I had a lightbulb moment of realisation, about why other people denying the full extent of my trauma is so painful, very triggering and feels re-traumatising.
My own trauma history includes suffering ongoing severe deliberate and intentionally inflicted pain and suffering. My abusers displayed a full capacity for comprehending right from wrong and a very competent capacity for self control.
I have no doubt that all my abusers would be diagnosed with a range of mental illness disorders including: narcissistic personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder, psychopathy, paedophilia and others.
Every abuser knew the abuse they inflicted was wrong, because they hid it, lied about it, threatened and intimidated me and tried to stop me from speaking of it to others. They would not have needed to do that – if they didn’t know it was wrong.
Every abuser displayed self control, in being able to pick and choose when they would be abusive and whom they would be abusive to. They were not out abusing people in front of witnesses, again displaying self control and cognitive capacity for knowing abuse is wrong.
I’ve encountered attitudes from people during my healing process that have minimized, trivialised, justified and excused my abuser’s behaviour. One being that they probably had ‘mental illness’. With a very black and white view that mental illness fully incapacitates cognitive capacity and self control. But, that is not correct.
A ‘mental illness disorder’ simply means a collective set of symptoms/ behaviours/ thinking that is considered outside of the norm and negatively impacts their life, or those around them.
A mental illness does not mean they are insane, or they are all psychotic, or severely dissociated. It means they have non-normal behaviour.
A mental illness does not mean the person is unable to control themselves, or unable to manage their ‘symptoms’. Most with mental illness can and choose to, as I can manage my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, because I choose to and I don’t allow it to impact those around me.
A personality disorder is different to other mental illness, in that it is about the person’s character and personality traits, as described by psychiatrist Dr George K Simon…. who describes personality disorders as character disturbance. You can see more of his insightful work athttps://www.drgeorgesimon.com/ .
Personality disorders such as narcissist, sociopath and psychopath are about a lack of positive character traits, a lack of: empathy, remorse, shame, guilt, conscience, plus a toxic sense of entitlement to exploit and harm others, and no willingness or desire to stop. These are choices. They are not ‘incapable’ of managing their behaviours. They are unwilling to change and unwilling to have empathy. They do know abuse is wrong. They know lying about it, is wrong. That’s why they have to be manipulative, deceitful about their abuse etc.
So, when people try to deny this reality about my abusers, they are denying a significant part of my trauma – which is knowing the abusers chose to abuse me and had no remorse. And some of them really enjoyed it. That is trauma in itself. It is terribly painful to have to comprehend.
It’s also worth noting that denying a part of the reality of the trauma – is a form of psychological abuse called ‘gaslighting’. This is when a survivor/victim is told they are lying about the abuse, or they are exaggerating, or they are crazy, or they are not dealing with reality. The abusers do this as part of their abuse and manipulation. It’s a common tactic of narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths.
So, when other people do this – they are also gaslighting the victim/survivor and this is psychological abuse. Even if unintentionally motivated. And it is still very harmful.
I am someone who can see past the excuses, past the self serving needs for people to see abusers as better than they really are. I can see through the distorted views people have about toxic people and their motivations for this. And I do understand how much easier it is to make excuses, to blame mental illness, to minimize the heinous and intentional nature of the abuse. But, I choose not to.
I am someone who can see past the distorted views and deal with the hard, awful truth. This does not make me uncaring, or not compassionate enough. It makes me brave, courageous and able to deal with reality – no matter how terrible it is.
I am not able to ignore all the signs and behaviours that showed my abusers were conscious of their abuse and that it is wrong, and I am not able to ignore their very competent capacity to choose their behaviours and self control.
I am not willing to delude myself and think better about the abusers than they actually are. I do understand some survivors do need to minimize, make excuses – when they are not in a psychological space to face the truth. I did that too in the past. But, now I don’t. Other survivors can choose what they want to believe and I encourage whatever keeps a survivor safe, or promotes healing. But, other survivors don’t have the right to tell me I am wrong about my own trauma history and insight into my own personal experiences and resulting opinions.
I also understand some mental health professionals can tend to want to lean towards believing abusers can’t help what they do and blame mental illness as a way to feel better about the abuser – especially if having to counsel them. But, it is not okay to project that onto victims and deny the full extent of their trauma. And making excuses for abusers is not actually compassion for abusers either.
My healing process has been about dealing with the raw truth. And I do believe that is the only way to true healing.
Now when people try to deny the full extent of my reality of my trauma history – through minimizing, gaslighting and trying to twist the reality of what I know and have endured – I refuse to condone it.
It does not make someone more compassionate towards abusers, or less judgemental, or nicer to make excuses for abusers. It’s simply failing to deal with the truth.
And denying the abuse was intentionally and consciously motivated and denying there are no excuses for it – is certainly not compassion or empathy for the victim/survivor. It’s abusive.
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
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