Few people know so well what it is to face the bad in people as survivors of emotional abuse. We very often become specialists in loving and hating the same human being, including ourselves.

Many people have the luxury of remaining in a place of moral black and white. This is good, that is bad. This person is good, that person is evil. For those of us who love and care for abusers and addicts, we know that the mud splatters a little more than we’d care to admit.

This moral grey zone captures us as well. Sure, we have the high ground of being a saver, a martyr at times. But we also have to struggle with hate, with dark thoughts, and moments of wishing our tormentor would die or leave. We have to manage the actions we take in our own pain. We find ourselves indulging in shades of those same behaviors that have left us in so much agony.

Trauma tells us that we are damaged beyond repair. Depression tells us that we are irredeemable. Abuse tells us that we are bad and deserve the pain we endure. All of these stories cause us to act out, to do things to try to manage the pain of such truths. These actions only make us more convinced.

We are so good at proving ourselves correct. As an abuse victim, we are told that we are bad, useless, terrible, to blame for everything. We behave in ways that prove this true. We suffer greatly in the pain of being a ‘bad person’. We believe our abuser was right about us (and thus not abusive).

What’s more, we learn to do this to ourselves. We tell ourselves that we are bad. This belief in our own damnation drives our suffering. After we are free of the abuse, so much of our suffering continues in our own minds. We try to understand things that are insane. We try to make rational the emotional. We try to create logic in a situation of irrationality and pain. We must change our belief, to change our actions, to change our possibilities.

This was one of my most difficult lessons. To learn that bad things happen. To learn that people do terrible things. The pain of that reality is enough to manage without imputing stories of our moral worth.

The world is not elegantly divided into good and evil. We are all human beings, fallible, beautiful, and changing. This last is the most important. We all have the power to change ourselves, to decide differently tomorrow. This is the way out.

Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash


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