Tag Archives: #Abuse

Are You Being Gaslighted? 

Children and Trauma

In Defense of Children

Child abuse

by Elisabeth | Feb 13, 2014  from www.beatingtrauma.com

We underestimate children.  I have been reminded of this fact lately with so many seeking to discredit Dylan Farrow.  I am particularly bothered by the notion that at 7 years old, Dylan only said what her mother told her to say.  I find this incredibly hard to believe.  While I find it painful to watch others label Mia a liar and manipulator, I am going to focus on the child.  Even if mothers would do something this horrible to their children, parental alienation doesn’t work because children don’t work that way.

I know this for two reasons:

1)      I am the mother of two 7-year-olds.  I watch them try to figure out life every single day.

2)      I remember my own experiences of child sex abuse at 7 years old.

Here are my observations about how children actually approach life:

Children Love Unconditionally

There is no population on this planet who loves the way a child does.  When I was growing up, I loved my parents despite what they were doing to me.  I desperately wanted them to change.  I wanted them to stop abusing me.  I wanted them to be real parents.  I wanted that more than anything.  Even as an adult, it was an extremely difficult decision to speak out about my abuse.  I knew that would end any possibility of a reconciliation with my parents.  But as an adult, I was able to see them for who they really were.  I was able to see their selfishness and understand that they were not going to change.

Until I recovered my first memory of parental abuse, my parents were involved in my children’s lives.  When I made the decision to cut ties with my parents for my children’s safety, it was difficult for all of us.  My children were only three, so I could not tell them the whole story.  I spent a tremendous amount of time trying to figure out how to explain it to them.  Originally, I was going to take the fall and tell them it was my decision.  But I received some good advice.  I was told I should not tell the kids it was my fault, because that was a lie.  I wasn’t the abusive person in the relationship.  And my kids look up to me.  They need to know I am a good person – not perfect – but good.  In the end, I told them that nana and grandpa didn’t want me to tell the truth, so I can’t be their friend any more.

Did they accept that answer?  Not entirely.  They still love them.  They still ask why I can’t work it out with them.  They don’t understand how adults can decide to end a relationship.  When they have a fight with someone, they get upset in the moment.  Five minutes later, they love the same.  If I had been evil enough to use them against my parents in some way, they would not have cooperated with that.  They would have told me to work it out.  Anything else goes against their fundamental desire to love unconditionally.

Children Seek the Truth

As a child, I was dying to tell the truth … literally.  My parents didn’t just suggest that I be quiet about the abuse.  They beat me.  In some cases, I was beaten and strangled within inches of my life.  I was threatened with death every day.  And yet, there were times when I still spoke out.  Of course, nobody helped me which is another issue for another article.  I know that I am a willful person.  I agree that some children might have less of a fight in them.  But no child is without will.

My children are no exception to that rule.  They know the truth is important.  And they are willing to embarrass me in order to uphold it.  I will go out on a limb and talk about a situation when I lacked integrity, so I can make my point.  Don’t judge me.  We were in the line for the Empire State Building observation deck.  The tickets are not cheap.  My children were 6 years old, and of course, 5-year-olds were free.  My children are also short for their age.  (You know where this is going.)

I am not proud of what happened next.  I told my son to tell the ticket man that he was 5.  At the top of his lungs, he shouted, “You want me to lie?”  I will never forget the alarmed look on his face.  In that moment, I realized that I had just screwed up big time.  What kind of example was I setting?  When we reached the counter, the man asked me if they were 5, because they looked like they were 5.  With my son listening, I reluctantly told him they were 6, but they looked 5, and I prepared for the extra $50 payment.  He told me it was close enough and he let them go for free.  I was speechless.  My son had just taught me a very important lesson.

I asked him to lie, and he said no.

Children Lie (but not about the important stuff)

With that being said, children lie.  They lie because they don’t want to get in trouble.  They lie about eating a piece of candy that they weren’t supposed to eat.  They lie about who started an argument.  They lie about eating their lunch.  They lie about breaking a toy.  And they always give themselves away.  They will smile.  They will look away.  They will make that face that says, “I’m just seeing what will happen here, so give me a break, ok?”

They are experimenting with the best way to stay out of trouble.  They want to understand what happens when they lie.  They are not manipulating adults with lies.  They are experimenting with the world around them.  And our reactions to their lies (and their truths) will affect their life choices dramatically.

As a child, I lied.  I lied for the same reasons that my children lie.  I wanted to stay out of trouble.  But in my case, I wanted to stay alive.  So my lies covered up my abuse.  I was lying to keep my parents out of trouble because I knew that my punishment would be severe.  I would tell teachers that I fell.  I would tell babysitters that I was fine even when my urinary tract infections were so painful I could not use the bathroom.  I would tell friends that I had a great family.  I would say anything to make my life safer.  I never considered lying to make my life less safe.

Children Fantasize (but not about sex)

Children love to fantasize.  Their imaginations are perfectly honed to help them understand the world around them through their own symbolism and stories.  My children fantasize every day.  In the past week, the fantasies in our house have sounded like this:

“A giant’s tooth would be as big as this apple.”

“Do you think there are unicorns in those waves?”

“When I grow up, I am going to have a white dog and three horses.”

“Do you think we will see real dragons today?”

They fantasize about things they can understand to help them figure out the things they can’t understand.  They fantasize about what they know.  They know unicorns, dragons, gnomes, knights and princesses.  They know love, family, school, friends and sports.  They don’t know sex.  They don’t know rape.  They don’t know the mechanics of the adult body.  They don’t know these things because it isn’t time for them to know it yet.  We don’t read them stories or show them movies about it.  If they know about sex, if they know details about the sexual functions of the human body parts, they are in an abusive environment.

Of course, I was in an abusive environment.  And I fantasized when I was growing up.  I used to daydream about being rescued.  I fantasized about living with a real family that loved me.  I dreamed of running away to another country where the adults were nice.  As a matter of a fact, I was almost never present.  Dissociation was my defense mechanism.  I never fantasized about having sex.  I didn’t want to spend one more minute on that topic.  It was already ruling my life.

These characteristics of children make it impossible for parents to “suggest” false and complicated sexual stories for children to repeat.  Children love their parents unconditionally, even when they are separate from them, even when they may have done something wrong.  Children seek the truth relentlessly and at all costs.  Their lies and fantasies are simple and symbolic representations of what they know.  They are not about complex adult issues.

We have to gain a better understanding about how children navigate the world, so that we can give them the credit they deserve.  They are not just inexperienced adults.  They are complex individuals with their own approach to life that makes it impossible for them to commit the acts we accuse them of.  We must trust our children.  We must believe them.

Note:  To be clear, I am not discussing teenagers.  Teenagers can make up stories, however there are other reasons why they would not make up a story about sex abuse.

Passive Aggressive Behavior: A Form of Covert Abuse

By Cathy Meyer

Mature man holding son and arguing with wife - altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

What do Passive Aggressive behavior and domestic abuse have in common? When someone hits you or yells at you, you know that you’ve been abused. It is obvious and easily identified. Covert abuse is subtle and veiled or disguised by actions that appear to be normal, at times loving and caring. The passive aggressive person is a master at covert abuse and, as a result can be considered an abuser.

Passive aggressive behavior stems from an inability to express anger in a healthy way.

A person’s feelings may be so repressed that they don’t even realize they are angry or feeling resentment. A passive aggressive can drive people around him/her crazy and seem sincerely dismayed when confronted with their behavior. Due to their own lack of insight into their feelings the passive aggressive often feels that others misunderstand them or, are holding them to unreasonable standards if they are confronted about their behavior.

Common Passive Aggressive Behaviors:

  • Ambiguity: I think of the proverb, “Actions speak louder than words” when it comes to the passive aggressive and how ambiguous they can be. They rarely mean what they say or say what they mean. The best judge of how a passive aggressive feels about an issue is how they act. Normally they don’t act until after they’ve caused some kind of stress by their ambiguous way of communicating.
  • Forgetfulness: The passive aggressive avoids responsibility by “forgetting.” How convenient is that? There is no easier way to punish someone than forgetting that lunch date or your birthday or, better yet, an anniversary.
  • Blaming: They are never responsible for their actions. If you aren’t to blame then it is something that happened at work, the traffic on the way home or the slow clerk at the convenience store. The passive aggressive has no faults, it is everyone around him/her who has faults and they must be punished for those faults.
  • Lack of Anger: He/she may never express anger. There are some who are happy with whatever you want. On the outside anyway! The passive aggressive person may have been taught, as a child, that anger is unacceptable. Hence they go through life stuffing their anger, being accommodating and then sticking it to you in an under-handed way.
  • Fear of Dependency: From Scott Wetlzer, author of Living With The Passive Aggressive Man. “Unsure of his autonomy and afraid of being alone, he fights his dependency needs, usually by trying to control you. He wants you to think he doesn’t depend on you, but he binds himself closer than he cares to admit. Relationships can become battle grounds, where he can only claim victory if he denies his need for your support.”
  • Fear of Intimacy: The passive aggressive often can’t trust. Because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone. A passive aggressive will have sex with you but they rarely make love to you. If they feel themselves becoming attached, they may punish you by withholding sex.
  • Obstructionism: Do you want something from your passive aggressive spouse? If so, get ready to wait for it or maybe even never get it. It is important to him/her that you don’t get your way. He/she will act as if giving you what you want is important to them but, rarely will he/she follow through with giving it. It is very confusing to have someone appear to want to give to you but never follow through. You can begin to feel as if you are asking too much which is exactly what he/she wants to you to feel.
  • Victimization: The passive aggressive feels they are treated unfairly. If you get upset because he or she is constantly late, they take offense because; in their mind, it was someone else’s fault that they were late. He/she is always the innocent victim of your unreasonable expectations, an over-bearing boss or that slow clerk at the convenience store.
  • Procrastination: The passive aggressive person believes that deadlines are for everyone but them. They do things on their own time schedule and be damned anyone who expects differently from them.

The Passive Aggressive and You:

The passive aggressive needs to have a relationship with someone who can be the object of his or her hostility. They need someone whose expectations and demands he/she can resist. A passive aggressive is usually attracted to co-dependents, people with low self-esteem and those who find it easy to make excuses for other’s bad behaviors.

The biggest frustration in being with a passive aggressive is that they never follow through on agreements and promises. He/she will dodge responsibility for anything in the relationship while at the same time making it look as if he/she is pulling his/her own weight and is a very loving partner. The sad thing is, you can be made to believe that you are loved and adored by a person who is completely unable to form an emotional connection with anyone.

The passive aggressive ignores problems in the relationship, sees things through their own skewed sense of reality and if forced to deal with the problems will completely withdraw from the relationship and you. They will deny evidence of wrong doing, distort what you know to be real to fit their own agenda, minimize or lie so that their version of what is real seems more logical.This is why divorcing a passive aggressive can and often does lead to a high conflict situation with long-term negative consequences for all involved.

The passive aggressive will say one thing, do another, and then deny ever saying the first thing. They don’t communicate their needs and wishes in a clear manner, expecting their spouse to read their mind and meet their needs. After all, if their spouse truly loved them he/she would just naturally know what they needed or wanted. The passive aggressive withholds information about how he/she feels, their ego is fragile and can’t take the slightest criticism so why let you know what they are thinking or feeling?

God forbid they disclose that information and you criticize them.

Confronting the Passive Aggressive:

Beware, if you confront the passive aggressive he/she will most likely sulk, give you the silent treatment or completely walk away leaving you standing there to deal with the problem alone.

There are two reasons for confronting the passive aggressive. One, if done correctly you may be able to help him/her gain insight into the negative consequences of their behaviors. Two, even if that doesn’t happen, it will at least give you the opportunity to talk to him/her in a frank way about how his/her behavior affects you. If nothing else you can get a few things “off your chest.”

Below are some constructive ways to confront someone with passive aggressive behavior:

  • Make your feelings the subject of the conversation and not his/her bad behaviors.
  • Don’t attack his/her character.
  • Make sure you have privacy.
  • Confront him/her about one behavior at a time, don’t bring up everything at once.
  • If he/she needs to retreat from the conversation allow them to do it with dignity.
  • Have a time limit, confrontation should not stretch on indefinitely.
  • If he/she tries to turn the table on you, do not defend your need to have an adult conversation about your feelings.
  • Be sure he/she understands that you care about what happens to them, that you love them and that you are not trying to control them. You are only trying to get to the bottom of your disagreements and make the relationship better.

Inside the Passive Aggressive:

The passive aggressive has a real desire to connect with you emotionally but their fear of such a connection causes them to be obstructive and engage in self-destructive habits. He/she will be covert in their actions and it will only move him/her further from his/her desired relationship with you.

The passive aggressive never looks internally and examines their role in a relationship problem. They have to externalize it and blame others for having shortcomings. To accept that he/she has flaws would be tantamount to emotional self-destruction. They live in denial of their self-destructive behaviors, the consequences of those behaviors and the choices they make that cause others so much pain.

The passive aggressive objectifies the object of their desire. You are to be used as a means to an end. Your only value is to feed his/her own emotional needs. You are not seen as a person with feelings and needs but as an extension of him/her. They care for you the way they care for a favorite chair. You are there for their comfort and pleasure and are of use as long as you fill their needs.

The passive aggressive wants the attention and attachment that comes with loving someone but fears losing his/her independence and sense of self to his/her spouse. They want love and attention but avoid it out of fear of it destroying them. You have to be kept at arms length and if there is an emotional attachment it is tenuous at best.

The only hope for change in the way they deal with relationship issues is if they are able to acknowledge their shortcomings and contributions to the marital problems. Facing childhood wounds, looking internally instead of externally to find the cause of problems in their life will help them form deeper emotional attachments with a higher sense of emotional safety.

A Psychiatrist’s Letter to Young People about Fifty Shades of Grey

Article taken from Miriam Grossman MD

February 11, 2015

There’s nothing gray about Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s all black.

Let me explain.

I help people who are broken inside. Unlike doctors who use x-rays or blood tests to determine why someone’s in pain, the wounds that interest me are hidden. I ask questions, and listen carefully to the answers. That’s how I discover why the person in front of me is “bleeding”.

Years of careful listening have taught me a lot. One thing I’ve learned is that young people are utterly confused about love – finding it and keeping it. They make poor choices, and end up in lots of pain.

I don’t want you to suffer like the people I see in my office, so I’m warning you about a new movie called Fifty Shades of Grey. Even if you don’t see the film, its toxic message is seeping into our culture, and could plant dangerous ideas in your head.

Fifty Shades of Grey is being released for Valentine’s Day, so you’ll think it’s a romance, but don’t fall for it. The movie is actually about a sick, dangerous relationship filled with physical and emotional abuse. It seems glamorous, because the actors are gorgeous, have expensive cars and planes, and Beyonce is singing. You might conclude that Christian and Ana are cool, and that their relationship is acceptable.

Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated! The people behind the movie just want your money; they have no concern whatsoever about you and your dreams.

Abuse is not glamorous or cool.  It is never OK, under any circumstances.

This is what you need to know about Fifty Shades of Grey: as a child, Christian Grey was terribly neglected. He is confused about love because he never experienced the real thing. In his mind, love is tangled up with bad feelings like pain and embarrassment.  Christian enjoys hurting women in bizarre ways. Anastasia is an immature girl who falls for Christian’s looks and wealth, and foolishly goes along with his desires.

In the real world, this story would end badly, with Christian in jail, and Ana in a shelter – or morgue. Or Christian would continue beating Ana, and she’d stay and suffer. Either way, their lives would most definitely not be a fairy tale. Trust me on this one.

As a doctor, I’m urging you: DON’T see Fifty Shades of Grey. Get informed, learn the facts, and explain to your friends why they shouldn’t see it either.

Here are a few of the dangerous ideas promoted by Fifty Shades of Grey:

1. Girls want guys like Christian who order them around and get rough.

No! A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain. She wants to feel safe, respected and cared for by a man she can trust. She dreams about wedding gowns, not handcuffs.

2. Guys want a girl like Anastasia who is meek and insecure.

Wrong. A psychologically healthy man wants a woman who can stand up for herself.  If he is out of line, he wants her to set him straight.

3. Anastasia exercises free choice when she consents to being hurt, so no one can judge her decision.

Flawed logic. Sure, Anastasia had free choice – and she chose poorly. A self-destructive decision is a bad decision.

4. Anastasia makes choices about Christian in a thoughtful and detached manner.

Doubtful. Christian constantly supplies Anastasia with alcohol, impairing her judgment.  Also, Anastasia becomes sexually active with Christian – her first experience ever – soon after meeting him. Neuroscience suggests their intimacy could jump start her feelings of attachment and trust, before she’s certain he deserved them.  Sex is a powerful experience – particularly the first time.
Finally, Christian manipulates Anastasia into signing an agreement prohibiting her from telling anyone that he is a long time abuser.

Alcohol, sex, manipulation – hardly the ingredients of a thoughtful, detached decision.

5.   Christian’s emotional problems are cured by Anastasia’s love.

Only in a movie. In the real world, Christian wouldn’t change to any significant degree. If Anastasia was fulfilled by helping emotionally disturbed people, she should have become a psychiatrist or social worker.

6. It’s good to experiment with sexuality.

Maybe for adults in a healthy, long term, committed, monogomous relationship, AKA “marriage”.  Otherwise, you’re at high risk for STDs, pregnancy, and sexual assault. It’s wise to be very careful who you allow to get close to you, physically and emotionally, because just one encounter can throw you off track and change your life forever.

The bottom line: the ideas of Fifty Shades of Grey  are dangerous, and can lead to confusion and poor decisions about love. There are vast differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, but the movie blurs those differences, so you begin to wonder: what’s healthy in a relationship? What’s sick? There are so many shades of grey…I’m not sure.

Listen, it’s your safety and future we’re talking about here. There’s no room for doubt: an intimate relationship that includes violence, consensual or not, is completely unacceptable.

This is black and white. There are no shades of grey here. Not even one.

drgrossman-aboutMiriam Grossman, MD is a medical doctor with training in pediatrics and in the specialty of child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry. She is also the author of Unprotected and You’re Teaching My Child WHAT?