I’ve been stuck on “Step Four” (of the ASCA manual of steps) for quite some time. Today I am going to allow myself to look at Step Five even though I haven’t “finished” Step Four. Step Four is one of those parts of the healing process that no-one can “finish” because it’s a commitment to allow myself to notice memories associated with my experience of abuse to arise, to accept my feelings, to process all of that piece, and to then move on. At least that’s how I currently understand that Step.
Step Five is about accepting that “I was powerless over my abusers’ actions which holds THEM responsible.” I think I know that. I think I accept that truth. I think that I believe that, know it in every fiber of my being, (maybe my gut knows it best of all), and yet there is some echo of shame within me that would repeat old lies from other voices. And echoes of lies are all too powerful. It takes so much energy to confront every lie, every iteration of it. Sometimes it’s just easier to feel hatred, bitterness, or depressed.
What seems to be “easiest” is to fall into depression. In my experience bitterness is more of a result than a choice on my part. Bitterness is the residue of unprocessed anger that strides the fence of hatred or depression, i.e. “who will I blame?” And of course, blaming isn’t really all that helpful. Recognizing who was or is responsible for which action(s) is very helpful; looking at responsibility tends to be forward moving; blaming tends to dig deeper into ruts that were part of the problem, whatever the problem was. And then hatred. My feeling “hatred” can actually be a healthy thing, as long as I process it and turn it into something productively life-giving. In my book, hatred is bad when I allow the feeling of hate to target a person and to want them harm. Hatred is a good thing when it helps me realize something bad or unjust is happening and I am convicted that I must live in such a way as to do all within my power to stop it or lessen it or set a boundary against it.
So, let’s look a little closer at “hatred.” Some might call what I’m talking about “righteous anger.” However, what I’m trying to look at is that very initial feeling that arises when I encounter something I would rather not exist! That very initial feeling or awareness is important to me because that is the moment when I am aware (at least to some extent) that something in my world is wrong (at least not-right for me) and I haven’t yet cast judgment upon it. That FEELING of something “wrong” is very important. It’s akin to when a child might feel their finger burn the first time they contact a flame or some source of too much heat. The child isn’t thinking “oh that heat is bad,” but if they are healthy, they will first pull away from the cause of their burn and then they will very soon register the conviction that that’s an experience they don’t want to repeat. It’s after all that process (however quickly it occurs) that the child might form a judgment on either the object that hurt them or whoever’s behavior that brought them into contact with pain.
So, I need to get more to the specific point of my struggle. What is it I currently hate when I wrestle with memories of my experience of abuse? What I currently hate is faulty thinking on the part of today’s society (at least some members of it) in regards to who is responsible when adults abuse children or even youth, or really any person under their authority. It’s not just adults who abuse children and youth. It’s also teachers or coaches or mentors who abuse students (of any age). It’s also bosses who abuse workers. It’s people with stronger bodies who abuse those with weaker bodies. It’s sick, crafty minds that abuse naivete and innocence. In other words, any person with any form of power that uses their power to abuse those influenced by their power are “abusers.” But society is full of people who are not abusers and yet form a sort of default network of enablers who actually contribute to this epidemic of abuse in our society.
Ugh. I’m not a scholar on this topic. Even though I have much personal experience with having been abused, and having worked on my personal healing, etc., I know there are others who know much through research that I don’t yet know in a scientific way. And those people have written probably much on these topics. And I admit I have not read a great deal on these topics because it’s so !@#$ painful. So I don’t mean to write as an expert “authority” in the scholarly sense. I’m just trying to process what I have experienced.
And from my viewpoint, most of society, that is both individuals and networks within society, is/are not well enough enlightened about abuse: what it is, how to recognize it, now to stop, and maybe most importantly how to not enable abusive behaviors or harbor offenders.
I think I’m going to have to find a few really great books on this topic that I can recommend to people because 1) it’s too painful and exhausting to try to enlighten the world or even my little corner of it, and 2) it’s not necessary to re-invent the wheel. While I lament that too much of society is living in the dark, there are indeed some good voices out there who can teach.
So, back to myself: rather than be depressed or bitter or consumed with hatred, what one little thing can I do now? Find excellent material I want to share with others on this topic. Good. So now I look…. I did a quick google search for “articles on societal enabling of abuse” and found a variety of things. I’m going to check out the following three articles and write my response to each this week.