I’ve always used “I” statements in conflict. For example, “I feel hurt when you….” rather than, “you hurt me!” During my first marriage, I read about the importance in always using “I” statements when trying to work out marital conflict. I stepped up using them, because we didn’t need any more reasons to argue. I tried avoiding any further conflict & thought that would help.
Then I realized something. I’ve taken these “I” statements too far.
I’ve caught myself saying “I was abused” rather than “my mother abused me”. “I was screamed at daily” rather than “My mother screamed at me daily.” “I was thrown into a wall during a fight with my mother” replaced, “My mother threw me into a wall.”
See the problem? “I” statements absolved my abusive mother of the responsibility she should have had for abusing me.
I still believe “I” statements have their place. If a close friend said something hurtful, I’m sure they’d be more receptive to “I was hurt that you said that” over “You hurt my feelings!!” But that is the only place I think they are appropriate. If you’re talking about your experiences with narcissistic abuse or abuse of any kind, they are very inappropriate.
Whether you realize it or not, saying things like “I was abused” over “My mother abused me,” subtly removes responsibility from the abuser, at least in your mind. For a long time, I wrestled with what my mother did to me being my fault, & I believe saying those “I” statements helped me to feel it was my fault instead of hers.
It also seems to soften the story a bit when you say you were abused over naming your abuser. I’ve noticed people respond differently to me saying “I was abused” over “My mother abused me.” Naming my mother as my abuser often shocks people. Compassionate people seem to feel more compassion for one naming her abuser over simply saying, “I was abused.”
I think people respond this way because “I was abused” sounds less personal somehow than saying, “My mother abused me.” It seems to take the human element out of abuse, I think. It also makes you sound more detached from the abuse, which I would think would mean people would be less likely to understand why you’re still having problems stemming from the abuse. Just my random thoughts on this..
I also think many victims of narcissistic abuse wrongly use “I” statements as I have, & as a result, may struggle more with accepting that the abuse was the narcissist’s fault, not theirs. If this describes you, it’s time to make a change!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with “I” statements in the right context, but if you’re discussing being wronged or abused, place the blame where it belongs- on the person who wronged & abused you! There is absolutely nothing wrong, disrespectful, dishonorable, selfish, etc. about doing so. Abusive people need the blame placed squarely on them, especially in this age of blaming victims. And, victims need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that being abused was never their fault.
2 responses to ““I” Statements”
Excellent point. I realized after reading this that instead of saying that my parents were abusive and negligent I have said that I was raised in neglect and abuse. The difference is subtle but meaningful.
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It’s very subtle, but it can be powerful too.