When most people think of abuse, they conjure up images of downtrodden women with black eyes, but in the majority of cases nothing could be further from the truth. Physical abuse is almost always accompanied by mental and emotional abuse, but on its own this type of abuse can be just as dangerous. In situations like this, which includes my own experiences, the victim is often already broken inside and has been for years before they have any idea what is going on. Or that they have been slowly and deliberately destroyed from the inside out, by the person they assumed was their best friend.
Interestingly, I have met many highly intelligent, empathic and independent men and women, who have been the victim of this kind of insidious abuse. This may because they present a bigger challenge, or the victim has something the narcissist or sociopath wants, such as image, status or money. Unfortunately many people go into this type of relationship believing that they have met their soul mate, as the attention from an abusive person can be so intense and flattering In the early days. This is called love bombing and forms part of the abuse cycle. This idealisation stage can potentially last for years and is specifically designed to hook you in, as you fall completely in love with a fake persona. That was certainly the case for me. I was completely in love for 3 years and it wasn’t until the ring went on that this other person appeared. It is often some kind of commitment that will trigger the unmasking of the real person behind the charming and attentive person you fell deeply in love. Moving in together, the arrival of a child, marriage or even moving away from your friends and family. Of course by this time you are deeply invested in the relationship and it 's not so easy to leave. You are also unaware that people like this, narcissists and sociopaths, exist outside of horror movies. So instead, you commit to making it work and you start to accept behaviour that you would never have done at the beginning. You try to help this person, believing that the fake persona you have known for years, is in fact real. As you focus all your attention on helping them, you are then slowly and deliberately destroyed from the inside out until you no longer resemble the the strong and confident person that went into the relationship. Rage, intimidation, constant criticism, gaslighting (a mind control technique) and stonewalling, delivered intermittently with bouts of extreme love, leaves a the victim treading on egg shells, and desperately trying to work out how to help this person who you are so in love with. Other tactics such as circular conversations, deflection and manipulations are just part of a host of tactics that leave a victim confused and doubting themselves and their own reality. Again, this is done intentionally to keep the victim off balance and therefore so much easier to control. Triangulation, where the abuser deliberately manipulates others and twists facts, isolation from friends and family can also be employed. If you then add in financial control, you can understand why many victims may try to leave several times before actually finding the strength to escape. The fact is that you are by this point, you have become so insecure and have lost so much of yourself, that you now depend on this person for everything and are of course easily pulled back in to the idealisation phase of the abuse cycle.
Living with constant mental and emotional distress can cause a myriad of unexplained and chronic health problems and prolonged exposure can lead to complex PTSD and cognitive dissonance. The frightening fact, is that most victims will not tell others, either because they think nobody will believe them, or they fear further abuse, which intensifies hugely as you try to leave. Without bruises or evidence of violence the police are unable to help, with some having no real understanding of this. How could they? I kept my situation secret for many years because I was ashamed of what my relationship and I had become and I had given up my job to look after my children. My friends and family were deeply shocked to hear of my experiences, because from the outside, it had looked so good. Most victims are silenced further as attempts to try to get help or leave are often met with smear campaigns, stalking and more intimidation as the abuser tries to keep you quiet. For most, the only way out is to break all contact and move away which is again not always possible when there are children involved.
The effects on the parent however will have huge impacts on the child, as the parent is either locked in their head with cognitive dissonance, or PTSD, reliving things over and over, or they become highly reactive and then this energy is transferred to the child. Our children swim in our subconscious like fish swim in the sea and therefore this can manifest in the child as anxiety, behavioural issues, hyperactivity and an inability to be present or regulate their emotions. In effect, trauma. But music can have the most profound effects, not just on the parent, but also on the child.
When my children were very small, it was the simple decision to follow my childhood joy and start music sessions for children that had a profound affect on my mental state and put me back in touch with a part of myself that I had long since been forgotten. A recent study published in the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimers Disease, confirmed that "music can actually lift people out of the Alzheimer's haze and bring them back to (at least a semblance of) normality... if only for a short while," and I can say that this must be what I experienced. These short intervals of connection to myself and the present moment, were the beginnings of my awakening and began the process of breaking out from the "mental marmalade I had lived in for so many years. My long road to recovery and the reclamation of self that followed, has fuelled my interest in mental and emotional wellbeing and has ultimately inspired my life's work, empowering women and children through the incredible power of music. My understanding of the power of music to teach, began when my child was unable to be present, or follow simple instructions. This led me to writing songs about brushing their teeth, or getting their shoes on...but quickly turned into a 4 month parenting programme, Raise a Tiger, which helps parents understand their own internal worlds of thoughts and feelings and bring that into their parenting, whilst teaching their children how to listen to and trust themselves...how to push through fear...and how to use their gifts and talents to serve the world. And it feels EPIC!
If you want to see what music can help your child do, you can get my free online music workshop video, "Pick Up Your Pants" here. And if I can get them to do that, I can also teach them that they are enough.