Sanctuary for the Abused
Monday, August 20, 2018
Victim Blaming, Codependency, and the Analogy
Here's how I view this idea that the pain I feel in my relationship is "my fault", and stemming from "old wounds" or due to my "codependency".
Let's say when I was three I fell down some stairs and broke my leg. And let's say that I fell down those stairs because someone bigger than me, someone who was supposed to care for and protect me, pushed me.
Let's also say that as a three year old I couldn't get myself to a hospital and no one brought me so my leg never healed right leaving me with a bum leg that I could eventually walk on, but not quite right. In fact, my whole skeletal structure became compromised because I had to favor one leg over the other causing all sorts of other things to get thrown out of alignment. Back problems, neck problems, muscle problems, etc. But I learned to live with it, and I was functional as best I could be.
Years later I meet a man who loves my quirky crookedness and we fall in love. He is kind. He is attentive. He makes me feel good. But then things start going a little awry. Then one day, with not a whole lot of warning, man walks up to me with a baseball bat and nails me on the bum leg, breaking it again.
So I've got a broken leg, a re-broken leg, and I go to the hospital.
Here are two possible scenarios.
What should happen:
At the ER the doctor takes some x-rays and comes back to tell me what's what. "You've got a pretty hefty fracture and we're going to have to set the leg and then put a cast on. After 8 weeks in the cast I'm going to want you to do some physical therapy. What I'm concerned with is that you also appear to have an old fracture that didn't heal right, and we're going to have to fix that too. The good news is that the new fracture is on the same line, so by fixing the new fracture, and with intense therapy, you'll be almost as good as new, in fact better than you have been for years. I'm sorry this happened to you. We'll give you something for the pain for a few days, and after that the pain will be bearable enough for you to handle on your own, but you'll be coming in for regular check-ups so we can be sure you're healing properly this time. Also, I think you might benefit from a self-defense class so that once you're healed you'll have a much better chance of keeping yourself safe from harm. Good luck and we'll see you in two weeks."
What happens in the codependent/co-addict model:
At the ER the doctor takes some x-rays and comes back to tell me what's what. "You've got an old fracture and that's what caused this new one, so really it's your fault that your leg is broken. As for the pain you're feeling, that's also your fault. Clearly you are focusing on the pain too much and if you could just detach from it you'd realize there's really nothing to fuss about. You're bringing up your old pain and that's simply not the correct way to go about this. You say you were hit with a baseball bat? Obviously you put yourself in a situation to get your leg broken again because you're addicted to getting your leg broken. Look at how many times this has happened to you? Given your history, it's likely your leg is always going to be getting broken, but if you learn to realize that the pain your feeling is just wrong thinking, and as long as you go to a support group for the rest of your life, you'll be able to learn how to not worry or feel pain when your leg is broken. We good here?"
"Abused persons are not co-dependent," writes Lundy Bancroft, "It is the abusers, not victims, who create abusive relationships."