In my previous post I talked about the lies that abuse tells us. I described them as The Lying Triad and Its Dark Guard – shame, self-blame and low self-worth protected by powerlessness. While that article listed a few of the effects survivors suffer as a result of these lies; such as the belief that the world will never treat them well, I think it’s important to elaborate in more detail about those effects. I want survivors to be able to identify those aftereffects in their lives and realize they are not borne of truth but lies.
Let’s take a look at each component of The Lying Triad and Its Dark Guard and the dysfunctional patterns and beliefs they cause:
Shame is a corrosive and cruel lie that tells us we don’t belong in the world because we are unworthy, bad and unacceptable due to our abuse. We believe we are permanently damaged and that others will see that if they get a close enough look at us and our lives. To prevent this we isolate ourselves from the world, believing it will be less painful to separate ourselves from others than to be rejected by them. In those times when we are forced to interact with the world, such as on the job, we bury our true selves underneath a persona that we hope people will find acceptable. Ironically, this deepens our shame because we believe that people only accept us if we present a false self, not our true self. Our sense of belonging is further destroyed.
Self-blame leaves us mired in guilt, believing that we caused the abuse. The longer the guilt sits inside us as truth the more susceptible we become to accepting the blame for any and all negative things that happen in our lives. In fact, over time if we don’t address the self-blaming tendencies we might even begin assuming blame for things that aren’t even remotely related to us. Before I recognized the guilt I carried as a lie I used to do things as outrageous as walk into a work meeting and if there was even a whiff of a negative mood in the air my immediate thought was “What have I done wrong now?” I had just arrived, I couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong. Furthermore, that perception of something being wrong might have been a co-worker’s personal problem, something I certainly wasn’t responsible for. But that’s how engrained my feelings of self-blame were.
Low self-worth, which often extends to self-loathing for survivors, affects every aspect of our relationship with ourselves and the world. When we think we aren’t worth much then we don’t expect much, of ourselves or anyone else. We think we deserve to be treated badly and don’t put a stop to poor and even abusive treatment from others. We settle for lousy jobs, friends that take advantage of us, and romantic partners that are disloyal. Sometimes we don’t even feel worthy of taking up space in the world or breathing the air around us. Low self-worth leads to our self-talk being negative and defeating, which can lead us to sabotaging those opportunities we get to improve our life circumstances.
Powerlessness is the root cause of hopelessness. When we feel we have no power to change things in ourselves or our lives we have no hope. Without hope, survivors fall into despair and consider suicide. Some succeed at taking their own lives. The lie of powerlessness can be lethal.
Millions of children and adults are abused every year in the United States, even more worldwide. They live believing the lies that their abuse told them. They need becoming aware of and silencing The Lying Triad and Its Dark Guard. In my next post I’ll talk about four powerfully effective tools that do just that.