When we are born into an abusive family, we are born into a war we didn’t know we were fighting. We also don’t know how to fight it. We were never given the weapons to fight this war. But the attacks on us start the minute we are born. I am not suggesting we are physically, emotionally or sexually abused the moment we are born (although some are). But the manipulation begins. That manipulation is often the most insidious part of the abuse we are enduring. It is meant to teach us and others that we are not good enough. And while the tactics can be extremely diverse, the goal is to squash any chance to be a credible voice against what we are enduring.
But the problem is its stealthy nature. We don’t know what is happening to us because they are building our mind as we grow. They are creating the pathways and they can make them what they want. They are setting up our brains to work exactly how they need them to work. Once this is accomplished, we will respond to their abuse in the way they expect. And this will elicit the response from others based on our actions in front of them. This is the plan. And we don’t stand a chance against it. The battles of childhood are not going to work in our favor. This is why we have to work toward changing these pathways once we reach adulthood. But it’s a minefield of old programming. The only way to undo what they did is building awareness of what they created. So here are some examples of how abusive families will attack our credibility from the inside out.
Baiting. As the abuse in our family escalates, the anger within will build. This is natural and normal when we are experiencing abuse of any kind. But our family will tell us that our response is not okay. They will tell us our emotional expression is a sign that we are crazy or insane. They will tell us it means something is wrong with us. To be sure that our programming is complete, they will do what it takes to bait us. They will find ways to trigger the anger they have built in us. And when others are around, they will use those triggers to create an emotional response while they play the victim. And the “others” will be specially chosen. They will be people who are most likely to believe the parents. They will confirm the difficult situation of the poor parents and put all the responsibility on the child. “The poor parents have a crazy child. It’s such a shame.” A battle is lost.
Provoking Battles with Others. In an abusive family, relationships with others outside the immediate circle are a cause for concern. Others are seen as a threat and most relationships will be thwarted in one way or another. But some families like to “kill two birds with one stone”. They will work to destroy the relationship by making us look like the crazy person. They will search for ways to create battles in the relationship by feigning interest long enough to gather information. And they will work hard to drive a wedge by creating drama that leaves the others questioning our sanity. This could be baiting. This could be lies and hearsay used against one side or the other. But it is often done under the surface in a way that makes it hard to track it back to the abusers. And another battle is lost.
Blaming. Blaming almost always starts on a one-on-one basis and builds from there. The adult’s abusive actions are almost always blamed on the victim. And it begins the process of self-blame for almost anything. Over time, this can become a highly public process, creating a scapegoat for any of the family’s hardships. “We would have never had to do this if it hadn’t been for our difficult child.” “Our lives are so much harder because of the way this child behaves.” “Our angry child creates so many problems for us.” The reputation of the child continues to plummet with each scapegoating story. And another battle is lost.
These might seem incredibly sneaky. You might be thinking these are not possible for the average person. Abusers would have to be highly intelligent to pull off these tactics. But it’s not the truth. These tactics don’t live in the conscious mind. Abusers are not sitting around the dining room table every night coming up with the next scheme (although some might). These tactics are happening from an unconscious place. The inner parts are repeating the exact tactics used against them with different players. This is generational trauma at its core. There is very little cognitive intelligence required. It usually doesn’t happen from that place. But now we can unravel the unconscious web created in our minds. We can find the mines and excavate them. We do not have to live with the effects of these abusive tactics forever. The battles are over. We can win the war.
Come join me in Survivor’s Guide for Life in August as we discuss how to recognize abusive patterns and stop the impact on our adult lives.