Behind the veil of denial

I am constantly inspired by the comments I read here from so many women and men who are currently suffering abuse in their homes. It is so heartbreaking as I know from personal experience that living in such a household can feel like living in a hall of mirrors where reality is distorted and we are trapped in insanity.

As I’ve shared in previous posts, one of the resources that are helping me heal is a recovery group called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA or ACoA for short), which has been a safe space for me to share my experiences and feelings. The group’s name may be a little deceiving as it is not limited to children of alcoholics, but includes children that dealt with any dysfunction in their homes like physical, verbal, sexual, emotional or financial abuse, perfectionism, overly critical parents, mental health issues, any other substance abuse, and the like.

One critical concept I have learned is the idea of denial. I have always heard it on TV whenever someone was referring to alcoholism, but I falsely assumed that it meant that a person knew they had a problem but deeply denied it to others. In other words, they denied the truth and lived a lie.

I have since learned that denial can be completely different. Imagine you’re living in a household as a child with your parents. Just like any kid, you need your parents to keep you safe and fed and use them as your example of how to be an adult. But if your parents are doing things which fall into the dysfunction category, chances are the things you’re learning are also dysfunctional, except you have no idea, because they are your default. So you’re just kind of walking around this planet, reacting to that which you were taught, and to how you were treated as a child, just like all the other children you know.

Fast forward into adulthood, and if undressed, the patterns can manifest as destructive behaviors, such as abuse. Except now it is so deeply ingrained and behind such a heavy veil of denial that when someone calls you out on what you’re doing you can’t imagine how they can possibly be referring to you because this is just your reality and you can’t see it any other way. You’re still in that hall of mirrors and you’re seeing yourself in a reflection only you don’t realize that this is a reflection from another mirror. You don’t know what’s real and you don’t even know that you don’t know it.

I think that’s why there is no reasoning with a person who is trapped in an abusive pattern. I saw it with my own dad – there was just no way to make him see what he was doing.  Any attempts at trying to make him understand (which was, of course, very risky!), was met with denial and deflection, where he would find a way to blame it on me, or whoever he was victimizing at the moment.Since in his mind he is doing everything right, then it must have meant that the other person was doing everything wrong.

Sad, isn’t it? And yet it is even sadder for the victim. Especially that if that victim doesn’t become aware of the patterns and lift the veil of denial, they will continue the cycle. And so it goes for generation after generation, until we decide to stop it. But we can’t stop it in someone else, only in ourselves.

As far as my own experience with my dad, my solution has been to “lovingly detach.” I no longer live with him, which helps tremendously. But even when I did live with him, I did confront him about this pattern and did tell him that when he behaves like this, I will not engage. To this day, when he starts to rage, I will not answer him or I will leave the room. So he knows that this is not the way to communicate with me if he wants a response. The detachment also means that I do not expect him to change. He has his own life to live and his own mistakes to learn from. It’s between him and God.

I’m just thankful that I have the support system I need to help me be aware of the patterns that were behind the veil of denial in my own life. Becoming aware of them is helping me heal so I don’t have to continue these abusive patterns with my children.

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Is it possible to be a target for abuse?

I was involved in a situation recently where I observed a woman being verbally abused by another woman in a professional setting. I know these women well enough, especially the abusive one, long enough to know this is not the first time this happened, and it’s probably not the last. They are stuck in a pattern where the abusive woman is completely blind to the effects of her behavior, while the other woman is blind to the fact that by not putting a stop to it right away, she has effectively given permission to the abuser to do it time and again. The daughter of the abused woman was kind enough to speak with me about the situation when I flagged what was happening as inappropriate and as verbal abuse. We discussed ideas on how to help situation. Her daughter was willing to confront the abuser on her mother’s behalf, which made me realize something… it’s not about someone confronting the abuser, or even the abuser leaving or changing. It is about the victim becoming empowered and changing their pattern, because if they don’t change it, then they are just leaving space and giving permission for the next abuser to come into their life and just hurt them all over again.

Over the years of dealing with verbal abuse I found that a feeling of empowerment can make a huge difference in my situation. Although moving away from my dad has been an important step in my healing (a VERY important step!!!), that in and of itself did not stop his abuse. It was my standing up to him that helped ME feel empowered.. it helped ME change, and not only did it stop him from abusing me so much, but it also keeps me safe from others who are stuck in those same sick patterns. It just helped me no longer be a puzzle piece that fits the abusive piece of those with those tendencies.

It does take two to tango, doesn’t it? So although the abuser has their issues, I realized that I as a victim also have mine, and it is important to address them because the world won’t stop hurting me unless I stop giving it permission to.

One place where I am learning about this is with a recovery group called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA). Although the group has the word Alcoholics in it, it’s not limited to people who grew up in households where alcohol was present. It applies to all families who had any sort of dysfunction like verbal abuse, narcissism, perfectionism, overly critical parents, other substance abuse issues, under-earning, and so on.

 

Healing from an Abusive Childhood

Hello all, a reader recently pointed out to me that I haven’t written since my visit with the healer Doña Leova. In my response to the comment I realized that I guess I’ve “let it go” since seeing her and haven’t felt the need to write as much. But I wanted to get back to it because I feel like maybe now is exactly the time I should be writing… to share with those who are struggling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So yes, my visit with Donna was one piece of my healing puzzle, but there are so many more. I wanted to share what inspires me to continue to heal from a verbally and sometimes physically abusive childhood:

  • My first step in healing was to become aware of what was going on and educate myself. These resources helped me. What I learned from these books is that my dad is in complete denial about his problem and therefore feels completely justified in his actions. Therefore, no amount of arguing with him will get him to see the truth, because he is too invested in his own mental image of himself and his own sense of “reality.” So once I confronted him, I felt better about myself and my own sense of power, but it did nothing to make him see the truth. Therefore, I expressed to him in my family intervention for him that if he begins to talk to me in a disrespectful manner, I will not respond to him, and I will leave. I said this several times, very clearly, so that he definitely heard me. And then from that point on, I have stuck to that. I simply get up, and walk away. No conversation needed. The other thing I learned is that anger is a chemical reaction in the brain that one can become addicted to. As is drama. So when I hear him staying things that are pressing my buttons, I take the high route and do not react. I can almost sense that he is looking for a way to elicit a reaciton to get attention. So I simply ignore it, and do not react. This in and of itself has allowed us to get over so much drama in our relationship.
  • My next step was to remove myself from the situation. I moved out. It’s been huge. It’s not the end of it – I am still healing, and he is still doing his thing – but it is an important step in protecting myself on a day to day basis.
  • Finding support was huge. I found a 12 step group called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA), that has helped me TREMENDOUSLY. The name is a bit limiting because it’s not just for people who grew up with alcoholic parents. It is also for people who grew up with any dysfunction in their homes like verbal abuse, any addictions, perfectionism, criticism, etc. The beauty of this program for me is that it looks at the whole family including several generations and really gives you a chance to look at the big picture. When we do that, we are able to not just heal and forgive ourselves, but we can also choose to put down the baggage of blame and shame that has been passed down from generation to generation. Doing so, helped me understand why my dad ended up the way he did, and it helped me forgive him.
  • Note on forgiveness: it’s not for the other person, it’s for you. It’s a way of putting down that suitcase of issues you’ve been carrying all your life and just letting it go.
  • Meditation is my number one healing tool. I spent a lot of time learning about child brain development and learned that abuse cases the brain to physically be different than that of children who were not abused. Meditation heals that. Physically. It repairs it. And it is never too late to begin. Realizing that and implementing a daily practice of meditation has been THE KEY to my healing.
  • Kundalini Yoga is a tool I also appreciate and use in my daily life. It’s not like most hatha yoga classes you might take in a gym or yoga studio. It includes a lot of cardio and meditation with chanting and mantras to physically break through the energetic barriers in my body that have been keeping the abuse stuck in my system. I feel like it’s really helping me.
  • Going gluten and dairy free has also been a tremendous help for my brain. There’s are a lot of books about the stomach/brain connection and how dairy and gluten can affect thinking and lead to depression. When I am clear, I am stronger and feel more empowered. When I am empowered, an abuser has no way to attack me.

All of these healing approaches have one thing in common: they put the focus on me, and naturally shift the focus off the abuser. As sick as it may sound, my dad was abusing me in order to get attention. It was negative, but still attention, and he is so hurt that this was better than nothing. By changing myself, I have shifted that attention to my own healing, giving him nothing to hang on to, so our relationship has naturally shifted. I personally didn’t want to cut ties with my dad. I want to heal and I want to forgive him. My wish for him is to heal too. Our relationship has transformed in the recent years and I am very thankful for it.

 

 

Healing (continued)

My healing journey continues. I have become very aware of the fear I feel around men in general. A trauma block of sorts. I am going to attend a healing session with this healer:

Doña Leova is a Traditional Healer from the Nahuatl Indian nation of Puebla, Mexico. Her work is based in a cosmology of Healing that is known as the “Tradition of the Grandmothers”….. named because historically, one grandmother would share the practice with one granddaughter who would then go on to become the next practitioner.

Within her Community she is renowned as a Medicine Women and in her tradition a “Limpia” (or inner cleansing) is a form in which using a combination of body-work, massage, prayer and the intention of the healer and the client the echo of old pains, traumas, fears and tendencies that no longer serve the client can be released and cleared. Generally people feel lighter, more balanced, open and profoundly relaxed following a treatment.
Her work is deep…. and filled with Kindness…..
If you have success stories on healing from trauma from verbal abuse, please feel free to share.

 

Been There. Done That. ORG

I just listened to a very inspiring piece on NPR about a rehabilitation program for women who have suffered the trauma of human sexual trafficking, prostitution and associated drug addictions. Wow, this made my heart soar. Thank you Kathryn Griffin-Townsend. Visit: http://wevebeentheredonethat.org.

From their website:

We’ve Been There Done That is a non-profit organization started by Kathryn Griffin-Townsend with a goal to rehabilitate women who have lived through sex trafficking, prostitution, and associated drug addiction.  A former cocaine addict and prostitute, Kathryn Griffin-Townsend credits rehabilitation programs with changing her life.  Kathryn has been featured in The Houston Chronicle, ABC News and most recently, The Steve Wilkos Show for her unabashed, toughlove, tell-it-like-it-is style that strikes a chord with the women she helps.  We’ve Been There Done That has been serving the Houston community for almost a decade, having helped over 1,000 women.  The program not only helps to rehabilitate, but also to reintegrate them into society and has the highest success rate of former prostitues not going back to the life.  The outreach program has garnered so much praise, both locally and nationally, that their resources lag behind the number of women who need help.  To that end, We’ve Been There Done That is always accepting donations to assist.

“Daughters” by John Mayer

I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Oh, you see that skin?
It’s the same she’s been standing in
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now she’s left
Cleaning up the mess he made

So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Boys, you can break
You’ll find out how much they can take
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without the warmth from
A womans good, good heart

On behalf of every man
Looking out for every girl
You are the god and the weight of her world

So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too