The same way they made me suffer!

This post, of course, is about those of us raised in a variety of abusive,
dysfunctional families & communities

a. External CAUSES - Growing up, our parents & other adults:
• blamed us unfairly, for all kinds of things (their problems, other kids’ bad behavior...), attacked & humiliated us, assuming the worst of us...
• AND didn’t allow us to defend ourselves, didn’t believe us, never bothered to ask for our side of a situation, weren’t on our side or defended us
b. Internal - All children:
• are vulnerable to & at the mercy of - their caregivers
• think in B & W, simple cause & effect, and so a believe in JUSTICE - that the world is fair
• AND, assume they are the center of everything, therefore everything that happens to them is about them (good or bad)!

SO: When our parents hurt us - it would make sense to a kid’s mind that:
• they were justified in what they were doing (or not doing) to us
• we caused it (somehow, even if we couldn’t figure our what we did wrong)
• we deserved whatever was dished out: “The gods punish us for our own good!”
• we were in constant, intense pain. Even if we ‘bought’ that we deserved what was being done to us, still - we wanted it to STOP! Of course.
• no one else seemed to notice or care - no one else was helping (maybe someone did try, but it didn’t work out & we stayed trapped)
• we couldn’t get any justice from them (they didn’t listening) and they got away with it - not held accountable. UNFAIR !
• we tried & tried - to figure it out, to change ourselves and get them to change, to protect ourselves & others in the family
• but nothing got better, so we got more & more frustrated and hopeless
• failing to MAKE the adults stop hurting us, our sense of danger never left us
• which led to getting angrier & angrier. Being powerless in an unsafe family, especially one that was actually life-threatening - will always generate RAGE.
• AND after all - fair is fair - eventually we began to have fantasies of REVENGE, to even the score, so the world would be in balance again.
Without help, comfort or a way of escape, we had to suppress the pain as best we could. We weren’t big or strong enough to punish ‘those mean, stupid adults’ the way they deserved, so we did the next ‘best’ thing:
• Sadism: some of us hurt smaller, younger, weaker things (toys, animals, siblings, school mates...)
• OR Masochism - some took it out on ourselves (self-mutilation, or fantasies of being hurt/ tortured...) REVENGE in REVERSE

We Believe that:
1. we have no option but to re-play the victim role (& wonder how we got into ‘this mess’)
2. since we have no choice but to be taken advantage of, we insist that the other person change (not us!) so they’ll stop hurting us
3. if they don’t stop hurting us, we have a right (& obligation) to be revenged

WE ACT on these beliefs (whether they’re conscious or not)
Internally, by:
• obsessive hatred (which can cause us physical problems & also generally, being shunned)
• fantasies & dreams of punishment, torture, murder
• wishing for bad things to happen to others, getting off on others’ suffering
Externally, by:
• dropping a friend or lover for minor infractions of our rules (usually unspoken)
• bad mouthing people we know, putting everyone down / being judgmental
• slander, gossip, hate mail, lawsuits
• causing trouble & fight wherever we are - etc.

• REVENGE gives us a false sense of power- but being false, it is NEVER satisfying - it doesn’t make the pain go away - so we keep wanting revenge
• Need for revenge is based on our belief that our parents were right to abuse & neglect us since we deserved it (even if we don’t know what we actually did wrong) Otherwise - WHY would they have done it??!!
• This creates rage - but we’re not allowed to be angry at them

SO: Intensity of our DESIRE FOR REVENGE <-----> is equal to the intensity of our self-hate & powerlessness over past &/ or present abuse

No matter how good it may feel, NO amount of revenge will:
• never sooth our pain
• satisfy our rage, to make it go away
• make them suffer in equal amount (although Elder Abuse is an attempt)
• eliminate the deep experience of being a victim
• give us self-esteem or S & I (Separation & Individuation)
• feel genuinely empowered - being a ‘perpetrator’ is only copying them!

TRUE POWER comes from :
• having our original trauma validated by:
-- skilled professionals
-- other abuse survivors
-- sometimes by someone in the family willing to acknowledge what they saw
• understanding and coming to accept that we didn’t cause the abuse/ neglect
learning the skills to actively treat oneself better
• gaining boundaries, so we can stop others from hurting us now
learning to LOVE ourselves
• surround ourselves with healthy, kind people - in all areas of our life

See related posts on Parental Blame / Shame / Guilt
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Go to article "ACRONYMS" for meaning of all abbreviations
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Author's Bio: 

is a psychotherapist in private practice for 24 yrs in New York City, specializing in ACoA RECOVERY (adult-children of alcoholics & other narcissists).
She has appeared on radio, television & at New Life Expo, created & presented ACoA / Al-Anon intensive weekend workshops & ran an ACoA therapy group for 6 years.
She was an instructor at the NY OPEN CENTER  for 9 yrs, presenting her 12-week interactive lecture course “KNOWLEDGE Is POWER: 
What makes an ACoA”

She works with individuals & couples/partners, in person and by phone & Skype. FREE Intro Session, to see if there is compatibility.