To Thine Own Self Be True

How do we begin to name the deep knowing that something happening around us, or being done to us, now or in the past, was or is just not right? No matter what anyone else says, not okay. Not okay for me.

We talk about physical and sexual abuse and increasingly we agree on what that looks and feels like. We may also call it bullying or inappropriate, and we don’t stand for it, and we call each other out. It still occurs, but at least, with more awareness, it can be more likely internally understood and then externally validated. We can know and be affirmed that yes, this is wrong.

What about mental or emotional abuse? Psychological abuse? Abuse to the right to determine a place of psychological comfort within a family and community? Abuse to a sense of personal sovereignty, and then abuse to the ability to behave in ways that protect that unique sovereignty? Spiritual abuse? Much harder to pin down. Much more subjective, much more open to debate, even dismissible.

As the wife of one of the original children of Centrepoint, I live with someone where this form of abuse was the reality of childhood. It is hard, hard work to understand and support a person whose personality and coping strategies were formed in such nebulous psychological certainties, let alone safety.

Within his family, that I have been part of for over two decades, this abuse is now perpetuated through the denial of the reality of our shared reality. At best it is silence or omission, at worst manipulation and lies.

But it feels very wrong. It is wrong. I know this in every cell of my body, and it feels like white hot rage. On behalf of another yes, but also to my own sense of the right to be able to wholeheartedly be myself as a wife, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law and a stepmother. To be able to navigate these relationships as congruently as possible for my own psychological safety.

Often, I feel angry. Often, I feel confused. Did the freedom to roam in native bush and the resilience, independence and sheer intelligence formed by such an upbringing somehow ameliorate the neglect? Does the ability to adapt and quickly learn new skills somehow make up for the pathological mistrust of authority? Does the ease with which he can subsume his needs to put others first, the incredible generosity of spirit he can display, somehow lessen the dis-ease I feel as to just how easily and convincingly he can lie? Am I just too damn judgmental? Is the problem more in the way I am perceiving it? If I feel such angst – and I know, I wasnt even there – I can only imagine the mental and emotional torments of my husband. Just what he is up against.

I live as wife to a man who, after twenty years of marriage, still doesn’t, is incapable of, trusting me fully. Trusting anyone fully. It is a daily challenge to live with one whose life has been haunted, with life-threatening consequences, by this tragic loss of the ability to hear and live one’s own truth. It is confusing. It is infuriating. It is heart-breaking. It is at times deeply lonely.

It is tough, ongoing and sometimes even feels dangerous to love someone who is desperate to love fully, desperate to trust, when everything in him screams No! Don’t!! Not safe!!!

So, I have come to understand the bravery and resilience required by all of us affected - to whatever extent - by Centrepoint. The psychological abuse was complex and remains deeply confusing; the best lies are based on the truth, and Centrepoint offered a seductive version of the truth that love is paramount, openness forges community, and healthy sexuality can be life affirming.

This distorted version of the truth, and the ripple effects over the decades, caused and is causing injury to many souls.

It caused “moral injury”, the most insidious form of abuse there is.

Moral injury is a diagnostic term coined by t