Thursday, April 17, 2008


When you are abused as a child, choice is a foreign concept. Fear is the master and you obey without thinking--unless you are the "black sheep" of the family. But even if you were labeled the black sheep, you probably had little awareness of choices. You most likely rebelled instinctively without careful decision making. The "black sheep" that I have met felt like it was impossible for them to avoid punishments so they might as well vent some of their anger.

Most abuse victims are anxious to please and try to advert trouble. I remember feeling in my mid-thirties like I had been an "adult" since age three, meaning that I had been a caretaker and non-playful person. My life was serious--survival took concentration and attentiveness. Like many victims, I was on alert status, hypervigilant in monitoring other's moods and intentions. I slept light and was always thinking and planning. I was focused on protecting myself and my siblings, and then later in life I was protecting myself and my children.

Once you become abuse-free, choice-making is a huge learning curve. It takes awhile to understand that you do have the power to make decisions. You can decide who to hang out with. You can decide what you will or will not share with others. You can choose how to structure your days. You can choose how to respond to abusive people.

If your boss is controlling, how do you want to respond to him? If your boss reminds you of your mom, how are you going to deal with that stress? If you want to learn a new skill, how are you going to treat yourself? Are you going to stick to the old tapes in your head or are you going to practice being kind to yourself?

I think what helped me most was accepting that making choices was a skill I could learn. I didn't have to make a "right" or "perfect" choice each time. I needed to recognize that learning this brand new skill was a process. As I saw my progress and learned to celebrate it, I continued to grow. At first, I was paralyzed by such mundane decisions as what to order off a menu...but now, I make decisions fairly easily. Growth seems painstakingly slow during the learning process, but in hindsight it is so obvious that God is changing us as we walk with Him into new territory.

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Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft