I never ask for help. Some might say that is a result of my own need to be perfect. Some might blame it on my inability to trust. Others might say it is an inability to be vulnerable. And honestly, those are all true to some extent. But recently, I have come to understand another angle to the complex kaleidoscope that is my inner world. I have found another inner part. And her understanding of the world is very complex and somewhat mature. It is so mature that I am struggling to separate from some of her beliefs. In other words, she seems right to me, at least somewhat.
Interestingly, she comes as the yin to my mean girl’s yang. I have to admit I didn’t see that coming. But apparently, when my mean girl split, there was another simultaneous split. A very calm, caring and rational being came to exist at the same time. I have to admit I like her. She doesn’t yell at me. She doesn’t insult me. She is even a bit vulnerable like some of my younger parts, but not in a desperate way. That said, I also realize she has caused me some significant problems in life. Her expectations of how the world works have been the ultimate form of sabotage.
I believe her to be trauma-bonded, but not in the traditional sense of the word. She is not so young that she believes we must love those that hurt us. I have another part like that. She is different. She believes we are bonded to the abusers for life, but not through love. She believes we are bonded because of a deal, a deal she strongly believes I am in the process of breaking. And in breaking that deal, she believes I am putting everyone I love in danger, all inner and outer children.
And this all comes back to the fact that abusers are smart and cunning. Nothing they do is by accident. Don’t let anyone fool you otherwise. When child abuse victims start to separate from family as they get older, the logic and the threats ramp up.
“If you don’t do as I say, I won’t feed you.”
“If you don’t do as I say, I will leave you and your sister homeless.”
“If you don’t do as I say, I will drive you to another town and leave you there to survive on your own.”
And of course, these threats are combined with promises the child could never survive without the family. Then it expands further.
“If you ever go against me, I’ll find out and you will be punished.”
“If you ever go against me, I will find you and kill you.”
And then there are the times when they do things for the victim. I don’t mean special and loving things. I mean things they are supposed to do, like providing food, shelter, clothing and transportation. These things add up. So guess what happens next.
“I did all these nice things for you, so you owe me.”
All of this logic and these threats lead to some pretty strange beliefs about how the abusive relationship works. And that translates to how the world works. So now I have a part who believes she still owes my abuser. To make matters worse, she thinks she has broken her end of the deal and her punishment is coming any time now. She desperately tries to limit my attempts to break away from the family with her expectations of inevitable pain. It is so bad that she searches through all the “bad” things in my life associating them to my mistakes. I am starting to affectionately refer to her as the “Karma Kid”.
Her beliefs affect me in other relationships too. She is absolutely opposed to engaging in any kind of deal or asking for help from anyone else. She refuses to owe anyone anything. It is so bad that she creates a spreadsheet in her mind to ensure that all exchanges have been perfectly even or weighted against her.
While I know most others don’t work that way, I have had a hard time arguing with her about the retaliation part. I can’t promise her she is fully safe. But I can tell her that my parents are not powerful, or even magical, as she believes. I can explain that she never made a deal. Deals infer that there was a choice. And she was never afforded a choice. I tell her every day that deal is null and void.
And she hears me but she’s scared. She can’t know that it is safe until she nullifies the deal on her end. And she can’t nullify the deal until she knows she is safe. That is a tough spot. And I feel for her. But I also know what is at stake. We can’t live life while owned. We were meant to live freely. And life won’t be fully free until we cut up this contract and never look back.
I hope she can do it. Intuitively, I know she will. In the mean time, I will give her the space she has never had, the encouragement she has never heard and the understanding she never thought possible. And one day, she won’t be owned. And neither will I.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW