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

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. “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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. “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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.”

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s