Sunday, November 6, 2016

"You brought this upon yourself!", why abusers use this phrase

name of illustration: "You Did Not Bring Abuse Upon Yourself"
image is © Lise Winne

Alternative phrases:
You had it coming.
You brought this on yourself.
You are responsible for this.
You deserved to be hit, bruised, insulted, raped, vilified, ostracized, etc.

According to Daryl Campbell the basic premise is this:
The abuser does wrong and expertly lays one hundred percent of the blame and responsibility for their actions on your shoulders ... Unfortunately many victims fall for it.

But assuming that some of us don't fall for it, why do abusers still keep trying to use it on us? When we still don't buy it, why do they try to get their flying monkey people to convince us?
And then when we still don't fall for the flying monkeys' pressures, guilt trips and insults, why do they still attempt to keep using it to "play the victim" and slandering us? Why won't they just give up on this crazy-making?

The reason why is because this phrase and the "You're ungrateful" phrase are some of the most used phrases by abusers (often referred to as blame-shifting). Most abusers have personality disorders (either Borderline, Narcissism, or Anti-Social Personality Disorder, and they are acting the script of their disorder -- see my post about what abuse is and who it is perpetrated by). 

At the heart of the "You brought this upon yourself" phrasing is that the abuser thinks you deserve to be hurt by them and/or rejected by them. It is a sign that the abuser does not want to care about you, your feelings, how he impacts you, what he does to your self esteem, or what he does to your life. Justice means nothing to him.

What I mean by "the discard phase" is that it is one of three steps that abusers typically use on their victims: idealize, devalue, discard (in that order). The devaluation phase comes when the victim of abuse is no longer giving the borderline, narcissist or sociopath the narcissistic supply they so desperately crave. Once the target shows that he will not stroke the ego of the abuser, the abuser will lash out (and usually abuse) his target. Then the "discard phase" usually follows (i.e. that you, and your issues, feelings and concerns no longer matter to him).

After these three steps is when you will hear the "You brought this upon yourself" phrase.

This wording particularly comes out when you are not stroking his ego, when you have found out that he is lying, stealing or cheating (or some other nefarious activity), when you show that you refuse to be his marionette, when you think of him as "less than perfect", when you show you want to do something for yourself for a change rather than what the abuser wants from you, for not sacrificing yourself for him. Sometimes it is simply because he is sick of you (personality disordered abusers do get tired of their relationships; indeed they get rid of important people in their lives, and sometimes even love to watch the destruction). They get rid of people primarily through a discard (silent treatment), usually accompanied by an uncaring attitude, but they can also be dangerous too. Expect them to talk in a haughty manner while twisting the truth about how they got rid of you when they attempt to retell what happened with others. During their discard, they are known for saying that they love someone else more who they feel will fulfill more of their needs. The discard could be over anything, but it is usually over one of these things, or something equally as unreasonable or petty.

Using "You brought this upon yourself" phrase achieves several things for them. They use it to excuse abuse as though the target "provoked them" to abuse. They use it to try to get control of their victims, as they count on their victims "kissing their ring" despite the abuse. They use it to acquire an uncaring attitude (if they can adopt an unsympathetic point of view, then they won't feel anything about what they have done, and can thereby justify it). They use it to shift the blame from themselves to someone else (blame-shifting is a tell-tale sign of a personality disordered abuser). They use it in hopes that they can use their target for continual blame (especially if it never gets challenged). They use it as an attempt to lower or change the target's self esteem, hoping the target will feel that he deserves abuse. They use it in hopes that the target will self reflect: "Did I, in any way, cause this to happen?"

In the end, "You brought this upon yourself" is a shocking, blame-shifting, brainwashing, horrendous, potent phrase. It is transformed to "He made me do it" or "She made me do it" when they explain away their abuse to authorities or pretend to be a victim (it is often the number one phrase that domestic violence counselors hear from batterers and abusers).

The point of this post is to:
1. make you realize that this is a typical phrase used by all abusers
2. make you realize that you did not bring abuse upon yourself (abuse is an aberrant, unjustified reaction to an interpersonal problem)

In another post I'll cover empaths and why so many of them believe in karma. The short of it is that empaths sometimes "worry" that they are as bad as abusers when they say "Karma will get them" (i.e. get my abuser).

But be assured that this is not the same kind of phrasing or the same kind of meaning as when abusers say "You brought this upon yourself." For one, if you are an empath, you did not abuse anyone. And if you did abuse someone without meaning to, you would apologize right away. You would be concerned about them and the relationship between you. This is in stark contrast to abusers who try to convince you that you are somehow bad, and deserve to be hurt by them, destroyed by them, lied about by them. Saying that "Karma will get them" is in response to their being abusive.

"You brought this upon yourself" is usually in response to their having "narcissistic injury", which they believe is your fault (i.e. them sensing you are finding fault with them about something, them not feeling admired or praised enough, you not kissing their ring, you not doing what you are told to do by them, you refusing to let them control you, you having an autonomous thought or action which is self-driven rather than looking for their approval).

There is a huge difference between the two. And yes, karma does "get" most abusers. I will also talk about that in another post.

If it is your parent who is abusive and rejecting, remember this. Even though you may have been told that you deserved abuse or rejection because you acted unloving towards them, or ungrateful towards them, or weren't trusting towards them, these phrases are most likely projection and they are all signs of a narcissistic disordered parent. Most reputable therapists and psychologists tell parents that their job is to love their children, period, and when they love and validate their children, their children will almost always love them back, and validate them as good parents. When parents are cruel, slandering, rejecting and punishing, children will not love them back, or think of them as good parents, plain and simple.

Also, children will not come out of the womb admiring and loving the parent. That is not their job even though a narcissist will insist that it is. The parent's job is to love the child, not the other way around. It is up to parents to teach their child what love and acceptance feels like by loving and accepting the child. When the child feels loved and accepted, the reciprocity of those feelings will come out as the child matures.

Edit on March 1, 2017: the above 2 paragraphs have to do with "abusive parents", not kind parents who live a life of integrity. I thought this edit was necessary to explain because of the comments I received on this post. -- thanks!

further reading:

definition -- from Free Dictionary

In an Abusive Relationship? Help Yourself Today -- from the Uncommon Help website


Avoiding Victim Blaming -- from the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness

Am I Bad? Recovering from Abuse (New Horizons in Therapy) -- by  Heyward Bruce Ewart III

“Is this abuse?”: A Guide For Aces -- from The Ace Theist blog

8 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading this blog post and it validated me quite a bit. Thank you for this.

    But the last part knocked me for a loop and opened an old wound I thought had finally been healed.

    I can tell you from personal experience that not all children love their parents even "if they were good parents." Some children suffer from the same personality disorders listed here that abusive adults or parents suffer from, and make others around them suffer from. It's not always the parents fault.

    I wish it wasn't that way, but in my case, it certainly is. Loving heart and soul doesn't always change another person's behavior, no matter how much we wish it would.

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    1. Addictions can morally bankrupt adult children. This post is primarily about abusers and narcissists and how many of them treat their children; it is not about a kind parent who receives abuse from a child. That is a whole other topic which I will uncover at some point.
      These paragraphs you are referring to that I wrote started out saying "If it is your parent who is abusive and rejecting, remember this: ..." You don't sound like an abusive, rejecting parent: you sound like you are a kind parent who is asking for respect from a disrespectful alcoholic son. So, we aren't in disagreement here. "The anger response" as well as irrationality are common in active alcoholics -- it is part of what alcohol does to the brain. And so, his ability to be polite may have a lot more to do with drinking than with you (and your good intentions).
      Sandy Swenson has been through a lot of what you are talking about. Her blog is here: http://www.sandyswenson.com/blog/
      She talks about wanting her son back from the addiction that stole him. She also wrote a book called "The Joey Song" and for anyone who has an addict son, it is highly relate-able.
      Also, I have a post about why anger management does not work well when a person is still drinking here: http://angry-alcoholics.blogspot.com/2014/03/is-anger-management-course-possible.html

      Delete
  2. * * * * Part II, con't

    I always believed that addictions were or could be "genetically predisposed," so I made sure that I didn't drink at all after I saw what it was doing to so many around me. And I haven't for over 40 years. Yet my only child, my son had been drinking behind my back for YEARS. I had no idea. And after helping him with financial problems I had no idea I was enabling him to continue drinking, as I had no idea that was where the problems were coming from.

    I have been blamed for "not knowing" that he was drinking (even though he lived 1,000 miles away), or for "having HAD to of abused him as a child - or he would NOT be drinking now, or "enabling him" by helping financially when I did not know what the real problems were, or any number of guilt-trips about me being a "bad parent" since my child did NOT love me, and did and does NOT treat me well.

    "The child doesn't owe the parent anything." "he doesn't owe me a thing" is what our culture now seems to say, and he has certainly taken it to heart.

    This is no different than what wives were put through with their abusive husbands who beat them. They "must have brought it on themselves" and pointing fingers at the parent with a child who does not love them, or does not treat them with simple courtesy and respect, is no different now. In our culture, females and mothers in particular are always blamed.

    Now that I have lived in other countries, I can see that adult children have a responsibility towards their parents and should at minimum be courteous and grateful for having been cared for by their parents, just like in the "old days." Why shouldn't they thank the ones who sacrificed for them? I don't know where the idea got started that children don't even have to recognize that someone gave them life and provided for them for many years. No one "owes love" to another person as it's not something that can be forced. But to say the children owe nothing to the parent, when the parent "owes" something to the child - for the child's entire life - leads to a very unbalanced relationship.

    Hearing that "I must have done something to deserve it" from my adult child cuts me to the core as much as what this estrangement has done to me. The mantle of shame and blame that is thrown over parents by the misdeeds or the abuse from their adult, mature children is another kind of Scarlet Letter, and a veil of death and destruction. Why not just stick with not accepting abuse from anyone? Adult child, parent, boss, spouse, whomever?

    * * * *
    This very long comment is based on your last paragraphs:

    "When parents are cruel, slandering, rejecting and punishing, children will not love them back, or think of them as good parents, plain and simple.

    Also, children will not come out of the womb admiring and loving the parent. That is not their job even though a narcissist will insist that it is. The parent's job is to love the child, not the other way around. It is up to parents to teach their child what love and acceptance feels like by loving and accepting the child. When the child feels loved and accepted, the reciprocity of those feelings will come out as the child matures."

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    1. From your quote: 'The child doesn't owe the parent anything.' 'he doesn't owe me a thing' is what our culture now seems to say, and he has certainly taken it to heart.
      This is no different than what wives were put through with their abusive husbands who beat them. They 'must have brought it on themselves' and pointing fingers at the parent with a child who does not love them, or does not treat them with simple courtesy and respect, is no different now. In our culture, females and mothers in particular are always blamed."

      Catherine, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Children can be nightmares. They can particularly be difficult when they are addicted, are not respectful or are the offspring of a parent who is addicted, abusive or cruel (and has taken on that other parent's qualities and is at war with you, the kind, non-addicted or "normal" loving parent).

      The point of my entire blog is to get parents on the right track of being loving and kind to children right after they come out of the womb, not tolerating a partner/husband/wife who is cruel (so the child doesn't take on those qualities). We cannot have a peaceful world without having peace-loving families. So the whole blog is about asking people to evolve into diplomats instead of insult-ers, arm-twisters, abusers and war-mongers.

      You are right to ask for respect and decency from your child, but I also do not believe it can be arm-twisted out of him.

      My position (and the position with many therapists who specialize in abuse) is to live a life of integrity, which is what you seem to be doing. This is so the child cannot take the parent to task for hypocrisy, and besides, a parent always teaches much better by example than by arm-twisting and punishments. The best thing is to personalize it: instead of saying "You need to show parents respect" say instead "I feel as though you are not respecting me, and it makes me feel sad about the state of our relationship and disappointed in what you have grown up to be."

      -- I had a father who had practically flawless integrity, that phrased things in a personal way, and believe me, the last thing I wanted to do was to disappoint or hurt that man. Most of the time getting personal works -- but not always, especially if they have an active addiction or a cluster B personality disorder.

      Please also see my comment above to you.

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  3. * * * * * Part III, con't

    My son has been "cruel, slandering, rejecting and punishing, yet I, as most mothers, continue to love him no matter what. It's all I can do to say "no" to him, even mentally, in order NOT to enable him, but I don't believe that I did anything wrong by doing so. I don't have to earn his love. A parent should not have to EARN a child's courtesy or respect. A parent should be given a certain amount of admiration and love for whatever good they did accomplish, if they accomplished something, other than physical, mental or emotional abuse. The parents job is to take care of the child, at least until they turn 18.

    To write "The parent's job is to love the child, not the other way around" is very sad to me, as it completely negates any responsibility for the child, as an adult, to also treat the parent responsibly and with a certain amount of courtesy and respect. I would appreciate being appreciated for the hard work and real sacrifices I made his entire life as a single mother raising him in a very hostile world. But no, I am supposed to do "everything" for the child with nothing in return.

    I don't agree with this and I never will. Believe me, I tried to do everything and anything my son wanted and asking nothing in return, and it DOES NOT WORK. And it's the pervasive attitude that parents owe their children "everything" with "nothing in return" and it's THEIR FAULT if the child does not love them - that has driven a stake into many a mother's heart.

    As adults, it's a two way street. Children can be abusers just like anybody else. We all have to grow up sometime. Abusers aren't always born "abused." Sometimes children are abusers even when they were not abused. Can you imagine? A world where things weren't always the parents fault?

    Impossible, it appears. But it could be true. I love my child heart and soul, always have and always will. I pray his heart will be calmed one day and joy and happiness enter in. And if we enter into a relationship again, it will be one of mutual courtesy and respect. Anber and abuse will be blown away by the wind and grace will lead us through.

    And I don't even go to church, but believe in the power of Love and the power of the Divine, and I put our relationship in the Hands of God. And like all the other abusers in my life, I have learned to "love them from a distance," or just to "keep my distance." Simple enough and life has become worth living, once again. Will miracles never cease?

    "The winds of grace blow all the time; all we need do is set our sails"
    Dear God please show us The Way.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Your quote:
      "As adults, it's a two way street. Children can be abusers just like anybody else. We all have to grow up sometime. Abusers aren't always born 'abused.' Sometimes children are abusers even when they were not abused. Can you imagine? A world where things weren't always the parents fault?"

      But overwhelmingly children learn abuse from somewhere, mostly from a family member. If they are drinking extreme amounts of alcohol, the empathy part of their brain (the amygdala) may be compromised. Not everyone who has a lack of empathy abuses, but you can see why lack of empathy would "enable" a person to abuse without feeling shame, regret or sympathy for what their victims are going through.

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  4. Thank you Lise, for your thoughtful, understanding and correct replies. I knew when I was writing that this blog post was not about "addicted adult children," but once I saw that one sentence, whoosh! I was off and gone. I have been fighting tears ever since. Especially now, reading your response.

    By the was, I never once told my son he "owed me respect." It has just been something I have thought of for the past few years, now that we are estranged and I am NOT being disrespected, blamed, called names, cursed at, or just plain rejected.

    Since this estrangement happened over ten years ago, I have done nothing but wonder "what did I do wrong?" and FINALLY I am *starting* to see that *maybe, just maybe,* it's NOT MY FAULT.

    That is a miracle and a blessing in itself. I love my son, always have and always will. Your post reinforces that and makes it alright, especially about the "brain being changed" part. If this is true, that explains a LOT and also ties in with my own alcoholic abusive parent. It was as if they were all reading from the same script." And I couldn't figure out where my son got it, since I kept him away from the family (or we were rejected by the family, which is more to the point) in order to protect him and myself.

    I don't believe "children learn abuse from somewhere." I believe it comes NATURALLY. We kill NATURALLY. We hit and fight and beat others NATURALLY. Just like animals do in the wild. We LEARN TO NOT ABUSE, unnaturally, and thank God we - or some of us - do teach children NOT to be violent. Violence is a NATURAL part of human nature. That is why it's so hard to not react in anger. But loving, peaceful, kind and compassionate parents go a long way in TEACHING children to react differently. I can see the difference in people all around me, based on how they were raised.

    I think I had enough outside influences and mentors who "showed me what love was" that I was saved.

    I thank God for miracles, large and small. And even though I don't go to church, I remember my favorite saying: "The garden is my church, and everything in it."

    I suppose that must mean the "learning" (church) from all things, negative and positive. The butterflies and the bees, the snakes and the spiders, the frogs and the fish, the gentle breeze and the fountain with sunlight sparkling thought it; all things great and small.
    "All things are my church, and everything in it."

    Words I have to remember. The Garden is my church, and everything in it.

    So your post and your replies help a LOT. I can't thank you enough.

    Now to heading to the help you also posted (and I can't thank you enough):

    You wrote:

    "Sandy Swenson has been through a lot of what you are talking about. Her blog is here: http://www.sandyswenson.com/blog/
    She talks about wanting her son back from the addiction that stole him. She also wrote a book called "The Joey Song" and for anyone who has an addict son, it is highly relate-able.
    Also, I have a post about why anger management does not work well when a person is still drinking here: http://angry-alcoholics.blogspot.com/2014/03/is-anger-management-course-possible.html/ "

    Thank you for taking the time to respond so fully and so helpfully, even when my response was not about your post. Means the world to read your words, shining through my tears.

    Gracias, mi amiga! May the sun shine on your face and the wind always be at your back.

    Your blogging internet friend, Catherine Todd, AtitlanArts (dot) com

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    1. You are very welcome. I am glad I could help.

      Delete

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