Content: Heavily emotional. Being labeled heartless is the main topic but I also mention the death of a grandparent and a grandparent complicit in abuse by his silence. There is extreme child abuse listed in a noted paragraph ***.
I read a blog entry this evening concerning a survivor that worries she may have a heart of stone because she can’t cry. Follow her blog here. The subject has come up before, survivors that don’t cry at all or don’t cry easily may feel they are different from those of us who have found the vulnerability of tears less triggering.
I know a lot of people think crying is a show of weakness. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t hide our faces or apologize to others who see us cry. There’s a need to protect others from our emotions so we shield them from our tears. Here in the West, tears in front of others may include guilt or it may suggest weakness. Weakness in relation to automatic emotional response is what I want to talk about.
When I was younger I figured out that my mother was looking for a reaction to her abuse. She was looking for shock value, for panic, for pain response. I knew when she hit me with dowel rods, when she assaulted me at all that she was looking for an emotional response. She looked me dead in the eye and I looked back. I learned with each session how to withhold her prize, a response. I held my ground. I refused to scream, to panic, to beg. Absolutely not! That’s what she was after and that’s what she would never get from me. Now, my sister, a totally different kind of survivor, one with her own adaptive skills, would scream when the mother was looking for a scream, would express pain from torture when that’s what my mother was looking for. And she’s shed her tears when the mother was looking for a response after humiliation. I realized it was all about the response and once I knew that, I refused it. I locked it up and I refused it. Admittedly, it wasn’t all at one time. Being able to control outward emotion matched the effort taken to force it.
My family was abusive together. My aunts are guilty of abusing my siblings and me as well as their own children in front of the rest of the family. Abuse was a family affair with a purpose. What were they looking for? They wanted to show how they could dominate us, and dominate they did but I refused to give them the prize. Doing so got me labeled heartless.
*** This is a paragraph with disturbing information. Skip to the next paragraph if needed.***
I was not the heartless one who placed a hot iron on the bare back of a little boy in front of his cousins , aunts and grandmother. I was not the heartless one who beat him mercilessly in front of his cousins, aunts, grandmother and grandfather. I was not the heartless one who got me in a corner and threw punches in my direction, leaving me to wonder when one would land. And I was not the heartless one that took turns beating my three year old brother. They took turns beating a child. They took turns beating my younger cousin to the point I thought she was dead. She was a party favor. There were drinks and hors d’oeuvre, company in the other room waiting for their turn with a leather belt. My baby cousin no longer screamed and I thought she was dead. I have OCD which means I’m a counter. I counted 100 lashes. How on earth did she survive that, and why was I there to witness it? But I did and I did so without any reaction, none! I shed no tears. I showed little fear, if ever, of what I was seeing or experiencing. Eventually, included in the names they called me was ‘heartless’. My aunts would stand me in the corner and berate me. With my back to them I never knew when one would lash out physically, but my body never gave evidence that I was fearful. Was I, absolutely, but I’d never, ever show them! There was one thing I could not hold myself together for, even the thought of it made me panic inside. I couldn’t go away in my head, get far enough away from feeling the palms of my hands beaten with dowel rods. That made me panic but other stuff, heck no! I even tried to tell my sister not to panic because it would make her a target. *** end detailed abuse
I believed I was heartless. I believed I was only good for sex. I learned I was nothing, expendable and a burden to happiness, all before the age of fifteen. I carried that with me until someone spoke up for me.