Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Confrontations: Are They Necessary for Healing?

Confrontations: Are They Necessary for Healing?

Almost all survivors at some point want a confrontation with their abusers. They're looking mostly for acknowledgement, of some responsibility taken. And if they dare to believe it possible, an apology. I was no different.

But the reality is typically quite different than the dream of I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done it. I was wrong. You were not to blame. What can I do to make your pain go away. These are all dreams that stem from when we were children desperately coping with rejection, betrayal and abandonment.

Though not always the case, one of three things usually happens during confrontations with our abusers:
  1. Outright denial (That didn't happen)
  2. Minimizations (I hardly laid a hand on you)
  3. Pointing the finger of blame to the victim (You made me do it)
Perception does enter into the picture. We all see things from a different vantage point. We all experience things with our own filters in place. But what of the denials and minimizations? Are these really a difference in the way each experienced the situation? Or do abusers live in a world all their own?  And does it really matter?

The confrontation I had with my abuser set me back in my healing. I got the triple whammy. My abuser blamed me for what she did, minimized what was done to me, and denied the worst of it. I thought I was stronger. That I could take whatever was dished out to me. But I couldn't. I had a breakdown that took me a very long time to recover from.

It's been both my personal and professional experience that confrontations come at the expense of re-victimization. They do not yield the expected result in the vast majority of cases. Therefore, I'm not an advocate of confrontations with our abusers. I don't believe they're necessary for healing. I believe the risk is too high.

"I'm willing to take that chance," was what one client told me.

This is my advice to those who are absolutely determined to have a one-on-one with their abusers:
  1. Make sure you're already walking a healing path. Confrontations are not a good idea if you're fragile or vulnerable.
  2. Know exactly what you expect to get from the confrontation. Are you looking for acknowledgement of what was done to you? An apology? Or something else?
  3. Ask for what you want, but be prepared to not get it.
  4. Be prepared to not be believed if you're disclosing to this person for the first time, such as in sexual abuse situations.
  5. Have a strong support system in place in case the one-on-one does not go as you had hoped.
Acknowledgement and responsibility taken for all that was done to me were at the top of my list of expectations. But an apology was also something I had really wanted. But as I've walked my healing path, I've learned that I can give my Self what I need. I don't have to find what I need from someone else.

Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got

Do you believe confrontations are necessary for healing?

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