Lies of an Unraveled Past

I’ve been thinking a lot about childhood abuse and it’s effects upon the psyche.  Abuse does not limit itself to the immediate harm done in a moment.  It leaves emotional scars.  More to the point, it leaves emotional wounds, some of which never close over.

Here is what I now know.  These wounds take the shape of a malevolent whisper that roots itself deep within one’s mind, always reminding one of how worthless s/he is.  This whisper hides in plain sight by disguising itself as one’s true inner voice.  This is quite effective, for a lie is more convincing when one trusts the liar.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you will remember that I was abused by my childhood peers for not fitting into society’s gender expectations.  I was teased, ostracized, and physically abused rather mercilessly.  It lasted for the better part of seven years, starting with first grade.  This is an amazingly vulnerable time for a child… a time when one’s sense of self and one’s place in the world is only just forming.

What if your peers tell you, on a daily basis, that you are nothing more than a living, breathing dung heap?  What if you are exposed to this message for seven long years, between the ages of five and twelve?  What if the adults in your life pretend not to notice?  What if those adults imply that the problem is actually your own fault?  Sissies bring shame upon themselves.  Either man up or suffer.  You will either grow stronger from this abuse or you will not.  If you fail to grow stronger, then you deserve your fate.  In a world where men are supposedly made of steel, copper plating will never do.

At so early an age, the prejudices and malevolent perceptions of one’s abusers are easily believed—especially when those messages are so persistent.  In time, these messages are internalized into one’s psyche.  They take on the shape and texture of the real.  They take on the aura of common sense, of logical claims.  They take on the sound of your own voice. To this very day, I am sometimes unable to discern where the voice of my abusers ends and my own voice begins. I have internalized the falsehoods of my abusers and I have been poisoned by them.  I am infected with the malice of others’ prejudice.  I am corrupted by a hatred expressed by past adversaries.

And yet, all of these things are lies.  I tell myself the lies of my abusers.  Sometimes, in my deepest moments of vulnerability, I fully believe them.  Deep down, in the core of my emotions, where logic holds no influence, I believe them.

These are some of the lies that this hateful simulacrum of self tells me:

1.  I do not matter.

2.  I am incompetent.

3.  I am a failure.

4.  I can not trust others for I am not worthy of others’ esteem.

5.  I am unloved.

6.  I am unworthy of love.

7.  I am untrustworthy.

8.  I am doomed to an empty, pain-filled life.

9.  I deserve the scorn and ill regard of others.

10.  Life will only grow more unbearable with time.

11.  Loved ones secretly view me as annoying, loathsome, and expendable.

12.  I am defective.

13.  I am incapable of truly being a decent, caring person.

14.  Showing love toward others will only drive people away.

15.  I am awkward, foolish, and borish.

16.  I am ugly.

17.  I dress terribly.

18.  I am slow witted.

19.  All people should be feared and no one can be trusted.

20.  People will reject me once they truly know me.

When I read the above statements, I am astounded by how horrible they sound.  To some, these words will betray me as someone who is completely unhinged… and yet, I am not.  I have been told that I seem so calm and even tempered.  The full effects of my abuse-laden past hide away, even from those who are closest to me.  I go about my daily life, seemingly normal and mundane in all of it’s boring details, while I quietly suffer inside.

I write these words to remind myself that these ill statements are nothing more than vile, putrid lies fabricated by the influence of ignorance and prejudice.  They are echoes of the unjust, violent treatment of a child growing up in a world of fucked up adults with fucked up values, raising fucked up children.

When I consider the reality of my abuse, I feel a growing anger.  To think that a child can go through this without the adults in her/his life realizing the truth of the matter… or simply not caring… or accepting this abuse as normal and good… I want to break something.  I want to scream.  I want to hurt someone.  These things should never happen.  Never.  This is completely and utterly wrong.

When I consider that I am not alone—that so many children have gone through what I have suffered—I hope for a better world in which to raise children.  I hope for a world in which children are taught not to hate; a world in which children are guided away from prejudice rather than toward.  I hope for a time when children are taught about the ways we are all connected rather than divided.  I hold hope for a world in which adults actually have the wisdom required to raise children thoughtfully and lovingly.

I imagine a future where children grow up without being taught to hate themselves.

It is this hope that keeps me alive, sane, and moving forward.  Some say that such sentiments are nothing more than empty, fanciful wishes.  I insist on seeing them as something more…

May the lies of past adversaries fall upon deaf ears.

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~ by timberwraith on July 24, 2010.

11 Responses to “Lies of an Unraveled Past”

  1. I got the same thing, although from my mother as much as schoolyard jerks. I also learned that other people are untrustworthy, hateful, nasty beings that will hurt you the first chance you give them.

    I really do hope that the future changes. The current situation where children can get teased for being friends with someone, then turn around and verbally attack their friend out of hurt and confusion- it’s just horrible for everyone.

  2. Indeed, it does seem horrible for so many children, possibly everyone. Let’s hope that change comes sooner than later.

  3. I’ve always thought that explicitly saying or writing out the implicit or unspoken content of political arguments and advertising and persuasive arguments that are bandied about is helpful because when you see if on paper or the computer screen it makes you stop and say “wait a minute.” Now I see that doing this with the inner dialogue one has constantly running in the background can be even more useful. Once you see it in writing you realize how harmful and untrue it is. And you realize that if you heard a friend saying these things to him/herself you would immediately jump in and say “hey, these things aren’t true at all!” Sometimes you have to be your own best friend and interlocutor. But you deserve a best friend like that, ya know? (I hope you know. If you don’t then I will just keep telling you intil you’re sick of hearing it)

    =)

  4. Thank you, Rachel. 🙂 I do know that I deserve such a friend, or at least, the logical part of my mind knows it. I have a very dear friend here in the Twin Cities who plays that role. I’ve listened to her own stories about her childhood and have learned a lot from her. She, in many ways, has been an inspiration in “sorting out my shit.”

    Isn’t it funny that it helps to write out things in fine detail that some would consider to be obvious? I suppose I could have just said, “I was abused and suffer from a form of internalized oppression/abuse” and leave it at that. Somehow, writing out everything, piece for piece, word for word, loosens up the mind and the heart in ways that a single sentence or paragraph will not.

    Writing is therapy.

  5. I tell myself daily how important my words and gestures are for my children. It is a priviledge to be with them as they unfold into adults.

    Your writing is amazing — for me too, it is hard to imagine that you would ever belief any of those lies that others have thrown at you. Great post.

  6. I suppose it does sound strange, Sabio. These messages are encoded in a very old body of emotional responses left over from when I was a child. None of it is based in logical or linear thought. (Although, sometimes it does try to masquerade as logical thought.) It would seem that the human mind is a many-layered, inscrutable thing.

  7. My version is somewhat different. But it is also like your own persistent demon.

    My version rebukes an individual abuser, but sees her allies. I meet people, with such a nice, polite tone. And, deep down, I think, “You are on the side of the abuser… You think what she did was right, or at least, excusable. You blame the victim (me.)”

    AT times in my life, I haven’t so strong or judgmental. And, as you say, it is that *persistence* that was so important. This person, after that person, after another person, etc, etc, etc, ad nausium, on the side of the abuser. Because you can grow up and get away from *that* person. But you cannot ever escape the supporting and enabling mentalities of the masses.

    And, yeah… after enough persistence in one’s child life and then adult life… They hijack your own voice, to help them abuse you.

    Like you, I am middle-aged, but I still feel haunted. Because I try so hard feel compassion and be gentle. And, deep down, I feel fake and dishonest and guarded.

    Because, deep down, I look at all females, and I know that, they are on the side of the abuser.

    That’s why it didn’t stop when I turned eighteen and walked out.

    • Hmmmm. I feel a bit odd after reading this because… well… I’m female. (It may not be clear from my recent posts, but I’m a transgender woman. See my bio and my past posts for more details.)

      From my own side of things, I found that I didn’t like boys and men for many, many years because most of my childhood abusers were male. It was simple guilt by association and generalization. I’ve gotten past most of that animosity. Although, on some level, I still feel a small amount of mistrust and distance toward many guys. Not all guys, but many. Hopefully, I will work my way past that as well. Time will tell.

  8. Sorry, I should have been more specific. I meant cis-females. The kind born physically female.

    (I wrote several more explanatory paragraphs. But it would come across as generally attacking cis people. And, while I often enjoy doing that, this isn’t the right time or place.)

  9. Oh.

    For me, the object of ire and mistrust was cissexual guys, but like I said, I’ve worked through much of that anger.

    I’ve never felt compelled to be strongly critical of cis people as a group. Although, I do take pleasure in taking specific bigots to task. The most supportive people in my life have been cis people. I suppose that I’m pretty lucky. I know that such has not been the case for many other trans people.

  10. If you’re having second thoughts about atheism you might want to ponder ignosticism (e.g., theological non-cognitivism).

    I recently wrote a blog on it here:

    http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/2010/12/implications-of-ignosticism.html#disqus_thread

    Advocatus Atheist

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