Sunday, March 30, 2008


No one likes confrontation but victims like it even less. From the time we were small, most victims of childhood abuse have been taught that confrontation will only make matters worse. It's better to hide out, keep our mouth shut or agree than to stand up for ourselves.

Even if we haven't been told we are weak and useless because we aren't successful sticking up for ourselves, we believe it anyway. We take on the responsibility for not being effective because it's too overwhelming to admit that our lives are so out of control. It's easier to feel lousy about ourselves than feel powerless.

As adults we need to deal with life and its twist and turns. Part of those abnormalities come in the form of our interactions with other people. Without any skills at successful confrontation we are stuck in a pretty bad place. And just like the child we blame ourselves for being defective instead of recognizing the abuse as the source of our problems.

Most victims I know struggle with their family of origin. The dysfunctional behavior of the family causes so many problems and yet we can't deal with them. The idea of standing up for ourselves puts us right back to that trembling little child in the corner. Unable to speak or sometimes even to think. we avoid and go along with the very relationships that are making us the most miserable.

Sure there's that part of us that longs for family and doesn't want to let go because of that. But mostly it's about not believing we have the strength to survive standing up to them. Only when we can tell ourselves that we are no longer children and don't have to be afraid can we make the moves it will take to be free from the subjugation of abuse.


Kahless said...

"Unable to speak or sometimes even to think. we avoid and go along with the very relationships that are making us the most miserable."

ok, so I am not sure whether it is me or not, but I hear from my old messages that I am an avoider / head in the sand etc etc. That I need to take responsibility for my actions. So if say we make a decision that we dont want to do something (like me see my sister) yet feel I dont want to communicate it (as scared and or dont want to hurt feelings). Is it avoidance by ignoring and not replying to her email or is that ok?

i.e. when is avoidance avoidance and when is avoidance ok to our health?

So confrontation doesnt always have to be?

lovelee said...

RR... I am working on the "B" word... balance.

When I react to confrontation I have urges to either fly back or withdraw. All leave me in a panic attack. I try to come back in a sensible manner, and I am getting better at it.

Enola said...

I am in a profession that requires confrontation. I have no problem sticking up for others. However, I am unable, at times, to stick up for myself. An odd conundrum.

Fallen Angels said...

Finding a balance with confrontation is very difficult. Either we over-react or don't least that has been recent history. We are actually getting better at it. Being able to stand up for ourselves without attacking others is a skill we are working hard to learn. We miss sometimes, but are trying.

katy said...

I do still have trouble sticking up for myself.

Rising Rainbow said...

kahless, First off let me say there is no right or wrong to this. You are the one who must deal with the deciions you make, they are yours to make.

If you want to avoid confrontation at any cost, that's ok. If the only reason you are avoiding is your fear of confrontation, that is ok too. But if you are tired of the roller coaster ride of emotions that happens when the family situations come up, it might be time to do something differently.

But I think avoidance when it enables the status quo to continue would be detrimental to good mental health.

lovelee, I think balance is really important. ANd you comment has triggered what might be a good post. so thanks!

enolla, I'm pretty sure that you're not alone on that one, although you might feel that way.

But then my bet is part of your comfort with the law is that you know where you stand, while with your family you haven't a clue.

fallen angels, yes, that seems to be the case for many. Balance is important and learning balance can be difficult.

katy, so do I. I would just as soon not bother than stir the pot. But I have learned to pick my battles.

April_optimist said...

Family. Standing up for ourselves. Learning to handle confrontations without feeling like that scared kid again. Geez, you don't tackle the easy stuff, do you!

This is, I suspect, a lifelong process for us. We learn to choose our battles. Sometimes avoidance is the wisest move, other times taking a stand is wise. Personally, I'm really big on contingency plans no matter which way I go with things.

For each person, I suspect it's different--what we should or shouldn't do in a given situation. What I think is so important about your post is the reminder to come out of that space of feeling like the scared kid we were and choosing from a space of where we are NOW. Looking at what we might gain if we do X and what we might run into if we do X and then choosing. And accepting that we don't have to always be right about the choices we make.

Rising Rainbow said...

April-Optimist, I have to laugh, now, I'm not known for tackling the easy stuff. Tough seems to be a theme with me, but then I guess that explains why I've got as far as I have getting clear of this stuff.

You are so right about the importance being learning to chose our plan of action instead of just reacting like that scared kid. And I think contingency plans makes perfect sense. I do a lot of that myself.

Perfect said...

I actually enjoy confrontation when it's a "safe" situation. In the course of my profession, store clerks, etc. It makes me feel strong. But when it's a situation I'm emotionally attached to, I detest it.

jumpinginpuddles said...

we are beginning to understand the difference between healthy confrontation and unhealthy ones the unhealthy ones we have to walk away from and that isnt easy

Cheesemeister said...

Gad...I hate confrontation. I bend over backwards and twist myself in knots to avoid it. I have rather an avoidant personality as it is.

Frazzled Farm Wife said...

I don't think anybody really likes confrontation but in the end it seems like it ususally is the best thing.

Angel said...

I really like this post.