Judy was ready for a fight. She had prepared. All her ammunition was stacked up and ready to be fired. The powder was primed and just looking for a spark to set it off. She had had a bad day at work. She had gained three pounds ove the past week without eating anything wrong. Besides, she had the perfect excuse – her period was only a few days away. Tense and angry, she felt ripe to explode.
A couple of days earlier, Judy’s husband had made an offhand remark about a dress she was wearing looking a little tight. Granted, she had asked him what he thought of it. Ever since, she had been stewing about his answer.
When he walked in the door from working outside, she hit him full blast. “Get those muddy shoes off my clean carpet this minute!” Jumping back as if stung, her husband looked down at his footprints, barey visible on the rug.
“Aw, come on, Judy; it’s not so bad. Here, I’ll take them off for you.”
“You never care about the house! All the work I do around here you just take for granted!”
“I always tell you how nice the house is!” her husband replied, confused.
“Oh yeah? When was the last time?”
“I don’t remember every single time I say something nice to you.”
Judy followed, relentless in her hanger, sensing she was gaining the historical upper hand.
“Well, I remember every mean thing you’ve said or done to me over the past ten years!”
“You remember everything!” her husband fired back. “It doesn’t matter how insignificant, or how much I said I was sorry, or how much you provoked me. I don’t even remember saying or doing half of what you said I did!”
“Are you saying I’m lying?” Judy demanded, full of righteous indignation. Direct hit.
“No!” her husband protested, angry and confused.
It seemed to turn out like this every time they fought. He would get so turned around he couldn’t even remember why the argument had started in the first place. All he could remember was the sickening feeling of dealing with Judy in one of her rages. He felt lost and out of his element.
Historians are a This Is Your Life nightmare. They are people who, like Judy, remember every bad thing you have ever done or they think you have done. With computer accuracy, all your bad moments are logged and recorded to be brought up in full detail at any future time the historian deems appropriate.
Historians’ view of the past is decidedly one-sided. They never seem to remember their own faults or mistakes with the same clarity they recall yours. If you bring up one event in your defense, they can come with a multitude of others to bury it in a verbal barrage.
This type of emotional abuse is dangerous because historians seem to be presenting facts. They back up those facts with details: dates, places, and actual conversations. It is easy to become overwhelmed with the information and give in to the demands of this type of abuser. But often the “facts” being presented are actually the abuser’s opinion of what you said and why.
In healthy relationships, the positive and happy memories are those that survive. The others are dealt with and forgiven, and the relationship is allowed to continue on. Each of us makes mistakes on a daily basis. If these mistakes were merely piled up on top of each other, they would soon bury us. Historians can’t forgive and forget nor do they want us to. Their manipulation of the past helps them to control people in their present and future.
Emotional abuse is often associated with depression. If you think you may need depression help, take our depression survey.
The above is excerpted from chapter 4 in Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Dr. Gregory Jantz.