Why your parent would abuse you is one of the hardest things to deal with.
You know them well enough to know that they are not literally a monster (everything is a shade of grey). So, if they don’t hurt you just because they are “pure evil” then it feels like there has to be some rational reason–which would be that you deserve it.
But that’s actually not the case at all. You’re parent is not Satan nor are you responsible for what is going on. The real reason is more complicated, making it less satisfying initially, but it is important to know the truth.
I’ll talk about my mother to explain how a person should go through understanding an abusive parent.
My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder, which seems to me like it is based on never being comfortable in your circumstances. If you want someone with you, you believe that they will abandon you and overreact to anything that could possibly be construed as them leaving. If you spend a lot of time with someone you love, you end up feeling stifled and penned in by them so you have to push them away. And these are not exactly conscious choices. These normal stimuli give you really strong emotional reactions that you don’t see as unusual or even noticeable, so you react in a way that you feel is completely rational but is really hard on people around you.
For example, the summer I started looking at colleges to apply to (before senior year) I wanted to spend more time with my mum because I was aware of how little time we had left living together. This caused her to automatically tell me how unbearable I am to be around and avoid me as much as possible. To her, this was not strange at all but for me it was incredibly painful.
I am not justifying what she did, but I think it is important to understand that it really had nothing to do with me. And that’s how it is with most abusers. Whatever they are doing is entirely based on trying to make themself more comfortable. If your dad beats you when he’s stressed out over work, all that is going through his mind is wishing he could control his circumstances and knowing that he can control you at that exact time. It’s kind of like empathy melts away for a bit and nothing is relevant to the abuser except their own feelings. So, don’t ever think it could possibly be your fault. It doesn’t even relate to you from the point of view of your spouse or parent in that moment. Maybe after they will say “you provoked me” but really it is about a flood of their own emotions covering up their ability to see you as a real person.
Even though I believe all this to be the case, I don’t think it’s okay. Everyone is given challenges in life so we are all responsible for becoming self aware and choosing not to hurt other people. There is this really awesome TED Talk by a woman with schizophrenia who says that medicine never worked for her: instead she listens to what the voices are really saying and that keeps her in reality. So, if her head is saying “defend your house” it really just means “you don’t feel safe” and from there she can remind herself that she is and not do anything harmful. So, if someone with that severe of a mental illness can control her impulses, then no matter what problems a person is born with they always have the option to transcend them and not hurt other people.


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