Muhammad Ali (aka Cassius Clay) was known as much for his mouth as he was his boxing prowess. He portrayed an over inflated ego that resonated with the masses.
I was recently reading some of the comments on An Upturned Soul’s excellent blog which inspired me to develop an analogy between abuse and boxing. I often like to use analogies to try and explain complex concepts. I think they help to see things from a different perspective.
When I am in a relationship with an abuser, it is like I stepped into the boxing ring with the heavyweight boxing champion of the world and expect him to not hurt me.
Before the bell sounds, he glares at me with hateful and determined eyes, ready to fight. His only goal is to annihilate me. It is his job to destroy me, and he finds his job very fulfilling.
I rationalize the situation, telling myself that he is ‘misunderstood’ and that deep down inside, ‘he really is a good guy’. With this rationalization I enter the ring, believing that he won’t hurt me, even though my gut is telling me to run.
The bell sounds.
He comes across the ring to engage me. I can sense his complete disdain for me. He is tense with aggression, ready to clash. Then his first jab lands. I act surprised. This wasn’t supposed to happen! I drop my gloves to protest. With my guard down, he lands an uppercut, leaving me in a crumpled heap on the canvas. He stands over me and gloats at my wretchedness and inferiority.
As the blood begins to trickle from my mouth, I attempt to get up. My head is spinning and I have no idea what hit me. I am dumbfounded that he would do such a thing and expect that he will offer a true apology. That apology never comes. Instead he chastises me for having the audacity to take him on. After all, he is ‘The Greatest’!
Confused and disoriented, I manage to pull myself up on the ropes. As I stand in the corner, he leaves his side of the ring to approach me. I rationalize in my mind that he is coming to check on me and see if I am OK. Instead, he mocks me, dropping his gloves and picking them back up again, daring me to re engage him. I tell myself he really didn’t mean to hit me as I stand up off the ropes.
Dazed and bewildered, I have little ability to defend myself. A smile comes across his face as he raises his gloves. This is his idea of fun.
Thwack! His right hook connects with my temple and I fall again to the canvas. I lay there in disbelief. How could he be doing this to me? He really is a ‘nice guy’, after all.
Determined, I pull myself up again. There’s no way he could do that again! I’m sure of it!
He again comes toward me. He scoffs at me, relishing in my debased condition. It all feels so so good to him; the power; the superiority. “I am the Greatest!” he exclaims. He cajoles me with “Come on! I’m not done with you yet!” as he raises his gloves. I have no remaining ability to defend myself as I attempt to raise my gloves to re engage him.
The room goes dark as he lands a tremendous punch to my head and I fall lifeless to the canvas. I have no idea what hit me. I am completely disorientated. As my swollen eyes begin to open I notice the lights have a pink corona from the blood in my eyes. With my last bit of strength I slink across the canvas and out of the ring.
With a tremendous smile he raises his hands in victory as the crowd cheers and chants his name. He is ‘The King of the World’, and totally in his element.
I, on the other hand, am in total disbelief. How could he do that? I yell to anyone that will listen: “Look what he did to me! He’s a monster! Look what he did! How could he do this?”
If you look at this analogy, whose fault is it that I was pummelled? Did I not purposefully overlook the true nature of our interaction in order to continue in that interaction, expecting him to stop? Did I not place unreasonable expectations on his behavior, expecting him to be someone he wasn’t?
The punches portray those emotional blows that we receive during our relationship with our abuser. Every blow takes more and more out of me, until I am completely disoriented and unable to defend myself. At that point my abuser gloats at having destroyed me and then moves on to their next victim, since I am no longer a useful source of narcissistic supply.
His finding joy in pummeling me is the same joy that abusers get from seeing their victims in pain. They feed off of it. It’s the best high in the world to them. I can remember many times seeing a fleeting grin from my abusers when I was ‘taught a lesson’.
My need to tell others about how abusive he was towards me is being stuck in the victim state, and refusing to acknowledge my contribution to events. If I had never entered the ring with him, I would have never been brutalized by him. In order for me to heal, I have to leave the victim state.
The true moral here is that I knowingly entered the ring with someone who pummels people with an unreasonable expectation that somehow he wouldn’t treat me that way. I continued to rationalize his behavior until I could barely function anymore.
The first lesson: Don’t enter the ring in the first place!
The second lesson: If you are already in the ring, leave immediately, or you may never be able to leave at all.