The Road to Family Abuse

3 min read
educadormarcossv / Pixabay

Source: educadormarcossv / Pixabay

We lose self-awareness, not to mention leverage to stop abuse, by thinking we’re unlike abusers. In fact, we struggle to see how abusers are like us in the glare of how they’re different. The crucial fact remains that we cannot understand ourselves by dehumanizing others, nor can we get others to behave more humanely by dehumanizing them.

Most of us occasionally pass by some of the blocks on the road to abuse, but thankfully, we stop by the time we reach block five.

Block 1: Self-compassion fails

Self-compassion fails with the alienation of internal experience. In other words, we deny or disown vulnerabilities and facts that undermine the ego—how we think of ourselves and want others to think of us. The ego inflates to conceal vulnerabilities, which creates difficulty in sustaining interest, trust, consistency of affection, and intimacy. As a result, we feel unworthy of—yet entitled to—the interest, trust, and love of others. We feel entitled to more love than we give.

Block 2: Compassion for others fails

Compassion for loved ones fails with the invalidation of their emotional experience and indifference to their hurt and hardships. Failure of compassion breeds distrust and resentment. It feels like abuse.

Block 3: Increasing emotional vulnerability

The failures embodied in blocks one and two cause escalating, though still largely unconscious, guilt, shame, abandonment anxiety, and fear of engulfment (dread of losing the self or feeling overwhelmed in intimate connection).

Block 4: Failure of emotion regulation

Here, we encounter feelings of powerlessness over pain, discomfort, and distress, especially the vulnerabilities of block three. We can’t seem to make ourselves feel better without making things worse.

Block 5: Dysfunctional coping tactics

When there is a perceived inability to regulate discomfort, pain, and distress internally, the common coping tactic is to externalize them, that is, transfer them to loved ones by blaming them.

Block 6: False moral imperative

Once internal experience is blamed on loved ones, it seems morally justified to punish them, to restore the power and painlessness they seem to have taken away. Anger numbs the pain and creates a surge of energy that feels like power.

Block 7: Weak inhibitions/constraints

Moral inhibitions that would normally prohibit hurting loved ones are weakened. As inhibitions fade, so does fear of consequences from loved ones or legal and social sanctions

Block 8: Destructive illusion of power

Block eight indulges short-term feelings of power driven by adrenaline. Genuine power is the ability to act in one’s long-term best interests.

The exertion of power over loved ones manifests as manipulation, coercive control, or deliberate injury to their feelings or bodies.

Block 9: Remorse renews the walk of shame

Remorse after a period of abuse takes us back to block one. If there is no enhancement of self-compassion and compassion for loved ones, a repeat trip on the road to abuse inevitably recurs.

We can all benefit from attention to the early blocks on the road to abuse. The ineluctable effect of the later blocks is self-loathing.

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