In last month’s essay, we took a look at abuse and the long-term effect it can have. We tend to associate the word “abuse” with physical / sexual abuse, but there are many other forms of cruelty that can greatly saddle us, inhibit us, haunt us, or even destroy us. Just because cruelty is not physical, it is still abuse.
First, let’s look at some of these “small” infractions and understand what affect they may have had on you. Then, let’s address what you can do about it.
The silent treatment is abuse.
If you are hit, you are important enough to elicit one’s participation in your life, of course attention you don’t want, but at a minimum, you are at least visible. The silent treatment sends a thorough message that you are too insignificant or useless even to be worth a moment of time or a nod or look. You are left feeling ashamed, afraid, or unworthy, yet you may not realize the impact of this abuse. The body and the mind have visceral responses to the silent treatment; it may even feel like your cells are fighting something – bracing themselves for harm.
Name-calling is abuse.
If you are told, over and over again, that you are fat or lazy or stupid or useless or less than in any way, you can expect that your innate knowledge of how truly spectacular you are will be diminished.
Pestering/irritating/tormenting is abuse.
In elementary schools today, children are often taught that they should not let someone violate their personal space. By communicating with a child that they have the right to say who can touch them and how, they can learn to experience empowerment. We’re in agreement that a child can say, “don’t touch me” and that right should be respected. But what about violation of personal space that comes hidden in a package of pranks or nudging? Teasing, pestering, and irritating are abusive, the effects of which become compounded with frequency.
Constant criticism is abuse.
If you are told that you aren’t sitting correctly, speaking correctly, eating correctly, throwing a ball correctly, over and over again, often and repetitively, you are abused. If you are told that your grades are not good enough, your friends are not good enough, your hair is not good enough, your TV viewing choices are not good, how you spend your time is not good enough … then guess what? You’re being told that you’re not good enough.
Public shaming is abuse.
Any form of shaming in public is abusive regardless of whether it is in front of one person, a roomful, or a team. The humiliation or self-loathing that it can spur is sharp and can be enduring.
Money being used as a weapon or to control others is abuse.
Often people who have not earned love will use money as a way to get others to stick around or to manipulate them to compensate for their own feeling of impotence. Funny fact is that they need not have much money to use this ploy – they just need to establish the illusion that they do or create an implied intention of how you will financially benefit if you do what they want.
“Smothering” or “suffocating” one with concern or worry is abuse.
This form of control may not seem insidious, but it can leave the recipient with the feeling of being responsible for the peace of mind of the one who is smothering. It can also cause a person to become less adventurous, less courageous, or may act as a catalyst for someone to incessantly lie just to carve out some freedom.
What do we do about these behaviors?
The first step is to acknowledge that these behaviors ARE abuse.
Next, understand that these abuses (past and/or present) are damaging and hard to deal with! Don’t accept anyone’s version that you’re too sensitive if you try to stop them or you try to explain how they make you feel. Don’t give anyone a pass by assuming that these behaviors are insignificant. They are significant. These seemingly “small” abuses can affect us emotionally, socially, physically, spiritually, intellectually, and even financially.
The third step is to recognize that all these abuses stem from the abusers’ insecurities. They have a driving need to control or overpower those around them because of a deep (and probably unconscious) feeling of disempowerment or lack of control in their own lives. Yes, they have likely suffered abuse as well, but that is their issue to manage in a way that doesn’t cause harm to others. In no way, should you ever suffer at the hands of someone who has suffered regardless of how difficult their experiences may have been.
Seek sources of knowledge, empathy, or enlightenment that can help you sort out the long-term effect that childhood abuses had on you. Find sources that can guide you through the process of overcoming past abuse or developing the courage to halt abuse now.
Fifth, for ongoing abuse where the abuser is not open to change their behavior, do whatever you can to extract yourself from this abuse in your life today. You DO NOT have to take it. You are worth far more than being abused.
Stand up powerfully for your right to peace, love, respect, caring, compassion, and kindness. Only you can decide that you are worth an incredibly high-quality of life.
Break the cycle. No matter how long the lineage of abuse perpetuates, it only takes one person to end it. Be mindful of how you treat others and be cautious about using any abusive tactics on others.
So, give yourself permission to heal from past abuses, acknowledge the severity of their impact, and end present-day forms of abuse. I guarantee that you deserve happiness, respect, and love.