Have you ever suffered from 'Kick The Cat Syndrome'?
I'd love to say that I never have but, of course, I have: "I am only human" after all. That's one of the key refrains of "Kick The Cat Syndrome". I'm sad to say that at one stage in my life both the frustration and the syndrome felt quite familiar.
Someone I know describes this syndrome more tellingly than I could. Like many of us, after an abusive child she fell into other abusive relationships. She writes: "I've had so much anger bottled up in me, and recently it was me who lashed out in anger at someone else .. mostly because he was not being honest with me .. but even so, I don ' t want to end up being an 'abuser'! "
There are, of course, different ways of lashing out at 'The Cat'. You can do it both verbally and physically. Neither one is particularly desirable – although a physical expression of rage appears less justifiable.
'The Cat' may be either the abusive partner or someone else who just happens to cross your path when you are already primed and ready to blow. (For cat lovers let me apologise and specify that we are absolutely not talking about a real cat.)
What it is about, as my reader rightly observed, is already having a bellyful of ill treatment (and I use the term bellyfully advisedly, it's no surprise that abused women are often Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers) and then the abuser adds another outage on top of it.
That most recent outrage lights what we in the UK used to call 'the blue touch paper' and we blow.
Sometimes it feels safer to explode at someone who did not cause the mountain of hurt in the first place, because they are less likely to respond in a way that will be dangerous to you.
You've reached the stage where one way or another you were bound to explode or implode: either you vent your feelings on another person or it feels like you will be shattered into a million tiny pieces by your own unspoken pain and fury.
Does it do any good? No. It may just make you feel better for a very short while. Like comfort eating, the sense of satisfaction ends with the action itself. An isolating sense of shame follows quickly in its wake.
The truth is it's not a nice thing to do and it does not fit with your picture – and more to the point your deep -oted and accurate beliefs – about yourself. It happens because it is a pattern you have learned from the abusers in your life, just as I learned it from the abusers in mine.
What you see – or, more correctly, interpret – from their behavior is that this kind of behavior is sanctioned. It must be, must not it, or they would not do it? And do not they always justify it somehow or other? Some of the trusty old favorites include:
· I've had a hard day
· You drive me to it
· If you had not done X, Y or Z …
· How do you expect me to ….?
· You do not know what I have to put up with
You get the picture?
Actually, their behavior has been sanctioned, repeatedly, by you, because in the end when that kind of emotional hurricane occurs, you try to batten down the hatches and wait for it to pass. It has also been sanctioned by a lot of other people, less central to the abuser's life, who for one reason or another, either sidestep or overlook it. So you sanction this behavior and also acknowledge its power.
When we fall into 'Kick The Cat Syndrome' it is fueled by the belief that such behavior is somehow vindicated by past hurt. It may also feel preferred to the sense of powerlessness that you feel as a victim.
Further there is a kind of logic to it: he kicked me, so I have a right to kick the next person. It is all too easy to become one in a never ending chain of Cat Kickers.
So how do you kick the syndrome?
First, you start to break free of the abuser's pattern in your own head. You identify the behavior when the abuser perpetrates it and you remind yourself that it is infantile, unacceptable, damaging – and you have a choice. You do not have to have that way.
Second, you start to honor your own sense of hurt. Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship has been sorely deprived of the love, respect and consideration they need and deserve. That describes to be acknowledged.
Conventional wisdom focuses on that loss: reminds us that what we wanted was not to have had that relationship and those months or years.
Conventional wisdom does not tell us – because it does not know – that our subconscious mind and our feelings live in the now, the moment. (Although, consciously too many of us spend way too long focused on the past or the future.)
So here's the thing: you can start to heal old hurts in the present by specifically parenting that hurt self in a loving way. There is the hurt, damaged, needy you, but there is also the caring, loving, resourceful, supporting you that you share with friends, children and other loved ones.
You can start to allow that mature, loving resourceful you to – metaphorically – put a comforting arm around the shoulders of the needy you. You can start to offer that needy you words of comfort that will percolate through to the hurt and help to heal from it.
This is work that I do a lot with abused women which is very powerful. In the absence of having someone work through it with you, you can take the time out – maybe only 15 minutes at a time – to do it for yourself.
Third, you can work with someone who can understand and help you work respectfully through the hurt. Just talking it through with someone who will support you and will not judge can divest these old patterns of much of their explosive charge.
Cats – and dogs – that have been ill appreciated by their owners, can heal from the trauma, given love and time. So too can you. What's more you can use the miracle of language and your own enduring resources to heal faster and more completely than they can.
© 2006 Annie Kaszina
Source by Annie Kaszina