A Story of Child Abuse by a Stepparent.

By guest contributor: Georgina Capetillo

My story of child abuse is one that many have heard of. In fact, there have been movies, fairy tales and classical literature on the matter. Now there is even an evolutionary theory about it too. That is why it is surprising to me that a support network has not been established, which is exactly what I intend to do. I am talking about suffering at the hands of a stepparent. When I was 14 I moved to Boston from Nicaragua to live with my father and my stepmother. It was not very long until she became very abusive. The mental anguish, psychological abuse, embarrassment, emotional distress, hopelessness, neglect, and forceful isolation I have suffered because of her has left permanent scars, and that’s something I will always have to deal with. In many ways being abused by a stepparent is very much like being abused by a biological or intended family member or guardian. There is the notion of authority and care-giving as well as simulated closeness. Yet, there are issues that are somewhat unique- these issues are deeply important and must be addressed. As always, coming together and supporting one another is always the solution. Although this is an infinite list, I will describe the most common problems:

1. In many cases, the abused child wonders why a parent would choose a spouse or partner that is so abusive and blames their guardian for not protecting them. There are also feelings of betrayal- why did our guardian choose their partner over their child?

2. Forgiving our guardian is a frequent issue because of the issues mentioned above. Our parent might still be with the person who abused us. Or in many cases, the parent will not recognize the abuse.

3. Having stepsiblings: in some cases the abused child has in some form, contact with the stepparent who abused them for the sake of their sibling. It is incredibly painful. In other cases the abusive stepparent has created a family imbalance by isolating the child they are abusing from the rest of the family- this can lead to sibling conflict.

4. Being the only person who is haunted by the stepparent. In some cases a guardian’s partner comes in, does irreparable damage that is so dark that they are thrown into non-existence by everyone else. This is problematic because those who are abused can never forget what happened to them. The fact is, no one knew how bad it was, because they were removed from the situation. This is very isolating issue.

5. Self guilt: why let someone who is not even your family upset you much?

I could literally go on forever. I need to hear other people’s stories to gather more information on which situations are more common. I need to hear other people’s stories to heal. I think we can heal together. I have started a website and facebook group. Please join. I need all the help I can get. I am also looking for board members if we progress, which I hope we will.

I must add, this is not an organization that vilifies stepparents, but rather is a support group where people share experiences. There are wonderful stepparents out there, they are welcome to support us as well.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StepNetworking

Website: http://sites.google.com/site/stepfamnet/home

The Meaning of Life

What a huge and universal topic to be tackled on a blog post.  Man has been trying to find an answer to this question since the beginning of time.  Numerous philosophers and psychologists have written volumes on this topic.   This is the major reason people have turned to religion and metaphysics.  How many sleepless nights have been caused by the search for the meaning of life?

“What is the purpose of my life?”

“Why was I born?”

I have come up with my own answers that simplify and truly work for me.  They make life less of a mystery and far less scary.  I thought I would share and I hope they might work for you.

1st the second question:  Why was a born?

My birth is no more or less significant than the birth of any child that has ever been or is yet to be.  My parents engaged in sexual intercourse.  One of my mother’s eggs was fertilized and approximately 9 months later I was born.  This is the reason I was born.  It is that simple.

1st question:  What is the purpose of my life?

I do not believe in some grand plan or inherent meaning of life.  I believe each of us has value as a person and we make choices during our life.  My life does not have meaning.  I give meaning to my life.  The meaning I give it depends on my values and beliefs and the choices I make.  Therefore, life means what I decide it means.  And the meaning I give it can and has changed over my lifetime.

Try this on and see if it works.

Who Are You?

I often hear from my clients that they don’t know who they are. Part of the process of counseling is helping my clients define who they are and what that means. It is important to understand that our identity (who we are) is not stagnant. We are constantly changing and evolving as human beings. It is also important to understand that people are complex beings containing many dimensions. A combination of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences combine to make us who we are.

It has been my observation that most people identify who they are by the roles they play in life (father, sister, wife, parent, a profession). In reality, these roles do not define who we and are not stable over time. They describe what we are doing at a given time in our lives. If we define ourselves by our roles and one or more of our roles change, we lose our identity. I have experienced this and I found myself searching for an identity. Our identity cannot be tied to only what is currently happening in our lives.

Our identity cannot be tied to one event or period in our lives. This leads to being tied to the past. Example: the person at the high school reunion who identifies him or herself by their time in high school. Our lives are not a snap shot. Our lives are more like a feature film lasting many decades that include our accumulated experiences. We have our successes and our failures. We have all made mistakes over the course of our lives. It is important not to define ourselves any specific events.

Our identity is not determined by how others define us. Some people will like us and others will not. Some people will agree with what we say and do. Other people will not agree. Their opinions in many cases have little to do with who we are and more to do with who they are.

Who we are is an internal process and not about the external. For me, identity is what my values and beliefs are (and those have changed over the years). It is my thoughts and feelings as well how I perceive things (and myself) to be. From this I can determine my purpose in life and not have it determined for me.

On a More Personal Note

I have been writing my blog for a few years and I have rarely spoken about myself and my own struggles. Having started my own journey of recover nearly 30 years ago, I have a great deal of experience and knowledge about all the skills I have shared with my readers. I have also learned from all the people I have counseled over the last 20 years. I hope that some of you have benefited from my blog.

One thing I have to keep in mind is the phrase: progress not perfection. No one, including me, has ever done this perfectly. I am a work in progress like everyone else who is in the process of change and growth. I suffered from chronic depression and addictive behaviors for most of my life as well as poor self-esteem. Although I have experienced a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life, I also have my struggles. I sometimes find it difficult to apply all the coping skills I know. There times I have to work hard to focus on the things I need to and stay in the present.

I have my own philosophy of life: Life is to be enjoyed. I work every day to make that a reality. One of the ways I stay focused is by writing this blog. It has great value to my life. I hope it has value to yours.

What Are You Waiting For?

You have realized that something is not quite right in your life.  You have become more aware of your anxiety or depression or some other issue that weighs heavily on you and negatively affects your life.  You have become increasingly aware that something has to change because you can no longer tolerate living like this.  What are you waiting for?

You have experiences that have haunted you for many years.   You have tried to put behind you.   You have read books and gotten advice from friends on how to overcome it.  You have beaten yourself up for years about it.  You have thought about getting help with the issue for years and understand that you cannot do it on your own.  What are you waiting for?

Your drinking or other substance abuse has become more and more of an issue in your life.   The damage continues to pile up.  Friends and family keep telling you need to get help and deal with it.  As much as you try to control it you find it impossible.  You life is unraveling in front of your eyes.  You know you can’t deal with it on your own.  What are you waiting for?

You are very unhappy at your job and keep telling yourself you need to find another one.  The economy has improved and it is easier to find a job.  You have been thinking of continuing your education for a long time.  You keep putting it off and continue to feel sad and anxious.  What are you waiting for?

Your relationship is just not working.  You and your significant other have one disagreement after another.  There is more conflict than calm and happiness.  You have worked hard to find ways for you both to get your needs met.  The more you try, the more you realize your values, wants, and desires are not the same as hers/his.  You know in your heart that the relationship will never be as fulfilling as you want.  You want more.  What are you waiting for?

Life is so short.  The clock continues to move as you stay stuck in a place that you do not want to be.  Fear stands in the way of finding a more fulfilling life.  For the most part it is you that stands between yourself and having an opportunity to find the things you seek.  Taking the steps to overcoming your fears is the only path.  Moving forward one step at a time.  Try not to look too far into the future.  That’s a very scary place full all kinds of unknowns.  You can deal with those when you get there.  You are responsible for your own happiness.  You are not responsible for the happiness of others.

Another year is about to come to an end. What are you waiting for?

The Value of Insight and Hindsight

I am certain you have heard of insight focused therapy. I imagine you know the phrase “hindsight is 20/20”. We seek to gain insight in order to understand our past and how it has affected us. And, somehow, by gaining insight we will change. We also tend to analyze our past actions or decisions and how they relate to the outcome or our current situation. We will likely say we made a mistake or say it was dumb or even that we were dumb to have done this or that.

The only value I see with hindsight is to see where we were as compared to where we are at that moment. With hindsight we have more information than we did when making a decision or taking an action. If we had all that information at the time we would have done something else. It wasn’t the mistake we may think it was. We make a choice based on the information we had at the time. When we view those things in hindsight we tend to make ourselves wrong and put ourselves in a negative light. That is never a useful exercise. This can be damaging to self image and self esteem.

Thinking of insight as a valuable tool to help us change our thinking for behavior may not be nearly as helpful as we might think. When I was in therapy I had the belief that if I only knew why I was the way I was and what made me that way, I could change and be happy. I figured that insight would be followed by change. I was so wrong. After a long time of seeking the “truth” I had hardly changed at all. I found quite the opposite. As I began to use healthier coping skills and was changing, I gained insight. I was able to see a comparison between the past and present and was able to understand things like never before. I believe that all the insight in the world won’t change thoughts or beliefs or behaviors. I think that challenging thoughts and beliefs what are not working is the path toward changing behaviors and improving the quality of our lives.

In summary: My verdict is that hindsight and insight are not all that valuable as a way to enable our change and growth as people.

Today Is the Most Important Day of Your Life

We tend to look at certain events in our lives as important days. Those days that we consider to be life-changing such as graduations or weddings or the birth of a child are important days to us. Some think the day they met a significant person as being one of the most important days of their life. It is for me. For most of us there are numerous days that are significant and/or life changing. All of those things have already happened or have yet to happen at some future time in our lives. Most of the events that await us in the future are totally unknown to us today. How our lives will manifest remains a mystery.

Stories are written one word at a time. The words combine to create sentences that become part of a paragraph. One paragraph follows another and this ultimately results in a story. The author may have ideas about the content of the story but fills in the details as it is written. Life is similar in many respects. Lives are lived in minutes, hours, days, months, and years. We may have things we wish to manifest into reality. But we don’t know what our lives will look like until the story is written or our life unfolds in front of us and we experience it. Rarely do people’s lives look just as they had pictured them in the past.

This brings me to the point of this post and why today is the most important day of your life. Your past in done and is no longer a reality. It is the past. Past days have created the life you are experiencing today. We have an idea what we would like our life to look like in the future. But the future hasn’t arrived yet. All we have is the moment we are living in. All we can control is what we do now in the moment we are experiencing.

The decisions and the actions you take today lay the foundation for what your life will look like in coming days, weeks, months, and years. It is important to focus your attention on what you have in front of you and not dwell on either the past or the future. Have a plan or a goal. Those are valuable. What is most important is to put your time and energy into the steps you need to take to attain those goals. This is why today is so important. Today really is all you have. Tomorrow will once again be the most important day of your life.