How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers

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bluepalm

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How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« on: May 27, 2021, 10:05:24 PM »
For the past fifty years I have, more or less on a daily basis, spent time trying to understand why the people closest to me have sought to hurt and deprive me and crush my spirit.

At first these efforts were part of my ceaselessly ruminating on what had happened to me.

In recent years, with ready access through the internet and books to information on psychopathy, malignant narcissism, other personality disorders and the effects of being on the autism spectrum, my attempts to 'diagnose' those who've traumatised, and those who still traumatise, me have become more targeted but no less frequent.

About five years ago a therapist told me I didn't need to spend time trying to understand why those around me behaved as they did and they do. Rationally I understood what she said. But I still do it and I wish I could stop. It's like picking at a scab on my soul and I wish I could just leave it be and let it heal. Ultimately it doesn't matter. The damage is inside me and healing that damage is my primary responsibility.

Has anyone else been afflicted with this obsessive need to understand why their abusers caused the traumatic damage that they did? I think if I could stop doing this it would bring me a lot of peace.

I would be grateful to hear from anyone else who has been afflicted with this ceaseless searching for an answer to why, and whether they have found an effective way to stop doing it. 

Thank you.
Bluepalm

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Jazzy

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2021, 11:07:35 PM »
Hi Bluepalm,

I'm sorry to hear that you're struggling with this and having a hard time with not knowing why. It's completely understandable though. I often seek comfort in understanding why something happens. It helps me feel better, and I've seen many others do the same, so I think it's only natural.

One of the things I've noticed recently is that my sub-conscious mind spends time on whatever is important to it, whether I want it to or not, and I wonder if yours is doing the same. Being traumatized is a really big thing, to put it mildly, so it makes sense that your mind would spend a lot of time working on it.

I think there are a couple of approaches that might help with this, based on what I've experienced myself. One thing is to learn the answer, or at least an answer, to why, if that is possible. I now understand (or at least believe), that my mother treated me the way she did, because it was the best she knew, because of how her father treated and raised her. It's the "cycle of violence", just not so obviously violent, but still traumatic. Perhaps "the cycle of trauma" is a better phrase.

Another approach might be to adjust the importance of the question. If it doesn't seem so important, your mind will hopefully spend time on other things that are more important to it. I try to focus on things that are within my power to change. I can't change how my mother treated me, but I can change how I am and how I treat others, so that's what I focus on. Another big part of this for me was to realize that my current mental health, and myself in general, are much more important to me than how I've been treated in the past, or how others act.

It's really frustrating when we can't answer a question we feel like we need to know the answer to. A lot of things are still difficult for me, but they all get a little easier as my overall mental health improves. It's like everything is all connected together (I guess it all is connected in the brain), and a lot of bad makes everything else worse, but a lot of good makes everything else better. So, even if there's no quick and easy answer to resolve this problem, I hope it becomes less difficult in time as you continue your healing journey.

Wishing you peace and healing. :)

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Kizzie

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2021, 04:16:08 PM »
Hey Bluepalm - I wonder if deep down you might still be questioning if it was you that deserved or caused their abuse (as we are led to believe/taught to do)? 

I didn't ask why for a long time because I believed it was me but as I've walked this journey I did begin to ask and it kept coming back to the relational trauma my parents suffered. I learned they had NPD and knew enough about it to know that doesn't develop in isolation, it too is born of relational trauma.  It helped cement for me that my CPTSD was passed down starting at some point in the past, at least with my grandparents and likely before that. 

Do you know much about your parents' history and their parents before them?

(I was just thinking we need more resources on intergenerational intermission of relational trauma so will see what I can find. May be helpful to know this did not start with us.)
« Last Edit: May 28, 2021, 04:18:12 PM by Kizzie »

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Armadillo

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2021, 07:53:34 PM »
Hey Blue Palm...I can answer for myself...

I use the "why" someone did what they did or do to excuse them. It allows me to keep myself in line being good and kind, to blame myself for everything, and to tell myself they can't help it because they are mentally I'll.

It keeps me behaving, it keeps me from walking away, it keeps me from feeling or expressing hurt or anger or sadness, it keeps me from worrying I'll emotionally hurt the other person and the consequences of that.

It makes me feel guilt and shame for drawing up boundaries. It keeps me enmeshed.

Like you and Jazzy I incessantly seek to understand the "whys" because it helps me figure things out. But ask yourself if the why you are seeking to understand will help you feel better or worse so you go into it with open eyes.

I remember when I ordered my dad's autopsy photos and asked my therapist to open them with me. Before he let me he asked me why I wanted to see them and in a rare moment of clarity my brain let me know and say the truth "I want to see the proof that I'm not good enough and don't belong in my life." I still opened them even though I was looking to hurt myself but at least I was aware.

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rainydiary

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2021, 03:25:33 AM »
TW: animal cruelty

I donít know why this comes to mind: ever since I learned about research where some baby primates were put with a robot parent that delivered shocks or pain and the babies will try to be pleasing to their robot parent despite the pain, I have felt a lot of grief and sadness and anger and confusion (some of which is because I am sickened that people would do that to fellow baby creatures).

End TW

We are wired to seek comfort and support from those that care for us and some of us unfortunately have people ill suited for caring for us.  I think that we may wonder if having a clear reason our carers couldnít give us what we needed would make us feel less of the deep deep deep pain they caused that has been with us each step of the way.  And for some of us that makes forming relationships that could help us on our journey painful and difficult because we donít want to hurt anymore. 

Right now my heart is filled with so much compassion for all of you and for myself.  We are doing the best we can while working with how our bodies and brains function by nature and how flawed those functions can be when things donít go according to plan.  We are trying our best to learn a different way and that is difficult. 

I donít know the reason for many things and yet I hope each of finds some more ease each day.   

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Kizzie

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2021, 06:54:33 PM »
I saw that article too rainydiary and it shocked and angered me that those baby monkeys were put through that.  I guess you can justify anything in the name of science. 

While it confirmed how hard wired primates & humans are to seek safety, comfort, love, did we really need that experiment or could we have just asked real live adults who experienced abuse as children what they had to do to survive?

We all know on some level we had to turn to our abusive parents to survive at all, doing whatever we had to including making ourselves responsible for the abuse/neglect, deserving of it.  To bring this back to Bluepalm wondering "Why?", IMO the why can't be because our parents were abusive/neglectful, at least not when we were young.  We are hard wired so we must do what we must do. It had to be us because life would have been intolerable, dangerous even to put responsibility on those who owned it. 

Anyway, it angers me that those little guys went through that when there are so many human survivors to ask, who want and need to be part of unpicking relational trauma and figuring out how/why we took on responsibility for our abuse/neglect.

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Jazzy

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2021, 10:16:55 PM »
Wow! What a horrible thing to do to the animals. That is completely unacceptable!  :pissed: :pissed: :pissed: :pissed: :pissed:

I appreciate that Kizzie found a suggestion to help provide the information without hurting anyone further. That's great Kizzie! :)

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bluepalm

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2021, 04:02:00 AM »

Why ask why?  I realised what a sensitive topic this is for me when, on reading your various replies, I felt my heart quickening, agitation in my chest and I had to start breathing to calm myself. It's taken me a day or so to sort through my reflections on what you have all so kindly written.

Jazzy - you said:
I often seek comfort in understanding why something happens. It helps me feel better, and I've seen many others do the same, so I think it's only natural.

Another big part of this for me was to realize that my current mental health, and myself in general, are much more important to me than how I've been treated in the past, or how others act.


Yes, this morning I kind of calmed myself down and told myself it's natural to ask why, as you say. It's an attempt to understand and I know understanding is at the heart of gaining peace. And it is surely partly a conscious choice of mine to wonder why, so it should be within my power to consciously choose to stop questioning.  Anyway, this discussion is motivating me to try just that - to stop trains of thought that go endlessly over the why issue until maybe I can train my brain to let it go.

Kizzie, Yes there is part of me that is still trying to reassure myself that I did not deserve or cause the neglect and abuse. My parents never seemed to display any doubt about their right to exercise their authority over me so harshly or about the correctness of their commands or choices. As a small child this was overwhelming and, as you say, on top of that, it's horrible to admit that these people on whom you depend for survival are deliberately hurting you. My mother told me I must never speak outside the family about happens inside the family. This prohibition was drilled into me and maybe the asking why is to assert the adult part of myself and turn the power tables on her to question her behaviour in a way she never seemed willing or able to do.

Kizzie, you asked if I know much about my parents' history and their parents before them.

My knowledge of my grandparents as people is basically non-existent. I learnt something of the circumstances of my birth and my parents' history together when, at age 21 years, I left their home to live with my boyfriend, my father called me 'immoral' and my mother suddenly blurted out information about all  the difficulties surrounding my birth, including that my father was disowned by his mother upon my birth because he had abandoned his wife and child to take up with my mother, whereupon he had a nervous breakdown. Certainly, when I first became pregnant, I went into psychoanalysis because I was determined not to pass on to my child any of the pain that I had experienced as a child.

I agree that we need more resources and more discussion of intergenerational transmission of trauma. I desperately needed help during the time prior to giving birth myself to make sense of what had occurred in my childhood. I would guess that most people in my position would not be able to find or afford the help I luckily received. I sometimes feel I should be 'Exhibit A' at meetings of new parents as a dire warning of what far reaching and long lasting harm occurs to someone's life due to parental abuse and neglect.

Armadillo, although it contradicts the part of me that is seeking to shed a sense of blame, I think I also share what you describe  here:
It allows me to keep myself in line being good and kind, to blame myself for everything, and to tell myself they can't help it because they are mentally I'll.

It keeps me behaving, it keeps me from walking away, it keeps me from feeling or expressing hurt or anger or sadness, it keeps me from worrying I'll emotionally hurt the other person and the consequences of that.

It makes me feel guilt and shame for drawing up boundaries. It keeps me enmeshed.


My diagnosing extends to my adult children, whose behaviour towards me too often replicates what I experienced from my FOO and my husband.  To excuse their behaviour, to make it 'not their fault' but rather a result of a mental health 'condition', allows me to forgive them, allows me to have a family, albeit a flawed family, and serves to justify my love for them, which is very strong, despite how they treat me. So in their case, I actually need to be 'enmeshed' still, although I have been working on setting better boundaries to reduce the hurt they can inflict on me.

rainydiary, you said:
I think that we may wonder if having a clear reason our carers couldnít give us what we needed would make us feel less of the deep deep deep pain they caused that has been with us each step of the way.  And for some of us that makes forming relationships that could help us on our journey painful and difficult because we donít want to hurt anymore.


Yes, rainydiary, I agree with these words.  Wondering 'why' takes the issue out of the state of painful confusion that otherwise lies inside me and brings it into the light of rational thought. And I am always facing this issue on my own (or with therapists) because I have never formed a relationship of intimacy with a partner who could help me work through what occurred and give me a different experience of how life can be with a kind and trustworthy human being.

I remain profoundly afraid of people and the harm they can, indeed are likely to, do to me if I allow them too deeply into my life.

My heartfelt thanks to you all for your thoughts.  I think you can see how helpful you've all been to me in clarifying why I'm asking 'why'. I feel more confident after this discussion that I will take better control of this issue and cease to allow it to dominate my days as it has.

Thank you!
bluepalm

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BeeKeeper

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2021, 12:54:51 PM »
Hi bluepalm,

This is a 4 month old post, but I wanted to add my 2 cents, which happened just last week.

Your why question of 50 years plus is right in line with my why question of 46 years. Our desire for understanding has taken different roads. You've researched, questioned, attempted to actively make sense. I have done something different. I submerged it, combined it with physical pain and just let it simmer into a murky, semi-solid emotional foundation where I was stuck.

My why began to transform as I got resolution with other, lesser, traumas, and gained some insight into the conditions and personalities of the perpetrator. The only way I was able to do that was to completely leave myself out of it, and think only about the offender. It just happened naturally one night, no effort on my part. All I saw was an alcoholic, coming from generations of alcoholics who were split by keeping up appearances and acknowledging even the most mundane troubles. Somehow, that broke through my dense defenses and I just checked that situation off my list. It was there for 16 years.

That lead to eagerness to apply the same method to other, more longstanding trauma. I pursued that through official channels for 3 months, and at the end, got nothing from bureaucracy, but it was the effort of the journey that helped. What sealed it for me was during a video conference with my T. I was describing all these breakthroughs and shifts in movement. And I heard myself saying, " I guess it's not as important to completely understand how everything could have created the situation, as it is moving to a place where I can function."  For me, that allowed me to leave the why and concentrate of my numerous current, just as important, problems.

Now I don't imagine that anything here would apply to you. We all have different ways of thinking and experiencing, I thought it was curious that I made headway with those two thoughts; exclusive focus on offender and on current functioning. In no way do I imply I've got it made or together, I struggle with OTHER stuff daily, bobbing up and down between, I can do this, and laying in a dark room for 12 hours or more.

It's worthy to ask why, because that leads to other questions and other thoughts as well. In the end we are trying to understand the unfathomable.


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woodsgnome

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2021, 08:09:22 PM »
I've also wandered back to this older thread; but lots of times the relevance of former posts seem to never age, given how close to the surface all this forever pain rides.

My own answer to what stopped me from seeking absolute answers was simply realizing there wasn't any final solution that would explain the original abuse -- it was senseless then and remains so. I sadly can't undo that and so no longer strive to right a sunken ship. I'd certainly like to; but can't, and realized it's time to build my new ship for my own journey. Sad to say, the old one only feels like I was on the wrong ship and I can no longer make out the 'why' of that.

I've tried about every angle to get at the 'why' and the only 'answer' that keeps coming up is what I've described. For better or worse, I guess. Perhaps the original abuse ended up aiding me, unexpectedly. During it all, I was (unconsciously) strengthening my discernment, detecting what wasn't a good, reasonable way to go; keeping in mind the problem itself wasn't reasonable.

 Although it contributes to my sense of sadness, I gave up aiming for the 'why' the old story happened as it did, and have started devoting my attempts only at what I could do for myself now. I deeply mourn what happened but trying to figure the old story out literally can sap my energy for living with myself now.

The memories of what happened still hurt, but I can only (or choose to) see further up the road -- the old is receding in the rear-view mirror.

Our instincts will always be to wonder why. But wonder doesn't have to morph into worry. Simple curiosity is of course hard to eradicate, but finding the final 'why' answer, for me anyway, has proven to be out of reach.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2021, 08:14:28 PM by woodsgnome »

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BeeKeeper

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2021, 09:42:17 PM »
woodsgnome,

I love this perspective and the metaphor of righting a sunken ship.

Quote
During it all, I was (unconsciously) strengthening my discernment, detecting what wasn't a good, reasonable way to go; keeping in mind the problem itself wasn't reasonable.

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Papa Coco

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2021, 10:24:26 PM »
Woodsgnome,

I empathize with your search for the "why" answer. I've searched for it a million times also.

Once again, I am speaking only for myself. I had a big epiphany eleven years ago that all but stopped my lifetime of chronic nightmares.

I've spent most of my life waiting for an explanation and an apology from a few of my abusers. My sister, who was a Borderline Personality Disordered (BPD) Monster, to my best friend who hid his sexuality from the other Catholics by pinning me with the nickname "Homo" beginning when I was only ten years of age. Because I was quiet and dissociative, and had been abused sexually by men already, I was an extremely easy target. Heck! At ten, in 1970, in a religious setting, I had no idea what homo even meant. But it came with punishments and isolation, so I knew it was bad. He was my best friend! How could he do what he did? He drove me to my first suicide attempt at twelve by his relentless mob-bullying for most of my adolescent years. He turned the whole school into a mob of people who beat on me and insulted me and laughed at me for years and years and years.

I never really found out how he could do that to me, but at fifty years of age I finally just realized he had been nothing but a common sociopath in the making, and as such, he had no ability for remorse. Calling me gay and turning the animals loose on me, when it was really him who was gay, was just a means to an end. It worked. It got him what he wanted. And he never felt bad about it.

At fifty, I finally figured out that he was just another sociopath with a desire to blame his actions onto someone else. (Sociopaths always confess their sins by publicly blaming others. It's easy to know what they're afraid of. Just listen to what they accuse you of. They've just confessed). Without knowing why he did it, I just finally understood that he was never going to apologize. That's when I was finally set free from his ghost. I was 50. That means I waited for 40 years for an apology that would never come. That wait was what drove my nightmares of having to go back to Catholic School and relive those years over and over and over for 40 years. I did the same with my sister, brother, and my parents. No apologies are ever going to come to me, so, without really knowing why they treated me with such contempt, all I can do is accept that they must have had some sort of mental illness or past trauma that they passed on to me because that's what trauma does.

Also, consider this: Anyone with sociopathic or narcissistic tendencies hurts people because it's fun for them. When I was nine, my good non-Catholic friends and I discovered that if we sprayed caterpillars with bug spray, they'd writhe and foam up and die. At nine, we thought it was fun. But by the time we turned ten the following summer, none of us could bring ourselves to do that again. All of us boys had grown into our consciences and felt remorse for having even done it when we did. Today, none of us even want to squash spiders anymore. A sociopath feels the same way about people that a child feels about bugs. When a sociopath can cause us pain, it excites them. It literally gives them an adrenaline rush similar to caffeine. That's the only reason they do it. Because it excites them.

(Plug: The Sociopath Next Door, by Dr. Martha Stout. This is a very easy to read, very informative book that literally set me free from the chains sociopaths used to have on me)

Often, THAT's the reason they tore our lives to shreds. Because hurting us made them feel better for a few hours. Abusing some helpless child gave them the relief a drug would give. Sometimes that's the only reason we were hurt. As small children, we were the helpless caterpillars that they enjoyed watching squirm.

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Gromit

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2021, 08:34:45 AM »
So glad this old thread popped up. I too, used to try and work out why my mother was as she is. I thought it might possibly explain why she behaved the way she did towards me. Or help me to be different, if I only understood!

Over the years other people have given me snippets of information which have explained some things, although I never found out what my mothers diagnosis was, or why she behaved the way she did towards me, I can guess from the knowledge I have of psychology and human behaviour and knowledge gained in places like this.

In the end, I see the searching as a distraction, I cannot change my mother, I cannot change what she did, or how the rest of my FOO behave towards me, I can focus on me and my recovery, that is what makes a difference to me and my family.

I will never know the truth, only what people choose to tell me, and there are fewer of them left now.

G

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Dante

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2021, 11:34:11 AM »
I also spent years and years asking why.  Iíve only recently found some peace, because I realized there were two separate questions: what actually happened to me, and why did it make me the way I am?   Once I figured out that that was really what I wanted to know (and get some reasonable approximate answers - there are no clear answers) Iíve been able to leave it behind and finally focus on, ok where do I go from here?

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Larry

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Re: How to stop my attempts to 'diagnose' my abusers
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2021, 02:20:55 PM »
I am so glad i read this.  thank you bluepalm,  and thank you to everyone who offered some advice.