Abuser? Victim? Both? – Part One (of Many) (Most Likely)

by | Sep 22, 2022 | It's Complex...PTSD | 0 comments

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Emotionally Wounded People

emotionally wounded people blur the linesEmotionally wounded people can blur the lines between victim and abuser. We are confused about what we think should be this or that as a society. Black or white. Or that a victim can’t be an abuser and an abuser can’t be a victim. I was watching the news snippets of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial, and I thought, “what is happening? These people need to be in therapy, not the court.”

I saw two very emotionally wounded people who ended up in a relationship. Unfortunately, that is a match made in hell. At least, it seemed to be for them. As emotionally wounded people, they reacted and interacted with each in an abusive way. But they also cycled between being the victim and the abuser.

Though the courts declared a winner, I didn’t see it that way. There was no winner. Only two people need a lot of therapy work through their wounds that are very exposed and at the surface.

Emotional and psychological trauma results from extraordinarily frightening or distressful events that shatter your sense of security or make you feel helpless and can lead to challenges in functioning or usually coping afterward. In these cases, those memories repeatedly replay, and a traumatized person will have trouble controlling them. The side effects can include anxiety, feeling numb and disconnected, and severe trust issues towards other people.

The Blurred Lines

What we see and hear others say shapes how we perceive similar situations in our lives. We would turn the pain those people are in into a public spectacle. Because we want to believe that one person was the victim and the other an abuser, we can’t wrap our heads around the blurred lines within the abuse world.

So many people supported Johnny Depp as if he was a pure victim in that situation. He wasn’t. He lashed out, too, turning his pain into abuse. It was how he survived; I am guessing. It was the same for Amber Heard.

It is hard for us to realize that there are no true villains. And there are no true heroes. As humans, we are a messy combination of all things. And we do not fit into tidy boxes.

Emotionally Wounded Parents

I am sure that some of you are incredulous in thinking that those roles can sometimes become switched in the dynamic of abuse-victim. I am not saying that happens in all cases. I don’t know why it occurs in some and not in others.

Maybe the person who was the supposed victim wasn’t from the beginning. Perhaps they were, and they had to do something to defend themselves over time. And that something was to become

I have watched when my emotionally wounded parents blurred the lines between victim and abuser. I wasn’t sure who should have been stopped and who should have been protected.

And I watched, trying to figure that out. I was a kid, and watching that unfold was highly confusing. As an adult, I can say that it is still just as confusing.

When the Abuser Leaves

I thought that when the abuser, my father, left, that would be the best thing to happen. Everything that my mother was angry about seemed to be because of him. Everything that caused me anxiety and dread had a lot to do with him, and I was amazed at our good fortune that things would change when he left and never came back.

I thought that if my mother were happier, she would be nicer to me. I could not have been more wrong. And perhaps, in some ways, I brought that upon myself. For you see, I was the keeper of a great secret. I knew that my father was going to leave the family. He was supposed to take me with him to protect me from my mother.

Of course, I told my mother that I knew because that was one of the first questions she asked. Did I know that he was going to leave? And, to align myself with the new power regime, I came clean with the secret that had been weighing so heavily upon me.

Realistically that was an unfair burden to be placed upon me. It turned me into a Yes Person, a people pleaser. You can read more about that in my other post, My Fawning Yes Brain

I used to believe that I brought my mother’s wrath upon me because of that secret. But the fact is that her anger and torment of me occurred well before then. And there was never and will never be anything I can do. She needs to heal herself.

Not Quietly Victimized  

There are moments that I think back upon my life with my parents. I lived through all of that for eighteen years. And you know, I did not escape unscathed. I carry actions and behaviors that stem from being abused and watching abuse happen.

I did not go quietly into being victimized. Once I found my voice, it was loud and, at times, verbally abusive. I think was trying to push back on being emotionally wounded. I wanted her to feel the pain that she was inflicting upon me. So I said horrible things to her.

I didn’t then, nor do I now, consider myself an abuser. I was not, and I am not doing anything to purposely harm any of the people in my life.

But I still worry. And when my actions could be abusive or manipulative, I sit with that. I take it very seriously because I don’t want to be like that.

The Difference

And that, my desire to not be like that, is the difference. I don’t want to be in any way that is contrary to being the best “me” I can be. Instead, I want to bring that best version out into the world. So I want the best “me” to show up in my relationships.

I know I can’t fully be present for anyone else unless I look at myself first. To look at those actions and behaviors that come up unconsciously, bring them into the light, and change them when they are not conducive to my overall goal of being the best me.

What is the purpose of being alive if not to work to be your best self? I remember all I saw growing up was how not to be. Now I am learning how to be. And that makes a massive difference in my perspective of myself and the world.

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