Sunday, February 27, 2011

Family and Love

    My therapist told me when I first started seeing her that incest is one of the worst kinds of trauma/abuse because it tears apart the family.  How true that is.  I had a perfect middle class family, the kind who could afford insurance and help send us to college.  Both my parents have PhDs, are intelligent, well respected members of society.  Most of the time when I didn't remember-and I only remembered the bad when bad was happening, when it wasn't I switched back to someone who only knew good.  Dissociative Identity Disorder develops in families of incest because experiencing constant sexual abuse, and then walking upstairs and having a pleasant dinner with the family, is not possible for a child without dissociating to preserve the illusion of safety in order to survive that environment.

     When I first started to remember/realize the abuse in our family and its extent, I did my research and saw all the countless stories of abusive families and their dynamics, which is 99% that abusive parents have been abusing for years, do so intentionally, and will not stop.  There is a 1% chance for hopefuls, thrown in cynically and more out of pity than fact.  I was adamant that no other families could be like mine.  I knew we were in that 1%.  I would explain, they would be sorry, some way we would be a happy family.  The alternative was too unbearable, too impossible to contemplate.

    Repeatedly, I was hit with the impossible.  It may seem unlikely to some that one could live in an abusive environment and not be aware of it.  There are many reasons this happens.  One is that you only know what your parents or caregivers tell you.  You are not born with a set of ideas to see the world through, you are given them by your parents.  If they do not tell you that what they are doing is abusive, and no one else does, then in your mind it is not.  I had no idea that the sexual abuse going on at home was/and or bordering illegal.  I didn't know it was abuse.  I knew I hated it and it made me feel icky, but I didn't think about it.  This was possible for me because another reason people don't know what is going on: dissociation.  My home was the kind with two worlds, a very bad one held in silence by terror, and a very good one where everyone did and said everything that would be expected of a normal family.  Indeed I don't believe we were very spontaneous, we did everything because it was just 'what was done' and it would make us seem normal.

     Of course my family was not in that pity given 1%.  I had to leave the safety net of my parents, and I did so cowering and only when forced to by a threat on my life.  I simply stopped talking to them, cut off contact as much as possible.  I am not telling this to lead up to more re-hashing of a traumatic story, although it certainly is, and deserves respect and credit.  I feel as though my parents have died, but it is worse, because they are not, and I am the one who chose to cut things off.  I still feel guilty about this, even though I know I had no choice, and it is a feeling that comes less and less.  I have become a person who can cut off any relationship at the drop of a hat, after cutting off the closest relationship I ever had, and that was with my father.  My trust level is about zero.  It is not my nature.  I love family, I love friends, I love have relationships and contact.  I am not crazy, as my father suggested to me concerning my radical 'un-normal' behavior.  And contrary to the guilt trips many people put on me, I do love my parents.

   I have found some interesting things about love.  I was born with it.  For awhile I was convinced by everyone around me that they must be smarter and I should believe their ideas that love is not always possible.  They lied.  Love is not always the opposite of hate.  Some days I love my father, and some days I hate him.  They are both inside me at the same time, and it is disrespectful to me to suggest that I need to ignore or get rid of the hate, or that love cannot co-exist, or that I should not love someone who has hurt me so badly.  Fear can block love, creating the illusion that some things just can't be done.  Hate is a result of hurt love, and fear.  Fear and Hate are both important in their own right, and deserve to be recognized and felt for what they are, but not mistaken for anything else.  Love is not need.  "I love you, I need you" are really two different things.  Going back to an abuser because they 'need' you is to show a lack of love to you from both you and them.  Loving someone does not mean that you should allow them to hurt you.  If you love yourself, if you love them, you will NOT allow them to hurt you.

   Leaving any set group of hurtful people will make you a target, especially if you are exposing a secret that they work hard to hide from themselves.  Most often, you are made out to be the bad guy, the 'rebel', the 'troublemaker', 'evil', etc.  I think that contrary to this we who leave abusive families, or any abusive situation, make a tremendous step towards making the world a more loving place.

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