I *Allowed* My Abuse?

by Dr. Irene

“I *allowed* my abuse? No way! I had to *tolerate* it!”

This is a wonderful back-and-forth forum conversation on “allowing” abuse between myself and a thoughtful  writer. My input is blue.

Dear Dr. Irene:

Based on my experience, it seems a bit foolish to use the word “allow” as in “victims allowing the abuse.” The word “tolerate” fits better, because abusers expect to do as they darn well please and will punish anyone who hinders their activity. Victims learn to tolerate – or else! Allowing or giving permission are rarely part of the equation, except in the mind of an abuser of course. I agree with you. “Tolerate” is a better word. In fact, I think it is so much better, that I’m tempted to change all instances of “allow” to “tolerate” on the site. But it’s too big a job, so I won’t.

Parenthetically, I use the word “allow” not to connote that you gave permission, but that you did not know enough to take your power and do what you had to do to disallow the abuse. But, I still like your word better. It has a better “feel.”

As a former victim, I know all too well how hard it is to take a stand against abusive behavior. Abusers are not motivated to stop. In fact, their negative behavior usually escalates when their victim tries to resist or begins to set limits.

In the Taking Responsibility Stage (see Stages), I am willing to take responsibility for the fact that I should not have tolerated it, but I am not willing to go so far as to say I allowed it because I never did – it was foisted upon me against my will. To even consider otherwise seems self-abusive. Yes, abuse certainly was foisted upon you. Abuse is certainly not in the same realm as self-mutilation.

It seems like the more time and distance between now (freedom) and then (oppression) the more outrageous and ugly that old picture looks. Sometimes I still feel anger, but I mostly feel sad about it all.

My Question Is: Does this sound like a normal part of the process? Could it be that I need more time and distance? Or do you think this “allow” versus “tolerate” thing could be holding me back in my recovery? Any ideas? K

Yes, your feelings are “normal,” whatever that is. Most people who have tolerated abuse for long periods of time feel the way you do. That feeling is your continued anger and outrage over what was done to you. Yes, I think you need more time and distance. And the good news is that time and distance are free for the taking.

Is “allow” vs. “tolerate” holding back your recovery? I don’t think so.

 Is it indicative that you have yet more anger to work through? Yes. It is a button.

Are you splitting hairs in spending time in your head on this distinction? Not at all. First of all, you are correct. Second, it seems to me that you are using this distinction to empower yourself and to deal with what was. Third, you are doing good stuff with your pondering: you are asking questions and examining yourself. This is about taking responsibility. You compose a thoughtful letter and make an excellent argument for your position without attacking. Control over anger is about taking responsibility.

As you deal with your abuse, my guess is that “tolerate” vs. “allow” will no longer have the emotional impact it has for you now. Let nature take it’s course; it’s working.

Thank you K for your input. My very best wishes, Dr. Irene

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