Looking after those who hurt me

Dont-run-away-from-grief-o-soul-rummy-quote (1)

With my previous counsellor, we discussed the need that I have to look after those who are outwardly cruel to me. How in the aftermath of their cruelty, I put myself aside and feel sorry for them.

How bizarre that sounds. Imagine taking care of the very person that hurts you. Imagine feeling their hurt instead of your own.

I have done this with my ex-husband who was physically abusive when we were married and lately has taken to ignoring me and even turning his back to me in a very noticeable way when he comes to collect my son for his weekend visit to his dad’s. Even my son has asked why daddy doesn’t look at mummy. How pathetically and childishly he behaves. He has sent me very insulting texts and called me a bad mother etc etc, yet there are times that I can forget all his cruelty and feel that I want to give him love and take care of him. Is that what’s known as Stockholm’s syndrome; being conditioned to look after the people who abuse, neglect and negate you the most?

From the outside people are able to say ‘Forget Him’ “He’s a moron” “He’s a fool” but why don’t I, the victim, feel it that strongly. How am I able to weaken my boundaries so easily and forgive and feel for people who clearly don’t deserve my kindness.

I have been thinking again about this as a man I slept with told me that I am not relationship material because of my ‘attitude’. This was following a message in which I expressed myself honestly and told him that I felt he was being deceptive by stringing me along and not really caring for me. He then said he would no longer be nice to me and that I could still call him for sex but that was all he was and that I should look elsewhere for something serious. He did this after learning about the abuse I suffered as a child without so much as a word of empathy or sympathy.

Yet still there is a part of me that feels responsible and accountable. A part of me that regrets expressing myself and wishing that things could be different. A part of me that thinks he could change and become kind with all my love. This is a pattern of dysfunction I notice in me. I want to reach into the fibre of my being and remove it. I want to be kind to those who deserve it only. I want to stand firmly and protect my boundaries jealously from those who are so cruel and self-serving. I want to walk away from these people and not want to stay and love and look after them. It is deeply frustrating and confusing to feel this way.

I think it does have a lot to do with taking care of my father the abuser and my mother the conspirator. It has everything to do with feeling responsible for everything they did and didn’t do and feeling that somehow it was because of me that it happened. So I want to change cruelty in the present and somehow undo the past subconsciously by trying to make that cruel person love me. A part of me painfully aches as it tries to make that love come from that empty place and when it doesn’t it tells itself that it’s because of who I am that the love is not forthcoming.

Yet rationally, the love is not forthcoming because these are people who are empty themselves and cannot love. The man who said I was not relationship material has never been in a proper relationship because all he does is have casual sex. He knows nothing about me nor has he tried to know. He cannot show empathy because he has none. I am just a warm body for him. And my ex is bitter and hateful towards me; making himself the victim yet he lost his wife and child due to his anger problem.

I want to reach deep within and rip out that bias towards cruel people and that need to be loved and loving and pleased and pleasing to everyone. I want to replace it with a steely nerve and strength to move far away from toxic people who don’t care for me at all and don’t see or hear me.  I don’t want to understand and feel their pain and emptiness at the expense of mine. I want to understand this and change it at that very very deep level.  I don’t want to be attracted on any level to cruelty and dysfunction.It’s so hard.

27 thoughts on “Looking after those who hurt me

  1. Dr Seuss said: “When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you or you can let it strengthen you”. I have always had a bad relationship with my mother – nothing I did was right and she always let me know it. (verbal abuse) When I lived at home I let it define me (wasnt a good enough daughter, etc)..until it got to the point where it was destroying me (didnt ever think I would marry because I wasnt good enough) and then I left home -became my own person and became strong enough to know I was better than what she thought – I took myself out of the situation and became what I am today – happily married, mom of five, lots of grandchildren … you can learn to separate yourself – it’s his problem not yours and learn to rise above it. Not saying it is easy – but you have to start somewhere.

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    • Thanks for reading and commenting and while I appreciate the experience you have shared, I think it is different when you have been sexually abused at 5 by your father. The effects are profound and some subconscious so not so easy to just leave behind in the past. I am glad that you found your way out of a verbally abusive situation and seperate yourself. In time I hope to do the very same.

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  2. I think it is doubly hard because those who have been abused fear that in setting boundaries and not being drawn into caring for people who are abusive or cruel, we will suppress our own empathy or become cruel ourselves – that we will go too far in the other direction and become just like our abusers. Finding a balance is really, really difficult.

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  3. I don’t know about “rip out that bias” or that core shaped by a man who would do that to a daughter. I would tend to say accept those parts you tend to abhor. It’s only when I accept my frailties and dysfunctions that I can then gently guide my being to a better way… a slow and gentle process.
    There will be a mate who comes along and accepts that child inside who was so deeply hurt, and won’t take advantage of ‘her’/you, or your gentle, kind ways. You are like that to all people, even the nasty ones. It’s a gift to cherish, and protect.
    Learning to protect oneself after such attacks in childhood is very hard. You were not taught how to protect yourself as a child. Nor supported to follow your natural instincts that way. It is so hard in adulthood to learn this. It should be instinctual but instincts were taken and twisted. So be gentle with this tendency just as you would be gentle with another struggling with it…

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  4. Oh my gosh, too familiar! My ex treated me terribly, telling the kids I was “a word that rhymes with witch,” or that “daddy is poor because he has to give mom all his money.” He never missed an opportunity to lecture or berate me. And yet, years after our divorce, I helped him write his application for a fellowship to go to Korea, which he then won! What?!? Why?!?

    There was something in me that just kept wanting to make it all right for him/with him. This was so powerful, and it’s part of what kept me in that ridiculous marriage for nearly 10 years. No doubt there are elements linked to my stepfather’s endless criticism (“if I just try harder, he’ll be happy; I need his approval”) as well as the sexual abuse I experienced at a young age (“my role is to be what someone else needs”). I did find myself dating similar men for a while after my separation and divorce. I didn’t consciously want it, but somehow I suppose we gravitate to what is familiar.

    Now what I think is that we are all on our life’s journey, whatever that is. Some of us want to learn lessons from our lives, and use those to make things better for ourselves and others. Some of us suffer from such existential insecurity that being proven right is more important than anything else. My ex and I think yours fall into that category. So are some of the men you’ll date and I dated. Okay, that’s their path. It is not for us to “save” them from the pain of that path by pretending they are always right nor by trying to gently and patiently teach them differently. If they want to change, they will examine their lives or go to therapy or whatever they need to do. What I hope is that you will find, as I did, someone who is enough at peace with himself that he can also be at peace with you as you genuinely are. Someone you don’t have to change for and don’t need to help change, because you can accept each other and live with the quirks and little flaws that all human beings have.

    Hm, not sure if this is a good response to your post. I think I’m rambling. I guess I mean to encourage you not to spend too much time regretting that someone doesn’t like it if you set your boundaries. You don’t want to stay with someone like that anyway. And I want to tell you that even though you might sometimes think “men are all like that,” they aren’t. They can be attractive without being cruel or dysfunctional. You just might need a little bit of time to learn to recognize which ones they are.

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    • Thank you for this. I agree completely, I think my ex doesn’t look within nor does he feel he needs to make any changes for himself and others and he tried to drag me down with him. Yet still I care and am kind. Your story is so familiar to me and thank you so much for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. there is a pattern of being drawn to cruel men or emotionally evasive men and boundaries once I set them are hard to maintain and feel strange. I wouldn’t want to be with a man yet and I like that you said that I don’t need to save anyone or look after anyone or make things right and good because these men are incapable of love. I pray and hope that I can attract the right man. I seem not be physically attracted when men are nice, patient and kind. Yes I need time and to be patient with myself. Your support helps immensely


      • My sisters and I used to talk about how we were attracted to emotionally difficult men. My one sister said that somehow nice guys weren’t “masculine” enough for her. Isn’t that messed up, that we connect attractive masculinity to being mean? Anyway, somehow my other sister and I got over it and are married to truly gentle (but attractive!) men. The other sister is still with a guy who frustrates and challenges her, but she says she is happy.

        Anyway, don’t dismiss nice guys too fast. Patience and kindness in the bedroom can be mindblowing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is so messed up and I relate very closely to what you say. come to think of it I have associated masculinity with meanness and an inability to be emotionally available and I find guys who are kind feminine or lacking somehow. I am so glad that you found your gentle attractive man 🙂 I will try to take your advice as I have been on quite a few dates and did pick the cruelest one to get attached too while there are kind ones who were willing to be gentleman with me. It’s going to be a learning process for me to go towards the unfamiliar. Thanks 🙂 I love talking to you because I know you get it ! Have a lovely day.


  5. Your post made me think…also an issue of mine…..in counselling, we have (from Rogers) a concept of Conditions of Worth which we learn from our family. It means ‘you are only worthy if…’. If we are only ‘worthy’ if we are useful or looking after others, it’s a hard value to let go of as it was enforced virtually from birth and we don’t even notice it. As you say, there is even an aspect that allowing ourselves to be abused is correct or familiar as it is valuing the other’s needs above our own safety. Noticing we act upon that falsely-installed ‘value’ is the first step. Hope this makes sense! Thank you for a thoughtful post.

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    • Thank you so much for this. I want so much to understand it so that I can somehow overcome it and everything you said makes complete sense to me. I wish so that it could seep in deeper than a rational place and I can act from a new place. But I have realise the patterns so like you say its the first step 🙂 I think self-worth has been based on good I am and polite and kind and helpful and likeable and agreeable no matter what because I was so afraid of being abandoned as a little girl. I felt so little love that these values were warped in directions that don’t serve me well. I wish I could say Fuck it? I don’t care if you don’t like me or disapprove me, this is who I am. And I don’t care if you can’t love me back because that just means there is someone who can appreciate me out there somewhere. Thanks again for your kind support it helps 🙂

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  6. I wonder if this tendency towards cruel or shallow men has something to do with the illusion of, “If I make him love me, that Daddy would love me.” And if that came true then I can erase the past of what Daddy did.
    There are still times even now at age 64 when I wish I were someone else. (which would eradicate the past)

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    • I think it does; Ive often thought of how I try to find that love in those impossible places. I go after it relentlessly and then inevitably when I don’t receive it from those empty places; I beat myself up and take it proof that I am not loveable like a self-fulfilling prophecy of my own. A way of replaying a past story to get a different result.

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      • Hmm…
        It is quite a fascinating journey, figuring out oneself and why we operate the way we do.
        I wondered if I’d dare even venture into such unknown territory and am glad I didn’t offend or overstep. I do love figuring out these puzzles sometimes… Know thyself? An endless journey.

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  7. Pingback: GENTLENESS | Patricia J Grace

    • Thank you for showing me a gentler path. One of self-acceptance and making peace with oneself. I fight and fight and want to undo everything, yet life keeps showing me that I can’t. Growth is possible but erasing the past is not. Convincing the deeper parts of me will take time 🙂 Thank you for linking to my post.


  8. Wow, this same issue has been a continual puzzle for even my husband to witness in me. This is something I do not understand in myself either. I hate it and want to rid myself of it as well. I think I lock up inside of me the pain behind it all. This is very perplexing to live with. It is not a conscious response but more like an automatic reflex reaction. A fear of abandonment I am sure is a part of this. I too want to figure this out in myself. I wish I had some advice or answers, but all that I have to offer you is that I do understand. And I do know that this runs deep and is not an easy thing to overcome. The self preservation instinct was somehow broken in us. It also creates a tremendous amount of anxiety and fear of just simply living life. Thank you for sharing this. I am sorry that you struggle with “displaced kindness” as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • you articulated so well what I feel too. It means a lot that you can relate to so much of what I write and yes we were sadly robbed of that instinct to look after and protect ourselves. And you are so right to say the fear of abandonment is so significant and at the root of all those learned self-defence mechanisms of pleasing others and looking after others and putting ourselves first. It’s a long and hard journey back to ourselves with many stumbling blocks but we keep moving forward because there is no going back. Thank you for this beautiful comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You know, it’s interesting to see how many abuse survivors want to heal and help everyone, regardless of what they did to them. I think a turning point in our recovery was learning that it is ok to be angry with the person who hurt us. Because of him, we are five separate parts, possibly six, officially diagnosed with DID. Learning to let the anger uncouple us from needing his favour really helped. I truly hope that you manage to heal and that you learn that the responsibility for fixing everyone does not rest wholly on you. We are still learning that. It’s a hard habit to let go of. 27 x

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