This week’s special feature is Susan Kingsley Smith from Empowering Solutions writing on the topic of “objectification” ~ being objectified. Susan explains her experience of being regarded as an object instead of a person. Susan is a frequent contributor to Emerging from Broken and her articles are always popular. Please join Susan and I on blog talk radio on the third Thursday of each month at 2:00 pm EST for “Breaking Free from Broken with Susan and Darlene” Next broadcast is July 21st, 2011. ~ Darlene Ouimet
I was Just an Object; Just a Thing by Susan Kingsley-Smith
When Darlene asked me to write on being objectified I remember in the past hearing about how women were “objectified” – and having no clue what that meant.
I also realized that in order to change this in myself and no longer be “objectified” by others that I had to understand what this meant and what it looked like in my life.
And I came to this understanding; an object is something that has no ability to move, think, feel or act on its own behalf. It is subject to those and the world around it to determine its fate. It is an “it”; not a being, not a “who”, not a “self”. It is powerless to act in its own best interest. It feels no pain, no anger, and no joy.
It has no effect on its state of existence and is often credited with being the problem for others who may see it as something to be done with, tossed in the trash, used, abused or thrown away. “It” – is a thing. Used for decoration, as a distraction, a tool, a weapon. An object is something external from oneself to be used at will, to serve an agenda or a purpose.
“It” is often qualified or judged. It is a thing that can be changed to suit ones interest by manipulating its characteristics.
It is a thing that is disposable when broken. Some things, like a car, a pretty girl or a handsome boy – can be used to fulfill ones need for status or recognition; admiration of others, validation of ones worth through approval and lusting of others who have similar desires.
I was a thing.
To be used to satisfy the needs and wants of those around me. When I was inconvenient – I was disregarded, dismissed and disposed of.
I felt immobile, hopeless, and powerless. I was easily overwhelmed by life. I struggled to make decisions, I doubted myself and lived in a constant state of fear; frozen, incapable of acting in my own best interest.
I was obsessed with being validated by others and when I didn’t get that head-nod of approval I would often crumble into depression and dissociation – but only after years of self-harming behaviors like eating disorders, drug and alcohol use, relationships that simply repeated the drama and left me empty and alone. Isolation was the only safe place where I could escape the eyes of the world and the pain of relationships that only seemed to hurt.
In the end when nothing else would ease my pain I spent the next 15 years living in a chronic state of pharmaceutical induced numbness as I succumbed to the idea that my distress was because my brain was broken and only the drugs would “fix” me. I felt hopeless and powerless, I had no sense of “self”; no idea who “I” was.
In the beginning and as a small child I don’t carry memories of happiness and safety; of being nurtured and held close or soothed when I was hurt. What I remember was being alone. I had 5 older siblings that were the favored ones of my mother’s deceased husband. My younger sister and I were the product of her second marriage to my pedophile father who had several brothers who also took advantage of having access to a houseful of girls from infant to almost 18.
As siblings we have never discussed the abuse but now and then one of them would make a comment about the various brothers who molested them over the years. My only brother became their sole male adversary in the home and was treated horribly.
As a child I was not heard when my siblings were hurtful or cruel to me. No one acknowledged the jealousy that seemed to prevent me from ever becoming close to my sisters. But the comments, criticisms and abuse were always there.
They made fun of my hair, my body, my German nose, my name. “Lazy Susan” was a reference to the spinning salad tray at family reunions. “Suey” was a favorite as we were farmers and raised pigs and cows. Ugly duckling was the way my mother addressed my insecurities. Stupid, idiot and as I got older my father used terms like “whore” and “slut” in regards to us girls. Our only brother was a “bastard” or a “son-of-a-bitch”.
I remember trying to “tell” that they were being hurtful to me; then being told to “shut up”. I was labeled a “tattle tale” from an early age even when my older brother would pin me down and torture me by tickling me until I was screaming. As he got older he would, with his teenage friends, chase me threatening to make me wear my “birthday suit” and I didn’t know what that meant; all I knew is that I was terrified. Our parents were not home very often and he would turn his head while his friends “made out” and molested me. I was ten.
I learned early on that I had no say in what happened to me or my body – I’d become a natural victim to adult men in my world who molested me from my earliest memories which was a natural set up for the adult men in the small farming community who on the weekends would take turns raping me from about age 12 to age 14 or 15. I thought I’d done something wrong when they no longer wanted to “play” with me. I felt rejected and as though I’d done something to deserve being abandoned time and time again by these men. In hindsight I can see that I’d grown up and that was beyond their perverted taste.
The very first memory I have of being objectified was that of my father proudly telling me the story as a little girl of how when I was an infant I cried a lot. The solution that he and my mother had was to put me in the back seat of the car and go for a drive until I cried myself to sleep. Mind you – this was 1958. Big cars, no seat belts, no car seats.
“We threw you in the back seat…let you cry until you stopped”.
There were no stories of how cute I was or my developmental milestones but instead he told me stories like this as a very small child with much pride as though I was one of his farm animals that he intended to break my spirit…and he did.
And when I was 34 while at my younger sisters first wedding I had found the courage to tell him to stop grabbing my butt and feeling up my breasts.
“But it feels so good, Suzy!”.
I learned very early that I had no power over my life, my body; that I existed to be moved around like a chess piece at the whim of others. I’d been taught, conditioned and brainwashed to believe that I held no power over my own life and was responsible for the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of others.
I’d learned that to take a step, have an independent thought or make my own decision was to be bullied and shamed by those who had been charged with my care; that “I” as a “being” held no value or power but that I was a “thing” for them to use and then throw away.
What changed this pattern in my life and relationships?
Understanding that there was a reason why I had no “self” esteem and lacked confidence and that it was the lies told me by those who needed me to be that thing they could manipulate and move vs. a human being with a sense of self, independent thoughts, feelings and desires.
Once I understood there was a reason I had gotten lost in depression and dissociation after a lifetime of repeating these patterns in all of my relationships – and that the reason was that my power had been taken from me in this dysfunctional and sick family dynamic and…
…by learning to recognize and challenge the lies within myself – those whispering words that would run constantly through the back of my mind telling me that I was worthless, hopeless, stupid, a piece of garbage, that I did not deserve a good life…
By learning to work through the realization of my reality and that my normal was in no way normal I was able to give back the burden of responsibility for the abuse to those it rightfully belonged to.
And in doing so I was able to begin to feel and work through the anger and the grief over the life I had that was horrible and the life I will never have that I deserved…
And I began to see and believe that I could learn to live beyond broken.
Thank you for reading and joining me on my journey today. And thank you for inviting me to walk beside you on yours.
In gratitude for you and every man or woman who knows this pain and welcome to this place where we can all learn that it is possible and probable to finally emerge from that place of broken. ~ Susan
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Susan Kingsley-Smith was a victim of long-term parental abuse and neglect, domestic violence, poly-pharmacy, mental health and religious abuse. Today Susan is a Certified Intrinsic Coach with an emphasis on creating health and wellness. Susan is thrilled to be helping others to discover their own intrinsic power and shares her journey of hope, healing and lives far beyond survival while creating her own best life each day!