There are many types of abuse; from child abuse, to abuse in relationships, abuse in the workplace and even through leaders of countries for example. And no matter what kind of abuse it is, people are put through pain and are made to suffer.
One is then made to believe that something is wrong with them and to be responsible for how the abuser is behaving. Some people will naturally be more vulnerable to this than others.
For some, this will go straight to their core and there will be little, to no resistance. On the other side, there will be people who may reject what is being said at first and then gradually begin to succumb to the abuse. And some people, who are mentally and emotionally strong enough, will remove themselves from the abuse completely.
However this all depends on numerous factors and is could be described as relative in many ways. These can be: what kind of environment one finds themselves in and how old the person is. If one was in a country where there was a dictator, it is going to be different to a person who is in an abusive relationship.
This is not to undermine an abusive relationship; it is simply to show that there is a difference. And for a child who is being abused by its caregiver/s it is going to be highly unlikely that this child is going to walk out. At such a young age the child can do very little. It is probable that the child will have been brought up that way and so will have no other model to compare it with.
So it is then something that can easily be associated as normal for the child. And if one was brought up with a dictator as a leader this can also be classed as normal. Having worked in an environment for a certain period of time, it wouldn’t take long for abuse to feel normal.
The same can be said for relationships with friends, friendly or in intimate relationships that are abusive.
Above I mentioned that people are who abused often feel responsible for how the abuser is behaving. And if we put aside the fact that some people are more vulnerable than others, it becomes clear that the abuser is not being responsible for their own pain and challenges.
And as a result of this, they are inflicting pain onto someone who generally has nothing to do with what is going on for them at a mental and emotional level.
In order for this to occur, there has to be some kind of disconnection; a separation between what they are feeling and what they believe the causes actually are. The abuser is not looking within to see what is causing them to feel such: pain, anger, hatred, rage, frustration, shame, guilt and feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness for example; or the different thoughts and sensation that are being experienced.
These feelings, emotions, thoughts and sensation are being interpreted as being triggered through other people. And because of this, the abuser then has to take revenge on the person that appears to be the cause of them.
This is what is described as projection, where one sees in others what is ultimately coming from their ego minds associations. And this makes it more of or less impossible to see another person clearly. But, due to being unaware of this process, through defence mechanism such as repression being utilized, fail to see that they are seeing nothing more than their own reflection being mirrored back.
A psychological term that is often used for this is the narcissistic wound, where one doesn’t see other people as separate; with their own needs and wants. One sees others as an extension of themselves. This then allows them to project onto others without knowing it.
Now, there are undoubtedly extremes to this. And yet what this is a clear sign of is a lack of psychological boundaries. Understanding where one begins and ends and where other people begin and end is part of this, and seeing that other people have different wants, needs and preferences is another.
Knowing the difference between ones thoughts, feelings, and emotions and other people’s thoughts feelings and emotions is another aspect of boundaries. Having a balanced sense of responsibility is another part.
So if one hasn’t differentiated and therefore become an individual; it is going to be difficult to see what is theirs and what is another’s. Not just mentally and emotionally, but also physically.
This is why abuse is often past from one generation to another; for if one was brought up by an abuser or someone with weak to nonexistent boundaries, it is unlikely that they would receive the kind of care that creates boundaries. Unless one does this work themselves in later life of course.
And this means that people who have boundaries that are weak or don’t exist, are more vulnerable to abuse than people who have boundaries.
If one doesn’t have solid boundaries, they are going to be wide open to picking up what is not theirs. And to not knowing the difference between what is their stuff and what is another’s.
In order to end the cycle of abuse and to place responsibility where it should be, on the abusers shoulders; one has to be aware enough to see this dynamic. And building boundaries is a vital part of this. To know where one starts and ends and where another person starts and ends is incredibly important for mental, emotional and physical health.
And this is not an overnight process. What is important here is to have the right support and assistance. This can help one to see that the abuse is not personal and is simply a result of projection.
There are numerous books around today on abuse and therapists who are skilled in assisting in the process of letting go/processing the past and gradually building boundaries. It starts with the first step being taken.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.