“Which jail would be easier to escape from,” I ask. “One where they feed you, or one where they starve you?”
We’re in group, where two women are describing their inability to end abusive relationships.
“I kicked him out two weeks ago,” one says. “Now I can’t stop texting him.”
“Me too. Every hour,” the other admits.
“What are we, crazy?” the first asks me.
I reply with my question about jails.
“The jail that starves you,” the first woman answers. “Because you’d want to escape more.”
“But motivation’s one thing, strength’s another,” I say. “And how can you escape if you’re too weak to run away?”
They look at me.
“That’s what’s happening here. You’re not crazy. These relationships have just weakened you to where it’s hard to escape.”
“Weakened how?” asks the second.
“Starved of acceptance, approval, affection, respect — everything that makes someone strong enough to stand on her own. The same thing happens in dysfunctional families, which starve you emotionally as a way of keeping you attached.”
“Yes, on some level. Abusive partners and dysfunctional families know just what they’re doing. They know each time you knuckle under you become less confident, less able to escape. It’s why they discourage you from entering therapy, attending self-help, even taking meds. Those things might make you stronger. And they need you weak and dependent.
“Because — more than anything else — your weakness is the lock on the jailhouse door.”