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  • Writer's pictureMatt Gray

What is Abuse???

Okay. So in my last post I talked a lot about abuse, and my own actions. A lot of people have abusive traits, and getting them to see them, and own them, can be very very difficult. That begs the question, what exactly is abuse?? Is it always hitting, or screaming?? Of course not. Abuse exists in many, many forms, and I'd like to talk about some of them, where they come from, and what they look like.

An act of abuse is any act that causes pain, or distress. Straight up, period. Obviously this doesn't mean that every time that you upset someone you are abusing them, but there is a lot more abuse in society than we are really willing to admit. Most "toxic" traits are abusive traits. I'm going to use the word toxic moving forward in this post, not because I'm not talking about abuse, but people might be more willing to look at themselves as "toxic" vs "abusive". It's not that I am necessarily trying to be "gentle" on abusers, it's just that people often aren't willing to apply such a loaded word to themselves. I found it much easier to refer to my traits as toxic, when really... what they are is abusive.

Yesterday I had a very productive therapy session, that while very hard, was very productive. I've not had very much help in regards to much in my life, but there have been a few people that have really been there. My therapist is one of those people. The rest of them I was either way too much for, my novelty wore off, or I chased them away with abusive behavior.

I'll give one example of my own toxic behavior. This is just one, I have plenty. All my life I was never asked to explain my actions. I always had my own actions explained to me, and then it was up to me to dispute them, or clarify my actions. So I was constantly facing accusations whenever my actions weren't understood, or the whole picture wasn't there. Or... when I had actually done something wrong, but that usually wasn't the case. When I explained myself, the problem always went away, just like "Oh, okay that makes sense." and everybody moved on. This was how my family communicated. This was how most of my partners communicated things to me as well. See, eventually it didn't even bother me at all. I was so comfortable with being accused of things because I just rationalized it as "Okay, they are telling me how they perceive my actions, and now I will clarify to ease their mind." I thought that I was being understanding, and open minded. Except all I was doing was normalizing being accused of things as a valid communication technique. I never learned how to ask questions that I found distressing.

So moving forward, in my own personal relationships with peers, friends, partners... I didn't know how to ask questions properly. I didn't know how to communicate that need at all. So I would do what I was taught when I didn't understand something, which was look at all the information from my own perspective, find a possible scenario, and then suggest that scenario, and hopefully I would get it explained to me from their perspective which would clear everything up. At least that's what I thought I was doing. All I was doing was using the same rationalizing to justify my own actions. It's the same way I rationalized it when it was happening to me, to not have it hurt as much. What I was really doing was making blatant and baseless accusations. Which is difficult to admit, because I consider myself a kind person, and I think of myself as very loving and supportive, so how could I possibly be an abuser???

This is a hurdle that, unfortunately, most people cannot clear. For a lot of reasons, but the main one being that it's just too hard to look at yourself, to look at something that you didn't "feel" any bad or hurtful intentions behind, and admit that it was toxic. To admit that it caused you loss. It doesn't feel fair, because it's all you know how to do. You can't admit that you are toxic, because how will you ever have a proper relationship with anybody?? You can't. Trust me. I've tried my absolute hardest. It typically takes great loss to finally be willing to see that, and it can get lost in translation with all the anger, frustration, and hurt that you feel. It seems pointless, because it's always too late when you get to that point, and all you can do is accept the great loss, and accept that you failed. And you did fail. You failed horribly, and deserve no sympathy for your failure. That's even further isolating, and most people aren't willing to accept that. Especially when they have unresolved pain, unresolved questions, unresolved everything.

What's the point when everything is already ruined?? You're getting a divorce, your friend has said they're done with you, your partner has left, or coworkers have asked not to work with you. Yes, everything is ruined. Everything important to you may even be ruined, trust me, I've ruined everything that's ever been important to me, I understand. Just because you've ruined everything doesn't mean that you're ruined. I know this is hard, and it's especially hard on your own, which you probably are if you're in this situation. I'm "lucky" in the sense that I've hit an absolute rock bottom 4 or so times in my life, and I've never been able to keep a single person there when I was going through the worst of it all, so I've at least got some experience picking myself up off the floor. There's that resilience I was talking about, I guess.

You're not ruined. I'm not ruined. These are learned behaviors, and if you are willing to truly be accountable, you can learn new behaviors. Anybody can. I have 4 or 5 different behaviors that I need to learn to replace with new ones, but I have already started to do so. It will be a long time before you feel "good" about yourself. It will be a long time before you stop feeling shame, and guilt. You have to accept that. You have to wear it, and you have to feel it. It's an important part of making sure that you don't repeat those behaviors. This sounds like doom and gloom, and an awful experience, but feeling that guilt gives you something else, if you want. By feeling that guilt, you are truly recognizing what you've done. By truly recognizing what you've done you can look at it, you can understand it, and you can change it. Knowing these things let's you feel something even more important. Hope. Hope that you can end this cycle. Hope that you can feel something other than alone. Hope is another word that I have tattood on myself, because sometimes it was the only thing I was clinging on to. Hope is what leads to believing that you can change, and believing you can change is the first step in actually changing. Most people aren't willing to take that step, because its like admitting defeat, admitting you are a failure. You are. You have failed. That doesn't mean you have to fail again.

It also doesn't mean you won't fail again. See, I've always felt abandoned, or rejected by those close to me, but the truth is that I just failed. I address that failure, change my behavior, and find the next toxic thing about myself. It's part of the reason that I am so isolated, and why I won't be finding anybody to be particularly close to any time soon. I've found other goals that don't involve close relationships to focus on while I work on becoming a better person myself.

So in closing I just want to say that it's not your fault that you were treated that way. It's not your fault that you had to get taught that way. It's not, and you can't blame yourself or feel shame about that. You also can't rationalize the way you were treated, because rationalizing toxic behavior is a surefire way to ensure that it continues. And that is your fault. Continuing toxic behavior is 100% your fault, and 100% your responsibility to change. No, it's not fair at all, it's not easy at all, but you are the only one that can stop it. You have a responsibility to both yourself, and anybody close to you to stop the toxic behavior. I can do it, and so can you. I am here to help.

I've been the liar. I've been the player. I've been the scumbag. I've been the bad friend. I've been the abuser. I've hurt many many people, but I don't think that those are the things that I *am* as a person, and to believe that I need to know that I am changing, and to know that I am changing I have to do the work. You can do it too, as soon as you're ready.

Thank you for reading.


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