Wednesday, April 8, 2015

But What If I'm the Abusive One?

Language adapted from Lundy Bancroft's blog from abusive "partners" to "parents."

Spending time with an abusive parent can become a twisted world where bad is good, down is up, and wrong is right. Many people over the years have said to me, “My parent tells me that I’m the one abusing them. They have said it so many times that I start to wonder if they're right. How do I know if it’s them or me?"
We can look at some ways to answer that question, but first I would like you to read a few concepts, taking a deep breath after each one so that you can absorb it.

One: You are not responsible for their behavior. You do not make them do things. Their actions are their own choice.
Two: You deserve to be treated well even when you make mistakes, and even if you make them a lot.
Three: Setting firm, clear limits for how your parent is allowed to treat you is not the same thing as controlling them, and should not be called control.
Four: Choosing to not always put your parent’s needs ahead of your own does not constitute hurting them, wronging them, or being selfish. You have the right to give substantial priority to your own needs and desires.
Five: If you scream and yell once in a while that does not mean that you are crazy or abusive (though they may say so). It depends on whether you are yelling degrading things, whether your parent is intimidated by you, whether you are yelling to control them (versus yelling to resist their control), and many other factors.

These five concepts cover most of the situations where angry and controlling parents try to turn the tables on their children. If you work on digesting each point, they will have a much harder time convincing you that you are really the one with the problem.
But I haven’t really answered your question yet. You may still wonder, “But what if they really aren't the destructive one, and I am? How would I know?” Here’s how:
* They're kind to you most of the time, and treat you reasonably decently even when they're mad or upset with you.
* They take responsibility for their own actions, not frequently blaming them on you or on stress or other excuses. And they don't get scary.
* They have asked you repeatedly, and in a decent and thoughtful way (not in a stream of put-downs) to change specific behaviors of yours, and you seem to keep returning to doing those things they have asked you not to do.
* They have shown willingness to work on things you want them to work on, and have taken real steps regarding those issues (not just making promises).
If all of the above points are true then, okay, maybe you need to look at your treatment of them. But otherwise – and I’m willing to bet your situation falls into the “otherwise” category – your parent is doing what so many abusive parents do, which is turning things into their opposites in order to have even more weapons to hammer you with.

Lundy Bancroft, adapted by C.G. all rights to the original author.  

Lundy Bancroft is the author of Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. I personally feel this work is the abuse Bible and although it may seem to only apply to it's intended audience (women experiencing abuse in romantic relationships), the themes of entitlement, manipulation and abuse are universal to all abuse survivors. I recently reached out to him asking if he ever thought about writing a book for adult child abuse survivors, and his response is as follows:

I feel like I don't know enough about abusive parents (except for men who abuse women and also abuse the kids) to write a book about it. I have thought sometimes about writing a book about children's rights which I feel more qualified to write (since I am a former child but not a child abuse survivor). Maybe that would be a way to get at a lot of the same issues, but from a slightly different angle."

Regardless, with small mental adaptations for the words "Partner" for "Parent" in his existing work, you may find great clarity and understanding by reading his books. I highly recommend them.

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