Victims can become the Biggest Abusers ~ The Cycle of Abuse



when victims become abusers
The Glass House

My mother is a victim. In fact, she is the exact same type of victim that I was.  She was a victim of her parent’s abuse and dysfunction and she learned to survive in that dysfunctional family system exactly as it was taught to her. She accepted it because she had no other choice and no other example. The cycle of abuse was “normal” for her. When she grew up, it was as though she couldn’t wait to have someone to pick on because she believed that’s how life works. It was “her turn”.  Not her turn to ‘abuse’ or overpower someone, but her turn to be loved in the only definition of love that she knew; the false and dysfunctional one that she had been taught.

It was her turn to be right; her turn to have impact and her turn to be heard. 

Abusers believe in the system and very often victims believe in the system too. The sick dysfunctional family system seems to have “worked for their parents” so why wouldn’t it work for them? It was the best that my (dysfunctional) mother had to hope for, but only because she didn’t believe there might be something better.  She accepted the reality of the cycle of abuse, psychological abuse and dysfunctional family as “normal” and functional exactly as it was presented to her and the cycle of generational abuse continued. 

She communicated to me that it was my job to restore her life and her self esteem; her mother had delivered the same message to her. I wanted to “save her” because I believed that if I could prove that I “loved her” then she would love me.  This cycle of generational abuse stopped with me when I no longer accepted the role of victim but I also had to stand up to the myth that I could be the savior or hero to these dysfunctional and abusive people in my family.

My mother’s actions and behavior indicated that she thought being my mother gave her certain “parental rights”; the right to disrespect me and the right to disregard me; the right to push me around and be unconcerned with my feelings. And this was not only about psychological abuse, but about all types of abuse. My value was not equal to hers. Since so much of the world operates from this belief that children don’t have rights in the ways that adults do and since this was also the way she was raised, she didn’t question her “right” to devalue me and regard me as less important than her.  She learned this from her own abusive childhood. Everyone had rights over her when she was a child too.

My mother, who was a victim to almost everyone in her life, needed a victim too.  Out of her victim mentality, she believed having a victim of her own would “prove” her worth. She believed (just like her mother believed) that if someone was compliant and obedient to her, she could feel better about herself.  If someone jumped every time she asked, that would be “proof” of their love for her. She believed that compliance and obedience was proof of love. The more I “jumped” the more I must love her. The more I “put up with and accepted” (sometimes mistakenly called “respect”) the more “proof of her value” she would have.

This is the depth of the false definition of love. Victim mentality and the message that my mother got in her life taught her that “the one with the most power wins” and she never “won” or felt her own worth until she could push someone else around.  In a dysfunctional family system, winning is about overpowering. Winning is about forcing someone to comply and making them jump to requests and wishes without question and without concern for personal values or boundaries.  And winning is mistaken for love. If I comply in that world it “proves” my love. In that world, “love” is compliance and obedience and putting yourself last.  In this dysfunctional family system, “love” is living in service to someone who doesn’t love you back in the way they believe love works.

 AND because this is not actually love, the victim can never comply enough. It is never good enough. The psychological abuser or controller needs MORE. They needed more and more proof of love. The empty hole inside of them is never filled so they ask for more respect, more compliance and more “proof”.  Sometimes the requests get more and more bizarre as the controlling person pushes the victim farther and farther for more “proof” that they are the most loved and important person in your world. I was expected to morph and change and never show any of my individual thoughts or personality because independence is the opposite of dependence.

But these controllers and psychological abusers (this applies to all types of abuse and abusers) don’t prove or even show their love for the victim at all because they are exempt from their own “rules of love”.

Victims and survivors of this dysfunctional family system grow up going one of two ways OR as in the case of my mother, going both ways;

a)      they believe that they can BE loved by being compliant and proving love to some people, and they believe that being loved is compliance and obedience from others.  My mother made me jump through her hoops just as she jumped through everyone else’s hoops. (This is exactly like a pecking order system; think about who your oppressors, owners or captors are willing to serve.)

b)      Others hang on to the belief that compliance and service is love, and they give in to their own children’s every whim falsely believing that doing that will ensure their kids love them. (which is a type of neglect)  But because that also isn’t love, that doesn’t work either.

All abusers come from abuse. All abuse has its roots in victim mentality and abusers abuse out of that victim mentality. The cycle is repeated because it is the accepted definition of love and many devalued children like my mother, learn to wait until they are adults so they can feel “loved” through expecting and forcing someone else’s compliance and obedience.

In the dysfunctional relationship model that I learned from them, I was expected to save them (by proving my love over and over, thereby validating them) and I believed that I was failing to do that. I believed that it was my role in their lives to do it so I believed it was my failure that I could not.  And I believed it was my job to do it because that is what I was taught.   

I had to let go of those false beliefs.  

I learned to let go of my belief that I could actually help them by loving them “the way they wanted me to.”

One of the major freedom keys in my recovery was realizing that the definitions of love and relationship that were taught to me (by example) were wrong.  The key was to realize that relationship conducted that way is dysfunctional and is never going to work. As long as I tried to function within that sick dysfunctional system, I could not heal. And because I could not heal, there were parts of the cycle of abuse still being passed on. I had to face the fear of standing up to it. If the truth was going to set me free then I had to find the truth.

And I did; that is what this entire website, “Emerging from Broken”, is all about.

Please share your thoughts on the cycle of abuse or on whatever this post inspires you to share.

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

Are you aware my of my e-book “Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing”? If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, this 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to busting out of the fog and to healing. I’ve received hundreds of thank you notes from the people that have bought my book. Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

More related posts (also see links via colour bold words within posts)

~ “Emotional Healing does NOT depend on…”

Dysfunctioal Family Law

for more on “the cycle of abuse” see the wiki

82 response to "Victims can become the Biggest Abusers ~ The Cycle of Abuse"

  1. By: Aiesha Posted: 12th December

    Finding this post might be the best thing that ever happened for my journey. My relationship with my mother is void at this point. I could never jump high enough. This has been the cycle and i hope that i can help my daughters to begin to dismantle this cycle along with me for my grands. This dysfunction has been the theme I have been searching for, wondering with all the measures I have taken to grow beyond abuse, why do deficits in love still exist in my life? Why are my relationships in shambles at times? I couldn’t believe what I was reading, my story, our story. I am glad that you have shared this and continue the work of Emerging from Broken as I have just begun!

  2. By: Lucy Posted: 2nd October

    i had an epiphany today and as I thought about this, I realized that I was raised in an abusive family and married an abusive man, and we raised 3 children in this environment. Now, with this epiphany, I realize that my children have taken on the role of abusers with their significant others and children. This is a realization that I am still overwhelmed by and I’m not sure what to do. How do you deal with this realization and what do you do in a healthy famiily?

    With the help of your website, I will get the help I need and I hope and pray that I can provide my children with the information they need in order to heal their own dysfunction. Thank you for providing this information for people to find so easily!

    • By: lynne morgan Posted: 5th January

      Lucy dont panic,
      you just have to learn the healthy ways and theres no time like the present. Talking about how people make you feel in the moment is one of our family clinchers which has been invaluable. But I get where you are at right now. Even though I feel I vanquished the victim demon nearly a decade ago, i still see my children acting it out cos they learnt to be dysfunctional when they were younger. So we talk about it by loving ourselves exactly where we are right now.

  3. By: Penelope Posted: 7th March

    This post captures the cycle of abuse in my family exactly. My mom paid her dues to her mother, and she is so mad that I broke the cycle and she won’t get hers from me because I put my little kids ahead of her and broke the cycle when they were very young. She was invited to stay in our lives if she could be respectful to us instead of undermining, demanding and controlling and she is so furious at us, even years later, that she simply can’t. Instead she turned my sibling and my entire extended family against me and tried to destroy me.

    It can be really hard not to be a doormat for other people after you grow up this way, but I am trying to teach my kids that healthy relationships are based on mutual respect. If I can raise mentally and emotionally healthy children that will be its own reward, but I am so sorry my mom couldn’t be a part of it.

  4. By: didi Posted: 7th March

    sorry, it’s sod off, not sort off

  5. By: didi Posted: 7th March

    thanks for this piece of art again Darlene. I struggled with this deep instinct of staying loyal to my mother. No matter how good my ratio understood how things really are, this loyalty didn’t seem to vanish. It made me feel sick and angry. Cause it prevented me from owning up my right of existence. I kept feeling like the perpetrator when wanting to do this by telling her to sort off. But now i will tell her to sort off with every bit of my being, i am no servant of her happiness. even though i was deeply trained into believing i was, and even though she persists in believing that i am. This piece underlined this. Thanks <3

  6. By: Marcey Posted: 18th March

    This describes my grandmother …. my mother and now my sister … I wanted to know why they were like this and found like you said that it was generational and learned behaviour … it took me a long time to work it out and break the cycle … but i did and find it hard NOT to slide into the learned behaviour but remember how it felt so i don’t be like that with my son. It is so hard to explain to people outside the family when my other and sister don;t act this way in front of their friends … … but as i tell people … i know the truth and that is all that matters … amazing how i found thi after i had worked it out … i now know i am not alone

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