There are times in our lives when we have choices, and times when we do not.
When we are children, we are led by those in charge of us. They tell us to do things. Mostly, we do what they say. We believe what they believe, and behave how they behave. We observe, and emulate. It’s part of how we learn. It’s human nature.
A mother is like God to a child. Her will is destiny. Fate. “Do it, now” says the father. And the child does. The master teaches the apprentice. This relationship between parent and child is a sacred trust. A way to maintain safety, build character, and establish vital life habits and skills. IF -and I mean a very big IF- the parents use their power correctly.
Essentially, as children, we are led. And we follow. When we are led poorly, bad things can happen.
Choices are steered by forces and circumstances beyond a child’s control or understanding. Children neither possess the reasoning, nor the physical requirements to take command of their own lives in any responsible way. Their views of the world are filtered through rules, limits, directions…
As children, we are sheep. And we are vulnerable. We are as helpless against the wolves as we are against the shepherds. And that is why so many of us are taken advantage of as children.
We can not fight back when adults hit us. We WILL not fight back. We just get hurt. And that becomes the reality of our lives. If we are threatened into silence or submission, we will usually concede. We will usually be victimized until, by some happy accident, a caring person intervenes.
The choice to end parental abuse is not our own. Not while we are kids.
If we are lucky or clever enough to escape our abusive situations alive, we become adults. And then we are called upon to make our own choices. To behave in responsible ways of our own choosing.
But how? How the hell do we know what to do, if nobody ever taught us correctly?
Maybe we learned when we were little that the correct way to respond to somebody denying us what we want is to punch them in the ear. Perhaps we were taught that unsolicited fondling of another person’s genitals is the appropriate way of showing love. It could be that we were beaten every time we expressed emotion, and therefore grew to hold our feelings inside, fearing punishment.
Now that we are adults, our understanding does not magically shift on it’s own. If our minds and hearts become corrupted, they remain corrupted until we change them. And change takes work. Change takes wisdom.
But we are lost. We truly have not been led to a place of responsibility. But here we are, tasked with being adults. Surrounded by other people who seem to be doing just fine. But we’re not like them, are we? We don’t GET IT. We still need to learn all that very basic stuff.
And there’s a lot of it.
We are left to lead ourselves. To teach ourselves. But we haven’t been trained to lead. And we don’t possess the knowledge to teach.
So what do we end up doing? Well, we follow. If we do not take control, we continue doing the things we learned how to do, the way that we learned how to do them.
And that is not a good thing. It is a bad thing. It is what monsters are made of. But we’re not monsters. We’re just grown up kids who got a raw deal. And now some new kid is smiling up at us. And we are God to that kid. That kid is our chance to do the right thing. That kid is why we are not going to follow. We are going to choose for ourselves.
We the abused stand on the edge of decision. And we need to make a vital choice. We can do the difficult thing, and learn how to parent properly. Or we can do the horrible thing, and continue the cycle of abuse. We the abused to do not have the luxury of inaction. We must choose. One, or the other.
Now that we are the adults, we have the power to choose. We can end parental abuse before it even begins for our own children. It may seem impossible to you. That makes sense. Ending a cycle of abuse is hard to do. And I mean VERY difficult. But the alternative is the continuation of abuse. And that is worse. Further, it is unacceptable. It is inadmissible.
We need to take control. We need to take the reigns, and choose for ourselves. We need to parent ourselves. Correct our damaging beliefs and behaviors. We need to become the source of love, safety, wisdom, and security that we wish we had when we were children.
This does not happen overnight.
It will take time. We will need help. We will need, perhaps, medication and therapy. We will need to be kind to ourselves. Patient and persistent. If we are to succeed in this, we need to learn to love ourselves in all the ways that we were not loved as children.
With this effort, we find our voices. We make our own choices. We take our own actions. We refuse to emulate the wills and ways of those who damaged us.
I made a good one. I make good choices every day.
That is why I’m not a total piece of shit.
Byron Hamel was raised by a violent man who got the death penalty for torturing and killing a baby. As a result of his upbringing, Byron dedicates his life to fighting child abuse. He lives with Complex PTSD, Depression, and Anorexia. Despite his obstacles, he’s an amazing dad to his two lovely daughters.
An award-winning Canadian journalist, and television producer, his documentary film, “A Breaking Cycle”, is a powerful journey into the world of tough bikers who protect abused kids.
Byron is currently writing for his blog Trauma Dad, and his book “I Am A Killer”, to be released in 2016 by the Gravity Imprint of Booktrope Publishing. This post is an excerpt from his work in progress. His writing challenges readers with both depth and simplicity. It’s raw and funny, but leaves you feeling hopeful and inspired.