Monday, May 19

The vicious cycle

Do you have any idea how hard it is to be invisible and still contribute? It is so difficult to simply go to my room in the basement and pretend that I do not exist. How can I play music? Or spread out a project? Talk on the phone? (I am so thankful to be living in the age of the internet). I try to stop breathing when my mother descends the stairs. It's a mechanism of who I am: hide myself to get out of the world's way. Be invisible.

Where do you go for help when you have no problems because you've bowed over to make them work out? Who do you face when you're invisible? And if you show no signs of trauma, how does anyone know to help?

These questions make me think of battered women (or men, it happens!), who have few friends, trade excuses for bruises, and truly believe their husband's (or wive's) 28th rerun of the sincerest apologies and assurances of deepest love.

To get to that situation, though.... it is a gradual process. It starts with just a single slap, during a heated argument perhaps. The offender immediately apologizes and the victim says they're okay, allowing themselves to be comforted.

Then it happens a second time. And a third. Soon it becomes more and more violent, often without the victim being aware of the situation they are in.

Those who study this behavior have learned that the intense concern and love from the abuser immadiately after the event keep the victims unaware of any pattern in behavior; to them there are reasons for each time they were abused and that they are random happenings. In fact, in most cases the victims feel a nameless guilt and embarassment and assume responsibility for the acts. The bad habits have worsened, but it also feels so good and safe in the 'comforting' period that the victim sometimes still sees it as a good relationship.

Thing is, though, is that this cycle is not only characteristic of domestic violence, but also of anoraxia and bulimia, bingeing of any kind, drug abuse, and even unsatisfactory relationships. The pattern is a low of some sort (whether it's an absense/withdral or a negative event such as abuse or eating), followed by a high (feeling loved, drug high, feeling good about purging).

And ultimately, these patterns lead the people who have them feeling good because of it. Drugs numb pain and feel good, being rewarded by others or self for being skinny (and therefore desirable). Generally these patterns give their victims feelings of confidence, which will soon fail, only to be brought to a new high.

Well, depressing or interesting, I like to think about these things and compare them to my own life. I know I fall into this pattern sometimes (with falling deep into my emotions in connection to listening to music, with outbursts), and I think it is important to see these patterns to help live a healthier life.

If you are interested in further reading on spousal abuse, I can point you to one paper that is informative, easy to read and friendly. All my other sources I have remembered bits and pieces from and have no references for!

See also this follow-up post

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