Do you ever wonder where things start? For example, certain traditions of your family, were they decided upon by a young couple and passed down? Some things tend to just have always been. I lately have been wondering about the bad things that have happened in people’s family. They seem to be passed down or miserably “paid forward” to the next generation in some form. Where did it all begin and how does it stop?
I get to listen to people who are not in the utmost moments of their lives when they have to see me. Some are self-corrective and open as to what went wrong. Others are just baffled as to why they should have to face any consequences or honestly chaos is just normal. It is these ones that talk a lot about how their family does things or what others have done to them. There are stories that will make you want to sit in the fetal position and rock. Other stories, you want to shake your head on how senseless and childish their reasoning is behind any action. Nonetheless, both seem generational and I can already see them passing this on to their own children.
However, I have to pause and think of even my own family’s dysfunction. We tend to excuse ourselves or what we know as the exception, when we are in fact quite similar from afar. No family is perfect. Some may be seemingly more “normal” than others. There always seems to be some skeletons in a closet or something people don’t want to talk about openly. I would say even that is somewhat normal in the world we live in. However, some things tend to fester and affect people in adverse ways. What do we do then?
Okay, let me back up as my mind is somewhere yours may not be yet. Let’s say a child is abused by a trusted neighbor for years in secret. That child is going to suffer and is the victim/survivor of this atrocious act and person. The child grows up and never receives any help. The anger and shame has set in very deep. He grows into a handsome man and gets married. Things seem fine until later in his marriage when he becomes a father. He finds himself full of anger and disgust. He turns to drinking as a coping skill. His anger, fear and shame he pays forward in the form of physical abuse on his wife and daughter.
The daughter grows up with very low self-esteem not knowing why her father seems to hate her so much. She tries to please him but no matter what grades she gets, how clean the house is or so forth she feels she is never good enough. One day she meets a man who seems to value her and marries him. Sadly he too is abusive and she not knowing much different stays and raises their children in a loveless marriage.
Her son grows up full of anger and confusion. His father taught him “what it means to be a man” but also he felt he was never quite good enough. His mother was very demanding that the house be perfect at all times and she did not give much affection. His dream was of the perfect family, one like he saw on TV. So he gets married to a beautiful lady that he showers with gifts. He expects her to be perfect at all times, just like on TV. Their kids need to be perfect too. There was no time for whining or arguing, but just for perfection. He was stunned when his wife and children left him one day.
That daughter grew up with parents who had very different points of views. Her father, that a family should be perfect and they all betrayed him when his mother left him. Her mother after leaving what she felt was agony, taught her girls to never let a man control them. She suffers further types of abuse growing up by the hands of others. How can she not be confused, angry, scared and in a way broken? So as a mother herself at times she would demand perfection and want full control. She would dominate the house so she would not fear it would dominate her. Is this her fault? Who do you blame? What affects will this have on her kids?
Well they become total opposites. One will get counseling and want it all to stop. The other will get lost in the waves of the past.
Honestly, I don’t know the origin of the anger in my family and what is written above is mostly fiction. But I think you get my point. Each child is damaged and grows to an adult that damages their own children. We excuse it when they are children because they are the victims and don’t know any better. But when do we hold them accountable? When does the cycle stop? Why are there so many continued victims of the original person long after they are gone? Is that really what we want to “pay forward” onto our children? Sadly I don’t even think most realize they are but continue to do so.
There are too many damaged people walking around unaware they are causing so much more damage on their own. Or even worse, they are aware but they excuse it by telling you how they were victimized and so their actions are not their fault. That is where I am in a huge disagreement. If you know what damaged you and then you knowingly are doing it yourself, I believe you to be worse in some ways than the person who harmed you. This is because you already know the hurt you are causing and you don’t care to try and stop it.
So my food for thought is this. Accountability is a hard thing for everyone. None of us likes to have to face our own flaws. We are quick to give excuses and justifications for our actions. Take some time and meditate on if they are truly valid for the future or if they only live in the past. I am not saying that abuse of any kind does not affect you. I know it does. It can is in so many ways. But it doesn’t have to determine who you will be in the future or who reap part of that pain you carry with you. Do not empower a past abuser with future victims.