Black and White Together Without Shades of Grey

Codependents and Adult Children of Alcoholics are prone to see the world and events in black and white. It is one way to make sense out of what really makes no sense at all. If we put a label that clearly defines something we are more equipped to deal with it. Or so we believe. When it comes to relationships, and in particular, relationships in our family or with a spouse, that becomes a big problem as a person starts to come out of the denial that there really were some problems in their family. Now that they see the dysfunction and how bad that was - it is hard to see anything "good" in the dysfunctional relationship.

My family life had love and affection. For years that is how I viewed my family. That is the only perspective I allowed myself to experience. However, it also had chronic dysfunctional problems that colored how I viewed life, myself, God, and others. It took me decades and a lot of recovery work to begin to understand that. I have detailed some of these issues in previous articles so I don't want to spend a lot of time going back to the specifics of those issues. But the challenge for me was to reconcile what I believed about my family early on with what I was learning about how my family life affected me. At times I have felt that if my family was as dysfunctional as I had come to understand, then there was no way there was much good in my childhood. Conversely if I admitted that there was some good, then the dysfunction was overstated, exaggerated or worse yet, not true at all.

There has been a lot said and thought over the last couple of decades about the concept of how your "Family of Origin" affects you. The whole "nature versus nurture" argument is one that will sure to be debated for a long time. My view falls somewhere along the lines that both who you are and what you become is based on three components: Your family of origin, your physiological makeup (your genes), and your decisions and actions about the situations and experiences you go through in life.

There are some who prefer not to deal too much in the past. I have even heard some people claim that looking too closely at your family of origin is just an excuse for your behavior...again- my belief is more balanced than that. I suspect (translation - here comes my opinion) that people who insist that looking backwards is of no value really means that they are scared to death to deal with what is in their past. We in the recovery world deal with that in the first step - it's called "denial". But I am no expert.

I have done a lot of work over the last decade or so delving deep into my family of origin in several ways in order to overcome my hurts, habits, and hang-ups. It has been a very scary, rewarding, uncomfortable, and healing experience. It has probably been the biggest component to my overall healing and on-going recovery.

Dysfunction is not measurable. That is because dysfunction is different for each family. Here is a definition I have read and used in past articles:

"Family dysfunction can be any condition that interferes with healthy family functioning. Most families have some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances (death in the family, a parent's serious illness, etc.). Healthy families tend to return to normal functioning after the crisis passes. In dysfunctional families, however, problems tend to be chronic and children do not consistently get their needs met. Negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children's lives."

Virginia Satir is one of the key figures in the development of family therapy. She believed that a healthy family life involved an open and reciprocal sharing of affection, feelings, and love. In her estimation 95% of families are dysfunctional. I believe that number is a little low...

I do want to share that I have had some very encouraging experiences in dealing with my family of origin lately due to some challenging circumstances, a lot of recovery work, and some very supportive friends in my life.

Going back to visit my family has always been uncomfortable in different degrees over the last 20 or so years. There have been times I have literally drove for hours to see my family only to get there and be so overwhelmed with negative memories and emotions that I immediately began to make plans to go see or do something else with somebody or anybody else I knew in that city.

Sadly the last few times I have gone back to my family it has been to see my father who just passed away after a long battle with cancer. The good news is that I had been able to make my peace with him before he passed and that was necessary and right. Something else happened as I went back that was very encouraging. And it was someone else who saw it in me and brought it to my attention. Dianne is the love of my life. We share a connection I can't say I have shared with someone else as deeply. We share a lot of similarities in our recovery journey which has been a tremendous blessing. The last several visits to my family she has accompanied me.

One of the most encouraging things I have been able to experience in visiting is that I am more comfortable with myself and therefore more comfortable around others. When it comes to being at home with my family I have been more able to visit and be "there" and be connected to what is going on in my family -emotionally and in my thoughts. One of the reasons is that I have been able to accept that both good and bad occurred in my family. I have been able to acknowledge both parts.

At my father's funeral I was asked to share some thoughts about him. It was a very healthy experience to be able to share some very positive encouraging memories about my dad that I truly believed in my heart. At the same time I did not feel like I was betraying the actual dysfunction that existed in our relationship by sharing some extremely good things in our relationship.

Sometimes black and white can exist together without becoming an unidentifiable shade of grey.

Adrian Caminos
For more information about Adrian's Journey in overcoming anger go to: http://www.recoverandheal.com
San Deigo, California


Surviving Emotional & Verbal Abuse

On behalf of those of us who have experienced this reality - and we are many - it is my objective to enlighten others who find themselves in similar circumstances -- to save others from unnecessary pain and break the cycle of abuse among us for the benefit of today's families and future generations. If someone who reads this sees himself or herself and demands better, then I will consider my undertaking as having had significant value.

Perhaps like you, I never dreamed she would be "one of them," could never have contemplated the possibility that abuse would touch our family or imagined that my children and I would, for a time, live in fear, be forced to leave our home. On the other side of insanity; however, the day came when we found freedom and a fresh start to begin restoring a measure of what was taken from us, and what I, through my enabling behaviors, gave away.

As a young woman, I had seen "Sleeping With the Enemy" and read my share of articles and books that chronicled tales of abuse - usually physical. I thought women in abusive relationships were either blind or stupid or both. Why didn't those women tell their abusive partners where to get off the first time they said or did something cruel? What were they thinking? What held them there?

Unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons, I now know that it's not that simple. Or maybe it is. Maybe those of us who are guilty of enabling are blind or stupid - through a subtle combination of factors that include choice, denial, commitment, ignorance and deception. We don't set out to be enablers - to turn a blind eye to hurtful actions and attitudes. In looking back and now looking forward and seeing others in similar situations, it is apparent that what we experience is quite often a slow burn, a gradual change. It may happen so incrementally that it is difficult to pinpoint an actual moment in time when we realized that we were trapped in a cycle of abuse, if we are fortunate enough to realize it at all.

In referring to abuse, I am not referring to a few choice words from a cranky spouse who had a bad day, but someone whose behaviors betray a routine pattern of intentionally hurtful behaviors, neglect, or domination; someone for whom a good day might be an anomaly. This is not the gentleman who loses his temper once in a while, but someone who is a fight waiting to happen. His lifestyle is characterized by narcissism (extreme self-centeredness) evidenced by various overt or covert forms of domination, intimidation and hostility.

Do you feel as though you must walk on eggshells? Are you always striving to keep the peace? Do you keep your mouth shut most of the time, while in your heart and mind there is a growing burden of stress and fear? Do you try to convince yourself - or does he - that perhaps you are being excessively critical, overly sensitive or paranoid? Is your life a combination of confusion, hurt and anger that you work to keep under wraps as you try to maintain a modicum of normalcy in your home? It may be past time to take a closer look at how it all began and, if necessary, determine whether or how to get out and go on.

The first time cutting words were uttered you probably found a way to graciously look the other way. That's what love does right? He's just stressed about his job. Maybe I deserved it. He didn't mean it. The progression begins slowly and the hurt is only inflicted occasionally at first. Or maybe you are so shocked by his occasional lapse that it doesn't seem real - you think it must be a fluke, an irregularity, or a one-time-only incident. He may even readily apologize when the hurtful action is brought to this attention. But, the actions begin to bleed into other areas of your life, and over time you begin to wonder when things will go back to the way they were - or if they will.

Our culture's attentions are more readily sensitive to physical or sexual abuse. For my part, my husband never hit me, but my kids and I were subject to countless manifestations of emotional and verbal abuse. Before your write off those more subtle forms of abuse, understand that they leave scars as deep and lasting as any slap. The weapons and word choices are insidious, calculated and intended to inflict pain and fear. Such abuse needs to be identified as such, and rejected and fought with equal conviction.

Copyright 2010 all rights reserved

Cindy Burrell, a writer, wife, mother and a survivor of emotional abuse is here to tell you that there is hope...

After twenty years in an abusive relationship Cindy was left feeling lost, lonely and exhausted. She had learned to compromise her happiness in an unsuccessful attempt to stave off the onslaught of abuse. Her story is one of neglect, fear, lies, and addictions. Finally forced to leave their home with her four children, they escaped the emotional prison in which they had all lived. Although scars remain, Cindy and her children have found healing and restoration.

Currently, Cindy works as a professional writer/researcher for a California State Senator. She has served in similar capacities in the Legislature for many years while doing her own writing on the side. "I am an emotional/verbal abuse survivor, and I am - at long last - no longer afraid to share what the Lord has done for me."

See her web site at http://www.hurtbylove.com


The Types of Domestic Violence and How to Fight Back

Today, domestic violence is becoming a well-known problem, but few people realize that women in romantic relationships aren't the only victims. Domestic violence is defined as any violence that occurs in a household, whether between close family relationships or even among distant relatives who happen to be living under the same roof. The most widely publicized forms of domestic violence include that between the husband or father as abuser and girlfriends, wives, and children as victims, although it can actually occur between any family members.

Domestic abuse may occur in a wide variety of situations. It may include not only physical abuse, but also sexual abuse, in which the abuser uses force to compel the victim to participate in a sexual act. This can occur even if the victim and the abuser are married or in a romantic relationship. Although identification of physical or sexual domestic abuse is not difficult to uncover by those closest to the victims, it is often accompanied by emotional abuse. The symptoms of this type of domestic abuse are more difficult to uncover. Emotional abuse that falls under the category of domestic abuse may include financial dependence on the abuser, humiliation or embarrassment in public, or isolation from friends or family. This type of abuse makes it more difficult for victims of domestic violence to reach out for help, and leaves lasting psychological scars.

Even when those closest to the victim are aware of the situation, putting an end to the violence is a bit harder. It is all too easy to tell victims of ongoing domestic violence or verbal assaults to simply get out of the situation. Victims are often reluctant to break apart family relationships, especially if kids are involved, or have been conditioned to accept this mistreatment at the hands of their abuser. As a result, domestic violence may go on for years. In the most problematic cases, victims never leave the relationship, and may even end up dying at the hands of their abuser.

Standing up against the abuser or speaking out about the situation may be the most effective means of stopping it, but it's also the most problematic. Those who are abused are often fearful of retribution from the abuser, and instead hope that the problem will go away on its own. Many victims feel that they have nowhere to turn and no resources to get out of the situation. The longer the domestic violence and abuse continues, the more resigned victims may become to it.

The key to escaping domestic violence is empowerment and confidence. Victims of domestic abuse must realize that they do not have to remain victims. Protection from the abuser is available in many forms, including pepper sprays, stun guns, and TASER devices. The point of such self defense devices is to enable victims of violence, whether domestic violence by a close relative, or a random street attack, to fight back. With regard to domestic violence and most other violent situations, awareness is essential. You have to be aware of what is going on around you, and make the conscious decision to not become a victim of the situation.

Resist Attack has a full range of pepper sprays to keep you and your family safe. Also check for current specials on our tasers.

By Richard Armen
God didn't put you with an abusive mate. Your flesh did.

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