Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.
Additional trigger warning for Traveler’s story: descriptions of self-injury.
Here are the lessons I learned from spanking:
1) Suppress your conscience; avoid the consequences of your actions.
When I was very, very young, I unrolled a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom and then left the mess behind when I got distracted by something else. The mess was discovered, and I feared being spanked if I was implicated. Instead of confessing, I asked “what will happen to the person who says they did it?”
“Nothing except they will have to clean it up,” my mother responded.
“Oh, well in that case, I did it,” I said, and gladly cleaned my mess.
With the fear of violence removed, I was happy to answer my own conscience and fix my mistake.
2) You can’t make up for your mistakes; you can only suffer for them.
One morning, I was late starting homeschool because I had gotten distracted during my chores. It didn’t matter if I was sorry, or if I promised to do better, or if I made my bed on time for the rest of the week, or if I even offered to do other chores to make up for it. Forgiveness could not be obtained from my mother until she hit me until I cried. I truly wanted to make my mother happy and to do right by her. But, a spanking taught me that there was no way to make things right anymore.
The only way for me to be forgiven and returned to my valued place in the family was to submit to physical pain.
3) Violence and humiliation can be deserved.
When my family rejected me as an adult for my sexuality, I began to abuse myself. I thought of it as a method of atonement. I would beat my shins against a table to raise welts and bruises. I would scratch at the skin on my stomach, upper thighs, and arms to make myself bleed.
I felt like I deserved to hurt.
I deserved violence. I deserved humiliation. I deserved emotional abuse.
And why shouldn’t I? My family had always taught me never to let anyone hurt me. But yet, they crossed those boundaries repeatedly when I was a child. I learned that there were situations where violence, humiliation, and a lack of self-respect were deserved.
Is it so hard to imagine that these toxic thoughts could have carried over into my adulthood?