WHY DO WE LOVE THE PERPETRATOR?
HOW CAN WE LOVE THE ABUSER?
Initially I fell in love with the idea of love – the romantic Prince Charming who rescues me, the modern day abused Cinderella. At the age of 20, Tom M. (also at the age of 20) initially filled the boxes that needed to be checked for me (also at the age of 20):
Gazing into each other’s eyes
Wanting to spend all his time with me (a red flag I did not recognize)
Dinner and wine
And More …
Oh, I so wanted to be loved and to love. My family-of-origin could not receive love from me. How can you honestly receive love from an object you abuse and torture? You see, no one wanted my gift of love; and, I was a child filled with the yearning to love and be loved. The quote below intrigues me:
“There is yet another illusion, that it is important to be respectable, to be loved and appreciated, to be important. Many say we have a natural urge to be loved and appreciated, to belong. That’s false. Drop this illusion and you will find happiness. We have a natural urge to be free, a natural urge to love, but not to be loved.” – Anthony de Mello
You see, I still have a deep longing to love others and for that love to be received. Is it a human instinct? A spiritual one?
Not so long ago, at a point in time of unemployment, poverty, and living on the charity of a few others, I found myself voluntarily serving food to the working poor and the homeless. It filled a desire in me to give, to give love. At the time, I thought maybe I was selfish and even looking for a “free meal” (literally). Yet, I seldom ate any of the food I served. Instead, I received an inner satisfaction from the giving of my time and energy to others. I digress …
Recently, I have been reminded again and again of a “good” memory consisting of Tom M. and me. It was one late spring in the 1980’s, I believe. We went camping for a few days. A huge amount of dandelions covered the grassy areas. Beautiful weeds. Nature. Tom M. and I rented a rowboat. It was peaceful on the water. No abuse. No torture. No hate or evil covering all that was good. Did I love him? Was he capable of loving me or anyone? How much I wanted to believe Tom M. loved me. The answers are not so very important. What has surfaced though is that not all memories of life with an abuser are awful ones. Now, after being free physically from Tom M. for more than 11 years, I am allowing myself to recognize the okay moments with Tom M. Oh, cognitively I knew life with an abuser contains both bad and okay moments. How else do we survive?
“If you cannot tolerate what you know or feel what you feel, the only option is denial and dissociation.”
– Bessel van der Kolk, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma”
That is a potent statement of reality for so, so many of us. For years I repressed, put aside, denied the abuse of my past. Facing the abuse took tremendous strength, courage, and trust …. Trust in something bigger than myself … the Universe, a Higher Power, Divine Love, God … It is only after being truly free emotionally and spiritually am I now able to freely see and remember the decent moments of my past with Tom M. It does not mean I excuse or deny any of the terrible abuse, torture, and mind control or evil that occurred. Not at all. All it tells me is that I was given moments when the surface of the water rested and was still … like in that rowboat. It does not matter if Tom M. is capable of love. It does matter that I loved him (as much as I could recognize and share love as wounded as I was from the abuse of my childhood).
What does matter to me is that I was given an opportunity to catch my breath, to sit on a boat on a peaceful body of water, to enjoy a moment of joy and peace, to be in nature, and to sense or intuit a future that held a better, different world for me. At that point in time, I had no religious affiliation. I thought very little of anything spiritual. God was a concept I had put aside. Yet, I see now that Spirit was always with me … giving me mostly unnoticed moments (usually in nature, many times near water) to catch my breath, to breathe, to truly breathe … if only for a moment …
Those moments somehow endowed me with strength to continue to live and to survive abuse and torture for years until finally I escaped to freedom, peace & moments of joy.
My desire is still to love others … in the true definition of love … to help survivors, (mostly as an online life coach), thrive … to find freedom and peace … hopefully sooner …. It seems to me that we all need love – to give love and to receive love … not only to others, but to ourselves also. Life is too short.
What does love and life mean to you?