education, Emotional abuse, parenting, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships

Silencing the Generations of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse:  The abuse that leaves internal bruises to the human psyche, that the outside world does not see.  It is a generational cycle that flows that family histories bringing pain and turmoil to those experiencing and to those who vicariously live it through the pain of seeing their loved one’s suffer.

Silencing the Generations of Emotional Abuse.

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Aggression, education, Emotional abuse, parenting, Psychology, Relationships

Silencing the Generations of Emotional Abuse

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You are stupid!  Your are ugly!  You are fat!  You are nothing without me!  You can’t do anything right!  You are worthless!  You should have never been born!  I hate you!  My life would be so much better off without you!  Why don’t you just go kill yourself! 

If you have had someone tell you these words, you are most likely in an abusive relationship.  People often believe that an abusive relationship occurs when some type of physical abuse is occurring, but emotional and mental abuse is a form of abuse that occurs in relationships as wells.  The effects are just as devastating, in which the bruises, cuts, and scars occur on the internal psyche of the person.  Research has shown that the negative effects of individuals being in an emotionally abusive relationship can be more detrimental in terms of stress and emotional damage than an episode of being in a physically abusive relationship (Theran, Sullivan, Bogat, & Steward, 2006; & Wicks-Nelson & Israel, 2009).   Although these wounds may not be visible for others to see, they are inside the person festering, often never being exposed to the air to have a chance to heal.  As the painful messages continue to be hurled at the person, the individual internalizes these words as part of their self-image.

Emotional abuse in a relationship may not only take the form of verbal insults, but also through controlling the other person’s movement, isolating them from family and friends, withholding of affection, constant criticism,  marital infidelity, withholding of attention,  guilt, and externalizing blame of their problems to the other person.  Emotional abuse is built into the acts of physical and sexual abuse, although physical and sexual abuse may not be present when emotional abuse occurs.  Cultural variation of emotional abuse may occur in which  the abuser also extends the rights of the  emotional abuse to occur by family members (Yoshihama & Sorenson, 1994).

Abuse tends to occur in cycles, as well as there tends to be a family history of abuse that occurs.  Often when we look at the individual that is perpetrating the abuse, they themselves came from a family where they either experienced some type of abuse, or watched abuse occur on family members.  This aspect has special relevance to parents who may be in an emotionally abusive relationship.  Not only do our children learn what acceptable behavior is in a relationship, but they also learn to model our behavior of being a victim, or an abuser.  Even though a child may not directly experience the abuse, the vicarious experience of watching a loved one’s pain sends messages to the child of not only their own worth, but also a distorted image of what authentic loving relationships entail.  The children fail to learn to establish appropriate boundaries of protecting themselves emotionally from others.  I learned as a therapist that doing a family genogram, which involves engaging  with the client of constructing a family tree of sorts, to examine relationships of patterns  of abuse, mental health issues, and drug addiction that often these cycle tended to repeat themselves through generations of a family.  This historical representation often helped a client not only understand their family history, but also question their mental framework of what constituted authentic healthy relationships that had been established through their lifetime in taking in their social world around them.

At different times in our life, we may find ourselves in relationships, or loved ones that have become involved in emotionally abusive relationships.  The most helpless feeling is watching a friend, family member, or ourselves succumbing to physical or emotional abuse of others.  Social support for an individual that has been trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship is one of the key elements of that individual reaching out to empower themselves to get help out of the cycle of abuse.  The person may teeter for years on the verge of getting out of the relationship, while then returning into the cycle of abuse.  When abuse in a relationship occurs, it does not necessarily mean that the relationship needs to end, but education as well as psychological services is often needed for all parties involved to begin a process of recognizing the abuse, admitting the abuse, and coming to terms with the future implications of allowing the cycle to continue.  Failure to recognize the issue in terms of the family unit, often relates to parents developing mental health disorders, drug abuse issues, escalating forms of abuse, and children who experience academic and relationship problems, and in the future engaging in the same sort of relationships they witnessed in their family of origin.  Abuse occurs in all societies, and across the different economic social stratifications, and educational levels.

The victim and the abuser often stay in a cycle of denial of the abuse as a way to denying their own shortcomings, avoiding the hard process of change, all the while feeding another generation of pain to come to their children.  Breaking out of this cycle involves the adults in these relationships recognizing that there is an issue, which not only negatively affects them, but also younger members of the family.  If it all possible, keeping the family unit intact is the ideal outcome, while working on reconstructing healthy interaction patterns that establish individual respect, autonomy, and dignity.  In many of these situations, the abuser may not recognize the issue because of the power and control they have gained through the cycle of abuse.  Encourage and support those in abusive relationships to take back their own self-control and dignity to free them from the tyranny of emotional abuse, as well as to develop a “new family legacy” of establishing authentic, healthy, and loving relationships.  It is important for all of us to remember that while physical wounds may heal, the journey of healing the unseen internal wounds on being in an emotionally abusive relationship takes just as much courage and support.

References

Theran, S. A., Sullivan, C. M., Bogat, G. A., & Stewart, C. S. (2006). Abusive partners and ex-partners understanding the effects of relationship to the abuser on women’s well-being. Violence Against Women, 12(10), 950-969.

Wicks-Nelson, T. & Israel, A.  (2009).  Abnormal child and adolescent psychology (7th ed.).  London, England:  Pearson Corporation.

Yoshihama, M., & Sorenson, S. B. (1994). Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by male intimates: experiences of women in Japan. Violence and Victims, 9(1), 63-77.

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Feminism, Humanistic Psychology, parenting, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Women

Knowledge of a Mother to her Daughter…..

mother daughter

I do not know everything, but I know that you are part of me and I am part of you by the blood that flows through our veins, and by virtue of being females.

I do not know everything, but I know that I will bestow in you the belief in yourself that you are worth respect and dignity.

I do not know everything, but I know that if you have a dream, do not let others try to dampen your inspiration, those inspirations can only become a reality by your own perspiration.

I do not know everything, but I know that you will walk through life with both sorrow and joy, embrace both emotions, because you cannot know one without the other.

I do not know everything, but I know that you are more than the face that your Creator has given you, you are more than your possessions, you are a soul filled with passions, fears, and needs that you can only fill within yourself.

I do not know everything, but I know we are more than just the titles we carry, the duties we perform, and the roles we play, we are a creation of God that gave us the ability to think, love, and live for a limited time.

I do not know everything, but I know that some other souls in the world are filled with hate, jealousy, and greed.  Do not go to their level, and learn to rise above the maleficence to find kindness, caring, compassion, and respect to other living souls.

I do not know everything, but I know that we will both make mistakes, but learning from those mistakes and taking a lesson in how to go forward is the only path to finding meaning.

I do not know everything, but I know I have been blessed by the life that I carried within me, and with the blessing of watching you grow and finding yourself becoming a woman, with your contributions that you will pass on to the next soul of what is it to be a female.

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Adlerian Psychology, Humanistic Psychology, Personal Growth, Psychology, spirituality, Uncategorized

What is the Perfect Life?

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Some of our biggest fears come from some idealized view that we have developed through our vicarious experiences of living of what our idealized life should look like. Alfred Adler, referred to this as our “final fictionalism”, in which we hold an idealized view of when our life would be “perfect” (Corey, 2009). This final fictionalism is often composed of the messages we have received through society such as culture, the media, and our families of what “the perfect life” looks like. With the invent of technology and mass media, the messages we have all received of what the perfect life looks like has become enmeshed into a superficial horror movie of the battles of materialism, with our looks and possessions being a measure of our success as a human being. Our behaviors and how we conduct ourselves in daily life our often dictated by trying to meet our final fictionalism. We often question where has humanity gone in the world in our governments, but perhaps we should question where has the humanity gone in each human.

We all have a “final fictionalism”, but sometimes we need to scrutinize the content of what a perfect life will look like. A perfect life that is built on material pursuits and power often engages a person to pursue a path that is deviant in the forms of using manipulation, coercion, and lies to engage themselves into a world where the sense of self is built on a shallow base. We all know these people, the narcissist person that often gets their feelings of being grandiose by their conquest over others, their possessions, and their perceived power over others. They tend to be selfish, self-absorbed, and often lack respect of others feelings (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). However, what happens when that shallow based is shaken, cracked, or threatened? If the perfect life is built on just an image, or possessions, what happens to the human aspect of the person? They tend to externalize blaming and shaming others in their environment.

Developing a final fictionalism that is built on the concepts of the humanistic needs of having our basic needs mets, safety and security, as well as authentic love and support from those close to us gives us the ability to grow as a human in a positive direction (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). Maslow (1943) developed the classic “Hierarchy of Needs” to describe the base of human growth and development and the conditions needed for a person to reach a level of self-actualization. Self-actualization is the process of a person realizing both their strengths and limitations, but at the same time striving to move forward in positive pursuits for not only themselves, but also the rest of humanity. When we look at many of the leaders or role models throughout the world, how many of those figures actually meet these criteria?

I can say I am not self-actualized, although I am struggling towards working towards a better human version of me. One of the pivotal questions I have asked myself lately, combines the concepts of Adler’s “final fictionalism”, while incorporating the humanistic principles of becoming a self-actualized being. My materialistic pursuits of my younger years have seemed to lose their shiny attraction, and I am searching for meaning through authenticity. I can say that there was a time when the “car”, “the big house”, “the designer labels”, and “jewelry” provided some type of shallow sense of self-accomplishment, but what I have learned that there is far greater joy in someone saying “thank you for supporting me or being there for me, or being authentically honest in who we are. I think there are a couple of questions we can all honestly ask ourselves at the end of the day to let us know where we all fall on the continuum of being an authentic human versus edging into the endless competition of the narcissist: If I could ask for two wishes what would they be? If I could only keep two things about my life what would they be? If we find ourselves answering these questions with objects or status, perhaps we need to start questioning our level of being an authentic human. Love, connections, and helping others leaves far more wealth in our world than any objects, possession, or position ever will.

References
Corey, G. ( 2009). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Friedman, H. S. & Schustack, M. W. (2009). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (4th ed.). MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review, 50(4), 370.

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Culture, Personal Growth, Psychology, Saudi Arabia, spirituality

The Call

Historical building in Jeddah's Ballad.

Historical building in Jeddah’s Ballad.

I sit amidst the plants of my rooftop garden, only a short distance from the coastal seashore of the ancient Islamic port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I catch myself searching for resolution, searching for peace, searching for answers of how I have come to my current life circumstances. My body has struggled to produce enough vitamin D for the last 6 years and the doctor had directed me to sit in the open sun for at least thirty minutes a day with my face, legs, and arms fully exposed to help jumpstart my body, in addition to the Vitamin D drops and injections. The afternoon sun is shining on my face as I try to soak up the precious rays to help my body produce the necessary vitamins to help me try to sustain myself in the desert. I feel the sweat trickle down the back of my leg as the desert winds blow against my body providing a momentary relief from the humidity that the city is famous for. My momentary concerns are interrupted from a call from my driver Iggy who reports to me “Madame the water levels are low in the water tank, I will tell you when the water comes.” Another concern to add to my mind that is already overwhelmed of what tomorrow will bring. My mind is lost in its own internal sea, flooded by emotions, and stress related to both real and imagined concerns.

As my mind continues to tread in the fears of what tomorrow can bring, I remember that in less than two months I will be turning 43 years old. I begin to question where the years have flown and has the energy I have committed to different people and beliefs been worth where I now find myself. As I feel the first tear begin to edge its way down the side of my face, a chorus of voices echoes across the city, singing out in different tones with clarity, pureness, and absolution. Although the tones and pitches of the voices are different, the words are the same Arabic words that have been called out for more than 1200 years, five times daily, reminding not only me, but the generations before me that there is a Creator, who has carved out a path for all of us. As I sit in the light, and listen to the Islamic call for prayer float across the city, I think about all those before me who have heard that same call in a moment of darkness find a moment of peace in knowing that there are some aspects of life that we may not understand at the moment, but there are lessons to be learned along the journey the Creator has given us. Our mission is to try to make meaning from the experience of living and somehow pass on that lesson to those who come after us through our connections.

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Feminism, Personal Growth, Psychology, Women

The “Happily Ever After” Effect

The "Happily Ever After" Effect.

Many from my generation and after have been brainwashed into what I called “The Happily Ever After Fairytale Syndrome”. We were brought up on Disney movies and fairytale books where the beautiful princess has great trials and tribulations in her early life, but with the help of a handsome prince, she finds the courage to overcome these barriers and lives with the Prince “happily ever after”. They ride off into the sunset in a carriage leaving to our imagination that splendid life the two have before them of children, palace, and gracefully beautifully aging together. We hear the trumpets blowing, birds singing, and a chorus singing enchanting themes enthralling one’s soul into a surreal bliss, with the words printed “and they lived happily ever after. The end”. This magical unrealistic view has been imprinted on generations of young girls of what they believe their future beholds.
What these fairytales failed to mention was that “happily ever after” is going to have those painful moments, and for at least half of the fairytales, there would be no happily ever after, but instead future challenges would be faced as the princess moved through her future developmental life phases. These stories failed to show the frailness of life itself and that overnight one’s life can change in a moment. Overall, these stories failed to show that even though our heroine in the story has overcome a major obstacle that her life, ahead would include many too come, which is the experience and art of living.
Life in itself is not a journey of “happily ever after” because the cycle of life is like a roller coaster with pivotal peaks as well as times we feel ourselves spiraling down towards the ground. The momentum and feelings that are associated with these peaks and valleys are alike in that they are both intense, but they differ in the experienced emotion. Our peaks are filled with emotions of excitement, joy, pleasure, and safety, while our times down low are filled with sorrow, regret, pain, and questioning our purpose in life. It appears to me it would have been far more helpful if the writers of these “happily ever after tales”, would have shown the princess experiencing more than just one obstacle in her life. If they would have shown how the princess picked up the shattered pieces of her fairy tale “happily ever after illusion”, moved forward, and continued living.

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education, Feminism, Personal Growth, Psychology, Uncategorized, Women

The “Happily Ever After” Effect

princesses

Many from my generation and after have been brainwashed into what I called “The Happily Ever After Fairytale Syndrome”. We were brought up on Disney movies and fairytale books where the beautiful princess has great trials and tribulations in her early life, but with the help of a handsome prince, she finds the courage to overcome these barriers and lives with the Prince “happily ever after”. They ride off into the sunset in a carriage leaving to our imagination that splendid life the two have before them of children, palace, and gracefully beautifully aging together. We hear the trumpets blowing, birds singing, and a chorus singing enchanting themes enthralling one’s soul into a surreal bliss, with the words printed “and they lived happily ever after. The end”. This magical unrealistic view has been imprinted on generations of young girls of what they believe their future beholds.

What these fairytales failed to mention was that “happily ever after” is going to have those painful moments, and for at least half of the fairytales, there would be no happily ever after, but instead future challenges would be faced as the princess moved through her future developmental life phases. These stories failed to show the frailness of life itself and that overnight one’s life can change in a moment. Overall, these stories failed to show that even though our heroine in the story has overcome a major obstacle that her life, ahead would include many too come, which is the experience and art of living.

Life in itself is not a journey of “happily ever after” because the cycle of life is like a roller coaster with pivotal peaks as well as times we feel ourselves spiraling down towards the ground. The momentum and feelings that are associated with these peaks and valleys are alike in that they are both intense, but they differ in the experienced emotion. Our peaks are filled with emotions of excitement, joy, pleasure, and safety, while our times down low are filled with sorrow, regret, pain, and questioning our purpose in life. It appears to me it would have been far more helpful if the writers of these “happily ever after tales”, would have shown the princess experiencing more than just one obstacle in her life. If they would have shown how the princess picked up the shattered pieces of her fairy tale “happily ever after illusion”, moved forward, and continued living.

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