Bad things are going to happen. I have to focus on protecting myself from them. I am safer if I don’t try.
- When you grow up under the constant threat of violence in your home, you are always on high alert, looking out for threats – some real and some imaginary. It makes you feel anxious and uncertain, worried about the next thing that might happen. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells, unsure about everything. You lose your certainty, and the natural confidence that you were born with.
It was my fault. I caused it. I should have stopped it.
- Children think emotionally, not rationally. When you were exposed to domestic violence as a child, your brain drew the wrong conclusions: I couldn’t stop it, but I should have. I was there, so it must have been my fault. It happened because of me. The burden of carrying around that kind of guilt weighs you down. It makes you feel unworthy and ashamed.
Anger gives me the power and control I never had.
- Your brain learned that solving problems with anger and violence was acceptable. When you grow up feeling insignificant, unlovable and powerless, moments of anger can make you feel in control. When people make you feel badly, you use anger to teach them a lesson – maybe a cold shoulder, hurtful words, or threats. You hurt others to stop them from hurting you. But anger always turns to sadness when you hurt those you care about.
Good things don’t happen to people like me.
- As a child, you were helpless to stop the violence. It made you feel that nothing you could possibly do makes a difference. So why bother to do anything at all? Every time something goes wrong, it seems to reinforce that feeling in your mind. It starts to seem like you never had a chance from the very start.
I feel more bad than good each day.
- Your childhood was taken from you. It makes you feel wounded, asking yourself why it had to happen to you. This is your story and it gives you the certainty you never had. You focus on what was taken from you, what you didn’t get. You try to heal yourself, fill the emptiness caused by your pain, and end your sadness by focusing on yourself. But when you simply focus on yourself, you typically feel worse.
The more I tear you down, the bigger I become.
- You deserved better and you replay all the old wrongs over and over in your mind. It makes you resent everyone else who had it easier. You resent their happiness, or their wealth, because you never had that. It makes you feel better tearing down anyone who’s got more than you.
I’m not good enough. I’m worth-less.
- You weren’t good enough to stop it. They didn’t care enough to love and protect you from harm. They didn’t change for you. They didn’t stop the violence for your sake. It makes you feel worthless and unimportant, because when something is valuable to someone, they take care of it. You conclude that you must not have been that valuable.
I don’t trust others easily and at times I feel alone.
- Your first assumption is that no one understands and that everyone is trying to hurt you. You often overreact. You get upset easily. It feels like you can’t control your emotions. So, the safest path is to just withdraw from everyone and keep your feelings a secret. But that just makes you feel more alone and misunderstood.
I feel self-conscious and unattractive.
- Your face and body are reflections of how you feel about yourself. If you feel badly about yourself, it always shows. When you look in the mirror and see someone who’s worthless and sad, or alone and angry, that’s what you’ll be showing to others. It’s the kind of thinking that makes you feel like you don’t deserve any better.
I don’t understand what love is and I don’t deserve to be loved.
- It feels like you don’t really understand what love is, because you were not fully loved and protected as a child. You start to imagine that you don’t really deserve love, and worry that no one can really love you – your children, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your husband or wife. You aren’t good enough for love. You are unlovable. When you feel unlovable, it is very difficult to give love.