The Internalisation of Abuse

In an abusive relationship it is common for the victim to be attacked, either verbally or physically, by their abuser. The abuser will justify these attacks to themselves and others with a huge array of different reasons. They will say that they only attacked you because you didn’t do as instructed, or you talked back, or you hurt them or made them angry. The specific reasons given are not particularly important. They are merely after the fact justifications for oppressing another human being.

Ultimately abusers abuse their victims because they feel entitled to do so. An abusive boyfriend will think that they have the right to hit their girlfriend or control who she sees and how she dresses. An abusive parent will think they have the right to micro-manage their child’s life and constantly make decisions for the child, as if they were a doll and not a human. These actions are grounded in a value system that they have created in which what they want or think is more important than anybody else. Their abuse is in a sense an attempt to force another person to live according to what they want. What the victim wants is viewed as irrelevant.

During the course of an abusive relationship the victim will come to evaluate themselves and their behavior by the value system of their abuser, rather than by their own set of standards. This occurs due to the victim trying to avoid abuse by not doing things that sets their abuser off. This is a trap. An abuser will always be able find a reason for why you’re deserving of abuse irrespective of what you’re doing. No matter what you do they will always be able to find a way in which you don’t conform to how they think things should be. After all, nothing is ever perfect and can always be found to be inadequate.

The victim doesn’t realize this and thinks that the abuse tracks their behavior, that they are at fault and so that they deserve the abuse they receive. In some sense this is an attempt to regain control over the situation. You can control your behavior and so fixate on that. This is part of why victims so often blame themselves for their abuse. They internalise the abuser’s notion that the victim shouldn’t have made them angry or should have done as instructed.

It is because of this that one of the hardest parts of healing from abuse is unlearning your abusers value system and no longer evaluating yourself by the standards of your abuser. To be free from oppression is not only to no longer be actively oppressed by another person but is also to no longer limit what one thinks, says, or does to what was permitted by your oppressor. It is a matter of learning to live in freedom by learning to decide for yourself how you shall live.  I have found that doing so is a constant struggle against those aspects of myself that continue to operate as if I am still living in chains. Although the physical chains have mostly gone the mental ones have remained and it is these that I have found hardest to break.




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