Reflections on Life Thus Far

My life. My story: Exploring mental health, spirituality, meditation & random thoughts I have

Abuse is Abuse is Abuse: Comparing One’s Suffering to Another’s is Futile


English: Join the movement to end child abuse:...

English: Join the movement to end child abuse: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Preface: I am writing this to no one in particular only those who have been abused and anyone who cares about them.

This post is inspired by another blogger mentioning their difficulty with accepting their experience as abuse due to there being worse cases on record*. Well I have been abused as a child and take special issue with this topic. When I was going through therapy I too had trouble calling my experiences abuse knowing there were much worse out there than mine. But the objective should not centre around quantitative measuring of a person’s experiences, as though it were possible to say definitively that one person’s abuse cancels another’s out. It is not for anyone but the abused to say if they suffered. Only I know my own suffering.

Diminishing people by discounting their experiences is cruel and in itself abusive. I know there will be people who think abuse is simply a term for people ‘too sensitive’ to cope with reality but, they too, likely knew abuse and lack compassion for fellow sufferers. One needs to be shown compassion by someone else in order to have it for one’s self and others. I feel that being competitive with abuse is unhealthy and no way to move toward healing. There are plenty of things to be competitive over in life, abuse shouldn’t be one of them. Try ‘drumming up’ a bit of empathy for your fellow humans.

Validation in itself can be greatly healing. Knowing someone believes you and has compassion for you can help immensely. Hearing my psychologist tell me that I was abused freed me from the shame that had bound me to the past. In my mind I knew I’d been treated wrongly but hearing it was abuse just gave me permission to stop blaming myself for it. No longer did I have to feel like it was ‘my fault’ somehow that my mother abused me. I could say to my inner child that it wasn’t your(my) fault and you(I) were innocent. Children depend on their parents to give them love and protection. It is never the child’s fault when a parent chooses to emotionally, physically or sexually abuse a child.

As children we end up blaming ourselves for any abuse we suffer though as a survival mechanism. It is in a child’s survival interests to not blame the parent(s) but oneself because it allows the child to believe they have control over their situation-if only they can figure out how to behave/perform the ‘right’ way. Sadly, it doesn’t matter how the child behaves because an abuser will always come up with a reason for dishing out the abuse.

Most often abusers are adults who were abused as children themselves and know no other way to parent/behave around children. Abusive parents/relatives typically are one more link in the chain of inter generational abuse. It is not usually stoppable until therapy is sought and some level of recovery is achieved. To deny abuse is to give permission for its perpetuation.

Alice Miller, psychoanalyst and author, has a term she uses to describe the cycle of abuse in families: repetition compulsion. The idea behind repetition compulsion is we will act out what we experienced onto those we are in charge of caring for until the specific abuse is acknowledged consciously. This explains how abused people can end up abusing their own children while never being conscious of the damage they’re doing. Part of the issue with repetition compulsion is the identification with one’s abuser-another survival instinct for children.  If one does not detach from identifying with their abuser they will rationalize it(the abuse) and continue to act it out onto the next generation.

I recommend anyone who has been abused who is having trouble accepting they were abused to readAlice

Cover of "For Your Own Good"

Cover of For Your Own Good

Miller‘s “For Your Own Good” or “The Body Never Lies“. She has written many books on child abuse and advocates strongly for children’s rights through her writing of psychoanalytical books. Her most recent book I am aware of is “The Body Never Lies” written in the late 2000s. If you read a few of her books you’ll realize she often repeats certain things in all of her books but I do not think it is a bad thing. She has her own style of writing and reiterating points in more than one book is fine in my opinion. It solidifies concepts and ideas at any rate. She might be a bit much for some people because she is relentlessly negative concerning parents-despite being one herself, but her messages are so valuable it would be worthwhile to read her books anyhow.

I hope that none of you( who’ve been abused) will tolerate anyone diminishing your experiences as abuse simply because the person is uncomfortable with it. Tough sh*t. When we were vulnerable children being abused it was uncomfortable for us too! You have the right to be safe and happy. Start with acknowledging what happened to you and not discounting it.

*Disclaimer: This post is written to no one in particular. It is a general statement only of my thoughts. No comments are intended to be directed at anyone specifically. Everything stated is of a general nature in its intention. Namaste.

May all beings be safe and free from harm.

© Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Author: Natalya

Blogging my thoughts and feelings about mostly mental health, meditation and spirituality(non religious). Hoping to connect with other interesting people in the blogosphere. *The name is Russian and is my pseudonym.

16 thoughts on “Abuse is Abuse is Abuse: Comparing One’s Suffering to Another’s is Futile

  1. Alice Miller is on my to-read list! I have heard great things about her, and that her work fits in very nicely with the other Adult Child and Family Systems writers. Thank you for the recommendations. 🙂

  2. Something I’ve only recently begun to acknowledge is that I DID NOT deserve to be ‘smacked’ as a child. For many years, I’d believed that it was an acceptable form of punishment, simply because it’s what my father did… But, NOBODY deserves that kind of punishment. There is always another way.

    I’d like to say that I’ll try and get hold of the book but, I am terrible at buying books and never opening them! I’m a writer, definitely not a reader… 🙂

    • It’s good you can realize that about the smacking. People are so quick to defend spanking and smacking children like it’s no big deal. This tends to be an older generation thing but it speaks to the belief a lot of older people hold ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. I used to naively believe the phrase was more like “Spare the rod. Spoil the child (instead)” LOL. Then I’d be confused when people said it in contexts I thought were unfitting!

      Alice Miller is great but I can’t say whether or not you’d like her writing. Maybe you can find a copy of one of her books at the library and just look it over 😉

  3. I’ve never heard of Alice Miller before…thanks for the suggestion.
    It is so hard to call it abuse when it’s ourselves we speak of. So much easier to see it clearly when it is someone else. Good reminder and validation!

  4. The only person who diminishes my experience is myself. The only persons experience I diminish is my own. I hope this “Try ‘drumming up’ a bit of empathy for your fellow humans.” wasn’t directed at me, for I know this post was as a result of mine. I am simply judging my own experiences. No one elses. I hope you can see that xx

    • Goodness, no! I didn’t mean to direct the drumming up empathy comment at you it was a more general statement. I really hope you are’t offended. I wrote the post after reading yours but in no way meant to attack you in any manner. The comments I make in the post are directed in a general manner not at you. The only thing I wanted to do was reassure you that your experience was abuse. I am really sorry if you took it in any other way.

      • Nope. Not offended. Just wanted to clear that up so that I didn’t go away with an excuse to feel shit about myself. I’m sorry, I’ve just learnt to be very honest with these little misunderstandings so they don’t grow into huge deals in my brain. Thanks for understanding! xx

      • That’s understandable. I suppose I could have made it clearer in my post it was addressing a general audience rather than anyone specifically. I was just really ‘fired up’ about getting my thoughts out and didn’t consider what I said might have been interpreted the wrong way. I’m glad you aren’t offended.

  5. I always say, “Don’t compare pain.” I’ve had my privilege used against me too many times.

    Thanks for writing this!

    • I’m glad it resonated with you. Too many people pick apart others over things that shouldn’t even matter. What matters is the suffering that occurred. Getting rapt up in details is simply a lack of empathy.

      • Exactly!

        I’ve also tried to get people to realize that in our first world/developed countries we have certain standards and when those standards are not met then we have a problem.

        I know for example that I do not live in a desert where it is hard to find food. I am not starving. But by my country’s standards I am living in poverty, I am underemployed and this is a problem!

      • Exactly. People need to contextualize rather than referring to things in a global manner. You can’t compare apples to oranges/developed countries to underdeveloped countries.

  6. Provocative topic and great post. I’m going to go out on a limb here but I feel our experience and interactions as humans should revolve around love and that anything else ventures towards abuse. There is no such thing as a “greater” pain as all pain is subjectively experienced. We may rate or rank our own experiences as more or less painful, but until we are able to live fully in someone else’s life we should not rank the pain of others.

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