Life after Family Violence and Abuse: Learning to Love Myself

As a child I grew up living in an environment of family violence and abuse. One of my siblings had an intellectual disability coupled with a complement of disorders that played out in regular psychotic and violent episodes. This was experienced as excessive controlling, manipulative and aggressive behaviour that exacerbated in puberty when physical size and strength intensified the periods of rage.

Whilst there was physical assault on family members and sometimes members of the public, the abuse extended to self-harm with cutting, punching windows and walls and swallowing fabric and toilet paper, which resulted in hospitalisation. It wasn’t uncommon to be threatened with knives and scissors, particularly as we woke from sleep, but most of the time these items were hidden in the strangest of places to protect us from physical harm.

I was the youngest child and my role was to be the ‘runner’ because I was fast. I had to run with my dog in my arms to protect her from harm, and I had to run to get my father to come and help with these episodes.

Each week there would usually be an incident and I would need to be locked in the house for safety. I watched out the window as my father tried to calm down my brother but his rage was overpowering. My father would be punched, hit and wrestled to the ground as he tried his best to defend himself. On many occasions my brother had to be taken to hospital and I would stay home with my sister to clean up the mess that was left behind.

My parents forbade us from talking to outsiders about what was going on in the home and we were told a story that we were to repeat if anybody asked. We had to honour my brother’s right to privacy – but I always felt the real reason for the silence was because my parents felt embarrassed, ashamed and blamed themselves. I honoured their wishes and kept the secret.

Living daily in this environment took its toll and I began to shut down from life. I became so deeply saddened and watched as my parents hardened from the pain of it all. They functioned of course, and provided for us, but they were struggling to cope with life themselves. The tenderness that I once enjoyed from my mother was replaced with panic, stress and nervous tension, and my father regressed into a depression where I could no longer reach him. I missed seeing the loveliness of my parents which I remembered all too well from those early years.

Quite often when an episode of violence subsided there was a short period of time where my brother expressed a genuine display of tenderness and concern for what had happened. As a child I felt these moments provided me with a glimpse as to who my brother really was, although it was never long before the threat of violence returned.

In my teenage years I found myself unable to deal with the relentless fear and anxiety as well as the sadness, anger and frustration. I didn’t want to feel what I was feeling, nor could I stand to see my brother control the family with threats of violence anymore. I chose drugs and alcohol in an attempt to dull the hurt.

One evening at a teenage party I was raped whilst intoxicated by alcohol and drugs. It was at this point I became more harsh and critical of myself, which was exacerbated by the cocktail of substances I continued to consume. The care I gave my physical body at this time was functional at best, and there was little true connection or tenderness for myself, let alone anyone else.

By now I had hardened myself to my brother and completely ignored him even though we resided in the same home. I cannot describe the level of anger and resentment I felt towards him, which of course would have been felt by him as well.

I had longed for the time when I could leave home and did so immediately after I completed high school. This triggered many episodes for my brother who wanted the same opportunities. Eventually an aggressive and violent incident placed him in the hands of the police and it was here that life changed for everyone. My brother was placed in a facility where his behaviour could be managed.

Returning to Love

Many years later at age 34 I started attending Universal Medicine presentations and with the loving support of a number of Esoteric practitioners and the student body I learned to pull down the protective wall that I had built as a child. I started to let people in and trust once again.

I realised that I had avoided taking the powerful step to provide myself with love, care and tenderness and was instead waiting for someone else to show me love, as I did not love myself.

Seeing a greater truth and healing childhood hurts

I visited my brother only a couple of times when he left home as it was always so difficult to be reminded of the way it was in my childhood. When we met as a family, we would immediately settle into the same uncomfortable roles.

Recently, however, I felt it was time to reconnect and so I organised a visit. My awareness on this visit was so much greater than ever before and whilst much about the visit felt familiar, there was a lot that felt different too.

I could feel on this visit how much I cared for my brother and I could feel his loveliness too. My brother really liked people, and this came to me as a great surprise. There were many times when I was able to observe how open and trusting of others he could be and that he didn’t hold back from saying hello and starting a conversation with a stranger. He was reflecting to me something that showed that I could be open like this too.

It was touching for me to observe the genuine level of care and support offered to my brother by his care workers; it made me see that he too is being given the opportunity to evolve and to choose more self-loving ways. It became clear that the opportunity to return to love is there for us all – notwithstanding our ailments, disability, past hurts and prior behaviour.

There were many opportunities and reasons for my brother to withdraw from humanity because of the way that he was treated and yet he did not choose this for himself. As a child he was teased by other children because he was different, he became obese as a teenager and was watched and whispered about as he walked down the street. Now in his early 40s he has lost his teeth and his appearance is that of someone in their 70s. For the first time I realised that my brother had his own hurts and that he was more than his behaviour.

In the past I had distanced myself from my brother but I realised after this visit that we shared a similarity – we held deep hurts and we reacted to those hurts with anger. The only difference was that I buried my pain while he exploded with his. These behaviours kept people out of our hearts so that we didn’t have to feel the pain that was inside of us, and we both suffered as a result.

Throughout my healing of family violence and abuse, I realised how easily I had given up on my own love and self-worth, and how the pain from years of self-abuse hurt much more than the actions of those I had allowed to abuse me. I experienced first-hand that the more I honoured and nurtured myself, the more naturally I allowed myself to trust and feel love for others, including those who behaved unlovingly in the past. I now hold a greater understanding about my life and feel a newfound freedom to be my true loving self.

With love and deep appreciation to Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine for supporting me throughout my healing process.

by MAS

Related reading:
From Self-loathing to Self-love – Rediscovering my Inner Essence after Sexual Assault and Rape
From Self-Abuse and Disregard to Dedication to Life and Self-Love

697 thoughts on “Life after Family Violence and Abuse: Learning to Love Myself

  1. I find this image of ‘running with the dog’ a sobering one that can be read at many levels. For in this situation, not only are we running from abuse, we are also running from love. I am not for a second saying that at a temporal level one should not run when there is the threat of imminent danger but more so that when we are given the task ‘to run’ for our own personal safety, we learn to develop behaviours that are security based and then we do not adjust these when there is no danger at hand. In this way we learn to live with a wall of protection around us and by the actions of one, we condemn the many. That is, because we are so hurt by the actions and behaviours of one person, we learn to keep the whole world out. Thus our life becomes about self-preservation and not love.

    Most, if not all of us, have been in some way affected by this very scenario, albeit the play out of abuse being in varying degrees. Your experience here MAS is a great example of how we can turn this situation around and let love back in and out of our hearts by being open and willing to see and feel the part we have played in it all and also what is being reflected back to us through another.

  2. What an incredible story, thank you for sharing – yes we are all on our paths of evolution, healing hurts and dealing with difficulties. Some of us show these in a more obvious ways and others have found clever ways to suppress what doesn’t feel so good, but eventually we will all have to deal with it all.

  3. Letting go of all those layers of protection we have when we have shut down to people and life because of abuse or our hurts is indeed a blessing. As we get to feel our natural tenderness of nature and start to let others in again.

  4. This is an amazing story that I would say is pretty rare. That you have been able to reconcile and heal old wounds and hurts to do with family from the past and as a result feel closer to your brother now rather than drifting further and further apart from one another or just not speaking to each other at all which is what usually happens. And I can see how the change happened inside you first and then you were able to view things differently from there.

  5. There is such a depth of understanding in what is shared here, how in fact there is a step we can all take to love ourselves first and always no matter what .. we do not have to wait for another to do so, and the way to truly love others and let them in, is to love and deeply connect with us first.

  6. What a tender and heart warming sharing. When you shared how you could see you were both hurt and expressing that hurt in anger but that one was more obvious than the other I could see how often we tend to judge and not take time to look below the outward appearance.

  7. It is very inspiring to feel how returning to and reconnecting with our true essence allows us to come back to the absolute truth beyond the hurt, and because of this hurt, we are also able to be understanding of others.

  8. Acts of violence and abuse against ourselves or each other are totally alien to our true nature. What has happened to us that we can commit such acts against one another?

  9. To see that no matter how devastating a past we may have experienced, there is a way of coming back to an openness, love and tenderness that is truly remarkable. Thank you for sharing your story, MAS.

  10. ‘…how the pain from years of self-abuse hurt much more than the actions of those I had allowed to abuse me. ‘ Thank you for sharing this MAS. Wise words and a powerful awareness.

  11. A truly inspiring blog to read MAS. A great insight into the devastating affect of behaviours acted out from personal hidden hurts and keeping people at a distance.
    These behaviours kept people out of our hearts so that we didn’t have to feel the pain that was inside of us, and we both suffered as a result.

  12. What a joy to read that you were able to find the support to connect to who you truly are after the experience you had growing up. It shows that we are not our hurts, and whilst we might take a lot on, underneath it all is the truth and love of who we are.

  13. ‘How the pain from years of self-abuse hurt much more than the actions of those I had allowed to abuse me.’ This is a powerful statement MAS, to be open to this truth we allow the body to deeply heal and to begin to let go of the hurts that have imprisoned us and kept us further away from love.

  14. Amazing story. For me it seems that wanting to keep what was going on within the home and not getting support with the situation caused it to become intolerable leading to depression in your father and deep giving up in yourself. Surely we need to be open about what is going on and get any support we can to deal with it.

  15. The best part about this piece for me, is when you talk about seeing someone – your brother – as more than just his behaviours, seeing him for the both the hurt person that he is and the beautiful person that he is too.

  16. Incredible sharing the fear that you must of lived with as a child growing up is quite intense. It is so lovely to read your way back to seeing your brother beyond his behaviour and to learn from his strengths be inspired by his willingness to grow. It’s so painful how we protect ourselves from harm, which is the greatest harm of all.

  17. What goes on behind the closed doors of many homes in our society and is considered normal in that home would completely shock others – and being aware of and accepting this fact supports us all.

  18. The biggest abuse in this world is the lie we have told to ourselves that we have no say in what takes place in our life. It takes great honesty to finally admit, all the harm and horrible events, we were the ones playing a huge role in causing it. Thank you MAS for sharing here.

  19. Energy is a world of only yes. So, being aware of what we are saying yes to is crucial. There are many situations where we are perfectly justified to alter our movements (in other words, there are situations that provide the perfect alibi to go down). Yet, to go down is a choice, to be carried by whatever is at stake is a choice, to make an issue out of something is a choice. If we say yes to whatever invites us to go down, we invite that energy to stay with us and to tone us (in other words, we expect the energy we invited in to settle and do its job).

  20. It’s amazing what you’ve shared about feeling the freedom of enjoying being YOU without regrets or guilt that ‘you’ have done things wrong. We can create prison walls around ourselves by entertaining self abuse and self loathing, and this is what’s so crippling.

  21. Once we shut down to one person or situation it’s just a matter of time before the next. The great thing though is that opening up and getting free also has this domino effect. We’re always on a role – it’s just which direction we’re headed to. Thank you MAS.

    1. Love this analogy or metaphor – I can never remember which one it is- domino effect, our choice which way it flows.

  22. ” Recently, however, I felt it was time to reconnect and so I organised a visit. ” This is lovely its so important, not to give up. Its important to be aware that no matter what everyone has the opportunity and possibility to live the truth.

  23. No matter how much violence and abuse we have experienced there is always a part of us that remains intact and not touched by the situation. This part of us can be tapped into and allowed to blossom whenever we choose to deeply connect with ourselves.

  24. This article is great, it is oh so very possible to heal our hurts, which allows us to open and let those in our life whom have abused us or even annoyed us in to our hearts and lives. In fact as is shared here the more open we become, the more awareness is there for us to feel and deeply understand. The beauty in this is that we are dependent on no one. It is simply up to ourselves to bring back to our own lives, our love.

  25. it needs a lot of honesty to oneself to be able to see that is is not only we who are hurt by life, but that actually everybody lives with hurts which they have contracted in life. Through this insight we find that we actually are all the same and in a way united instead of divided by the hurts we carry.

  26. “I could feel on this visit how much I cared for my brother and I could feel his loveliness too.” what a profound shift and one that shows us all how its possible to u-turn our lives and make them one of love and truth. Deeply inspiring for all you’ve been through and a great confirmation for everyone who has been through something similar or indeed our own path of abuse.

  27. Incredible that you’ve been able to see your brother in a totally different light, understanding that his behaviour, and his hurts aren’t him, and that you were both hurt but reacting in different ways. Learning to love ourselves by taking deep nourishing care of ourselves, supports our understanding of, and relationships with everyone else.

  28. Understanding the true nature of who we are dispels the lies we have been carrying of the hurts from when we were young, for in truth as children we are love and we cannot get hurt but what we carry is the hurt of another who was not capable of embracing all of who we were.

  29. ‘I realised that I had avoided taking the powerful step to provide myself with love, care and tenderness and was instead waiting for someone else to show me love, as I did not love myself.’ Waiting for confirmation from others we completely hand ourselves over to outside influences.

    1. Hi Jenny, in a way you could say that we have conditions to live the love we innately are. If there is no love reflected to me from the world I will not live the love I am, that kind of conditions.. But this chicken and the egg story can only be broken by us choosing to let go of these conditions and to live the love we are to the best of our ability.

  30. Extreme behaviour such as this requires the details of Love in its ways to re-claim back the truth of connecting back to our untouched pure essence. My experience has been – taking responsibility to connect to my essence is a far better intenseness than not, because there is a feeling of grace that will be felt compared to not feeling it at all or not recognising it as you because of the known abusive behaviours. Instead you have “These behaviours kept people out of our hearts so that we didn’t have to feel the pain that was inside of us, and we both suffered as a result.” a viscous circle. There will be intenseness always no matter if you choose love or not however, choosing the love and being responsible will result in the grace.

  31. What we can manifest thinking we are avoiding our hurts and protecting ourselves is one of the most device tricks we can play on ourselves.

  32. What an incredible blog MAS, there is no hurt to great that we can not heal if we are willing to make the moves towards love.

  33. To choose love and healing is by far the greatest understanding one can come to with such a topic. Saying YES to what is our true potential reflects so powerfully to others who say NO.

  34. To choose love when it was not offered from our families is a huge marker of the level of healing this writer has chosen to say yes to. I am deeply inspired by your transformation.

  35. What an incredible story MAS, and I take my hat off to you for being so honest. What I love about this story is that it tells us that no matter how bad things have been in the past, we can still come back out of it, and that there is always another way to live.

  36. I appreciate your honest sharing, and how you took responsibility to change your life, ‘I realised that I had avoided taking the powerful step to provide myself with love, care and tenderness and was instead waiting for someone else to show me love, as I did not love myself.’

  37. MAS its great that you were able to see past your brothers behaviours to the person he is underneath. I have had similar experiences with family members where I have become closer to them because I have dropped my judgements.

  38. Thank you so very much MAS for sharing this. There is an incredible reflection here for me to choose to stay open regardless of what might be before me that is uncomfortable, and even threatening. Learning that shutting down our hearts is a truly powerful lesson and appreciating we are choosing this offers deep support and foundation to let go of the hurts.

  39. Wow. An amazing story of how seeing and appreciating ourselves for who we are would allow us to see and appreciate others past their behaviour for who they truly are. It is very humbling to feel your commitment to love.

  40. A truly inspiring sharing. Thank you, MAS, for such an open and honest account. We all carry unresolved hurts that we endeavour to protect ourselves from feeling, which result in unloving, social behavours that keep “others out from our hearts”. However, when you heal and resolve those hurts then, what you say here is so true “I experienced first-hand that the more I honoured and nurtured myself, the more naturally I allowed myself to trust and feel love for others, including those who behaved unlovingly in the past.”

  41. The greatest abuse is self abuse. The self talk, how we move our bodies, how we care for it,or not, how we think about ourselves are just a few of the ways we self abuse. This behaviour is deeply painful, yet it is deemed as normal and how life is, so it is not very often called out for the true abuse it is. I love that this article points out that it carries a a pain equal to if not greater than the abuse we receive from others.

    1. Very well expressed, Leigh. The greatest pain to heal and resolve is the pain from not honouring and loving ourselves.

  42. What a traumatic childhood,quite extraordinary how, through the support of Universal Medicine you have turned your life around from blame to self responsibility.

  43. This is such a great realisation –”the pain from years of self-abuse hurt much more than the actions of those I had allowed to abuse me”. It is not so much what happens to us in life but how we are with ourselves within it that either heals or harms us. When we take it on that there is something wrong with us because of what we have experienced that is when things go very wrong. If we were able to stay steady with our own love when things happen in life and know that we/ people are not their behaviours we would be able to support ourselves much more.

  44. We are not our hurts or behaviours. Learning to separate behaviours from the person is a huge gift to be able to observe and connect to people at their core first. In other words, when we connect to the essence of someone it is then simple to nominate or say no to the behaviour because it does not match the quality of the person – this way they feel held and safe to look at the behaviour themselves and not judged or criticised for it.

  45. Thank you MAS for sharing your experiences and your wisdom. Learning to love, nurture and care for ourselves is certainly the key, along with appreciating the responsibility we are now taking and the choices we are making.

  46. Thank you for sharing this MAS. Learning to love ourselves is very beautiful, claiming back our power to care and nurture for ourselves rather than try to get others to do it for us. The latter does not really work. We live in the loving beholding embrace of God constantly and yet, if we are not first loving with ourselves we are not aware of the fact. What an awesome reflection you offer your family and of course the world now.

  47. Thank you MAS, no matter the severity and traumas we have experienced in the past we always have a choice to process what has happened and understand the opportunity we get given at all times to be more understanding, more loving and true to ourselves and others.

  48. Beautiful how you can observe the difference in your brother, holding no judgment or prejudice and allow the past to rest, through building your own self-love and letting go of the hurts that we so often allow to own us.

  49. Revisiting this blog MAS it is just as compelling and powerful each time I read it… there is no hurt too great to heal, and every person deserves the chance to do so. What you were able to observe in your brother once you had let go your own hurts, anger and resentment is profound, and is key for us all to be able to see who someone truly is… and not just condemn them for their unsavoury behaviours.

  50. It’s something profound to come to the realisation that everyone and everything that appears in our life does so to reflect to us something crucial. There is no accident, coincidence at all. Perhaps we can hear this and understand in our head – but do we really let ourselves feel the extent of what this means? No matter the difficulty or issue we see, we are totally supported and strong enough in every way to see the true lesson that presents today – thank you MAS for being so open and sharing your path.

  51. MAS a very honest sharing of the abuse you experienced and the violence you witnessed during your childhood, when we open ourselves up to love, there is space for us to heal those hurts we have carried around for so long, and as we build a deeper connection with ourselves, our self-love and confidence grow too.

  52. We have to be aware that there are many possible formats for a family life that feels like a prison you cannot escape from. Violence is only one of them. The key is to free yourself in your body from the jail you have accepted (at some level) to be in. To do so, the help of esoteric practitioners is just invaluable.

    1. Yes Eduardo Feldman domestic violence in one of the most obvious ones but there are many that are considered socially acceptable that are far from true in many family set ups. Have we considered culture, religion, gender and many more? The impact these make on how we are raised has lead to many levels of abuse in adult behaviour that may not show the physical scares of domestic violence yet bring the same levels of abuse to the body and how we live in the world today.

  53. A powerful account of what was a very rough upbringing. What an opportunity it was to go back and have another look at what had happened and what was going on in your family. One part I read was funny in way where we look at someone in a rage as being worse then someone who chooses to bury the same emotion as the author has pointed out and yet here the two are bought into one. It shows to me how our perception still has eyes on what things look like and not on how they feel. In this way this style of growing up or house feels more like what I would think a war zone feels like rather then a house that genuinely nurtures us to grow up.

  54. “As a child I grew up living in an environment of family violence and abuse.” These words can be claimed by far too many people, we have allowed a standard of living that accepts abuse as a part of it’s day-to-day runnings.

  55. Working in homes that house people such as your brother, I can only imagine what life would be like if you don’t get to go home between shifts and have a break from the potential outbursts that happen. So much understanding is needed to not react to the violence and damage done. It is gorgeous that you have come to a place where you now have this and how this has allowed you let go of the pain and embrace a new way to truly love yourself.

  56. Learning to love ourselves by healing our hurts and taking responsibility for how we live in the world is healing for ourselves and others. A great blog to come back to MAS, thank you.

  57. MAS thank you again for sharing your story, there is an equalising and levelling for us all in your blog, as regardless of how we may seem on the surface or in our behaviour, we all feel hurts, we just may react differently to these. Essentially we all want love, understanding, and the opportunity to heal and reconnect back to the true essence of who we are within. I have personally found that it’s through healing my own hurts with the Universal Medicine therapies that has given me the understanding of others.

  58. “I realised that I had avoided taking the powerful step to provide myself with love, care and tenderness and was instead waiting for someone else to show me love, as I did not love myself.” Same for me too in the past. How can we say we truly love another if we don’t give ourselves that love first?

  59. Every perpetrator is a brother or sister equal to us, and the chosen violent behavior although not to be condoned, has to be understood why, and this would be possible if we first get our own hurts out of the way. Growing up in a violent family situation is not easy to say the least, but it is an opportunity to live the deep love we have for ourselves, and to others when we have first experienced it ourselves.

  60. With violence that happens within the family, we have to see beyond who is to blame, but to understand what was the energy that caused this to happen. Have we as family appreciated and confirmed each other and committed to harmony within our interactions in the family setting?

  61. The irony about abuse is that often when you grow up in an abusive environment you carry many unresolved hurts from that time that can fester and knaw at you. If these hurts are not resolved, healed and let go of you may choose to bury or numb them with self-abusive behaviours which only serves to feed the whole cycle of abuse all the more.

  62. Your blog shows that whomever we meet we should never judge as we do not know what their past and growing up has been like. Very inspiring.

  63. I love the honesty of what you’ve shared MAS…. and your statement that “the only difference was that I buried my pain while he exploded with his”. It takes a lot of responsibility to be self-reflective in the face of what you experienced and to not just live out your life condemning him for his actions and abuse towards you and others. Developing understanding is very powerful and deeply healing for everyone and does not excuse or absolve anyone from their actions, but offers a platform from which they can begin their own self-reflection and healing.

  64. This is a huge story and turn around. I can’t see anyone better qualified then you MAS to talk on these issues and bring a lot to light for us all as you have done here. To turn things around like this in what was a truly traumatic upbringing is huge in this day and age. I look at families around me and what we don’t discuss or let others know about and as we can see doing that doesn’t work. It maybe difficult or embarrassing at points to speak about things but we can all support each other just like you have done here MAS. Keeping quiet or keeping it within your own four walls isn’t supporting us and isn’t supporting our children. We don’t want to keep creating generations of silence around things we see and feel, we all need to open up.

  65. The more we trust and build a connection to ourselves, the more this extends to others. Thanks for sharing your story MAS, and how your work to build a connection with yourself also changed your relationship with your brother, offering you both an opportunity to heal.

  66. I love that you were willing to see the reflection of openness from your brother, so often when we react with hurt about someone’s behaviour we only acknowledge the behaviour and refuse to see that there is anything positive about that person which is greatly to ours and their detriment. In fact that world is fuelled by so many personal but also national hurts and the stubborn intractability of people refusing to see that there could be another way of viewing a situation. I was saddened recently when talking to a relative to hear the change in the tone of her voice when speaking about her sister because of the anger she still holds about a past incident with their mother many years ago and her resistance to seeing it in any other light than deliberately abusive. Being willing to work on and heal our hurts can be transformative in so many ways and I really appreciate you sharing your story from which we can all take so much.

  67. It is so healing when we can see past someone’s behaviour and recognise our similarities rather than constantly focussing on the hurts we have experienced because of their behaviour. The tenderness that is expressed in this blog is very moving and inspirational, it proves that we always have a choice to heal from past hurts and how this opens up new beginnings for all involved.

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