I read two blog comments and a couple of articles recently that made me sit up straight – very straight indeed. The topic was abuse and it made me realise how relatively easy it is to talk about abuse when it concerns an identifiable victim and a perpetrator as two or several people, when we talk about physical, mental, emotional, financial or sexual abuse. Even the term ‘self-abuse’ has become part of our daily language and we associate it with any kind of visible self-harm, as in cutting or under-eating for example.
But what about the application of the term ‘abuse’ when it comes to drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, kicking the dog in anger, spending hours gaming or watching TV, punching a hole in the wall, slamming a door?
It gets a little uncomfortable when we start talking about the possibility of describing as abuse pastimes that we might frequently dabble in, resort to, if not rely upon as coping mechanisms and for a sense of equilibrium. As forthright citizens, we might rightly say that we don’t inflict sexual, physical, mental, financial or emotional abuse – but what happens when we go a little deeper and examine the real quality of our daily lived life, what we do to others and especially, what we do to ourselves? And yes, I am not talking about cutting here, I am talking about drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco or any other substance, about going to bed later than what our body clearly signals to us, about asking our body to do the impossible, day in and day out.
Dr Eunice Minford, a general surgeon in Northern Ireland, asks in her article, ‘Abuse – just a way of life’ (1) whether abusing ourselves has become our everyday reality and is now considered normal. Her answer, by implication, is a clear yes; self-abuse in its ‘finer’ detail has become a way of life and is deemed normal. Sobering indeed.
The question is: what do we opt for and busy ourselves with, instead of addressing our deleterious food and beverage choices or our pastimes, from evermore entertainment to gaming and harming food and beverage choices?
Is it possible that abuse starts with self-abuse and our unwillingness to be honest and admit that a lot of our so-called ‘normal’ behaviours are in fact self-abusive? For example: when a child is tired and we refuse to let them go to sleep, but forcefully keep them up by any means possible, we would call that abuse and sleep deprivation. But we so easily do this to ourselves, pushing past the point of enough is enough and often right into exhaustion, if not ultimately a diagnosable illness. What’s the difference?
How can this be abuse if inflicted on another but not self-abuse when we do it to ourselves?
By Gabriele Conrad, Goonellabah NSW
- Minford, Eunice (2017). Abuse – just a way of life. | The Soulful Doctor | Eunice Minford. [online] The Soulful Doctor | Eunice Minford. Available at: http://thesoulfuldoctor.co.uk/blog/abuse-just-a-way-of-life [Accessed 19 Dec. 2017].