Abuse and the Empath

loveWhen I was child, I was abused by my father. When I did anything wrong, I was beaten with either a hand or belt. I was most scared of the thinner belts.  They hurt the most.  My father has a “funny” story that he used to tell when we would be sitting around the dinner table.  It went something like this…

I was four or five and I had wandered around the block.  This was wrong. I was not allowed to go past the house with the big white pillars and the small porch.  This was a rule, but I had broken it.  Perhaps I was chasing a butterfly, maybe I just wanted to openly defy the rule. I don’t remember why I broke this rule; I just remember that I did.  As a cycled back around the corner, I saw my father’s angry eyes.  His mouth was twisted and I knew that he was furious.  I knew that I was caught.

“Don’t beat me, Daddy,” I cried as I put my hands across my behind to try and save myself from a subsequent beating.  My father’s face changed as he glanced at the few neighbors who were watering their gardens are putting out their potted plants.  He smiled and bent to the ground, supporting himself on one knee.

“It’s ok, baby,” he said soothingly.  “I am not going to hurt you.” I smiled and ran into his arms.  He hugged me as he carried me into the house.  I buried my tear-stained face into his neck and sighed.  I did not notice that we were walking back towards the house.

And this is the part my father always thought was most amusing, the part that he would chuckle while saying,

“So here she thinks she got me,” he would continue.  “She thought she could manipulate me and embarrass me in front of the neighbors, but I showed her.  When I got her inside, I spanked her so hard she didn’t even know what hit her, and I made sure she really knew I was serious because I really laid into her.  She never did that again.”

And I didn’t do that again…throughout my life, I don’t think I ever did that again.  How terribly did that scar me?

I find it difficult to trust men.

I believe all men lie to me or are going to hurt me if I give them an ounce of trust.

I fear men and the things they are capable of doing to me.

How does a person have an intimate relationship with a person of the opposite gender when this is just one “story” in a vast sea of abuse?

How long will it take me to walk away from these stories to find myself in the rubble of a broken childhood, a broken marriage, a broken life?

I know that dwelling on this past and sitting in these stories detract me from the present moment and feed my victim story, so I am trying to relinquish them to a time that is no longer here, but I do feel a sense of loss when I think about letting this story go.  I do feel like this story shaped me, but at the same time I also feel like it is keeping me small.  It is keeping me from freedom.

I am not that five year old girl holding her butt in front of her angry father.  There are no large men lurking in the distance waiting to beat me for my wrongdoings, but I still act as if I am.

How do I let go?  By writing it here in this sacred space?  Maybe by telling the truth about my past, I can let each story go with a touch of the “publish” button, shedding each layer of skin one story at a time.

And perhaps I need to be reminded of the following:

“You have to be larger than thought to realize that however you interpret “your life” or someone else’s life or behavior, however you judge any situation, it is no more than a viewpoint, one of many total perspectives.” – Eckhart Tolle

Daddy Issues and The Empath

It would be nice if I could fill an entire blog space with all of the wonderful ways my father helped me grow into the woman I am now. It would also be nice if I could stop feeling that tinge of jealousy every time a friend or colleague talks about her wonderful father.  Yes, it’s true.  I have daddy issues.

Not every father is perfect.  My father was physically and mentally abusive.  One of my earliest memories is being beaten by a barber’s strap he stored in his closet.  I realize the extent of my scars when I hear the rattling sound of a belt buckle being quickly undone.  This was what I heard before any beating if the barber’s strap was out of reach.  It was not only physical but mental abuse also.  It was nothing for him to call me every terrible name in the book when he was angry.

The sad reality is that he only stopped hitting me when I was twelve years old because he slapped me so hard in the face that he thought he broke my nose. He stood back in horror as the blood trickled down my face.  He hugged me and apologized.  He swore it would not happen again.

My father was not a drunk.  He is a hard working, blue collar man, who had no clue how to raise children and he had four.  Don’t get me wrong.  My father did not leave me in the cold.  He gave me many material comforts and worked overtime to put me through college.  He is by far not a bad man, but he was a terrible father.

So why do I share this on the holiday that is meant to revere father’s for their hard work?  It is certainly not to discredit the myriad fathers who are deserving of such credit.  It is more to reach a loving hand out to those women and men who have to look to the card section labeled “Dad-Humor” because the other cards just don’t speak the truth.  There is a deep and solid pain in the hearts of so many of us when we are raised by men who should never have been fathers.  I cringe whenever shows or people poke fun at sexually taking advantage of women who have “daddy issues” because these things are very real.  Many adult women are still working through damaging issues and just trying to find out what their own emotional limitations are.  It is very difficult to have a sense of self when the relationship that was supposed to teach that lesson that is irrevocably tarnished.  Oprah has devoted entire seasons to this issue.  She had a guest who had an intelligent point.  Her guest speaker said that a father is supposed to show his daughter a healthy male/female relationship that does not involve a sexual component, so a woman can know that she can have this type of relationship with a man.  A woman may then believe that a truly loving relationship with a man can only exist if there is a sexual component because the next step in the maturation process brings young girls before men who sometimes only view her that way.  Teenage girls then confuse a boy’s sexual longing for love because it becomes this powerful attractive force.  I have to say that I have been guilty of that time and time again, though my growing empathic abilities are making it easier to discern real love.

So where does that leave me?  Well, my father is still in my life.  We don’t talk about the abuse except for him to say, “Yeah, I was definitely no Ward Cleaver.”  I smile nervously.  I also think I owe my empathic abilities to his abuse.  From some of the research I’ve read about Empaths, abuse can often be cited as a reason for this ability.  The skill of being able to read an abusers’ emotional cues help the abused to stay safer. I always had to think about would could possibly make him angry.  I had to learn to be extremely politic to have any type of existence under his roof.  I think it also enhanced my verbal ability.  It made me strong and weak all at the same time, a dichotomy that I try and balance on a daily basis.

So if you have the same mixed emotions about Father’s Day or even your own father, know that you are not alone.  Many of us struggle with the reality that our fathers will never be represented by the prettiest Hallmark cards, and all of that is okay.  It has hopefully helped you to grow into the wonderful person you are today.