I'm extremely honored to know several amazing women who have come through their own battles with being abused and/or the affects of abuse on a loved one. Kari Lanigan is one such friend. She will be guest blogging about her exprience with the cycle of abuse as it relates to her husband and her marriage. Their story is remarkable and inspirational. She did everything she could to help her husband—who endured multiple forms of abuse as a child--end the cycle of abuse and heal. From what I've heard from therapists and others who have gone through similar, it's very rare for most couples to make it through. Kari, it's truly an honor to have you as a guest blogger. Your wisdom and experience will help so many!
Understanding ABUSE Recovery and the Family Dynamic
I wrote this piece (below) and first posted it 9 years ago on Facebook. Back then, I was met with the response, "Sometimes you just have to get over it." I have since learned through my personal quest to heal my family, while researching abuse & family dysfunction, that this is a very common response and also a false notion that you can JUST get over it. Those suffering under the forces of abuse often feel devastated when met with this response from people they look to for support and understanding.
I have also learned (like the Little Red Hen) that often we are left to do our life work without any help from those who will show up to enjoy our harvest. Please know that I never gave up. Even when it truly seemed like I could not influence the forces working against my family, (forces which held my partner captive and tore the fabric of our home life into shreds for 20 plus years), I continued to seek the truth out of love for my family and a desperate need to heal the causes of our collective suffering. I found a mountain of articles and books which accurately describe the complexity of what we were experiencing. And in spite of the total lack of family support, we found the tools to break free from this nightmare together. Still, the collateral damage is enough to make me feel sick inside. The damage is alive and ever expanding in front of us, but we continue to work on ourselves, work on our responses to life, and strengthen the bonds within our family.
This is not an appeal for likes or sympathy. It's also not a stab at anyone. It's just my truth. I am grateful for the chance to say that life is getting better every day and the cycle of abuse here has FINALLY officially ended for my husband, Pete, and I. We only hope that now we can help our children recover some of what they lost while we were all struggling to survive this nightmare.
Healing begins with self examination & often relates to early childhood influences including parenting. We all make mistakes and carry wounds from our childhood which influence our perceptions, attitudes and responses. Often we pass our misguided perceptions and responses on to our children by being models. Regardless of the messages we want them to hear, we SHOW them what to do in life, good and bad. We tend to model what our parents modeled to us; good and bad. Such is the cycle of abuse. It continues until we are willing to examine it carefully and work diligently on reprogramming fear-based behaviors. For those interested, here is a book called Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart that has proven instrumental in helping us identify and address some of the many issues we have endured.
* The piece below was written 9 years ago--long after our struggle began and long before it was finally over. Proud to say hallelujah!! We are free at last!!
December 1, 2009
1. Don’t Cry: When a child is abused by his parents, he learns to close off his emotions to the world, because tears are not effective tools for extracting compassion from the controllers of his fate. He learns to resent the tears of others, just as his own tears were resented by those who abused him. Tears are a tool for extracting further abuse. He doesn’t need that tool.
2. Don’t Speak: When a child sees his siblings abused by his parents, he learns to not speak up for those in pain, because doing so will only bring further hell upon them and upon his self. He fears the cries of others as they render him powerless and remind him that he has no voice. A voice is a tool for extracting further abuse. He doesn’t need that tool.
3. Don’t Protect Yourself: When a child is abused and cannot protect himself from that abuse, he learns to accept it. He doesn’t need to protect himself, because it does no good.
Don’t protect yourself.
4. Don’t Protect Others: When a child’s family members are being abused, he learns to cower. He doesn’t need to protect others from abuse, because protecting his loved ones means he will suffer along with them and they will suffer further pain.
Don’t protect others.
5. Don’t Bond: When a child is abused by his parents’ hatred for one another, he hurts and at the same time learns that spouses are sources of chaos and destruction of happiness. He doesn’t need a partner.
6. Don’t Value Home: When a child’s world is dissected by the violence within his own household, he learns that home is not a safe, warm place. He doesn’t need a home.
Don’t value home.
These are the seeds planted in the eyes of abused children since birth. These are the seeds that have now grown to maturity. I am the reaper. It is a large crop deep with weeds of destruction that have taken over my world… and my children’s world as well. There is no remedy, but to turn the fields, sterilize the soil and plant anew. It’s a job I cannot do alone, as this field of deadly life-sucking weeds stretches as far as the imagination can wander; far into the futures of generations to come.
I am not abused.
So why then,
When I cry, my tears are resented?
When I speak, my voice is hated?
When I protect myself, I am viewed as selfish?
When I protect others, I am viewed as controlling?
When I reach out to bond, I am rejected?
When I long for the warmth of home, I am denied?
If I try to explain these things to my children, I am unfit?
When I lose myself in anger and frustration over this injustice, I am crazy?
There are many children being raised in the far reaching shadows of abuse at this very moment.
There are many adults unable to see from behind the shadows their parents cast over their eyes long ago.
I am their muffled cries.
I am their silenced voice.
I am their impotent protector.
I am their empty home.
I am their broken spirit.
I invite those who planted the seeds to come and turn the fields with me.
I invite those who have suffered to join us in the fields for the planting of new, healthy seeds.
I invite family, friends and neighbors to join in for the harvest of a wholesome crop.
I invite future generations to the feast of a lifetime, free from emotional suffering caused by domestic violence and it's long, long shadow of perpetual family dysfunction.