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Why is it so hard for one to open up about an abusive past?

How to you summon the courage to share? What are the reasons that one may keep such terrible things locked inside? How does one overcome this fear of sharing?


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  • May 16 2013: Kate, I just stumbled across this talk by Jackson Katz, who had some interesting things to say, and it reminded me of this conversation:
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      May 23 2013: Thanks for turning me on to this talk.

      In the context of the original post above, Jackson doesn't directly address the issue of why it may be hard to share abusive experiences; but, it does frame the issue well with concepts that should be considered before we ever confront Kate Roseler's question. Although I have not yet read all of the comments on this thread (just those posted before this one) I did notice that some of the comments assumed abuse against women rather than abusive situations in general. I found that curious, and typical, and ironic.

      [edit] It's kinda disappointing that this powerful talk from 2012 is not directly accessible through a search here on the primary TED site.
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        May 24 2013: Johnathon,
        Abuse of women may be one of the more common abuses, and that may be why people address it? You mention bullying in your other comment, which is a form of abuse. When I speak about abuse, I am speaking about all forms of abuse and violation of the rights of people for various reasons.
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      May 24 2013: Lizanne, that is a GREAT talk....thanks for the link!

      I volunteered at a shelter and family center years ago, and began to realize that we can support and educate victims about abuse, and what about the abusers? Katz addresses this question very effectively in his very insightful talk!

      My experience with victims, motivated me to volunteer with the dept. of corrections, interacting mostly with offenders of domestic violence, co-facilitating "cognitive self change" sessions in addition to other programs for 6 years. A very large percentage of the men incarcerated have been sexually assaulted and abused as children....usually by members of their own families.

      So, as Katz says, this is NOT simply a woman's issue, it is an issue for our whole society. I totally agree that men need to be part of the solution, and it takes good leaders, both men and women to speak up about the abuse and violation of human rights of ALL people.

      Thanks again for the link to that very good talk!
      • May 25 2013: Jonathan and Colleen, I'm so glad you both found this talk inspiring. I actually came across it via a friend of mine, who posted it on Facebook! I didn't realize it wasn't searchable here on TED! That is odd...

        What really grabbed me, was when Katz was talking about the abused women, and everything SHE could've done, should've done, etc. All focus is on the abused person, when the attention needs to be turned towards the abuser! So logical, especially considering what you have seen through experience, Colleen.

        I think I mentioned it somewhere here, but I will take the risk of repeating myself because I find it so extremely important. I read the book "Reinventing Your Life", a self-help reference based on schema therapy. I learned so much about the patterns we create as a survival mechanism, but that those patterns that we develop to help us survive, can sometimes be destructive. Someone who was abused as a child, like the examples you gave Colleen, can develop a pattern that will cause him/her to abuse later in life, unless he/she is aware of that pattern... Its truly fascinating, and sheds so much light on this subject!

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          May 28 2013: I liked it a LOT Lizanne, because Katz talks about a very logical, reasonable, aspect of abuse and violence. We often focus on the victim with self help advice, educational programs, support groups, etc., and we fail to recognize what might help to change the lives of abusers!

          Both the victims of abuse AND the abusers are low in self confidence and self esteem, which may be one reason an abuser will often try to convince us that s/he is the one who is abused.

          I agree Lizanne, that many patterns created in a person's life are defensive mechanisms which are often destructive. If a person is not aware of the patterns, s/he will continue to repeat the patterns over and over again. It takes a willingness to explore and evaluate all aspects of the violence and abuse cycle.
      • May 29 2013: Yes! And that awareness needs to be exercised every dingle day. What helped me with awareness, was a Mindfulness training. Becoming even more mindful of myself, taking that deep dive 'into the lake of me' helped me see how my own defensive mechanisms were in fact destructive, that I was in fact my own abuser, to a certain extent.
        I don't think anyone really wants to confront themselves when they may know they need to, but the rewards of doing so are truly phenomenal.
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          May 29 2013: I agree Lizanne......being mindful of our thoughts, feelings and where they come from helps a lot.

          We sometimes tend to run the same dialogue over and over again with our thoughts. We need to mindfully change our thoughts. Perhaps that is what you mean when you say..."I was in fact my own abuser, to a certain extent"? We sometimes take on the "script" the abuser gives us, and reinforce in ourselves the information the abuser is providing.

          If we feel shame because the abuser has reinforced the idea the we are the cause of the abuse for example, which is common, we can immediately change the thoughts to I AM NOT THE CAUSE....I AM NOT TO BLAME.

          I totally agree that to "dive into the lake of me", is difficult at times, and I have always found the rewards of doing so to be beneficial.

          One of my favorite quotes, which has been posted all around the house at times...
          "To stave off drowning, dive down, embrace it. The sea will spit you back, astonished!"
          (David Brendan Hopes)

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