Acknowledging and Healing Abuse from Loved Ones
There is something that is important to understand about abuse.
It is actually quite common to exhibit abusive behaviors without the intention to harm. Now, this does not dismiss the fact that some people DO intend to harm others, but that's a different conversation.
We may find ourselves on either the receiving or the giving end of abusive behaviors. As a human being, there is a decent chance that you've been on both ends, relatively speaking.
A good portion of abuse happens in the context of relationships with people we know and trust. These are often people we love and who love us in return.
The abusive behaviors are often unconscious, and if they ARE conscious, they are not understood or acknowledged as harmful. While that can be hard to believe, remember that trauma is intergenerational and many behaviors are adaptive, normalized and passed on. This does not, in ANY way, excuse them.
On the receiving end, our "tolerance" of abusive behaviors is also typically an adaptive, normalized response.
Why is all this important to understand?
Well, because part of healing from abuse is to RECOGNIZE and name it as abuse. This is where it gets sticky. Because many people think of abuse as intentional or just something that terrible people do, it prevents us from recognizing, acknowledging and ultimately healing from it.
When someone we know and love harms us, it can be extremely difficult to acknowledge it as abuse. We may minimize it or even blame ourselves as a way to manage the intensity of feelings that can emerge through the betrayal of trust. Abusive behavior happens on a spectrum and one tendency is to not name it abuse because what we experienced wasn't "that bad" or "as much as others," etc.
When we dismiss abuse, we may remove it from our conscious minds, but it gets tucked deeper into our cells and can emerge through mental and physical health challenges or our behaviors. So, dismissal doesn't make it go away. It just moves it to a different place in our body or life to be processed.
Why is it important to specifically call it "abuse?"
It's not. But it IS important to call it something that your mind understands as harmful. Because your body ALREADY registered it as harmful and therefore naming it helps create the acknowledgement that the body seeks (and usually requires) for healing.
When we begin to recognize that a lot of abuse happens unconsciously and without the intention to harm, it can remove a major barrier that prevents us from acknowledging the totality of our experiences, so we can begin (or continue) to heal.
If you are just starting to acknowledge and understand that you experienced (and/or demonstrated) abusive behaviors, I strongly urge you to seek out support with a professional who can help you process and integrate your experience.