Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
Have you experienced abuse?
Abuse hurts, no matter the type or source. It damages the soul of the individual and leaves one feeling vulnerable, worthless, and hopeless. Mental health treatment is advised for anyone left in the wake of serious abuse. An understanding of the abuse cycle and its affects is necessary to break out of its chains.
Understanding the Cycle of Abuse
Ongoing abuse is cyclical. It becomes a self-defeating mechanism whereby the abuser gains power and control over the victim, manipulating that person into thinking that they cannot change what is happening, and in fact may be destined to suffer.
At first, the victim is charmed by the kindness of the individual and feels love for that person. Protection is granted and accepted, as well as the provision of companionship and love. As time goes on, however, the protection turns into restrictive control of resources and social activities. The victim is not allowed certain privileges or amenities and contact with the outside world is limited.
The abuser becomes angry or uses physical harm, forcing the victim to keep in line with unrealistic expectations and demands. Any time there is an infraction, it is grounds for punishment, demeaning comments, and accusations. The victim is humiliated and made to feel they are at fault, and the action against them is warranted due to the nature of the wrongdoing.
Once the abusive incident has passed, it is as if it never happened. No mention is made of the incident and the victim is treated with love and gratitude. There is an outpouring of kindness and gentleness, to the point that the victim’s feelings of love for the abuser are reinforced, and they think that the incident was isolated and probably will not happen again.
The Problem of Vulnerability
Soul searching takes place within the victim in an effort to understand why the abuse happened. There is always something that “could” or “should” have or have not been done differently to keep the abuser from becoming angry. The victim vows to be a better person and do things differently the next time around.
What the victim doesn’t realize is that they cannot totally prevent another abusive incident. The big lie of abuse is that it is the fault of the victim, and they are made to feel that they are the one who is wrong. The abuser uses demeaning statements, innuendos, and accusations during the abusive episode. The victim feels a sense of worthlessness, that is until the abuser comes around and is kind once again.
A cycle is created in which the victim cannot leave the situation because they depend upon the approval and love of the abuser to make them feel worthwhile. Just when they get to the point that they feel good about themselves again, another abusive episode will occur. Once again, they are thrown into a state of feeling worthless and unworthy.
Rebuilding the Soul of the Victim
The victim’s view of self is turned inward toward self-depreciation. In order to break the abuse cycle, it is necessary to recognize what is happening. A move toward outward view first becomes one of anger toward the perpetrator of the abuse. Unfortunately, this is not a productive stance, and may solicite further abusive episodes. The next viewpoint is to feel sorry for the abuser, because they have been abused or neglected themselves. Perhaps they have come from difficult circumstances and are doing the best they can. The victim may try to help them change, but to no avail.
The victim eventually resorts to shutting off their heart toward the abuser, putting an emotional barrier around their soul to keep the abuse from doing further damage. This is the first step in breaking the abuse cycle. It allows the victim to refute the message of worthlessness and hopelessness, and to adopt a different core belief that allows for positive self-worth.
The victim is able to develop the courage needed to change the situation from the inside out. Rather than feeling less than the abuser, a realization is adopted that there is equality, and that the abuse need no longer be tolerated. Rather, the person develops the ability to speak up and define the emotions for what they are. Conflict is dealt with when it happens rather than waiting for emotions to get out of control.
Things do not change immediately. The abuser will not know what to expect. There may be emotional coolness, or even harassment about the victim trying to change. Each time this happens, the victim may need to visualize a mirror inside their mind, turning the words back to the abuser in a form of reflective communication. The mirror becomes a shield to the heart of the victim, keeping their self-esteem intact, and giving the abuser the tools needed to change.
As the would-be victim becomes stronger and develops a net-work of outside resources, the abuser looses power over them. Eventually, the relationship changes, or it simply dissolves, leaving the two individuals free to develop in other ways. The wounds of abuse are only healed, however, through forgiveness and the atoning power of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The memories may be vivid, but their affect is swallowed up in the joy of being surrounded by the ever-loving arms of the Father of all.
© 2012 Denise W Anderson