Thanks to IHM for tagging my previous post I am what I am and also encouraging me to post something for emotional atyachar contest. Taking on from the previous post, here are some more statements used to victimise people
I have seen worse/ You should understand I am having a bad time/ If only things were different/ Now is not the ‘right’ time
Perhaps the first time we heard this was when we asked our parents for more pocket money. They were unable or not ready to give it to us and then they started on this whole talk about how when they were your age, they didn’t have chappals, or had to walk miles etc etc, you get the picture. While I would still support it when it comes to flimsy (oops hope I am not stepping on someone’s toes) things like pocket money, there is a limit to how much this argument can be used. But because we are lulled by this usage early on, we stop asking, we stop asserting, we stop everything once someone says ‘I have seen worse’.
A lot of times I have been involved in friendships and relationships with people who truly have seen some bad times. And I would assume the responsibility that knowingly I remained in their lives. The moment of clarity always came when suddenly ‘I have seen worse’ became an excuse to treat you as they wish. The first few times a person says this, you being the empathetic you, think that ‘Oh poor he/she, has had it rough’ and also something like ‘If I were in his/her place, I would want someone else to understand’ and all your decisions taken henceforth are to avoid any discomfort to that person, so what if it adds to your own discomfort. ‘Ok I will obey him, I wont call him before 12 pm, he hates being disturbed the first hours of work.’ Little voice in the head says but you are sick and you need someone to help you out but you silence it saying no no, how can I be selfish enough to think about me when he has told me it ruins his concentration, I should understand his problems because we love each other.
Your abuser/coward (any control freak is one and abusers are control freaks) has had a bad day in office, because she/he couldn’t stand up to their boss (its funny how abusers always have some person they don’t have the guts to stand up to) and then they come back home and are all dull and morose. This also happens to be the day when you have made the gajar ka halwa or done whatever it is that pleases them. But the only thing the abuser notices is that you havent folded the napkin just the way you have always been asked to. A fight ensues, you cry, the abuser hurls his/her choicest abuses and walks away in the end satisfied that the pent up anger has been expended. But what about you? You regret not folding the napkin well, what a dunce I am. And then the classic case, seeing you crying for so long the abuser comes and gives a half hearted apology, ‘Listen I am sorry, but baby you know how I have a tough time most of the days, don’t you see how much I have struggled and is it too much to ask that you do what I say?’ And you hear some great professions of love after that. Most of us get taken in again, please, please don’t be so naïve.
The abuser is not really sorry, he/she is doing this because they have to keep you confused and holding on to the promise of a good time, the time which is supposed to come once their ‘current crisis’ is over. But if you have been in a long term abusive relationship, you would know the good times never come, its an empty promise, so that you don’t leave. The time is never right. And if you ask, you will always get a variant of ‘I am in so much pain’ or ‘I have seen worse’ and the ultimate ‘You don’t understand don’t you, you are only thinking of your benefit.’ Their bad times are no excuse to treat you bad. That is sadism, not love.
X, Y and Z arent complaining, so why are you?
Well because X, Y and Z probably love being the jellyfish without a backbone or maybe because X, Y and Z’s reality is different from mine or maybe because X, Y and Z find it to their benefit to agree. This argument is generally used by schools, organisations and communities. You don’t like the new dress code, you find it uncomfortable and say so, the boss says well whats your problem no one else is complaining. The worse forms of this is when you are demanding something that you deserve and you are told something to the effect of well its really not so bad, look at A, he/she has worked harder/longer and is still waiting for that which you are asking. Or the missionary type arguments of why you shouldn’t be unhappy with your lot because there are hungry children in Somalia. (I love this analogy I read in a book :-) ) Fact is you are living your life, not someone else’s, so you have every right to ask for what makes you comfortable and it is not mean to want something for yourself.
They do this because they love you
This is a statement that the bystanders use. Bystanders are those people who while you are suffering abuse, are somewhere in the background, aware of what is going on and sometimes complicit with the abuser. The bystander is either dumb/scared or stands to gain himself/herself by your abuse and so wouldn’t do anything. Sometimes even an abuser says this. Children in abusive families are told this a lot. Say the father is highly verbally abusive and sometimes even hits the child. This time the child got a beating for asking for a new bicycle. Mom stands by as the child is being beaten, probably even crying helplessly. But once father has gone and the child has also spent some time crying alone, suddenly mom bursts into action. She comes and tells the child, see dad is having a bad time etc etc and you should understand that, see he loves you or else would he have paid for your new watch. But mom conveniently forgets to talk about all the times when dad has done everything that shows contempt, tells the child he/she is a burden, bane of their existence. The child should feel grateful and know that the parents love him/her because, well, because the child isnt wearing torn clothes, is not beaten up to an inch like some others and that the parents have put him/her in a school. This brings me to another excuse that we hear a lot…
That is how the world is, you should just accept your lot
Say you are having a bad time with some friends, they are being unsupportive and basically malicious. You walk up to this best buddy of yours and you say that those people are unsupportive and you feel lost and betrayed. What does your supposed best buddy say ‘Well that’s how the world is, you should know that you cant trust anyone’. Darn, there your bubble is burst again. You thought that someone would understand and validate your experience, instead you are re-victimised, you are told that you were stupid enough to trust and well what were you expecting. Technically, you are being told that you are the one with the flaw. Now many times, people say this thinking their intentions are good, that they are only making you aware of the reality. Well maybe they are right, but do they really have to tell you so heartlessly, wouldn’t it be of better help if they shared their similar experience and the two of you find a common way to deal with all this?
Most forms of emotionally abusive statements are some form of invalidation. Invalidation in fact is at the core of abuse of all types. Invalidation seeks to deny the importance of your existence by denying you your feelings, your rights and your dreams and expectations. So whenever you come across any of these statements, dig deeper before you decide to act on their suggestions. Like my favourite writer on this topic Susan Elliot repeats, “Love is an action” and so mere words wont and shouldn’t suffice.