Monday, March 22, 2010

Sensitivity and the Enablement of Abuse in Relationships

I'm far from an expert on this topic. I can only offer a snippet of my experiences and my perspective on how being highly sensitive affects the way we develop (or avoid) intimacy and relationships. The one thing that I do know is that we tend to want to see the good in everyone and believe that only the good side exists. Even when our instincts are telling us otherwise, we push those uneasy feelings aside because somewhere deep down we believe that we are on this planet to make everyone else happy at the expense of our own self-respect. To put it quite simply, we don't do conflict, direct confrontation or face to face acknowledgement of the blatant truth.

I know. I still avoid it at times. I still pretend that everything is fine when it really isn't. I deny my feelings and my needs so someone else can have what they want from me. I still witness someone's good qualities and think that they somehow outweigh all the negative ways they made me feel, or their condescending remarks, their excuses for not fulfilling their half of the bargain, or their outright inconsideration for me as a person.

To be blunt, having a history of sexual abuse or violence only compounds these factors. When you're in that horror, you have no boundaries, no rights, no feelings, no voice, no choice, no soul. You're no longer a person. And afterwards, you no longer trust who you are or what you think or what you might want. You become robotic, on "auto-pilot," a machine. Sometimes you pretend that you, the one who was abused, doesn't exist. The anger, the pain, the suffering, the shame, the's in a box that is never to be opened. Or so you think. Until you start getting asked out or approached and feel frozen. Until you realize that you don't feel anything or that the person you're with may not be blatantly violent, but they are emotionally and mentally abusive. Or that they really only wanted one thing to begin with. There is no self-value, no sense of self-worth or self-respect because those things were taken away a long time ago. Saying no wasn't an option then, so why would it be now. You'll take whatever good feelings you can get because you don't believe that you're capable of being loved. Deep down you feel flawed, damaged, defective and empty. Yes, I know. Firsthand. I live with the aftermath that can't possibly be contained in the words of this paragraph every single day.

The way I see it, I do one of two things. I either avoid/push away or dive in head first too fast, too soon. I avoid or push away because a relationship means I'll have to open that box and not just so I can see what's in it. It's too difficult to try and feel. It's too hard to think that I might be a disappointment and be abandoned again. Better to not risk it at all and remain a mystery. I dive in head first too fast, too soon so that I won't have to open that box at all. I can pretend that I'm someone else and be whatever the other person wants. The true me ceases to exist amongst the temporary high and rush of the feelings that can make it seem as if the emptiness isn't there. An emptiness that gets bigger once the feelings fade.

Tonight I'm a little angry that we get taken advantage of. Our willingness to forgive so easily gets thrown aside by those who wish to use us as a doormat for their needs. Our need to make everything "ok" at the expense of our spirits is something that we need to learn to recognize and stop. We can't possibly be what someone else wants us to be. We have the right to say "no" and be listened to. We have the right to not compromise one hundred percent of the time. We have the right to acknowledge the truth and not be made to feel as though we are "crazy" or "emotional" for doing so. We deserve honesty, appreciation, respect, genuine affection and to have our needs heard and reciprocated.

We have the right to be our true selves, without the intimidation of abandonment and abuse in the background. We are the ones that have to start believing and saying that we are worth it. Acceptance and knowing what you want begins within. Making the decision to be strong and not settle for anything less comes from a willingness to recognize that you're just as valuable as those around you. Without it, your soul slowly evaporates into the pool of reflections that others will so readily drown you in.


  1. I've read much of this before, as many have. I've never had to deal with physical abuse, but the naive hopes and disappointments have been a hard lesson. My eyes are opening, if slowly.

  2. The first paragraph struck a chord - added to which I'd comment the hope that things will change - though you don't know how.

    The rest I can only imagine.

  3. Ah yes, the "hoping things will change" game. I think that goes along with having a "future perspective" on life. In other words, you're always "hoping" for what could be or life's possibilities rather than focusing on what actually is. There's also denial of what actually is because it's too painful to acknowledge or you don't want to believe that it's true because that would mean having to change something about yourself.