If you have ever been the victim of abuse by another person, or persons, you know that it is like a theft of your inner being. It feels as though the abuser has found their way into your psyche and cherry picked pieces of you that were once intact. After the abuse, they are now rendered damaged or worse-they are now missing.
Abuse is an event that changes your life. Period. Multiple events of abuse in your life can cause severe damage to your body, mental health and self worth. It is unjust when you are a victim, and completely wrong on many levels, and always seems to lead to the same question: WHY?
WHY WAS I THE VICTIM?
Let’s look at the human race for a moment. We all have the gift of coming out of our mother’s womb with a clean slate. We know nothing about the world, and everything that enters into our brain and heart, are LEARNED. Our environment and the connection with our parents are our first life lesson. The sounds, smells, touches, sights, and feelings in our surroundings at birth and on through the first 100 days of life, are the foundation for our development. This is when we learn to be human beings.
If those surroundings/environments are filled with stress, poverty, conflict, pain, malnutrition or lack of love, our “humanism” becomes damaged. I could delve further into this in a later article, but it is a fact, that we, in early childhood, develop our brains within the first 5 years of our lives, 80% more than for the rest of our lives combined.
What Has That Got to Do With WHY?
Now, let’s focus on the abuser for a moment. I know, you probably don’t want to, because you know they suck at being human, and you probably don’t care how they feel -BUT knowing the “Why” helps in healing. Trust me on this one. Also, trust me when I say, that this isn’t a catch-all, for all people who are bullies or abusers, but it’s a common thread.
If you are born into a home where there is lack of basic needs, such as connections of love and safety, or there is poverty, or abuse and conflict, as a child you absorb those feelings and frustrations. This is where the cycle of abusive families begins. An abuser will feel struggle in their lives at some point of developing their brain-they will feel mistreated, malnourished, unloved, poor, bullied, abused, or tormented by someone else. Alternatively, they lack discipline and learning skills of compassion or empathy for others. Maybe they are raised by parents who have suffered the same, or perhaps they are put in various foster care homes with strangers, or they are being raised by addicts or alcoholics? Or, maybe they are raised in an environment where life skills are simply not taught.
Reasons Versus Excuses
If you were to confront an abusive person, and ask them the big “WHY” question, they may answer in various ways. Maybe they will blame their parents, or their addiction. Often they will blame the person they are abusing with accusations of “you deserved it because_____”
Determining what the REASON is versus the EXCUSE is the only way an abusive person can learn to stop being abusive.
The Reason- is the trigger or mental problem that has caused the person to be an aggressive, unsympathetic person. It is the deep part of their past and development that is the root cause for their behavior. It is the events or moments when that person made the decision to be the aggressive controller in situations. The reason could very well be learned by their parents, siblings or environment. Or, it could be that a caregiver, teacher, or the like, damaged them as children. It could also stem from something they saw on TV that wasn’t clarified for them because they didn’t receive proper supervision from parents or caregivers. At some point in their lives, they learned that they have permission to harm another human being. Their moral compass is broken. This is the REASON.
The Excuse-Excuses are loosely based “reasons” that abusive people have to give themselves permission for their actions. They point fingers at the triggers or the occurrences in their lives, that drive them to be aggressive and cruel. “It’s all because of my parents” or “The booze made me do it”. They also point fingers at how their victims caused them to hurt them. “You just make me so mad I have no choice!”.
But, they DO have a choice.
When my father was handcuffed and taken off the court premises to prison, his last words to me were, “It was all the booze”
Nope. Not buying it.
Excuses may the result of a reason – the reason is never the result of an excuse .
As every human being matures, we have the gift of choices. You can choose, A or you can choose B, and sometimes even C. Using an excuse is never a valid response when you hurt another human being. We also know what is right and what is wrong and how hurting other human beings is WRONG. Even if you are born and raised as a foster child, or in a harmful environment, these lessons are. by default, part of our universe. We are born with a “Fight or Flight” response that tells us when situations hurt us and what to do about it.
Murderers, pedophiles, animal abusers, and all of the other inhumane humans in our world, start off in the world missing some component of their psyche that teaches them compassion, empathy and self regulation. They’re lacking that moment of thought prior to making a very bad decision. This is the reason-not the excuse.
How I Know
In my almost 50 years, I have thought long and hard about the WHY I was victimized and bullied as a child. My perspective is that abusive people have deep seated insecurities that are created within them right from birth.
I see it as a Lego structure that is missing the main pieces that hold it all together. You spend time building the structure, but when you try to make it stand up, a missing part makes it weak and unstable. It LOOKS nice, and seems strong, but if you touch it slightly, it wobbles or crumbles.
Studying early childhood development and brain development has taught me so much about the why’s of abuse, and how it cycles. Knowing that our brains are cognitive sponges from birth, and our life skills are not genetic, has walked me through the mind of an abuser. Further to this, seeing my abusers in old age has made me realize that there is always a reason for it, and not just excuses. (That’s a whole other story for another day)
Abusers are missing that ONE piece that holds it together. That piece is self regulation and empathy. They spend time growing and designing themselves to appear “normal” and function in the world, but if they are touched wrong, by a word, smell, sound,or feeling, they fall apart. You would think that they would figure this out at some point, knowing that they are incapable of feeling self control or self regulation, based on the people in their lives and using them as a standard for their “model”. You would think they would have the mental capacity to find help, and have someone help to rebuild their structure to be more sound- but maybe they are missing that part too.
I’m Not Excusing Them
Just to be clear, I am not making excuses for abusive people. I have never excused the behavior of those have violated me and damaged my life. It has helped, however, thinking about the reasons that they may have had for what they have done. It most likely hasn’t helped them, but it has helped me in my healing.
Abusers prey on the weak. If an abusive person sees that their prey has something they lack or want, the missing piece causes their structure to weaken and crumble, and their “Fight” response kicks in. They use their insecurities to drive them through envy, jealousy, anger, betrayal, and other darkness, to help themselves validate their behaviors. They see opportunities to control a situation and they do, using their prey at their mercy. That’s all they have, and all they know. Their thought pattern, before raising a hand, or sexually preying on a victim, does NOT have that piece to determine right from wrong in that moment. They may feel remorse or guilt for what they have done AFTER they have already done it, and that’s when the excuses come to light. They need something to give them permission for their behaviors, or they cannot function as “normal” people, or pretty structures in society.
Researching the Reason
As an abusive person, it is their responsibility to get in touch with the triggers or reason behind their actions and behaviors, in order to change them. Reaching out and getting help to make themselves find the missing piece of themselves and rebuilding their responses is the only way an abusive person can change. If a reason is dissected and brought out into the open there is a chance that the abuse can stop.
Finding the reason and working on it with help of a professional, or through guidance can be empowering.
Hiding behind excuses will keep the cycle going, and the abuser will continue the behavior.
As A Victim
Even if you aren’t concerned with how an abuser may feel, or what the reason behind their violence and violation is, it DOES help to know, that underneath the display of aggressiveness and torment, there is a person who once started off with a clean slate. At some point, they lacked “something” in their life to help them develop into a compassionate, empathetic human being. You don’t need to feel bad for them and you don’t even need to have compassion for them, in knowing this. At some point, the person who abused you, was most likely abused or had trauma that caused their mental development to lose a piece or have that piece taken away from them. Take from that what you will and throw the damage in the trash. Oddly enough, victims tend to have more compassion and empathy than abusers, which is why we make excuses to stay in their lives- this is the epitome of the cycle. They abuse you, you make excuses for them and keep it hidden, your psyche becomes damaged and you bring children into the world with a missing piece. Your missing piece makes their clean slate into a structure with missing pieces, and so on and so on….
On some level, helping to understand the WHY helps you to heal. It helps you to understand that it is NOT YOU- It’s THEM. It can help you to make sure that the cycle is broken.
You may never be able to forgive or forget an act of abuse that you have suffered – but in knowing WHY you may be able to find your own inner peace.