The Residual Effects of Domestic Abuse

In Domestic Abuse Posts By Barbara, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

I have always believed that long after the physical scars of domestic abuse have healed, the mental scars were still ever present and would remain until such time as we could reach the point where we understood what those scars actually are and how they continue to influence our lives.  For many, the discovery comes through therapy and a willingness to face those realities in order to move on from the trauma that is left in the wake of the abuse.  But, for others like me, I buried all of it and with that came a lack of understanding of how that would continue to influence my entire life for many years to come in ways that I did not recognize.  Until now!!!

As a result of recent events in my life, I have now come to an understanding that my interactions with others have been completely influenced by the abuse.  But, I wish to also note that this is not a bad thing.  If anyone approaches me in any sort of aggressive or angry or loud manner, I shut down and do not respond in any physical or verbal manner.  I have learned that anyone who is approaching me with this demeanor is not in a position to have a rational discussion or to hear anything that I might have to say. And should I say or do anything that could even be remotely interpreted to be aggressive, the attacker’s behavior will only increase in intensity and any interaction will be viewed as equally confrontational.

I must admit that it has taken me a long time to understand this point.  Although the abuse did ultimately teach me to always back away, the initial response came out of fear.  I was afraid when any kind of aggression came my way, even in the form of a raised voice that I needed to be quiet and remove myself from the situation as quickly as possible for fear of reprisal.  After all, when the attack came in the form of a loaded gun in your face to back up that verbal assault, you learn that being quiet is the best way to keep the situation from escalating.

Although I often find myself in the same fear-based reaction to aggression after all of these years after the physical abuse has been removed, I have finally come to the understanding that there is never anything positive to come out of any interaction that is driven by a negative emotion.  It doesn’t matter whether it is in your own home with you partner or your children or other relatives or friends.  It doesn’t matter whether it occurs on the job or whether it is on a one on one basis or in front of a huge audience.  You do not need to prove anything about yourself in that moment and if you can take a step back and try to understand what is really being said or how the aggressor is really feeling, you will be able to turn the negative incident into a future positive interaction that may be beneficial to all.  After all, by stepping back and not interacting in the moment, you not only have the opportunity to keep it from escalating but also it will quickly diffuse itself without your adding fuel to the fire.  And that is the best outcome to any aggressive situation, if you ask me.

If you or anyone you know is in a Domestic Abuse situation, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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