Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

January 08, 2007

puzzled minds and abuse

For two days after a disturbing telephone call from her adult son, Glynnis, 59, felt troubled. She tried to fill her mind with happy thoughts by doing simple 'calming' things - but nothing worked.

"The last thing I said to him, before he ended the telephone call, was that I felt like a knife had been stuck into me, that someone hates me and wants to kill me," says Glynnis. "I didn't infer it was him - and he didn't take it that way. I just told him how I felt. It was an incredibly strange feeling."

"Although my son's call was about a problem he was having with his father, I wasn't thinking about the hell that man put me years ago," explains Glynnis. "I was fully in the present - the past is over - and I was wondering what I had done to deserve my son trying to drag me into a situation that had nothing to do with me."

"He knows full well that I don't want to hear his father's name any more and that whatever problems he has with the man he should handle them with him, not me," says Glynnis, "so I was looking at this situation as being strictly between my son and I, nobody else."

"I spent two days trying to take my fair share of responsibility for the disturbing telephone call. "says Glynnis. "Sure, I listened to what he had to say when I had a choice to tell him to stop; I replied to his accusations when I had the choice to say nothing; and I basically tolerated his continuing insensitive behavior when I had the choice to hang up. I concluded that nothing I could have done would have changed anything. He telephoned me - I didn't telephone him - so the ball was essentially in his court, and once he lobbed it into my guts I would have felt hurt no matter what I did - whether I told him to stop, said nothing or hung up. A dirty deed had been done and I was at the receiving end of it."

"All I could do was take responsibility for my feelings," explains Glynnis. "But I was taking responsibility for something I didn't understand. I was blaming myself for something I didn't do. I was feeling bad about myself for no reason whatsoever. I felt guilty, but I had no idea what I had done to feel guilty about. My conscience was clear, so why was I so troubled?"

"In short, I was experiencing all of the classical symptoms of being a victim in an abusive relationship."

"Because I had been in control of my life for such a long time I suppose I thought I was immune to being deeply hurt by anyone's abuse," explains Glynnis. "Sure, lots of people have said and done hurtful things to me over the years since my divorce - it's almost de rigeur at work for the young upstarts to put down the oldies like me - but the hurt is always superficial, it doesn't last long."

"Also, I felt safe with my son," explains Glynnis. "I didn't expect him to abuse me, and because I didn't expect him to behave this way I suppose I didn't want to recognize the signs."

"Had the call come from anyone else, the 'abuse shield' would have gone up and I would have terminated the call at the first sign of trouble," explains Glynnis. "There are very few people I take calls from without the 'abuse shield', and my son is one of them. I was totally trusting of him - totally at his mercy - and he took advantage of my vulnerability."

"By the time the pieces of the puzzle had well and truly fallen into place I felt really bad," says Glynnis. "It just goes to show that once you've been abused - no matter how long ago it was - you just can't afford to lift the 'abuse shield' on anybody."

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