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Submissive and Self-Defeating Mindsets

December 28, 2009

Abusive relationships are a perfect breeding ground for submissive tendencies and low self-esteem.  It is difficult to underestimate the effect of domestic violence victim’s deep, psychological scarring on future relationships.

Re-learning to relate to people on a normal basis is not easy when you’ve been conditioned to accept abuse and rejection of your core being as a part of daily life.

Your default behaviour becomes submissive. You lack confidence in yourself. You get into the habit of placating people. You don’t stand up for your own rights. You don’t express yourself strongly around others for fear of rejection. Not just any rejection, but rejection so bad that any slip-up on your behalf will result in you being physically, psychologically, sexually, socially, or financially punished.

Being submissive and acting in a non-threatening manner is a very sensible approach if you’re about to get your head kicked in. It’s not such a useful strategy for every day life where you need to function like a conscious human being.

Although serious abuse is unlikely to occur in your normal day-to-day interactions, the emotional scars stay with a victim long after the relationship and the abuse have ended. Negative thoughts of being unattractive, worthless, and never finding love again infect the mind like a plague.

These thoughts are difficult to control and even harder to overcome. After all, people learn by repetition. If you’re told that you’re worthless and unlovable day after day, you begin to internalise that as fact. If you’re repeating it to yourself as well, you’re constantly reinforcing that negativity.

The difficultly of conquering these negative thoughts is compounded by generalising specific negative incidences in your life as “confirmation” of your rejection by society as a whole.

For example, someone close to you puts you down, so you concede you really are stupid/have no fashion sense/are too fat. A new person you’re seeing suddenly decides they don’t want you and leave, so you reason that if they didn’t want you no one else will either. Maybe you meet up with friends and become painfully aware that a guy you like is interested in one of your friends and not you, so you must be unattractive.

This line of thinking is counter-productive and completely erroneous.

Your generalisations catastrophise the situation and ignore the fact that other people have their own lives, problems, and feelings completely independent of you.

The person who put you down may have been preoccupied thinking about a bad day at work, got a huge phone bill, had their cat run over, or just said something really stupid and embarrassed themselves. Their nastiness says more about them than it does about you, and is probably nothing more than you being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The partner leaving situation can be an easy one to beat yourself up over, but it completely ignores the fact that all relationships are a two-way street. If a relationship doesn’t work out, both people have contributed to that outcome, not just you. While it’s admirable to take responsibility for your own actions, you can never control another person’s feelings or decisions; nor should you try.

If a guy is interested in your friend and not you, maybe your friend reminds him of his ex-girlfriend, who he hasn’t quite managed to get over yet. Maybe he only likes blondes and you’re a brunette. If that’s he case he’d turn up his nose at Cindy Crawford or Jennifer Garner too, so don’t feel too bad. 😉

Take these specific incidences for what they are – specific incidences. The reality of the situation probably isn’t quite as catastrophic as you imagine it to be. Don’t let one bad experience taint every other experience you have for the rest of your life. Your identity is not limited to other people’s opinions of you.

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