Family Violence

Why We Hurt The Ones We Love

Relationships with lovers, children, and parents, serve as mirrors of the inner self. We learn how loving and worthy of love we are exclusively through interactions with loved ones.

  • A distressed or misbehaving child can seem to make one feel like a failure as a parent and thoroughly unlovable.
  • A raging or withdrawing parent can seem to make a child feel inadequate and unworthy of compassion, trust, and love.
  • A distracted or controlling spouse can make one feel devalued and unlovable.
The anger and resentment these feelings stimulate are to punish the loved one, not for his/her behavior so much as for the wounded sense of self they seem to reflect.

Love relationships build the sense of self, so long as they provide: 
  • Unconditional safety and security for all parties
  • High levels of compassion
  • Freedom from resentment, hostility, abuse, and other emotional constraints.
If a relationship consistently fails in any of the above, it loses its self-building function and does more harm than good.

If it falls below the threshold of safety and security, it becomes self-destroying.

Abusive partners and parents are like the rest of us, only more extreme.

They use anger and aggression for temporary relief of  self-diminishment caused by self-doubt, guilt, shame, or feelings of powerlessness. Because abusive arousal resolves in still more guilt, shame, and powerlessness, the family becomes trapped in a downward spiral of despair.

What Abuse Can Do to You and Your Family
No One Escapes!
  • All victims of family abuse, all abusers, all children of victims and all witnesses of abuse lose some degree of dignity and autonomy (the ability to decide one's own thoughts, feelings, and behavior).
  • At least half of victims, abusers, children, and witnesses suffer from clinical anxiety and/or depression.
  • Most lack self-esteem.
  • Emotional abuse is usually more psychologically damaging than physical abuse.
  • Abuse tends to get worse without intervention from someone outside the family who glimpses through the veil of pretense.
  • Witnessing abuse makes a more likely to become either an abuser or a victim of abuse. As adults they are at increased risk of alcoholism, criminality, mental health problems, poverty.
  • Symptoms of children in abusive families may include one or more of the following: depression (looks like chronic boredom), anxiety, school problems, aggressiveness, hyperactivity, low self-esteem, exhibiting over-emotionality (anger or excitability or frequent crying), or no emotions at all.
  • Symptoms of victims and abusers often include one or more of the following:
    • trouble sleeping
    • frequent periods of sadness and crying
    • continual worry and anxiety
    • obsessions
    • excessive anger
    • confusion/impaired decision-making.
Important questions to ask yourself
  • Do I like myself?
  • Am I able to realize my potential?
  • Do I feel safe?
  • Do my children like themselves?
  • Are they able to realize their fullest potential?

Definition of Abuse: Failure of Compassion
Abuse is hurting the feelings or body of someone else to alter some unpleasant feeling within the self. Because compassion regulates unpleasant internal feelings, all abuse is a failure of compassion for self and loved ones.

Physical abuse: hitting, punching, slapping, pushing, grabbing, kicking, and any unwanted touching, sexual or non-sexual, as well as threatening, coercing, or intimidating.

Emotional abuse:
  • Attack on a person's autonomy, identity, privacy, sense of self, or self-esteem; attempting to control, isolate, or force behavior against his or her will
  • Criticizing what a person is, rather than what he/she does.
Abusive Non-Abusive
"You're lazy." "I feel you can do a little more to help keep the house  clean."
"You're stupid." "I disagree with your opinion."
"You're a slut." "I felt jealous when I saw you talk to him. I need to regulate my jealousy."
"You're a bitch." "I feel devalued when you shout."
"You're a bad kid." "I don't like it when you talk that way  to me."

The Way Out