Moving past abuse
I was involved with a man who verbally abused me and constantly manipulated me, both in a variety of ways, for almost two years. I understand I am equally to blame for what happened. I allowed it to happen. This has mainly to do with my upbringing. My father is an alcoholic (now recovered many years) and when I was a child he beat every shred of self out of me - mostly with verbal abuse, but there were some physical episodes too. My reason to exist was to serve his needs. This set me up for failure after failure in later relationships, I realize.
I ended the relationship with my ex because of the abuse. He was extremely charming and even emotionally available when we met. I was attracted to his charm, humor, and intelligence. As soon as he was convinced that I loved him, all that went away. He would disappear for weeks or months and not contact me. When I would try to contact him, he would get angry. He constantly criticized me and my friends. He was very controlling. He screwed with my mind constantly, to the point where I lost all my self-esteem and didn't know which way was up. I thought I loved him, so I tried and tried to work things out. I tried to "be a better person for him" - more like he said he wanted me to be. But there was always something. I couldn't win. He later revealed that he was a narcissist, a rage-aholic, incapable of any empathy for others, a control freak, obsessive-compulsive, and bipolar. For a long time I thought, "He's not evil, he's not bad, he just needs love." What a joke! I have definitely learned my lesson about where THAT kind of thinking leads! By the end, I had tried too hard, for too long. To be fair, I suppose we were *both* sick of everything having to do with each other. Even after I left, we would email each other. He would try to tell me that in spite of the HEINOUS ways he treated me that he really did love me, and asked me why I couldn't believe that. I felt like screaming, "You moron! I can't believe it because you treat me like crap! Duh!" Finally, I told him it was better if we cut all ties with each other. I told him I knew what he was finally and didn't want anything to do with him. We haven't communicated since.
I am working on becoming more assertive, and on developing a sense of independence. It's working, and I feel pretty good about my life. I'm doing constructive, creative things with my time, and, for the first time I don't feel like a loser or a failure because I don't have a boyfriend. This is huge for me. I am becoming a real friend to myself. Still, the way back from hell is long - too long. I want to forget him. I never want to give him one single moment more of consideration or thought. I want to feel safe, secure in what I've learned, and that I will be OK and this won't happen to me again. I don't think it will. I mean, in hindsight it seems so clear he was never even a friend...wasn't capable of it. Still, I feel like I need this wall around myself until I can trust myself. I don't know when that will be, or how to learn it.
I HATE HIS GUTS. I am not a vengeful person, but I do wish he would get his. I want to let go of this rage, but I don't know how. I have repressed my anger my whole life. Most of my life, I have not even known that I felt any anger. Boy, I guess I know now! One of the anger sites I visited on the web said something like "you need to separate the person from their actions that angered you" - but that is not possible in his case. He is DEFINITELY a narcissist - and probably a psychopath/sociopath too. When somebody is like that it is what they ARE that determines their actions. It's not just a normal for a decent person to do a wrong thing. How can I get past my rage and find healing? How can I learn to trust myself and grow into the new, assertive person I am trying to learn to be? Please help. I am sick of being pissed. I know I am not like him deep down, but right now I feel like I am no better than my ex - self-absorbed and enraged.
You seem to have a lot of insight about the ways that you attracted this very emotionally abusive man into your life. Growing up with an abusive alcoholic father does set us up to re-create these sorts of relationships later in life. From a holistic perspective - we are always guided by an inner life force, towards greater awareness and greater wholeness. The true person that you are wants to be known and expressed. Your upsetting experience with this man, as disturbing as it is, has opened you up to all the unexpressed rage that you've repressed for all these years. You say that for much of your life you didn't even know you were angry. Now you do! The origins of your anger come from your own family. That is where the most healing needs to be done. This guy was just a trigger for all of that old stuff. There's nothing wrong with hating this man who hurt you. He really treated you with tremendous disrespect. He used you for his own needs. Sure he's sick, and he was most likely abused by his own parents. But you don't have to be a saint. Let yourself be angry at him. Your father hurt you very deeply. You say he "beat every shred of self out of me." Well that's not entirely true - the rage that you now feel is the Self that he tried to beat out of you. If you want to get rid of your anger, then let yourself be as angry as you can be. Don't do to yourself, what others have done to you. Forget about separating this man from his hurtful actions and just let yourself be pissed off for a while. The only way out is through. When you've allowed yourself to fully feel your rage - not just at this man, but at your father, you will naturally begin to let it go. You may start to feel grief, hurt -- all sorts of different emotions. As long as there is a willingness to feel it all, you will learn to let it go. It is not an act of doing but an act of Being.
As I'm sure you know, taking revenge on this man would not help you get rid of your anger, it would only leave you, and him feeling worse (not to mention it could be very dangerous). It may be helpful for you to write a letter to this man, saying everything you wished you could have said (and then you don't even need to actually send it).
This experience is an opportunity for profound change. The past will always catch up with you until it's dealt with entirely. It's a blessing that you can now feel your rage. Emotions alone cannot hurt you. Trust yourself. Your feelings are food for your soul. Being angry does not mean that you are not a kind and loving person. True forgiveness does not come by forcing yourself to put away your resentments, it only comes out of real healing. Your perceptions of these people will eventually change after you allow yourself the freedom to just be as you are.
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
This question was answered by Ben Schwarcz, MA, MFT, he is a California licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Main County. Ben is also a meditation teacher and a certified online counselor at www.myTHERAPYnet.com. He received his master's degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology from JFK University. Transpersonal psychotherapy honors all dimensions of life, with the spiritual Self as the foundation. His specialties are relationships, stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, conscious parenting, adolescents and spiritual issues. His work blends cognitive-behavioral techniques with depth therapy for transformation of mind, body, and spirit. For more information visit Ben's site (www.BenSchwarcz.com) or his compact information page on QueenDom.Com.For more information visit: http://www.AlternativeDepressionTherapy.com