Living With Abuse May Be a Pattern Learned in Childhood

As a child growing up in a home controlled by alcoholism, I always wondered why my mother didn’t take us and leave. We lived in a small town that included several well respected family members. We would have had emotional support. I still have no easy answer to that question.

“Maybe it’s because your mother is always Mom to you, or maybe it’s because I was in denial, but finally it hits me: Mom is just as much his captive as I am. She’s not just the quieter parent, the more reasonable one. She’s the trustee trapped between the warden and the other prisoner.

Immediately upon the heels of this understanding is another: I must not say this out loud. To say it out loud is to name it, and to name it is to give it irresistible power. That power will mean it can no longer be ignored. The polite fictions and convenient blind spots won’t work anymore. Something will have to change.

And I know, with a certainty that fills me with dread, this is something she will not do. If I say the name of this thing he’s done to her, she will fight me. She will join him, because she’ll have to. Because she’ll have to destroy me or else admit I was right.”  April Daniels

“As you recover, you will feel more conscious of your surroundings. Freed from the ‘fog’ of your pain, fear, and confusion, you will awaken and see the world revealed as never before. You will begin to observe things, especially yourself. You will be aware of what you do and why you do it. You will begin to observe your own behavior and attitudes.”      Beverly Engel

“To my abusers, the act of setting appropriate boundaries was viewed as hostile aggression. They believed that I was denying them something that belonged to them if I resisted. I was a resource to be exploited for their personal use. I was property who didn’t have any rights over my time, my energy, my body, or my possessions. I viewed myself that way too. I believed that they were justified in being angry with me for saying no but I wasn’t justified in being angry with them for abusing me.”  Christina Enevoldsen

“There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth; “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”  Stephen King

“Hopefully as you get older, you start to learn how to live with your demon. It’s hard at first. Some people give their demon so much room that there is no space in their head or bed for love. They feed their demon and it gets really strong and then it makes them stay in abusive relationships or starve their beautiful bodies. But sometimes, you get a little older and get a little bored of the demon. Through good therapy and friends and self-love you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin. Maybe a day even comes when you are getting dressed for a fancy event and it whispers, “You aren’t pretty,” and you go, “I know, I know, now let me find my earrings.” Sometimes you say, “Demon, I promise you I will let you remind me of my ugliness, but right now I am having hot sex so I will check in later.”  Amy Poehler

“A lot of people feel like they’re victims in life, and they’ll often point to past events, perhaps growing up with an abusive parent or in a dysfunctional family. Most psychologists believe that about 85 percent of families are dysfunctional, so all of a sudden you’re not so unique. My parents were alcoholics. My dad abused me. My mother divorced him when I was six…I mean, that’s almost everybody’s story in some form or not. The real question is, what are you going to do now? What do you choose now? Because you can either keep focusing on that, or you can focus on what you want. And when people start focusing on what they want, what they don’t want falls away, and what they want expands, and the other part disappears.”   Jack Canfield

“Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom.

But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the task of early adulthood――establishing independence and intimacy――burdened by major impairments in self-care, in cognition and in memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships.

She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.”   Judith Lewis Herman

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