It’s true that no family is perfect. Psychologists and social researchers believe and claim that a whopping 80% families in the world operate on some, if not all, elements of dysfunction. This does not necessarily render them eligible to be labelled as broken, but definitely ends up affecting the personalities of all the members- especially the children. These little people happen to be the most vulnerable to environmental disturbances, and their personalities get marred by abuse- physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and others (basically any behavior that engenders within the recipient low self-esteem, depression, anti-social behavior, physiological problems etc)- even before they have developed. Abuse becomes a part of their cognitive schema- they understand, expect, give and receive just this, abuse.
Unless they’re helped by someone, or sometimes miraculously, by themselves. If you happen to be a child, a young adult or even an adult who suffers abuse at the hands of your parents,here are some tips for you.
10. Stop Absorbing and Think
It is often too easy to cave in and internalize all the negative messages we receive from abusive parents. But you must understand that truly constructive criticism comes from a deep place of concern for you, and someone making the same would hence make it gently. Name-calling, disparaging remarks and labeling are definitely pure hostility, not towards you but the world at large- and principally towards the person dispensing them themselves. So please remember that their behavior is impaired and emotions unstable, whatever negatives they say about you, are pure frustrations, not facts. Simply refuse to believe your worth is any less than the person you admire the most in the world. You’re Awesome!
9. Trust Someone Who’s Trustworthy
The reason why any kind of abuse- even that of the mildest degree- is worst when it comes from a parent is because of the trust we invest in them. When this trust is broken, we get to some ferocious building- of walls. Try to not do that, the world is not white or black, all is shades of grey. It’s up to you to select the people who’re worth your trust, and if you believe in them, you’ll find them. They’re as real as anyone can get.
Once you rescue your ability to trust, build those relationships next. Try to learn from external sources how to give, and even more importantly, receive love, kindness and help. Some abusive parents often try to curtail their child’s social life, do not allow it to happen. Remember they are not omnipresent, and you have the advantage of being outside their sphere of control when at school, college, work etc. Take charge of these areas, and soon they’ll grow enough to engulf theirs.
Sharing is Caring, not just for others, but yourself as well. Your parents are mere stressors in your environment, but self-inflicted loneliness is the absolute precipitator of breakdown. If anyone threatens your well-being and you don’t stand up for yourself, then you’re to be blamed much more for your damage than them. Ostracizing yourself from others is the best way to cause alienation for yourself, it’s almost like saying, “I’m miserable, and I want to be that way”. Trust me, you don’t. Life can be so beautiful and you’re missing onto it by shutting yourself down to positive energy from other sources and letting the negative swallow your existence.
So talk to people – friends, an older member in the family, a teacher, a counselor. Get a hug. You deserve it.
7. Explore yourself.
Have pep talks with yourself. Explore your talents and unique inner beauty. Be passionate about a cause. Add color- your own special, inimitable shade- to your life. Abusive parents are essentially just bullies, they get stronger as they feed on fear and helplessness. They, on the other hand, fear confidence, self-esteem , optimism and self-sufficiency. But on the inside, most parents who abuse their children are also products of similar (sometimes worse) parenting, and if you remain passive to their behavior, you’ll just end up being in the same loop. So, stop and rediscover who you are. Refuse to let your environment shape you into someone you don’t want to be. Stop burning time over who they think you are and start investing your hours into exploring all the amazing things you can be. And start to work on yourself. Life will take a new turn, and all because you decided to take the wheel.
6. Guard your space.
Get a new apartment. Go to a distant college. Just get some space between them and you.
This can get difficult for people who’re dependent on their parents. But alternate paths exist. You can get a job. If they disallow you to do so, get really busy at school. Work extra hours there, spend some time helping neighbors, join some community service, just start being super productive and occupied. Do not give them the opportunity to interact with you and bring you down. Maintain a distant, cordial relationship with them and work on connections with other people who support and care about you.
Learn about your spiritual nature. Begin to enjoy your own company, develop trust in your intuition and get in touch with your deeper, core energy. Meditation does not always entail the conventional method of closing your eyes and chanting ‘Om’ for hours. You could listen to uplifting music, read a stimulating book, or simply muse about life. Try to aquaint yourself with spiritual literature. You don’t have to necessarily believe any one school of thought immediately, just take your time and explore. Keep the thoughts that help you gain some understanding, meaning and stability in life. Try to achieve an outlook that allows you to accept yourself and others as we are.
Breathe. Feel the fact that you’re alive. Beautiful. Unique, and here for a cause. Let your hardships only make you a better person.
4. Get Professional Help
If the situation at your place is beyond the above coping mechanisms, if abuse at your home is life-threatening, or just vile and marked by substance abuse by a member, beating , exposure to inappropriate sexual behavior etc – it’s time to get help. In any case, speaking to your school counselor or calling a help line will never cause any harm, so you might as well do it. Often we have the tendency to downplay our adversities, hence a third person’s opinion will help put things into perspective for you. So knock on that door, or dial that number, help awaits you- and you deserve it.
3. Avoid confrontation.
Sometimes, it is suggested that you speak to your abuser when they’re in a lighter mood. But such a step can only work in mild cases. In most cases, abusive parents are either completely unaware of their malicious affect on their children, or are extremely guilt-ridden about it themselves, but somehow cannot achieve the temperamental stability and discipline to stop hurting their loved ones. So a direct confrontation might actually boomerang and you may have to brave an angry explosion, perhaps even a diatribe about how your “extreme imperfection” interdicts you from having the right to criticize anyone- especially them. This will only put you back on the vulnerable end of the plank and you’ll have returned to square one. So my advice is to avoid confrontation or blaming until you’ve secured your space- physical, intellectual and emotional – so that no harm of this consequence can dent you.
2. Look Beyond The Present
Understand that your situation isn’t permanent. Things will eventually change to be in your favor as time strengthens your socio-economic position. Someday the tables will turn and then you’ll be the one with power, influence and control. Just remember to be kind and benevolent when that happens, keep yourself from getting heady with the power that’ll come to you. Be a better person. Forgive.
1. Forgive your parents
As previously stated, abusive parents are themselves products of abusive childhoods. Understand this and empathize with them. Even if you don’t feel comfortable in expressing your sympathy, you’ll benefit a lot from this one paradigm shift. It’ll allow you to let go of your past baggage, and set you free- two things that are critical to surviving abuse. Just release all grudges and do not harbor any misgivings about anyone, let alone your parents. Nothing in life is worthy enough for you to waste such immense emotional energy on it. Relax. Let it go.