1. What is a healthy bond?
The bond of attachment between a child and the person responsible for taking care of her is based on a promise, implicit or explicit: being able to count on the adult in charge of her. Jean-Paul Mugnier describes in his book La promesse des enfants meurtris “(…) the promise behind all bonding: “Whatever happens, you can always count on me!” Respect for this tacit promise binding adults and children will gradually make the children become accountable for their actions and therefore capable of becoming in turn someone who can be counted on.”
2. When the promise becomes a strategy of existence
Faced with the inadmissible, the child creates a promise, a promise from her to her. This promise is essential to her survival, it is the only possibility of respecting herself. Indeed, “(…) the loss of self-esteem that could have resulted from the violence of which they had been victims, had to be overcome by respecting this promise, a strategy of existence allowing them to continue to respect themselves. Otherwise, the risk would have been for them to take responsibility for the crime suffered by seeking in them what could have triggered such violence in their attacker“.
Thus, a victim will say “Rather die than one day look like my father or my mother!”, “Whatever choices I make in existence, I will never make my father/my mother right” or “I will be a protective parent, I will never impose on my children the sufferings that my parents made me suffer!”.
This promise is what keeps the victim alive and “the determination, sometimes bordering on rage, to ensure that the promise is kept, is frequently greater in women than in men” explains the author of the book La promesse des enfants meurtris.
3. The fear of becoming an abuser
The reason for this review is related to the comment of a man, Lofti Mir, about the review I made of the book Toxic parents, who touched me: “It’s a little late but finally I was able to read this wonderful book. It really opened my eyes to several situations experienced in my childhood … that I never questioned because I thought it was like that education … In addition to that, I am a young father and I must really do the impossible to change all my habits, my way of communicating, and especially my reactions because I am very nervous. Thanks Claire for this great video.”
I also think back to a book (in English) that I read over ten years ago and that left an impression on me (I can’t quite find the title though). It was about a story that must be quite ordinary in reality, about a man who was beaten by his father as a child and who does everything to break the infernal circle. When his wife gives birth to their child, he asks himself lots of questions, he is overwhelmed with doubts and fears. He makes an effort to control his anger and keep his promise: to not make his son endure what he himself endured as a little boy.
Jean-Paul Mugnier write in the book La promesse des enfants meurtris : “Being a victim does not exclude becoming an abuser. We have met teenagers who were relieved to discover, even late, that the one who had been presented to them as their father was not their parent. They were thus, according to them, more likely not to look like him. This fear is of course observed more frequently in situations of violence and in boys who are victims of sexual assault who fear that they will in turn abuse children, possibly their own.”
4. Breaking the promise because of the victim?
A particularly unhealthy role reversal happens when the person has not been able to keep their promise. Concretely, they become an abuser themselves. Consequently, they will sometimes start accusing their own victim. As if the abuser’s fault fell on the victim.
Take the example of the following promise: “I will be a protective parent.” The Bruised Children Promise clearly illustrates this case: “Promising yourself to be a protective parent is at the same time doing everything possible to not look like the parent who abused you, or who did not know how/could protect you. And, very often, if the promise is not kept, it is the child himself and/or the spouse who is held responsible”.
You’ll need to brace yourself to read the examples of cases cited in The Promise of Bruised Children when the abusive parent accuses their child of initiating the abuse. I want to stress this point my friend my sister, because the child naturally tends to think that if something bad happens, it is their fault. If this is your case, I beg you, add a huge dose of compassion to your heart for the little girl that you were. Feeling guilty and having an abusive parent blaming you is the worst situation. You are alive today and these kind of books can help you understand the harm that has been done to you and for which you are not responsible for the simple reason that you were a child and that it was the adult’s responsibility to protect you from suffering, not to inflict pain on you.
5. Why empathy disappears
We can sometimes wonder about people who seem to no longer have any empathy, because it is so fundamental to being human. The cycle is this: from the humiliation experienced in childhood arises anger, which leads to lack of empathy as a survival strategy, and then to its counterpart which is the interpretation of any event as a threat.
Here is how Jean-Paul Mugnier describes this phenomenon in his book: “A stranger to himself and to others, he can sink into indifference. The lack of empathy he suffered can cause him to no longer have it for anyone else.” Jean-Paul Mugnier continues: “Strategy of survival, it consists of passing on to another person, more or less close, an innocent victim, the anger born out of the despair that the humiliation gave birth to“.
As a result, this great book puts emphasis on the importance of self-esteem. What happens without it? “As some children and adolescents explain, feeling rotten by violence, they are convinced that they are on earth to rot all of humanity.“
6. First give meaning to your life
Let’s not feel guilty if it took us a long time to talk about what happened my friend my sister. Sometimes such a long silence is once again a survival strategy.
Jean-Paul Mugnier explains: “(…) a large number of victims of sexual abuse can only confide when they are forty or fifty years old. To say this, they need to have given meaning to their existence, to have built a family, etc. Otherwise, they might fear that they will be identified with the damage suffered and that it will become the basis of their identity”.
7. Evil does not come from you
Today with your adult mind, you know very well that the evil does not come from you. And yet, that thought may have registered into your subconscious at an age at which it would have been impossible to realize it.
In addition, it is important to understand that you are not alone (this is one of the foundations of my work). The feeling of uniqueness hurts. In his book, the author Jean-Paul Mugnier states: “While shame put her at risk of being cut off from the world, recognition of her suffering instead links her to humanity. Acknowledged, it finally becomes possible for her to recognize herself again”.
Finally, the recognition of suffering constitutes a step towards another future: “He had to recognize his past in order to move on to something else”.
What is the alternative? What happens when we ignore suffering? “This loss of self-esteem often leads to the same conclusion: to doubt the legitimacy of one’s existence.”
8. Can we forgive the unforgivable?
First of all, my friend Randa published a very interesting video on the subject of forgiveness in case you understand French my friend my sister: “Série Familles Toxiques EP3 | Faut-il pardonner ?”.
In the book The Promise of Bruised Children, Jean-Paul Mugnier asks the following question: “Are asking for forgiveness and forgiving acts of resilience for those who ask for forgiveness or for those who grant them?“
First of all, “Acknowledging fault does not mean that it is forgiven. Moreover, recognizing the fault in order to place the other under an obligation to forgive would lead to doubt the sincerity of the recognition. Likewise, admitting fault is not asking forgiveness. A father who had abused his three children and admitted the facts told me about it: How could I ask their forgiveness for what I have done when I do not forgive myself.“
Second, “the time of understanding and the time of forgiveness are not the same”.
The subject of forgiveness is so vast and everyone will have their own opinion. The “must” and “should”s are not appropriate here. Only asking yourself questions can help clear things up in your mind. For instance: “is forgiveness of oneself possible in the absence of forgiveness (received or granted) from the other?”.
9. Understanding the abuser?
Maybe one day you will feel the need to try to understand the evil that is abusing vulnerable people. How is it possible that one human being hurts another so deeply? Jean-Paul Mugnier quotes the book by Eva Thomas, founder of SOS Inceste : Le viol du silence. Again, if you read French, maybe it will help you my friend my sister. If you don’t, please share below which books helped you so you can help others, thank you.
Educating ourselves, reading, exploring these issues may not allow us to really put ourselves in the shoes of the abuser, but at least shed light on the incomprehensible desire to harm that they have.
“The need to understand the reasons which pushed the author of the offense to commit his act is essential to fight against this feeling of stupidity on the one hand and against the risk of making others suffer the harm of which we have been the victim”.
I repeat: to understand is in no way to excuse nor to minimize. Teal Swan posted a great video on why a human becomes a pedophile: “Pedophilia – Teal Swan-”. I understand where the abomination of the actions comes from, but I make do not forgive the perpetrator in the same move. Everyone is fully responsible for their actions.
10. The importance of recognizing suffering so as not to repeat it
Incest and violence in general constitute an attack on the very humanity of the victim, as if she did not exist as a person, as if she were only an object: “Humiliation, physical violence, sexual assault and, more than any other abuse, incestuous rape, harms the humanity that inhabits each of us. “He killed me !” the victims often say”.
So in order not to die of the offense, let’s recognize the suffering we have experienced. Let’s put words on evil. Let’s not remain in the denial and the silence which imprison the victims.
What is the danger of not recognizing suffering? Jean-Paul Mugnier, in his book The Promise of Bruised Children writes: “Wanting the victim to forgive too quickly or too soon, would actually run the risk of ignoring the harm suffered, which is synonymous with denial, minimization or trivialization, a process which runs the risk of repetition: “If I don’t suffer from the harm done to me, the other on whom I in turn impose it has no reason to suffer”.
The repercussions of silence therefore concern the victim as much as other innocent people, potential victims if the abuse is not denounced.
To conclude the review of the book La promesse des enfants meurtris, I would like to reiterate my invitation to take care of you, to cajole your inner child, to walk step by step on the path which is rebuilding your life. Come back to life by opening your eyes to what happened and convince the little girl inside you that it was never your fault. I am one of those people who thinks that the victim does not have to comply with orders to forgive. It is the “(…) victim’s right to survive the trauma not to forgive because quite simply, this story should not have been“. This story should not have been.