letter to my abuser

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Dear —,

This letter is not to disparage you, though I’m fairly certain that in your subjective reality, it will be perceived that way. All I can say is my intention is quite the contrary.

My desire is to actually convey that I get it. I understand why you did the things you did. Why you violently raged out of the blue. Why you stonewalled and threw sarcasm in my face. Why you blamed and shamed me, even for things you asked for yourself, and for things that were in reality yours. Why your own hypocrisy was lost on you. Why there were projection and projective identification on your end. Why it was easier to make me the bad one, the one at fault. I understand now, that you did all of these things because you were fearful. You suffer with a very weak and fragile ego, and it was your (dysfunctional) way of protecting yourself. It did not matter how much love I gave, because in your mind, relationships subconsciously mean being destroyed by the other. And you did not want to be “wrong” or “bad,” for what it would mean of your shaky self-worth, so it was easier to make me the bad one instead.

You also never had anyone in your family to model for you what it looks like to take personal responsibility. Instead, what you witnessed and consequently learned from your family was how to blame, how to shame, how to ignore feelings, how to focus on appearance, material things, and status above all else. Your family was never able to love and accept you as you are. It is no wonder why you acted (and still continue to act) the way you did.

I get it now. I don’t expect you to know better than this. Not anymore. You never had the nurturing to make it possible for you to have true empathy. And because I get it, I have compassion for you. I feel much sadness for you. And of course, I can say genuinely that I forgive you. Like an infant, you did not know better.

Yet it is apparent to me that you have not changed much since the last time we saw each other. You are still suffering with your ego ailment, and your recent actions speak of your need to first and foremost make yourself feel better and ameliorate your own guilt. That, too, I get. For someone who was never taught how to manage emotions, you depend on others to instead care, understand, and comfort you. Which is what you did to me throughout our entire relationship–which is why you got mad at me when I asked for support… because in your mind, like the infant, you believed I should be the one caring for you, not the other way around.

Again, I hope you do not take these words as criticism. My tone is equivalent to, “It is what it is.” And you are who you are. I am not asking you to change… that is on you. I realize now it is entirely your choice to change. So I accept you as you are, and feel sympathy for the causes of your wounds.

But in saying all this, I hope that you understand why I have disengaged. It is painful and madness-making to subject anyone to the kind of treatment you put me through, to expect others to emotionally care for you while shaming them for wanting reciprocity. I realized too that everything I profusely apologized for at the end, were things I needed you to say to me (again, projective identification) to amend the ways you have treated me during our year together.

Of course I thank you for at the very least apologizing for your last rage fit. But I am no longer waiting for an apology for all of the others things you did. I see that it is too much to ask for from someone like you, someone who is in too much pain that he cannot see past himself. I am sorry for your pain. But the only way I see any kind of friendship occurring between us is through your expressed remorse. Through empathy. And if I accept that this is something you’re not able to do, then it is better for my mental health if I turn my head away.

As much as you wish otherwise, you cannot pay off the pain that was given to me. You cannot amend this with money. It was with words you did damage–so it is through words I need amends.

I wish you could’ve seen the ways I tried so hard, the ways I tried to love and understand you, but even in this, I forgive you. You could not see me. You are too burdened with your own despair. But I cannot carry your burdens and the emotional responsibility anymore. They’re not mine. So I give them all back to you. It is up to you what you do with them.

This is my sincere wish that God is with you along your journey. I hope you find healing to your pain.

Sincerely,

Anna

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healing from narcissist wounds

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For months I have been toiling over a breakup I did not ask for, and healing from all the pain I had no idea I endured until I was released from my ex’s narcissistic clutches. Breakups operate much like losing someone to death in the emotions your grapple with–waves of grief, loss, anxiety, depression. It is like being thrown into the arena, forced to stare directly at your demons and fight for yourself. You feel your way around the dark, hoping and praying that light will find its way to you someway, sometime.

So understandably, I’ve been tired. Exhausted. But it’s a bone-deep tiredness, one I’ve had for years and years. It took this event in my life to help me realize how subconscious it was. I’m tired of helping and caring for people. I’m tired of giving and giving, while receiving very little in return. I’m tired of being made selfish when I ask. I’m tired of people expecting me to be perfect, to never express any “negative” emotion to save their feelings or ego. I’m tired of being shamed for my feelings. I’m tired of being so understanding, and people asking me to be so, when they have no empathy to give to me. I’m tired of not being valued. I’m tired of being made at fault for not feeling valued. I’m tired of being lacerated for having weaknesses. I’m tired of the emotional abuse. I’m tired of being the victim.

As a therapist, I knew where all this was coming from. I imagine this is how a doctor feels, when he feels a sickness coming on. Monitoring his symptoms and diagnosing himself, treating himself once he checks himself in the hospital. Just like the doctor, I’m in my own hospital, treating and healing my emotional wounds. So what is the cause of my illness? Family of origin. And the diagnosis? Dearth of self-love.

Even before all of the shit hit the fan, I knew this fact: it all starts in you. But it took shit hitting the fan for me to realize what that meant for me specifically in my life. I did not love and value myself. I saw myself as a piece of crap, so therefore, I accepted it when people treated me like crap. I saw my value predicated on how much I gave others, and if they weren’t happy, I was not deserving of love–which made me a perfect match to my narcissistic ex. But I did not even realize he was a narcissist until my own, post-breakup therapist diagnosed him… because I was so stuck in my low self-worth. I did not value my wants and needs, so I accepted it when he shamed me for expressing them to him. I sustained his verbal lashings and took on all the blame, because I did not love myself enough to trust my thoughts and gut feelings.

He is the kind who cannot see how his actions affect others–cannot even see past his own nose. He even told me on the day we broke up, “I don’t like how actions have consequences,” and “I don’t like you having reactions to things.” Aka, he lacks empathy. He projects his fears onto others and lashes out on them, because it is safer to lash out on someone else’s weaknesses than to look at your own. He refuses to take responsibility for his actions… he rationalizes and rationalizes so that he can be made the victim and others (me) are the bad one. He shamed me for my weaknesses and expected me to never express anything bad or negative. He guilt-tripped me, even if I was the one hurt. He has no awareness of how he hurt others, and if he does, engages in mind jujitsu to avoid taking responsibility. This is what we call a narcissist.

But you must always look at yourself, to see what allowed you to keep such a person in your life in the first place… asking yourself, what made me a complete match to this kind of person? Who does this person remind me of in my life? I was neglected and emotionally abused as a child. So I recreated an exact match to my family and past experiences. I sought what was familiar to me. Someone with higher self-worth would’ve seen his actions and said, “Okay, it looks like you have a lot of issues. Thanks for the memories, but you need serious help. I’m out.” I started at a low point as a child and thereon, and presently, it has been my goal to work myself up to that high point.

So what is the antidote? Self-love. And it’s more than just appreciating you strengths and talents. But it is also about loving yourself and giving yourself a right to have wants and needs, and to express them. It means giving yourself permission to not take all the blame for everything… and to blame others, rightly, for their own actions or wrongdoings. It means expecting to be respected by others and valued by those you love… and not keeping those who cannot do either. It means not internalizing every negative comment or blame people shove at you, and giving yourself permission to say, “I understand you feel that way, but that’s complete horseshit.”  It means accepting yourself fully, even the weaknesses, and being unconditionally present with every emotion you hold. It means not denying yourself the right to speak up for yourself… and maintaining ground even when someone pushes against you or worse, shames you. Because you know who you are and you have every right to be exactly that.

In all of this, I also want to add: while you take responsibility for your issues and actions, in the same vein, others are responsible for theirs. So if you’re anything like me, the constant giver or empath, resist the urge to pick up others’ baggage or responsibility, even if they guilt-trip or shame you for it. Because it is not yours to pick up. It is theirs. So leave it there for them… it is their choice to own themselves or not.

thoughts on bad relationships

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“If someone treats your feelings as unimportant or lets you down in large or small ways frequently, drop them fast. You are not dreaming, and they will always be that way. Three strikes is enough.” -Jeb Kinnison

There are times in life when you have to learn lessons through your own experience. Someone can tell you many times to not play too closely to the fire, but you won’t learn until you get burned.

In my case, I got burned many times before I learned better. There are many of us in our life development who are naive to relationships and love. Disney movies, TV shows, romantic comedies, media, and even our fellow naive friends tell us that love will conquer all. If you love, the relationship will last and you can put up with anything, even if it is emotional abuse or severe lack of attention or affection. My understanding nature worked against me in this way. I would explain away my ex’s behavior, It’s because of his childhood that he’s like that. He said he’s trying. Maybe he’s right, I’m not appreciating his efforts enough. Yet that is the crux of abuse–the abuser manipulates you to buy into their broken and selfish way of thinking, and you unwittingly begin to operate under his control. His actions speak louder than words. And my thinking is what led me to collude in the emotional abuse I experienced.

But regardless of someone’s background or situation, hurtful or abusive behavior is never, ever okay.

I had it right the first time, when I asked for both of our needs to be attended to during our relationship. But in his subconscious mind, his needs were the only ones that mattered, and if I argued otherwise, I was “making it hard on him”… and he would go into a rage for good measure. The sick part of the relationship was whatever issues I brought up, he would twist it and put it back on me, making the same “complaints” about me. And I almost bought into it. Almost. Now, I am happily disillusioned. His behaviors were prime examples of his primitive defense mechanisms… projection being the most frequent one (i.e., his being mad at me for not valuing him and attending to his feelings, when he was the one who struggled with both in the span of our relationship).

Yet for abusers, or narcissists, blaming things on you, or splitting their “bad parts” and projecting them onto you, are their methods of protecting and defending themselves. The reason why: they have a deep-seeded belief and fear that they are worthless or inadequate. So they will do anything–whether it is manipulating, guilt-peddling, raging, physically abusing, throwing out every defense in the book–to avoid facing the person they fear they are. It is easy for them, for that reason, to make you into the bad person, so they can be guilt- and responsibility-free… but at your expense.

In the abuser’s mind, your feelings don’t matter, and may never will. Empathy is oftentimes lost on them. So it doesn’t matter how much you love that person, to him or her, it will never be enough. They are focused on taking and taking, and you must give and give–a one-sided arrangement that will never benefit you in the long run.

But here’s the thing. A good, healthy relationship consists of mutual respect and equal balance of power. You deserve to have someone hearing your feelings and needs, just as you do the same for your partner. You have the right to take responsibility for your things only, and not your partner’s issues or hurtful behavior. You also have a right to your feelings and reactions, as well as the right to be human and make mistakes. You deserve to have emotional support, and to ask for help or for changes. These are basic needs in any relationship. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

And if anyone does violate your rights, well, I of all people know how hard it is to leave. But perhaps it is easier to start with first seeing that you deserve love and respect and to have your rights acknowledged. Every moment is a chance to change your life for the better. Sometimes it’s a process, and it takes a series of moments to get you to the next step. I know for me, my path was a windy one. But as of this moment, I can say with confidence that I will never allow anyone to abuse or treat me with disrespect again… and I will do whatever it takes to make healthier choices in my life.