I want to ask this question but I am worried it might offend you. But what the hell, I am going to ask you anyway.
Do you think the reason why you are so damned hard on yourself and haven’t gotten over your issues is because you are worried that they make you the person you are and if you didn’t have them, then what/who are you.
In other words, do you think they define you as a person?
First of all, it takes a lot to offend me and this question doesn’t even come close to nudging my offense-o-meter. It is however a very interesting question that I will answer as best I can.
The simple answer is no. I don’t think my issues define me as a person, nor do I worry about being thrown into an existential crisis if I suddenly stopped being so hard on myself. With or without them I am who I am; a passionate, creative, strong, beautiful, courageous, compassionate individual who has many wild, varied, kinky and inspiring talents that elevate him into the realm of pure awesomeness :)
However, as one of my favourite movies points out (cue Scottish accent) “No, Dr Dempsey. You have to believe it before you can see it,” I’m so hard on myself because although I know who I am, I don’t believe in myself enough to allow this person to shine. All courtesy of the emotional abuse I received five and a half years ago.
Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person. It creates scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.
Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.
Source: The Mighty Phoenix
By the time I realised what my girlfriend was doing it was too late. I had lost every aspect of my personality, my self-worth, self-concept, self-confidence and self-belief. I had been brainwashed through months of insidious insult, attack, abuse, control, humiliation and manipulation into believing I am the most worthless, useless, repulsive piece of human excrement that has ever existed in the history of human kind. I had been transformed from a man on the cusp of achieving everything he had ever dreamed and worked for into a hollow, empty shell who firmly believed that the world would be a better place if he was dead.
Perhaps f it had only been this abuse the damage would not be so severe, but the addition of the victim blame mentality I received from my friends, all of whom informed me I deserved what my abuser was doing, cemented her words as ‘truth’ rather than the bitter ramblings of a sociopathic narcissist.
Thus, as I had no-one to ameliorate the effects of the abuse, my brain convinced myself that (a) everything that was said was a true and correct description of who I was and (b) I should be punished for whatever it was I had done to ‘deserve’ the abuse in the first place.
Everything I’ve experienced since – the assault and rape (which further eroded my already weakened masculinity), my mental health (which [erroneously] added to the perception I am ‘weak’), the social isolation (which further fuelled my abusers belief that I was unloveable and worthless), my homelessness (which annihilated what little I had left) – has made any attempt to repair the psychological damage caused all but impossible.
Hence the continued belief that I deserve what has happened to me and that I should be punished for past sins; both aspects manifesting in a continuous cycle of self-hate, self-criticism and self-judgement.
I know I’m too hard on myself. Psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, therapists, blog friends, real-life friends, commentators, family and random people on the street have all noticed this over the years and pointed out how I’m actually a decent human being who doesn’t deserve to berate himself on a minute-by-minute basis no matter what it is that he does. But this does nothing to repair the damage the abuse caused.
The old adage sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me is crap!
There is a reason that many psychologists believe emotional abuse to be the most damaging form of abuse. However traumatising physical and sexual abuse is (which I learned the hard way that it is!) at least people see the bruises, believe that it’s happening and take action to help.
Emotional abuse doesn’t leave bruises, it attacks you from the inside until your soul is shattered into a billion tiny pieces that are impossible to put back together without help. Help that rarely comes as people cannot see what is happening until it’s too late.
The reason I am so hard on myself is not because I don’t want to get over my issues or that they define who I am, but because the repair job of slotting those billion tiny pieces together again is a long and grueling process, especially when you’re doing it all by yourself.
I live in hope (and bloody hard work) that one day I will be able to believe what I know is true. That I am a remarkable human being who deserves all the happiness in the world. Whose passion, creativity, strength, beauty, courage and compassion will be seen not only by everyone around me, but also by myself.