Written Beatings?

Written Beatings ?

One night, while browsing a social media site, I found a complaint posted by a sibling who asserted that, for the last year, her parents have been “taking a written beating” on the internet, and “having their names dragged through the mud”.I learned that they are “defenseless” against these attacks, because they have no access to the Internet.

A part of me wanted to flash right back in reactive anger…you see, I am the accused perpetrator of these crimes.

Every instinct I have, every shred of integrity, has been screaming, “No fair!” about these allegations. But, as with many issues of family dynamics entrenched since birth , it was some time before I could put words to the reason why I felt such wrongness in it.

Until a week or two ago, when I reread that comment, and, in a flash, I KNEW!!!!

Here’s why it’s an unjust accusation, and one that conveniently ignores truth.

My truth – which, incidentally, is what I’ve been writing to inspire such allegations.

My sibling is concerned about the written beating my parents cannot defend against…

Yet nothing in that post addresses the actual beatings I received from my parents, throughout my childhood. Yes, I am talking about physical abuse and domination; whatever would satisfy the parental privilege to punish any infraction, or simply to vent rage or frustration upon someone who had no choice but to take it.

These acts were inflicted upon my own child self.

When I was a child and my parents hit me, screamed at me, belittled or humiliated me, I was truly defenseless.

I had no power whatsoever to stop what was happening, and what was happening was violent, scary, painful to my body, and hugely damaging to my psyche,resulting in a need to appease; even at great personal cost; rage that was uncontrolled for many years; accepting abusive treatment; disbelief in my own worth; a difficulty in trusting; an immobilizing fear of being trapped; and a tendency to blame myself for others’ behavior.

I was, quite literally, defenseless against these physical beatings. I don’t say that as an accusation, but as a statement of obvious and undeniable truth.

By contrast, I have remained silent, publicly, about these aspects of my childhood for most of my life (I am 43, and I began delving them and sharing them somewhere about 41). That is a very long grace period – I have been writing since I was 7. At any time, one or both parents might have honestly acknowledged the results of their choices. They have not chosen to, and so that avenue of healing is closed to me.

I do this with my own children on an ongoing basis, because I did terrible, wounding things to them, too, things that can’t be undone. With openness and a deep intent on my part to hold myself accountable for those choices and the damage done by them, there has been great healing and rebuilding of trust.

Although I spent most of my life denying what had been done, much as my sibling did in referring to those choices as “mistakes”, in the manner of stubbing a toe or burning the toast – no big deal – I try, now, to relay my truth accurately, and I have often stated that what I have are memories rather than physical proof. I am a person of vivid and reasonably accurate memories, and still I know that time and perspective shift things, and my memories are not infallible.

As I heal, and practice the art of compassion (not something I learned, in childhood), I have also made clear that my parents are not monsters, but, in some ways, still wounded children of abuse themselves, that they were acting out their revenge against their own parents through the medium of their children, just as generations likely did before them, and as I did with my own children, later.

But the accusation is that I have perpetrated written beatings against the defenseless. In my family of origin, such rhetoric tends to be accepted as unquestionable truth.

I want to examine that “truth”.

My parents, if they wish, can have access to everything I have publicly shared about my childhood, if in no other way (smartphones, libraries), then surely through the sibling making the accusations against me (who clearly has access to at least some of it).

If they think I an lying, they can seek to charge me with slander, or serve a cease-and-desist letter.

They can publicly refute my words.

They can talk to me, and ask why I am sharing these things, and ask me to stop.

Therefore, they are not defenseless.

Now, to the accusation of “written beating”:

I can see how it may feel like that, to them – but then, when one is faced with an unpleasant and unsavory truth about oneself, it is seldom a pleasant experience, no matter how it occurs.

But I am not badmouthing them – I am sharing my experiences, my own life, and the way I lived as a child in their keeping is a fundamental part of that life. I share, not to accuse, not to drag anyone through the dirt.It may be noted here, and everywhere I have posted these aspects of my life, that I do not give names, or features, and, as my name has significantly changed, through marriage and design, a very small number of people will specifically know the individuals I am referring to.

I offer them the gift of as much anonymity as is possible, and they do not have to claim their part in anything I write. I do this because, rather than seeking revenge, I am trying to heal, and to understand, and to share my life and what I have learned, as I live very differently, today, with my own family.

Attacks require intent, and I have no intent to cause harm, only to heal what I can, and to learn to live peacefully with what remains. I have found paths for this – not continuing to hold a dangerous silence, when I know that my words have impact.

And they do. I have already shifted the way more than a person or two views their children or their own childhood, through my writing.

I’ve found a way to give some meaning to the suffering, fear, and damage I will always bear. I can be the voice for children who have none, because I remember in detail, and because now I am an adult and I know how to use my voice.

I can be kinder, and continue to learn the art of compassion, and extend it outward to my parents, to my sibling, because I see that it is their woundedness that hurt me, and that now wants to defend against my personal truth.

What I am doing, far from being an abuse of my parents, is creating some good from my own pain.

To protest that I am attacking my defenseless parents is to imply that what I am doing, in speaking the truth, is a far greater crime against them than their abuse was against me, and that they have less power than my child self did.

These things are so blatantly untrue, that only a wounded mind could believe them.

The words people use matter. Sometimes, words offer clarity; other times they throw up straw men intended to draw attention away from truth, and to discredit those who express that truth.

And that is the final, perhaps most deeply held, reason that I write, and share, and refuse now to hide or sugarcoat what affect these acts had and still have upon me.

I will not be part of any conspiracy that exonerates the perpetrators of violent acts, while indicting the victims of those acts if they dare to speak their truths, because nothing can be cured or healed, that way.

5 comments

  1. Eden –

    Your voice is needed. Here, and elsewhere in my life. I hope you always know that. Aside from your wonderful self, you are the one person not in my family who has known my pretty much throughout my life, and also knows the others involved.

    You know how long I’ve wrestled with my conscience and my emotional attachments regarding issues like this…you’ve certainly heard me rant and ponder on the subject.

    Yes, I do feel it’s more damaging to remain silent. Silence and shaming are powerful weapons of control, and I allowed them to rob me of my voice for many, many years, until I realized that my need to speak up for those who still no voice outweighs my need for approval by those who are so wounded they can’t see the wounds they are inflicting on others.

    When I began speaking my truth, it freed me to live life on my own terms, in accordance with my own principles (admittedly, there have been times when I was too zealous – sorry!).

    You’re right. Before what’s broken can be put to rights, it does need to be acknowledged. As regards my parents and sibling, there is none, other than the reactive backlash that makes it very clear they aren’t operating from a place of logic or objectivity, but from a place of wounded denial.

    I am happy your mother and her mother were able to resolve some things and find some peace. For my mother and hers, it was different. The need for love and acceptance went unmet, and so the wounds grew deeper.

    I think that was the beginning, for me. If I have to go to my mother’s deathbed to beg her to tell me she loves me, that love is not the type I need to sustain me. Love, for me, goes far beyond the saying of a few words. When someone loves me well, I do not have to ask whether I am loved. I feel it.

    That’s where I began to love myself, to give myself what I was learning to give to Miah and Lise…

    My own love is fully under my control. I don’t need to meet some laundry list of behaviors and appeasements to feel loved by myself. =D

    You know, I’m sure, which of my three siblings I refer to here (and your discretion in protecting that person’s identity is much appreciated. You know the nature of our current and past relationships, so you probably also know that I am unsurprised by the comments. They seem to be a survival mechanism.

    I wish it were otherwise. I wish that we could all be open, and help each other to heal. I wish I could show my family of origin the beauty, grace, and peace that can come from that type of healing, and how it opens up my soul and life…

    Perhaps, someday, they’ll be ready for that.

    Until then, I will continue to use my voice, because someone else may be ready to hear, and I have a personal need to explore these issues.

    I love you, and am glad you came by to add your voice. =D

    • Karen –

      Thank you. I held off on writing this until I felt I could come to it more or less without angst…

      It’s hard to write about these things, because so much hinges on “feel”, before the words and revelations come that bring the kind of clarity I can share.

      It means more than you might know to have someone outside of the situation affirm that I walked the balance point without tipping.

      Again, thanks.

  2. Child abuse thrived in this country (in the world, actually) for generations because no one talked about it. The abusers were never held accountable; the actions never held up to the light of day and seen for the horrid acts that they were.

    I was a psychotherapist for 20 years, specializing in working with adults who were abused as children (and I come from a similar background myself). I’ve seen the kind of reaction your sibling is having in families many times. How dare you upset the status quo and talk about the elephant in the living room! They must shut you up because you are threatening their own shaky defenses against the pain of the past.

    You have obviously worked long and hard to overcome the past and to view your parents through a compassionate lens. Do not let other people’s denial or verbal attacks ever keep you from speaking the truth.

    • Kassandra –

      Thank you for a very thoughtful comment.

      I think we have a national image of abuse as something obvious – filthy, frightened children hiding out for their lives, with never enough to eat, and never a kind word spoken to them…

      But, in my case, things looked good from the outside, and I, as a child, took on all the blame for the punishments and ridicule I received. Even when I was sure I could have done no better; even when the “offense” had far more to do with parental frustration than my behavior…

      Even as an adult, when I allowed the constant threat that my mother would withdraw love and affection, or that my father would rage to dictate how I related to them.

      Long into adulthood, I actually used this phrase:

      “There were abusive incidents in my childhood, but I was not abused.”

      In the light of examination, that does not even make sense. It’s the elephant, again. I had begun to see it, but I still needed to see it as a coffee table!

      I do understand where my sibling is coming from – there is a strong need, there, still, for that approval, support, and connection, as well as relatively black and white thinking. To call what was done abuse, to this sibling, is to say that our parents are horrible people and monsters…and so, if I am calling it abuse, that must be what I am saying…

      My sibling’s perceived reality does not allow for objective reading.

      I will not be silent, though. It may take months or years to know what I need to say, and longer to find the words to say it well…

      But I have a lifetime, and I don’t want to waste it. I want to spend it helping adults to really feel what it is to have been a child, and understanding how vastly our childhoods affect everything that comes after.

      I do it to help create a better world, and I do it for Jeremiah and Annalise…and my child self. There is great healing, for me, in kindness, and in saying things that need to be said, as compassionately as possible.

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