I ask that you take a moment for a breath and try to hear what I am saying. It might make you pretty uncomfortable. It is also pretty difficult to try and articulate this well and without significant anxiety.
Most of the people who have harmed me emotionally were and are people who love me. Most of the people I have abused, I have loved and still love deeply. Hurting people I love isn’t my agenda. I have come to understand that most of my most emotionally abusive and harmful behaviors I have developed were rooted in avoiding conflict and protecting myself and being nice. Intention does matter. I also did not know that my behavior was emotionally abusive.
I was born into a family of multi-generational trauma. I experienced the natural consequences of having parents raised in abusive environments by a single parent at a time when there wasn’t a lot of support for single parents raising multiple children. Certainly, there wasn’t the understanding there is now about trauma and abuse.
If every day of my life since birth has been impacted by abuse, where was it that I was supposed to learn healthy relationship dynamics? How was I supposed to know that these behaviors were abusive?My perspective is that often, abuse isn’t a character flaw. It is a lack of skill and awareness. It is a lack of understanding healthy relationship dynamics. Instead, it’s replaced with a lifetime of practicing them in a way that worked in their environment. Therapy helped with that. Therapy, though, has it’s own challenges as does the entire mental health industrial complex.
What supported me more was and is my friends telling me, without shame, blame or judgement that I might want to look at specific named behaviors. Do you know what has supported my friends to do the same? Me risking learning how to do that for my friends. The results have been life changing for many of us. We are cumulatively experiencing healthier relationships and our lives reflect that. I am not at all suggesting that anyone should stay in an abusive relationship. I have had to leave relationships with people that I love deeply. It is necessary to maintain boundaries that support me to be healthy.
What I am saying is that, rather than approaching people as though they are monsters, I commit to trying to offering the people I care about the opportunity to engage in accountability in their mental and emotional health as it relates to our relationship. I will hold space for healing and learning to be part of our shared experience. I told my daughter that I have one rule in my relationships, “if you are trying, I am trying.” This is especially true in my closest relationships.
To call someone out on their abusive behavior is terrifying. To be called out on my own is humiliating. I work daily to not engage in abusive behaviors. Abuse is complicated though and my own recovery is layered. As I heal one behavior, several others reveal themselves. I have experienced tremendous healing in my life because people treated me with compassion, empathy and accountability. This started by telling me what I was doing wrong.
I know that for myself and most of the people who are aware that they are abusive, your judgement is not needed. Your shame is not needed. We experience enough of that internally.If you want to hold negative space in your life, I get it. It’s the default. I am practicing something different. I don’t believe abusers are default “bad” and would every day of my life, choose to bet on their capacity to grow and learn than invest in the false idea that people don’t change. I have changed dramatically. Though, I am more myself than I have ever been….so have I changed really? Or has my ability to express myself and manage my emotions changed? If we are all learning and have the capacity to do this, why would I not support it?
These are a few of my thoughts. To those I love who read this and see our relationship reflected, thank you.