Disclaimer. If you or someone you know is going through abuse and needs help, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Hello, Psych2Goers! This article will discuss typical statements someone might internalize after or while being subjected to abuse or neglect.
Abuse, physical, verbal, or emotional, and neglect have deleterious effects on a person’s mental health regardless of at what age they happen. Unfortunately, we are at our most vulnerable during childhood— an age where we are susceptible to abuse from others.
To attempt to find reason in abuse or neglect is not worth it. However, it is helpful to understand what is abuse, and why some people choose to abuse others.
Abuse is a choice. Many abusers, in fact, as powerless as they make their victims feel. As a result, they abuse others. Some even enjoy it. Some abusers suffer from a narcissistic personality disorder or other mental disorders, which can lead them to become abusive. However, this does not excuse their behavior, nor should this invalidate a victim’s pain.
Years of abuse and neglect can lead victims to believe they deserve it and internalize negative thoughts.
The following list is an example of something that victims might say to themselves to minimize the abuse.
- “They’re nice to me sometimes, so that’s good.”
To anyone who has been abused and said this to themselves, please do not invalidate yourself. Sometimes we excuse the inexcusable because we love that person. That’s understandable. However, if you have been a victim of someone’s abuse, you need to love yourself more than you love the other person. It will be hard, and you might try to find every excuse to stay. But, if leaving is the best option, do it. But, make sure you have a safety plan beforehand. In some circumstances, leaving an abusive is dangerous. If that is the case, please seek help.
- “I think it’s my fault because I provoke them.”
After or during an abusive relationship, it is easy to believe what others say. Unfortunately, many victims experience blame. This blame, whether internalized or imposed, makes you feel like you deserve abuse. You don’t.
Our human need to rationalize and normalize events and behaviors makes us more prone to accept things we should not. Professor Sherry Hamby calls it the “just world hypothesis.” It is the idea that we all deserve what happens to us. The just-world fallacy is the reason why there are people who blame the poor for being poor and blame victims for their abuse. Hearing others blame you for something you are not to blame, only reinforces negative thoughts about yourself. Please steer clear of those who victimize you. Surround yourself with people who will be pillars of support, people who will shield you. If you do not have those people within reach, seek professional help.
- “I have to earn my right to be happy.”
In many cases, the abuser, to enforce his control, makes you feel codependent. I say feel because your well-being or your happiness does not depend on anyone else but you. Codependency enforces the abuser’s position, makes you feel even more helpless, and destroys your self-esteem.
Additionally, the just-world fallacy plays a role in this statement as well. Feeling stuck in an abusive relationship may push you towards acceptance or normalization of abuse. But, abuse is not normal. You deserve to be happy and to have your needs met. Everyone does. Just because someone has emotional or physical needs, that does not mean that their needs should trump over your own.
- “I don’t think anyone could be happy in a relationship with me.”
Many victims downplay the abuse because they do not think it is as bad as physical abuse. But, it is. Abusive relationships destroy your self-esteem and make it impossible for you to walk away. You begin to feel as though it is better to stay than to be alone. This thought is a byproduct of abuse. The abuser continuously puts you down making you believe that there is no better option. In some cases, you might even feel as though you are the problem. But, you are not. Try to prevent these thoughts from taking root in your mind. Make it a habit of proving to yourself that you are not what they say you are. For example, if your abuser states that you are lazy, search your memories and find moments that prove the opposite.
By proving to yourself that you are not what your abuser says you are, you are rebuilding your self-esteem. I know that, at first, it might be hard to find reasons why you are worthy. But you are. Regardless of your failures and shortcomings, you are worthy and deserve to be in a happy and healthy relationship.
- “It’s fine. I don’t need that much.”
In an abusive relationship, victims often forgo their needs to cater to those of their abusers. I understand that, in some cases, it is a form of survival. However, willingly forgoing your needs only makes you feel less about yourself. Try, in whatever way possible, to look after yourself too.
- “Maybe, I’m the toxic person in this relationship.”
A relationship is composed of two people who share equal responsibility for how that relationship develops. However, within an abusive relationship, the responsibility for how the relationship develops needs to be assessed differently.
Our early childhood relationships set the tone for our future relationships. Unfortunately, if you endured childhood abuse or neglect, you might be more prone to enter into an abusive relationship. To clarify, no one actively seeks to be in an abusive relationship. Some people just never learned what a healthy relationship is. If you find yourself falling into abusive relationships or attracting abusive partners, work with a therapist to help you identify why you are prone to being in bad relationships and how to avoid those types of relationships in the future.
For someone who has been abused or neglected, it can be difficult to address the repercussions because they are invisible. Many victims of emotional abuse carry their scars in silence. But, you do not need to be a victim for much longer. Working with a licensed professional or therapist and surrounding yourself with supportive friends or family can help you overcome the aftermath of abuse.
Please take care of yourself!
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