Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or verbal; it is intimidation or manipulation of another person or an intrusion into another's psyche; the purpose is to control another person. It is generally a long term pattern of behavior although specific short term interactions can be labeled abusive. Recently the following categories have been included in definitions of abusive behavior: social, economic, intellectual and spiritual. With child abuse neglect is also an important component.
Abuse cuts across all social categories and classes. It occurs in well educated high income areas and in low income working class areas; it happens in all races and religions. It can occur in families, extended families, in neighborhoods, schools, churches, and community groups. Both men and women can be abusive and it can occur in virtually all age groups. The old can abuse the young and the young the old. While standards are different in various cultures, it occurs in virtually all countries as well.
Abuse can leave psychological wounds that are harder to heal than bodily injuries. Intense, often negative feelings may plague the survivor, and he or she may struggle to cope and lead a happy, peaceful life. Distressing memories, anxiety, blocks to intimacy, and trust issues are common.
What is 'lifeboat identity?’
When the ship is sinking it is imperative to get into the lifeboat. People huddle together traumatised in the lifeboat, but rejoice that they have survived. Although better than being in the sinking ship the quality of life on the lifeboat is not wonderful. It is cramped, uncomfortable, frightening and lacking food, warmth, toilet facilities and the simple opportunity to stretch your body. The people desire to get to land, to exit the lifeboat and to start having a life again. The biggest problem is how to get the lifeboat propelled towards land and, in most cases, knowing which direction leads to land.
A similar situation faces most people who have experienced some form of abuse, they may have survived it (they are now in the lifeboat) and may have found others rejoicing that they too have survived the experience, but they are still uncomfortable, frightened and lacking some of the basics of life. They desire to start having a life again, but do not know how to propel the lifeboat towards land. Many people have stayed in the lifeboat, just being ‘survivors’, not knowing how to move past that experience and start actually ‘thriving’.
Therapy can empower someone who has or is experiencing abuse to find and propel their lives, to exit the lifeboat and return to land – return to being the person they were meant to be before the trauma sank the ship, being a person who is living a full, rich and thriving life, who is in charge of their own life and destiny.Learn to like and love yourself, to feel good about being alive, to find usefulness in any negative experience and become reconnected to the experience of joy.
‘Surviving’ is only the first step, keep stepping and move ahead to ‘Thriving’.