One aftereffect from my abusive childhood that I am not proud of is my ability to lie. I consider myself to be a person of integrity, and I am honest with people about most things in my life. However, when it comes to close relationships (particularly family), lying to avoid conflict comes as naturally as breathing.
Lying is a common aftereffect of child abuse. The abused child wants to placate the abuser so the abuser will not harm her, so she tells the abuser whatever he or she wants to hear. When the abused child becomes an adult, that tendency is still there. The potential of being in conflict with a family member triggers all of the person’s fears from childhood of experiencing abuse for not agreeing with and placating the abuser. It can take a long time for an adult survivor of child abuse to accept that she is no longer in danger for disagreeing with a family member.
I watch television shows like Everybody Loves Raymond or Friends and sit in awe of the ability of the characters to bicker and then still be okay. This is not a lesson that I have learned yet as part of my healing. If I am in conflict with someone I care about, it feels like my world is spinning out of control. My therapist used to tell me that I needed to learn that it is okay to disagree in a relationship and that an argument will not end it. Two people who love each other will come back together and not break apart over one disagreement. While I get that in my head, I have a long way to go before I will get this at a heart level.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt