The past few years have been very different from the life I used to live. This may come as no surprise based on the amount of inner work I have done. It has a tendency to change the external in subtle (yet substantial) ways until one day we wake up from an afternoon nap and realize everything is different. And my life has been no exception to that rule. Unlike the people on dating sites who say they don’t want drama and really do, I am really not interested in drama anymore. It used to help distract me from my pain and fill the emptiness. I needed excitement to get through my days and weeks of pain. So there was always something to keep my mind spinning and my pulse quickened.
Nowadays, there is almost nothing like that. My business has moments because working with clients in recovery is never without excitement as emotions and memories come and go. But that’s a different type of “drama”. It’s real and it’s meaningful and it’s actually accomplishing something (even though it doesn’t always feel like it). My children definitely provide drama in the form of temper tantrums and behavior “stuff”, but I know they are really good kids in the scheme of things. And when the adults in my life call me up with drama, it just doesn’t affect me like it used to. I can be supportive, but it doesn’t take over like it did. I never thought I would say this, but I don’t get worked up easily. And if you knew me in my twenties, that is something you never expected me to say (without laughing anyway).
My inner parts are torn about this new way of living. My freedom fighters would love to bring some of the drama back. They are bored. They want excitement in life, but I can tell they feel less inclined to use it for numbing out. My defenders are doing pretty good with it. They like calm. It feels safe and predictable. And my inner children seem happy with the state of things. There are no more abusive people to make them feel unsafe.
One of the most important reasons my life shifted was my decision to go “no contact” with the majority of my immediate family. This was an important decision for me and my children. It has provided a safe and drama-free environment for me to heal. And I desperately needed that because healing is hard. It takes every ounce of inner strength and if we are using that strength to deal with abusive behavior, we can’t heal. Over the years, I have become used to living without them. My holidays are good now. I am happy with the small family and community I spend time with. I don’t need the old traditions. I can make new ones. Even my love seeker and karma kid are on board with the decision now (although it took a ton of work).
But on Monday, I scrolled through my Beating Trauma Facebook page to find a hostile commenter who sounded exactly like my family. It was a fake account called “Sall Yonds” and she wanted to tell me how horrible I was. I knew immediately it was family. I even knew which person it was. My hyper vigilance has never failed me when it comes to reading people (maybe my family forgot they taught me that). It didn’t take long for the community to attack back (love you guys) and Facebook deleted the fake account by the end of the day, but not before I saved off some really great material for this blog post. Just like the last time they left an anonymous comment on my blog, I like to use this stuff for building awareness. So I will use the comments to provide you with a list of tactics abusive families love to use to silence their victims. (I am leaving all the spelling and grammatical errors so you can see the state of the commenter at the time.)
- Intimidation. Not surprisingly, they love to intimidate. They try to use that old fear and paranoia they ingrained in you as a child to keep you quiet. Sall used this phrase: “causing havoc any way you can heh ? we’re onto it.”
- Blame Shifting. Abusive families are great at shifting the blame to the victims. They do this in many ways, but when children become adults, the parents (or other abusers) can be quick to turn the story around. The abusers become the victims and the adult children become the abusers. It is important to note that teenagers and adult children learn their abusive behavior from their parents. Here is what Sall had to say on that one: “Ive known teens who have abused their parents and then get sudden memory lapse. how convenient.”
- Calling You an Attention Seeker. Abusive families often make it clear that speaking up for yourself is never allowed. And they love to claim attention seeking. Here is what Sall had to say about my site: “its hard to keep up with lies so a poor poor pitiful person who thrives on gaining peoples sympathy from everyone has a hard time recalling things as they actually happened”
- Invalidating your Pain by Minimizing. This is probably the most pervasive strategy they use. They want to make sure you believe you are exaggerating your experiences when it really wasn’t any big deal. Sall made up an entire example for this one. She’s creative. I don’t know about you, but there were no cell phones when I was growing up. “let me guess , you all threw tantrums , told your councelors at school how abused you were when your mommy said no to getting you a cell phone at 12 yrs old, so to make you happy you got one at 13 under condition that you used it responsibly and when you chose not to answer the phone when mom called and just ignore her messages and racked up a 350 dollar usage fee etc you just didnt understand when mom threatened to take it away (gasp threat that is abuse in your eyes).”
- Distracting You from the Real Issue. This is a very popular strategy to create confusion. Turning the discussion around and making it about something else is bound to leave victims wondering what happened. Sall tried to use politics for this one. I have no idea what trauma recovery has to do with politics, but there you go. “im thinking more along the lines of you are part of Obamas scheme to tear american ways apart bit by bit.”
- Offering Other Reasons for Your Trauma. Abusive families do not acknowledge that relationship patterns start in childhood. If you enter in to an abusive marriage, they assume that was just a bad choice or bad luck. But that is never the case. Sall offered up her own personal story (which is actually my story) to explain my trauma for me. “i got that but after an abusive MARRIAGE. my mama was wonderful. and i shoud have listened to her when she said she didnt approve of him before i married him.”
- Explaining Memory Repression in Their Way. Memory repression is a fact of trauma. Abusive families are still trying to deny it, but the trauma experts are stating the truth. Drugs and alcohol can certainly contribute, but trauma is the source of it. At this point in my recovery, I have recovered hundreds of memories and I can confirm they were traumatic. Sall decided that my memory lapses must be from something else. “it couldnt possibly be that drug and or alcohol use contibuted to your memory lapses or maybe just the fact that ungrateful people just dont care to remember things that they should because they dont want to be held accountable”
While it is not fun to interact with hostile family members who are reacting in fear to my new empowered approach to life, it has given me the opportunity to bring new information to you. And for that, I am grateful. I hope this helps in your journey. Maybe you can identify some tactic that is being used against you right now. Honestly, if we have to put up with this crap, we might as well benefit from it.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW