The topic of abuse is a very touchy subject. Abuse and torment come in a wide variety – from physical, to verbal, to emotional. While some people do need to just “toughen up” because they are overly sensitive, some people really have experienced severe abuse that is a struggle to deal with on a daily basis. And an even more unfortunate reality is those dark and deeply rooted emotions of being abused come out in many ways that perpetuates the cycle. It’s a statistical fact that many people who have grown up in abusive households tend to continue the cycle of abuse in their adulthood. However, one statistic that is never discussed is those people who successfully broke the cycle and kept those demons from causing pain to anyone else, most importantly their own families.
I grew up in a chaotic household, to say the least. High stress, irrational anxiety, and fits of rage were far too common. However, even with all the problems, my family was a very loving family. My parents did try to do everything they possibly could for us. Unfortunately the things that happened to both of my parents in their past as well as over the years took an enormous toll on them. Both my parents were very hard workers. They always were. And they never quit fighting to make ends meet in this very unbalanced economic society we have. They did everything they possibly could for my siblings and I, but, the hard realities of their own pasts – my fathers in particularly would fester like a cancer of pure unchecked hatred.
My father was never clinically diagnosed with major depression or any other personality disorder, but all one needs to do is catch one of his rage episodes and even the most ignorant of individuals in regards to basic psychology can see that something is deeply wrong with him. If I was to describe my father as a person right now, I’d say he completely crippled with anger and hate, and that it is his anger and hatred alone that drives him. There are no rational thoughts in that man’s head. The years of bottling his own demons have completely consumed him into a mental monster who is capable of saying unthinkable words of pure hate to anyone. Most of all his own family. The things he is capable of saying would shock the most experienced of psychologists (and I say that from personal experience showing several emails sent to me by him to a former shrink I would talk to). The most heartbreaking thing about his current state is that this man is not the man I remember as a child or even a teen. My father was always stubborn and bull-headed, and verbally abusive to a point (as most people are when they spout words in anger) but he was never so hopelessly consumed with such raw hatred. He was a very loving, giving, and caring father. If he did say something out of blind rage, he was fairly quick to see the flaws in his behavior and wholeheartedly apologize for them and do everything he could to make amends for it. In recent years, that has changed. His bitterness and hateful, downward spiral has caused him to make some completely outrageous illogical decisions, such as: Cheating on his wife and living a double life; neglecting his family almost entirely; not talking to his son (me) for periods up to a full year; and using his side of the family (his parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) who played a huge role in his own psychological abuse as both a child and an adult; ruining every possible holiday he could for my family; the list goes on…. Just about the only thing he hasn’t done is become physically violent gotten with my family – which is astoundingly shocking – given what an uncontrollable loose cannon he is.
Just recently, I called it quits with him. And the barrage of text messages hasn’t ended since. Messages about how badly he hates me and how “I” am responsible for his recent failures and that I am “dead to him.”
Now, there are two ways to look at this from my perspective: I can give him what he wants and respond with hatred – or, I can respond with love, knowing how deeply sick he really is. I chose to break the cycle of fighting. For every incoherent text I got, I responded with how I was sorry for just how dark he has become and that I will always love him as my father.
That’s a very big thing for me because I’ve never been very hippie-dippy when it comes to “love.” I believe that love needs to be earned and that it’s not something to be loosely used. And while I don’t necessarily believe that “love is the answer” to every little problem, I do believe there is a time and a place to show love and affection in any form for someone. I do, however, like to think of myself as a rational thinker, and as I reflect on my own life I began to see how I too was repeating that cycle of abuse. I didn’t unload this cycle on my family, but I definitely did on other people who did nothing to me. I completely threw away any filter I may have had in the things I would say. I said what I wanted from my gut and without caring who I may have offended, and as brazen and belligerently pugnacious as those unfiltered words came out, I had lost many friends from my past who just saw me as an arrogant blowhard, and with very justifiable cause in their defense. However, this past firestorm of unchecked verbal abuse from my father was the final straw that broke the camel’s back and forced me to really sit back and reevaluate who I am as a person and ask myself, “Do I really want to go down this dark path of bitterness?”
It’s not just my father who is in a deep pit of emotional disrepair. Many people in my family have suffered from that same cycle of poison. Some have handled it better than others, but those who didn’t handle it well are now closely approaching the final stages of their lives, and with each passing year they become more and more bitter and poisonous.
So how do you break this cycle? You break the cycle through understanding and logic. You can’t get angry, hurt, or hold a grudge. You have to use all of your rationale to reaffirm that YOU are not a defective person and that the people who do try to go out of their way to cause harm are doing so for a reason. And the more that causation of their behavior is ignored, the longer it will take for your own healing process because you will continue to believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with YOU, when in fact the verbal assaults (or for some people, worse) stem from emotions that have taken years to build and are completely inept of logic, only raw emotions and actions devoid of intelligent thought. Take my own father for example, since it is him who I used as an example the most here. My father was the “second born” of three boys. My grandfather who was the youngest of five sons and the only member of his family who wasn’t involved in organized crime. He had a very bright future ahead of him as a youth. He was highly intelligent, he was a successful athlete, and during his teen years he was sent to a military school where he was able to become acquainted with some very powerful people who were grooming him to become an Army officer and possibly more. Through his new acquaintances, he met people like Fulgencio Batista of Cuba and other prominent political figures. Just after his graduation, he was drafted into the Army and not too long after he suffered a traumatic accident and lost his eye. After the accident, his once promising future was over. The Army discharged him and sent him home with a very small VA disability compensation and he had to start from the bottom again, only this time with one eye. He then met my grandmother who was a stunningly beautiful woman, but came from extreme poverty and ignorance. Ultimately it would be the overwhelming ignorant and almost sadistic mentality of my grandmother that would leave the deepest impressions on my father that can be visibly seen today. But I digress, my grandfather had to start from the bottom and so began years of starting a family, back-breaking work, as well as a prison sentence shortly after my father was born for a felony crime committed by his brothers in order to keep his brothers out of prison. The ridiculous logic of that circus act was that my grandfather was the youngest brother and had the least amount of kids to worry about, therefore he should “do a solid” and spend 2-3 years in prison for the family.
In total my grandparents had three boys. The youngest of them was born with severe health problems and died at the age of 11. The oldest boy, my uncle, was pretty much given carte blanche by my grandmother and often pitted against my father who was purposely made to feel like “the second child”. And for the record, my uncle is quite the sociopath himself thanks to the ignorance and malice of my grandmother’s mentality. As for my father, even with all the neglect and torment, he deeply loved (and still does) both my grandparents who have never and will never show him that love back. I have a running joke with my siblings where we know our grandparents as either “the saints” or “the holy ones” because of his gluttonous desire for emotional punishment by denying that he was treated poorly and continuing to believe that somehow he will “win their affection.” My grandfather never put my father down or made him feel as though he was less of a person like my grandmother did, but the neglect and failure to recognize my father as a person in general did leave a huge impression on my father’s psyche. As my father grew up into his teen and adult years, he mainly got his guidance from the street. He was a natural business man with remarkable street smarts. Unfortunately, with no guidance from his parents during times when he needed some life wisdom and advice, he was always forced to figure everything out for himself and quite often made some very foolish mistakes that were completely avoidable – had he only had a shred of parental care and guidance. The years leading up to this point in time have been completely filled with betrayals (mainly by his family who I mentioned above), financial struggles, confusion, anxiety and stress, and even bouts where he managed to pull himself out of holes only to be forced back in by someone who had more money and a better lawyer to take his livelihood, on more than one occasion (I’ll save my rant on the evils of corporate America for another day).
In conclusion – although this was very difficult for me to write, being as personal as it is – I am pretty emotionless in general towards it, which is why I feel I have had the ability to view what I am dealing with as open-minded and rationally as possible. I’m not writing this for my own solace as much as I am writing it for those who have yet to reach this point where I am at. I know from personal experience just how much of a struggle it is to deal with people – be it family or other – who have some deeply rooted need to display how they themselves feel through tormenting another. The only way I have found to eliminate the sting of it all is to detach your emotions and fully analyze the abusive individual’s back story (if known). Most importantly, the next step after seeing what created that abusive mentality in a person is taking a mental note about how you are not going to follow that same path. You are not going to contribute a foundation of sadness and fear to the generations of the future . YOU are the one who has to break the cycle, and you do it through understanding the root of all that hate and bitterness. Knowledge really is the key to getting through life, and the more you understand, the better your odds will be of overcoming whatever struggles you may be having with others.
Until next time, keeping it real and always bluntly to the point,