Why it is that so many children who were neglected or abused end up either becoming abusers themselves, or they marry abusers? It seems to defy logic. That child who swore she would never treat her kids as she was treated does just that!
In my own journey, I’ve been exposed to several different theories. A psychiatrist will tell you all about “Repetition Compulsion”. Simplified, it means you have an unconscious compulsion to create the same dynamic (over and over) that you experienced with the abusing parent. Sounds crazy! But….as my country relatives say, “The devil you know is safer than the devil you don’t know.”
A woman who was abused as a child can walk into a crowded room where there are many men, but inevitably, she’ll gravitate to the one man who seems charming and caring. Won’t be long he’ll be making her feel just like the parent who abused her. I mean he’ll create the same dynamic — feelings of worthlessness, despair, fear, and “walking on eggshells”. It’s familiar.
She may have had several men interested in her, but soon got bored with them because they didn’t create the familiar crisis she needed to feel “alive”. (Carly Simon’s song, “Haven’t Got Time For The Pain” always appealed to me — especially when she sang about how she needed the pain just to know she was alive! Oh yeah. That spoke to me!)
We who were abused have two ways to feel loved: being needed — my love can “fix” him — or being sexual. It takes a while to find out this ole’ boy is not going to be fixed by me! And in the meantime, what little self-respect we had has gone by the wayside. We give up either covertly or overtly. We become disheartened, depressed, and apathetic.
We medicate with food, booze, drugs, sleep, or a new relationship. Or….we take out our frustration/anger on the helpless children under our care. It’s easy to do because children know how to hit our buttons.
Children’s minds are like sponges just soaking up all the “vibes” around them. Because my father did little to protect me from my mother’s abuse, I was always looking for a weak man who I could inspire to be my protector. Usually, the man had a glaring weakness (addiction, little self-respect, or passive-aggressive behavior). But it wasn’t long until I got bored with him and moved on to a man who would make me feel like my mother made me feel: abnormal, “in the way”, living by the angry person’s moods, or beaten down with either physical or verbal abuse. In a sick way, that made the attraction stronger to that man. Eventually, I married a man who was a combination of my mother and my father.
I know another girl who slept with her father until she was 13 years old. They never had sex, but she was always cognizant of his changing body parts when they “spooned”. She wet the bed until she was 13, sucked her thumb until she was 13, and allowed her father to make an “emotional wife” of her until she was in her late twenties when he died. He told her his problems instead of his own wife. This girl hated her mother for most of her life. Wonder where she learned that? She’s had three marriages: the first to a sexually impotent man, the second to an alcoholic, and the third to a drug-user who was profoundly dishonest. He forged her name to several large loans and left her financially ruined. He sexually abused her daughter. Do I need to tell you she has problems relating to God as “Father”?
So what’s the answer? For me it has been having a relationship with my Creator. Not religion, but a relationship. My Bible tells me I was created unique and special by a Heavenly Father who cherishes me. Because my own earthly father never made me feel unique, special or cherished, I had problems accepting in my heart (mind, will, emotions) the truth of that biblical teaching. I lived for years trying to redo the past, trying THIS time to fix that destructive parent-child dynamic. So I had to work it out in my psyche with proactive exercises.
I started by simply putting a childhood picture of me — it was taken on my third birthday — in every room in the house.
I kept looking at “her” and thinking, “You are the child God created! And what a special, cute, talented girl you are! What a cutie pie you are, April! You deserve the best God has to give, not the junk you’ve been settling for. I won’t let anyone hurt you!” I did my best to protect that little girl in the picture.
The more I talked to “her”, the stronger the desire became to parent her in a loving, patient, nurturing way. I TAUGHT MYSELF TO PARENT MYSELF. I found myself becoming less critical of myself and more patient and accepting of myself. Still, to this day, I find myself saying, “It’s OK, April. No big deal. So you made a wrong turn. You’re allowed a “do-over”! Make a U-turn and do it over! Think of this as an adventure!”
I can’t tell you what a difference this has made for me. No more panic attacks, no more getting lost and beating up on myself, and no more thinking I’m defective. Most of all, no compulsion to rewrite the past!
And always, God rides with me. I can’t see him with my human eyes, but I can feel His approval. It makes all the difference in the world! I no longer feel compelled to act upon that self-destructive compulsion. For me, it has been a spiritual process to health and self-respect.
(c) 2009 April Lorier