Friday, May 31, 2013

Take What You Deserve

After talking with an older lady I am once again reminded that perhaps the most crippling aspect of punitive/shameful parenting is the way it traps the people. They are forever stuck, unable to forgive, unable to acknowledge, unable to grow and move on to better things.

Yes, the sting on the bum, the burn of harsh words, those are hurtful and unethical in their own way. But it is the tight grasp of inferiority and self-hate that forever binds someone up in, "I'm FINE and I REFUSE to look any deeper!"

For the experience of having self-will and autonomy broken by loved ones leads them inevitably to more hurt in a cycle of abuse. And eventually, what they have done is submitted themselves to shackles, to forever carrying the guilt, shame and loathing on their backs.

With that, the only option to continue functioning is denial. See, mental illness doesn't exist, because it couldn't exist for them. Compassion doesn't exist, because they never had any and did just fine. Taking a break, having friends, developing personal interests, calling out abusers, none of it was theirs so none of it can be yours.

If you were to denounce abuse, it would in turn shine light on all of their experiences. And instead of bringing acknowledgment and healing it only angers and scares them because they have internalized the abuse and taken it on as an identity.

This might all sound extreme and rare, but if you back up a little, you'll notice it's actually pervasive in our culture, occurring over everything and everywhere for many people. The thing about oppressing a person is that it spreads. Like the common phrase, "Misery loves company" the reality is that the oppressed person wants all of her friends enslaved so as not to notice the rub of her own chains. 

Punitive parenting's true legacy is creating a person who says, "I was hurt and I deserved it." From that standpoint, self-worth is so deteriorated and violation so protected that no one can learn, grow, heal, forgive or otherwise reach full actualization in life and relationships and are instead hanging by a chain.

Think back to the women who harass other women, telling them to cover up while breastfeeding. Think about it. Almost exclusively, those doing the harassing are women. And what I see are not people who think breastfeeding is gross, but people who were oppressed and must oppress others. It had nothing to do with breastfeeding but rather the power struggles in their own relationships. To see a breastfeeding woman standing out in public with her own level of power reminded them of their powerlessness. They feel chafing of the ropes binding them.

And the big thing in this society...c'mon fellow abuse survivors of all know what it is: our society hates the label of victimhood. It's better to claim you caused someone to rape you than to admit that someone violated you. It's better to claim you needed that c-section than to admit maybe someone didn't have your best interests at heart. It's better to claim that breastfeeding is immodest than to admit that you don't feel equal in your relationships.

Incidentally, that storyline is the same one for the circumcised males. And it's perhaps even harder for them in this culture that despises anything effeminate, and by that they actually mean anything expressive, emotional or human in nature. "I'm fine! FINE FINE FINE!" They shout it. Scream it. Pound it into the table. "I'm fine. Because if I wasn't, I'd have to go back to every moment in my life where someone hurt me and I'd have to acknowledge it and I'd have to forgive them and I'd have to heal and I'd have to admit that others hurt me." I'm FINE.

Victims of punitive parenting changed reality so as not to be a victim anymore. They would deny anything, rather than acknowledge that maybe they've been hurt, and maybe they have healing and forgiving to do so that they can truly awaken to life.

Because it all comes back to internalizing the shame and hurt they felt at the hands of the person they loved or trusted the most, when in one split second, probably without conscious realization, they erased the cognitive dissonance by deciding that the authority loved them and so they deserved it.

So when people tell me things such as, "I was spanked and I'm fine," or "I was circumcised and I'm fine," I do acknowledge that, yes, they are fortunate to be the ones who evaded obvious physical or emotional conditions. They weren't beaten to death, nor did they bleed to death from their violations.

But surviving something doesn't lend credence to its purported ethical or loving traits. People can go on for years after suffering a traumatic event, violation or attack. They really can function quite "well" in terms of not freaking out or melting down.

That doesn't mean they are experiencing a fulfilled, nourishing lifestyle with deep and loving relationships. And the unique thing about being hurt by loved ones is that the wound doesn't scar over or fade away. It's right there 10, 20, 40 years down the road, these shackles hanging on chains that people pretend don't exist.

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