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Do abusers really forget most of what they have done?

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by LaurenLove » Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:53 am

I just want to know if you guys think abusive people really can forget most of what they have done even though they were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol? That seems to be the case with my mom. I don't know if she really doesn't remember. she admits to a handful of times she got physical but it must of been 100 times over the years. Can one really forget that? Along with not remembering being verbally abusive almost every day. She even claims I was the one bullying her when I was the scared child. She says she never remembers leaving me alone in the car for hours as a little kid and I remember several times clearly. And when I say abuse I'm not talking about spankings I'm talking about punches and joking and being shoved into things or shoved out and locked out for the night. What do you think? Is her telling me I'm exaggerating and misremembering a tactic or could she possibly believe it?

I had to rehash today because she was acting angry about how I didn't want her at my wedding four years ago and I was trying to explain to her I had a lot to be angry at because although the physical abuse stopped when I moved out the verbal abuse continued.

I have worked thru this in overcoming ptsd with cognitive behavioral therapy and my therapist told me without a doubt my memories are real bc of the consistency and clear details. She has been better the last couple of years, but today was the first time ever she admitted being physically abusive with me but she only admitted to a few of the times. Please tell me what you think about this question in the subject line.
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by AvantGarde » Tue Jun 20, 2017 4:01 am

I'm not sure, it's possible they forget, but unlikely.
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by Duckysmom » Tue Jun 20, 2017 6:02 am

Personally, I think it's selective memory. Just a couple weeks ago, I actually heard my father say, "I'm not a controlling or violent person. Never have been." I nearly fell over. Kicked me in the stomach, so to speak. My PTSD has been really bad lately and that just kicked it into further overdrive. My mother has been in denial her whole life. She's in early stages of dementia now, so I believe that she may not remember some things.
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by Soldrae » Tue Jun 20, 2017 10:06 am

My mother regularly engages in a strange form of revisionist history, not just with abuse but also in other areas (such as revising memories to fit her current worldview). She's many things but a liar has never been one of them; I often wonder if it's a coping mechanism of her own.

Sometimes abusers are affected by their own (experienced and/or perpetuated) trauma too, I suppose (doesn't make it ok, but the repercussions are really widespread).
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by RonS » Tue Jun 20, 2017 10:15 am

I think some of it is also how they view the world and themselves. My father more than once told me that children are just one more animal to train and you basically use the same techniques. So in his eyes there was nothing abusive going on.
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by LaurenLove » Tue Jun 20, 2017 10:30 am

Thank you for the responses and personal experiences. I still am not completely sure what to think, because my mom tends to lie when it's convenient for her, often contradicting herself in the same conversation and she is only 46 so dementia shouldn't be a factor. Sure was hard to sleep last night thinking about all this. I'm living with her again and I want to know what I'm dealing with.

I got separated from my husband and can only work part time with the bp and med side affects. So I can't afford to live on my own.
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by Rina » Tue Jun 20, 2017 8:02 pm

I have heard before that denying/belittling the experiences of the person who experienced their abusive behavior is a control tactic some abusive people use to try to continue to hold that control over the other person. I have seen it happen before. I'm sorry you're unable to get away from it at the moment. What a difficult situation. I really hope things improve for you!
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by LaurenLove » Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:48 am

Thank you Rina.
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by OnTheMend » Tue Jun 27, 2017 10:00 am

IME, some abusers "get better" by switching to passive aggression and forgetting things so you have to remind them is straight out of the playbook. This is certainly not universally true, of course.
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by Cat1993 » Fri Jul 14, 2017 3:37 am

Have you heard of gaslighting? It's an element of abuse where the abuser tries to convince you that things that aren't normal are, or that abnormal things didn't happen. It's a way to convince you things are okay without saying it out loud. My parents would hurt me and the next morning would greet me and my sister with smiles and breakfast like always and never, ever talk about it again. Years later they tried to convince me it never happened.
I believe with absolute certainly, with master's in criminal psych as well as my own experience, that that kind of "selective memory" is ALWAYS manipulative.
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by jmangum80 » Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:03 pm

Yes I believe it is possible for a person to convince themselves that something didn't happen when in fact it did. We all see things from very different perspectives based on the filter that we are looking through. I heard a cool line in a movie last night, "what is wrong is that you are looking at the world through the knothole of your pain.". For me this is very relevant as I have experienced similar things with both my parents and uncle. i have even heard my mother brag about throwing me through my bedroom door by my throat (I was 10) bc god gave her the strength........... In her mind it was righteous. I like to think of it in terms of the ego. The ego will always justify its self no matter what in order to protect its self from the damning reality of self observation. While the subconscious mind and nervous system can remember the effects and reality of things the conscious mind will always duck and dodge responsibility........ That is just my simple understanding of the world around me. Saying that I have gained some windows of peace by not trying to understand their actions and just allowing things to be as they are and try to show gratitude for the things I have learned because of their actions. In no way am I saying that anger is not a totally reasonable and justified reaction, even a deserved response but there is peace is the surrender of what is....... I know that when I was in the fire academy the first thing they taught about interviewing people at the scene of an accident was to get three or more people to tell there story because each person will have a totally different account based on their perspective. It was up to the interviewer to find the truth somewhere in the middle......... I am so sorry that the people involved in your pain aren't helping to resolve it. I am sorry that this is even a reality for you. much love :(
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by Mocha » Fri Jul 14, 2017 5:01 pm

really great thread you guys........it's given me a lot to think about......
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