Articles From the December 1994 Unification News
Breaking the Chain of the Battered Wife Syndrome
by Ellen Goldstein, C.Ht.-NYC
Abuse, both physical and verbal, has been a fact of life for women for thousands of years, and at times the mistreatment of women was thought of as normal. However, as we have come to understand today, that kind of behavior is destructive. It destroys the abused and the abuser alike. Modern psychology has given us insight into these dynamics, commonly referred to as the "Battered Wife Syndrome." This title is a misnomer. Both the man and the women caught up in this dynamic are playing their respective roles: in most cases, the woman as the victim, and the man as the attacker. Let me explain what I mean by roles.
Each person holds within his or herself the seeds of their own destiny. From the minute we are born our minds begin processing information that will shape the direction of our future. Our subconscious mind literally drinks in all the information that it is fed, and this subconscious mind shapes our every action. Words have tremendous power, and the verbal food we ingest is the building blocks of our self-image. The phrase "You are what you eat" is applicable here.
People who have been taught to respect and love themselves are happy and bright. They attract others like moths to a flame. Everyone wants to be around them and share in the energy of their love. In contrast, those who have been infused with low self esteem create a whirlpool of negative energy around themselves, and people avoid them. No one wants to be sucked into their dismal atmosphere.
Negative input or abusive behavior in our past leave scars on our psyche. The scars act like magnets, attracting similar treatment. Because we have been convinced we should be hurt, we subconsciously set up situations in which we will be hurt, justifying the negative treatment we receive. We unwittingly set ourselves up.
Too many people in our society, especially women, have been taught to think of themselves as worthless beings, deserving mistreatment. And too many people in general have been trained to believe that they are stupid or worthless and do not deserve love. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every person is precious and unique. We derive our value simply from the fact that we exist and are part of God's family. No matter what we have been taught to believe in the past, we have the power to change the channel and transform our lives.
It is, however, a difficult task. The process of re-instructing our subconscious minds is not natural. Our minds were designed to receive only one set of self values. But with our mixed up society, we ingest many conflicting messages. For example, in church we are taught that marriage is the highest ideal, and that we should "save" ourselves for marriage. But the promiscuous lifestyles of our modern-day heros are touted from every magazine cover and television screen.
The subconscious mind is like a computer. It digests everything it is fed literally. It cannot sort through the information we receive and choose the best--especially when we are children. Ingesting this conflicting information erects many barriers within us that impede our growth. Individually we must find out what our barriers are and break them down.
Easier said than done! I am sure there are many of you who have tried to change your situation without much success. Others simply do not know where to start. It's hard to pull yourself out of a deep hole without the help of someone with a long rope. It's not impossible, but for the majority of us, it's close to it. If you are in a dangerous situation, you must get out. Very few people have the internal stamina necessary to transform such a relationship when trapped within it. Especially in an atmosphere of violence. Once you are out of that environment, you have more freedom to change.
Just as there are many types of people in the world, there are many healing techniques. No one technique is right for everyone. The basic principles, however, do not change. The first thing you must do is find a guide, someone who can assist you in uncovering the root of the problem. Before a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or healer can treat a problem, it must first be diagnosed. In order to heal your subconscious mind, you must first find the causes of the problem. Once you have uncovered these causes, you can then find the solution. It's like spring cleaning--rooting through the closets and throwing away your mildewed old clothing.
Cleaning out your mind, however, is only the first step. You can uncover many dark secrets, sources of the wounds on your psyche. There are many mental healers who can help you do that. Unfortunately, some do not go any farther than that. While cleaning out your refrigerator you may find some moldy bread, but if you do not throw it out, your refrigerator will still be unclean. The same is true for your subconscious mind. It is necessary to uncover the incorrect and damaging things taught to you, but if you cannot forgive and let go of them, you cannot be healed.
Forgiveness is a crucial step in the healing process. When you hold onto the pain that someone inflicted upon you, you leave no room for health or love. That pain remains within you and festers like an abscess. If you cannot forgive, you cannot heal. Forgiveness is the same as throwing out the moldy bread. When you forgive, the hurt is no longer stored in your mind. You have surgically removed the cancer and filled in the hollow place that trapped all your hurts with healing.
First you must forgive the person who wronged you, and then you must forgive yourself. This can be a long process as there may be many wounds to cure. It becomes easier once you have begun. The hardest part is beginning.
One of the most important things to remember is that you are responsible for your life. It is certainly terrible what may have previously happened to you, or what is happening right now. But the past is finished and cannot be changed. The present and future belong to you, but only if you will accept responsibility for your life and actions. If you choose not to heal, then you allow those who harmed you to control your life. Every person has the innate power of choice. Many people grow up in poverty, but not all who were poor remain so. It is true that they have greater obstacles to overcome than those who were born wealthy, but it is by their power of choice that these changes come about, not where they were born. Many who were born wealthy end up poor as a result of inappropriate life choices. We cannot change what we were born with, or taught, but we can transform the direction of our lives through our life choices now.
Step two is developing your mind-body unity. We all have seen a martial artist in a movie, or a concert pianist at work and marvel at their skill. What attracts us to these people is their mind-body unity. They have centered their mind on a discipline and forced their bodies to follow in that direction, regardless of pain or exhaustion they might be experiencing. Those principles hold true for all aspects of our lives. We, as part of the creation, must center our minds on the creator, and inspire our bodies to follow that direction. The more we follow this pathway, the happier we will be. In conjunction with this, we must also serve others. Much of our life force derives from interaction with others. We cannot find true happiness alone. To quote John Donne, "No man is an island." To nourish our physical bodies, we need good food, water, air and proper exercise. To nourish our subconscious minds we need good information and good actions. All living things exist and grow through a process of give and take action. For example, for your body to properly survive, your lungs must take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. If one side of the process is broken down, then you can no longer breathe and your body will die. To have the goodness in your mind alone blocks the proper flow of give and take, and is unhealthy for your psyche. You must share the goodness with others for proper mental health.
When you are in a difficult situation it is hard to think of others and what they may be experiencing. But you will find that the more you help others, the less overwhelming your own problems will be. This is part of the give and take process. When you give, you open yourself up to receive. If you do not give, you have no room to receive. And the more you give, the more room you have to receive.
That is not to say that you should neglect your problems. Too many women who are caught up in the "Battered Wife Syndrome" are also "Co- dependents." Co-Dependents are those who sacrifice themselves at the expense of their own health and well being.
There are two kinds of sacrifice. Healthy sacrifice overflows from a storehouse of love which you are able to share with others. Unhealthy sacrifice, however, drains your limited life force to feed others, and not necessarily for their betterment. It is a selfish form of sacrifice. Most people who are involved in the "Battered Wife" dynamic do not have a storehouse of love from which to serve. They generally embody the role of doormat, and find themselves drained by what they give. It is essential for your own well being to give only from love, not from anger or resentment.
The third element that is essential for proper balance is a care for the creation. Even if we are united in our mind and body, and we share our love with others, if we live in a polluted environment, we cannot find true happiness. We have a responsibility for our external, as well as our internal environments.
All of these elements, loving yourself and finding mind-body unity; serving and loving others; and loving the creation are the fundamental components for success. To break out of the "Battered Wife Syndrome" and find happiness, you must travel this road.
If you simply separate from your mate and retain your anger and resentment, those emotions will more than likely put you back into the same situation you are escaping from. The problem will follow you wherever you go, and you will find yourself trapped within the prison of your own hatreds and fears. Separation is only one step. Some of you may not want to do anything else. That is your decision. But be aware that finding another mate is not a permanent solution. Unless you can erase your fears, resentments and hurts, you are very likely to fall back into the same situation.
When you can free yourself you can also free others around you-- especially your family and friends. The hardest step is beginning, and it is not an easy road. But true happiness and joy lie at the end of this pathway, and the power to get there is in your hands.
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