t quite right. Unfortunately not everyone has had the ‘good fortune’ of the experience to know that feeling I am talking about. Some people don’t even make it past that first abuse. Others simply chose selective amnesia and therefore go through the cycle several times because they have forgotten the feel of that warning sign. A few selected lucky others are able to feel the trigger and get themselves to safety…..or not.

One thing I can assure you is that I have never known any abuser that think they are being abusive or even vaguely consider that they might have the tendencies to be so. As a matter of fact, abusive people are quick to point out abuse in others and they pride themselves in NOT being abusive. There is always a logical explanation to bad behaviour and sometimes it is really hard to see the dividing line, not only to the abuser but also to the victim.

The slowest lot, to see, or recognize abuse aimed at them, are strong people. They are aware of their strength and simply assume they will spot a bully right away and certainly will not put up with it, so when they fall into the company of an abuser, they simply dismiss it as dealing with a difficult person and they handle each blow as it come. It is worse if this ‘strong’ person is a woman or a marginalized person, and this is because society makes it almost acceptable for them to be dominated.  

You see, the woman (or the marginalized) handles adversity better than the man. Life throws its blows – hard. The woman bends under the impact, absorbing and thus mitigating it, and then straightens up and carries on. ‘That’s life’, she tells herself and accepts it.  What this does is, it prolongs her period of being in denial. The blows will gradually wear her out till at last she breaks and crumbles, that is when the light bulb will come on and she’d recognize the abuse for what it has always been.

From the outside, we see a situation, or hear a story of abuse and see clearly that something is wrong and therefore it becomes VERY EASY to say we won’t put up with certain behaviours from anyone. The problem with that line of reasoning is the assumption that the bad behaviour is a daily occurrence. You see, the truth about abusers is that they are NOT mean people in their daily life. They go about their lives trying to be as decent as the next person, but there is something deep in there eating at their core that they have carried about with them. It’s been there for so long that it feels like an acceptable part of them, of life. It feels normal, like the nose on every face. They actually do think everyone of us has it deep in them to feel or react in like manner given the ‘right’ triggers. And there are triggers, which means there are periods of good behaviour as well.

Most abusers have an acceptable name for their behaviour and a logical legit explanation why the name of their action fits it. They are model citizens, if anything they have some really good qualities that put them above the average person in terms of generosity in sensitivity and kindness in areas where the majority take for granted. And they probably don’t set out deciding to be abusers and are therefore most likely unaware that they are.

Now, saying this doesn’t mean that anyone should remain in the presence of abuse simply because chances are you are dealing with someone that is unaware of the extent of their actions or the harm it does to those around them. We owe ourselves the self-love to want to be in healthy relationships, what this simply means is that we owe it to ourselves to be open to finding ways to be and remain agreeable with those around us. Change is hard but change is part of life and part of growth and sometimes that change means breaking away even when it seems like the easier option is to remain.

Handling adversities in live is really a personal journey. There is a saying that a fool never learns, a smart one learns from one’s mistakes and the wise one learns from the mistakes of others. The pattern in one’s path to growth can be an indicator of where one stands; if one is still foolish, smart, or has wised up. I am learning by the day, how to navigate what challenges I uncover with people, with relationships, and with myself or how I am perceived. The one thing I have learned, the hard way, is that people will treat you the way you teach them to, by what you allow then to get away with. A proposal was presented to me this week that requires making an important decision regarding detachment and psychological healing, and I am struggling to decide on what the right next step should be.

This is not a novel situation, it just happens to require a redirection and procession that I have delayed but I realize that my reluctance has been my way of choosing the path of least resistance which, as noble as it may sound, was really a reprobate method of covering a gun wound with band aid. But growth is not always smooth, growth sometimes is painful but inevitable and I need to let growth happen.

Grief has turned out to be a wave that has no definite patterns; there is no telling what day will bring sadness with it, or when the anger will resurface. What day will be assigned for disappointment and when resignation and acceptance will follow. If there is anything I have learned in therapy thus far, it is that I need to find a healthy balance and a clear dividing line between my emotions and logic. The crazy thing is you’d come to resignation and acceptance and the very next day find yourself right back at anger and indignation, thus the need for the dividing line.

There is so much I am learning, and what is fresh for me is coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer a reprobate. I am no longer anathematised. I forgive myself generously, and I need to because the path going forward leaves no room for taking the path of least resistance and pain will be before healing happens.

Peace begins with me.

©Naan Pocen 2020

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