When abuse transforms into self-abuse

Dance of Life 3 of Health Dance of Life 8 of Relationships

Yesterday my daily cards pulled from the Dance of life Tarot were the 3 of Health Rx and 8 of Relationships. Reading the companion book I was struck by the author’s notes about healthy sexuality (the 3 of Health) and abusive behavior (8 of Relationships). It made me stop and seriously examine my attitudes towards both these areas of my life.

As a child I was subjected to various forms of sexual and physical abuse – sometimes by strangers and sometimes by family members. Some of the sexual abuse took the form of flirtatiousness and sexual interest from adult men when I was a teen – in some cases friends of my parents. At first I found this attention flattering but it quickly became overwhelming. Whether it was strangers on the street commenting on my anatomy, male classmates snapping my bra strap, or older men making inappropriate suggestions, I quickly became unnerved and began to think something was wrong with me. I believed there was something wrong with me that drew this kind of attention to me. I was young and did not know how to handle this attention so I focused on what I thought I could control – me.

This attitude was further impacted by the abusive dynamic in my household. My approach to dealing with it was to internalize. I didn’t realize that until recently. In fact I’m only starting to understand how insidious and demoralizing its influence is. I thought I had emerged with minimal scars. Now I know that I internalized them and continued the abuse on myself. By ignoring my health and well-being I continued reinforcing the message that I deserved to be mistreated. Realizing this shocked me. It was an unexpected and life-altering revelation. My continue resistance to making healthy changes to my life has taken on a whole new meaning. Instead of healing from the abuses I experienced I continued to perpetrate them on myself.

These revelations have helped make me aware of patterns of behavior I’ve ignored until now. My next step will be to take steps to change these patterns. If I don’t want to continue this self-destructive behavior, then I need to make some dramatic changes. It’s time to truly learn to love myself and embrace who I am rather than paying lip service to those attitudes. Not easy, but something I believe I can accomplish.

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