It’s one of those things on which, probably, each of us has a different viewpoint. What’s the worst thing someone could do to me? And then, is it really the ‘worst‘? Or is something else ‘worse‘?
I’ve been thinking, trying to find myself some closure from something that happened in my past. The closure hadn’t come naturally and I’ve realised that perhaps it was because of this. I was hung up by what the ‘worst thing‘ was.
Without wanting to trigger anyone into places they don’t want to go, let me just say that in general we, as a society, have ideas about what is the ‘worst’ harm that could happen to a person. I want to suggest that we don’t always get that right. It’s usually some type of sexual or physical crime. I think part of that is set up by the legal systems our various countries have. If the law says that ‘XYZ‘ is so bad that it will punish such a crime by imprisonment, for example, we assume that crime must be pretty bad.
What about the harm that can be done to us that is not recognised by the law? Does that make the harm okay?
Getting the closure I needed from what had happened to me, wasn’t happening because while I was deeply hurt and affected by what had been done, I almost minimised it’s effect on me simply because it wasn’t something anyone was ever going to ‘do’ time for. In other words, yes it caused great harm but it wasn’t illegal. So, in my mind I concluded it wasn’t harmful to me. Wrong.
I’m talking about Emotional Abuse.
My thinking was set in motion when another Canvas writer, Laura Schulman, on her blog, Bipolar For Life shared a wonderful article from, what I can assure you is an amazing blog full of great material (BTW I don’t usually make such obvious plugs but this one is worth a visit).
The blog, The Invisible Scar focuses on Emotional Child Abuse, and particularly Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse , and perhaps most importantly to me in this instance was on the power of words.
It’s not that I saw something that I specifically want to quote or even refer to, but simply the journey of looking around this blog made me stop and think. And I wanted to make sure you knew where the resource was, if you were interested.
Actually, Emotional Abuse is incredibly painful and damaging. Often it is not something that is ‘over in a flash and we can try to move on‘ but rather something that can go on for years. Top that off by the fact that often the perpetrator is someone who is ‘supposedly meant to love and care for us‘, and we have something that is going to take a lot of working through. No wonder I wasn’t going to find my closure naturally.
Out of respect for other people, it’s not possible for me to go into the details of my situation that of the situation I am about to refer to, but actually what really helped me was to look at someone else. What I mean is that by experiencing the empathy and compassion I felt for another person who I saw had been an emotionally abused child, I was able to find what I needed to set myself free from my (entirely unrelated) situation.
Somehow it was much easier to feel that compassion for a child, than for own wounded self. But if I can see it in my thinking about a vulnerable child, then I can begin to transfer that compassion to myself.
I am convinced that whether a child or an adult, emotional abuse is one of those ‘worse things‘.
There is nothing easy about finding your way through to recovery and I’m sure that society could make a difference in recognising more of the damage legally. Just because someone didn’t go to prison, doesn’t mean they didn’t abuse, and doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished. Much of Emotional Abuse will always go unpunished, even unacknowledged. When our society learns that we will be getting somewhere and we can assist victims to heal.
“The wounded recognized the wounded.”
― Nora Roberts, Rising Tides
© Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
As someone who is fifty-six years old, it has taken me nearly that long to figure out that the physical or sexual things that were done to me as a child are not the “worse things”. I’ve only recently really begun to understand or examine the emotional abuse aspect that can be part of the cycle of abuse. It wasn’t that I didn’t always know that emotional or psychological abuse was part of the pain, but my focus (or the world’s focus) was always centered on other things. Now that I’m becoming more aware of the emotional pain, I’m deciding how to use this information to continue to help me heal … and in the process, hopefully, help others to heal, too. It is a complicated path on which we tread.
I agree. It is a complicated path and not without it’s pain. I think, like you, it has taken me time to understand the affect of things that were not so obvious. I hope that helps you in your road to healing and recovery. Good luck.
Cate, I’m so glad that you found something helpful on my blog. Actually I’m glad that you found something helpful, period! It’s so important that we know we’re not alone in this struggle to heal from something that had no physical form, that was “only words,” perhaps “only” a tone of voice, nothing you could call the police or Social Services over. And yet it forms the basis of our identity, those voices, those little things that just will not go away, and most of the time we’re not even aware of it…And I’m so sorry that we lived it then, and we struggle to heal from it now. But we do have each other, and that’s such a comfort. Be well, dear, and be good to yourself.
And at least we are able to start the healing process now and as you say, having each other means the world.
You know it just occurred to me that I never commented on your blog that I found that link so helpful. I think I just got lost in reading and never came back to say thank you. But thank you. It was the most helpful bit of information I had read for a while. ❤
You’re welcome, and I actually keep a tab open to that site all the time. There are always new comments and occasionally new articles on there, and lots of good stuff to read through. I’ve found it a tremendous source of healing. There’s also a forum associated with it, which I’ve joined but haven’t yet figured out how to use (not a techie)!
Oh, me neither. Such things require great patience for me as I slowly work things out. Good luck! 😉
I came across The Invisible Scar recently and was really struck by how much resonated with me. I wouldn’t have said that I suffered emotional abuse, and yet…I could relate so well to that blog. I’m still sorting through those pieces but I agree with you that emotional abuse is insidious and damaging in its own right.
Actually I was much like you described. It hit me somewhere I wasn’t expecting. I guess sometimes we need that. 🙂
Thank you for this sensitive contribution.
Further: Psychiatry, The Law, and those in their sphere (i.e., the most of this society) sometimes collude in perpetrating and perpetuating emotional abuse veiled as “therapy.” It’s convenient and comfortable in refusal to take responsibility, to fault the object of their undoings for inability simply to “forgive and forget,” “get over it,” “move on.” After all, the perpetrators—those without conscience and immune to triggers—have moved on quite easily, to callously, successfully practice their experimentation and objectivity.
I’m writing a book, with caveats, of my experiences since I sought help for depression in 1985, hoping it will be of help to others. For, although I’ve been denied clarification and closure—even simple acknowledgement—from those who could choose to provide, I retain my compassion.
I think that’s great that you are writing of your experiences. I know that it is a hard journey but I do believe that it contributes to greater understanding for all of us.
Yes, emotional abuse does need to be legally recognised as harmful. Society is still in its infancy in understanding the awful behaviour that can occur – often unapprehended if not endorsed.
I guess it is difficult to separate behaviours, which means any legislation would take a lot of thought. But that is not a reason for not trying!
I agree with you. Difficulty is never a reason not to try. I think that even if we achieve greater public awareness and understanding then we have made a great change, especially for those who have suffered.
I think that some people don’t realise their behaviour is having an undue effect. That is not to exonerate the behaviour. I say it simply because on my journey of recovery I have discovered areas where I could improve my own behaviour in this regard.
You make a good point. I think too often people (including ourselves at times no doubt) don’t realise the impact of their words and actions. 😦
I think we need to create an upwards spiral…. Knowledge + practice!
I’m reminded of how car crashes or natural disasters list those injured as well as those “not injured”, and how mention of the latter never includes the mental injuries. Society would say escaping from a burning building unscathed leaves one uninjured, but if loved ones don’t make it out the damage done to the survivor is beyond significant.
Anyway, this is spot on, Cate. Your perspective always hits home, probably because it’s much like mine. 🙂
You’re so right, Sid. Society very easily forgets the unseen injuries. It’s something I’ve noticed a lot with the aftermath of the earthquakes in my city and I’m inclined to think that the news media does nothing to help. There’s nothing like a little blood. 😦 We simply must come to a point where we can recognise, acknowledge and support the emotional and mental injuries that happen without the bleeding.