I had an interesting appointment with my counsellor Amanda the other day.
A few weeks ago, in a Healthy Relationships group that Amanda happens to facilitate, we took quizzes to determine our attachment styles. My scores were nearly even for each attachment style (anxious, secure, avoiding). Amanda said that typically means that somebody has a “disorganized attachment style”, which only happens when someone is abused as a child. I was extremely confused, as I didn’t remember being abused as a child. I decided that the quiz was wrong (which is always possible) and moved on with my life.
In my most recent individual appointment, I brought this up. I asked if that quiz actually meant that I was abused. Amanda began by saying that it is entirely possible for a single quiz to be wrong. But then he said that I obviously did not have a lot of my needs met in childhood, and that it is possible that this was experienced as emotional abuse. She was being vague, so I explicitly asked, “So does that mean I was abused?” She then said something like “Some people find a label helpful, and others don’t.” It was possibly the most irritating non-answer of my life.
Afterwards, I was left wondering, had I experienced emotional abuse? Was I just being dramatic? Is Amanda one of those counsellors who overanalyse everything and end up convincing their clients of nonsense? It was really confusing. It still is.
Wikipedia’s definition of Emotional Abuse is the following:…”a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting, or exposing, another person to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.” This is a very general definition that focuses on the impact of the actions instead of the actions themselves. What I mean is, physical and sexual abuse seem to be defined by the actions that constitute them. Emotional abuse seems to be defined by the impact that actions have.
In my opinion (and that of my counsellor), my childhood is partially to blame for my mental health issues. My 16 year old sister also has many psychological diagnoses, despite very small family history of these conditions. I love my parents and I believe that they did their best to raise us, but it’s reeeeally easy to mess your kids up, and unfortunately, they kind of did. I don’t know if I feel comfortable calling what I went through “Emotional Abuse” because it was so comparatively mild. But thinking about this has been incredibly strange.
There is no conclusion to this story. It isn’t really a story. I am just confused, so I typed some words in an effort to put my feelings into words. So here it is.