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.
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More related posts (also see links via colour bold words within posts)
for more on “the cycle of abuse” see the wiki