Breaking the Intergenerational Cycle of Family Abuse

The intergenerational cycle of family abuse is a pattern of violence, abuse, and neglect that is passed down from one generation to the next. This cycle can occur within families, as well as between intimate partners.

The cycle of abuse often begins with one person exerting power and control over another. This may be through physical or emotional abuse, or by controlling finances, work, or other aspects of the relationship. The person being abused may feel trapped and helpless, and believe that they are solely responsible for the abuse

Over time, the cycle of abuse can become increasingly violent and damaging. Children who witness abuse are more likely to grow up to be either victims or abusers themselves. This is because they learn that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict and gain power over others. So the abuse passes on to the next generation, and the cycle continues

Breaking the cycle of abuse is possible, but it requires getting help from a safe and supportive environment. This may include seeking counselling or therapy, leaving an abusive relationship, or getting involved with a support group. It is also important to teach children about healthy relationships, so that they can recognise abuse and know how to avoid it in their own lives

If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek help from a local domestic violence shelter or hotline. If you know someone in an abusive relationship, please reach out and offer your support. Together, we can put an end to the intergenerational cycle of abuse.

The most meaningful gift my husband ever gave me

My husband and I have been together for over twenty years and he has given me many gifts, big and small, over the years. However there is one gift that I return to time and time again, and it never fails to move me and give me solace.

Charlie Tyrell directed a short documentary about his father, who had broken the intergenerational cycle of abuse in his family

The gift was a link that he sent me over WhatsApp.

One day I was lying on the sofa whiling the time away surfing the web, when I suddenly got a link to a video called “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes.”

“Very funny,” I shouted to my husband upstairs. “Ha ha ha.”

“No,” he answered. “Watch it. I really think you should watch it.”

So I did. It was the first time I watched that video, but it would not be my last.

“My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes”

“My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes” is an award winning short documentary directed by Charlie Tyrell. In the video Charlie talks about his father, who died of cancer nine years previously at the young age of 52.  Greg Tyrell was a policeman who loved DIY and flying planes.

Charlie explains that he had never understood his dad, who had clearly struggled to relate with his children. The documentary focused on Charlie’s quest to understand his father and get to the crux of what made him tick.

Charlie dove into his father’s possessions, including his tacky porno tapes. He was trying to find something that would finally help him understand his dad. Initially he did not get anywhere, and he was close to giving up. But then he found out that his parents had nicknamed the cancer that killed him “Dale.”

Dale was Greg’s mother.

Charlie shifted his focus from his father’s possessions to his father’s family,. Clearly this was where he would finally find the key to his father’s character and behaviour. He unearthed a recording of an unpleasant exchange between his father and his grandmother and he talks to his mother to understand what had happened to his father as a child.

What emerges is a story about an intergenerational cycle of family abuse . Dale’s father was a monster who abused his daughter. Charlie’s mum tells her son about the day that Dale showed her a scar in her arm inflicted by her father when she was a child.

Dale grew up into a bitter and angry woman.  Her top priority in life was to project an image of the perfect family. She threw splendid cocktail parties on manicured lawns. She used her children as props in public, while belittling them and bullying them in private.

Greg broke the intergenerational cycle of family abuse

“Your dad was definitely scarred by his childhood. Your dad and his brothers didn’t grow up, didn’t have a childhood. They survived the same situation.”

Charlie’s mum explains that Greg had no idea how to parent because he had never been parented himself.

“You bring what you know to parenting. So if you were raised with a set of values, that’s what you know, and that’s where you start.”

The one thing Greg was sure of, however, was that he did not want to do to his kids what his mother had done to him, and what her father had done to her.

“We were very aware of what your dad grew up with. What his parents grew up with, but, we had a rule. It was – It ends here. No it is not going to happen again. That our children aren’t going to be raised with those values, so that their children won’t be raised with those values.”

Charlie finally realises that his father’s legacy lay not in what he owned or did, but rather in all that he did not do. He had succeeded in breaking the intergenerational cycle of abuse passed down through his mother’s side of the family.

Greg’s three children might have thought he was strange, but they were never unhappy, afraid or abused.  They never experienced physical or emotional abuse such as gaslighting, abuse by proxy, triangulation, or any one of the myriad abusive tactics in abusers’ toolboxes.

When he passed away he left a wife who loved him and who would have been happy to live with him for the rest of her life, and children who went on to have happy, well-adjusted children of their own.

“Greg was never defined by what he carried with him. He was defined by what, after multiple generations, he was finally able to let go.”

Greg Tyrell had overcome his personal suffering and had broken the cycle.

The Most Wonderful Gift Ever

It is difficult to explain how I felt watching that video. The moment Charlie’s mother explained Greg’s determination to end the cycle of abuse I started weeping. I wept all the way to the end where Charlie told us how much his mum loved his dad and how happy he and his siblings, and his siblings’ children were. That was his father’s legacy.

So yes, that link sent via Whatsapp was one of the most precious gifts that my husband could have given me. It showed me that he appreciates how hard I am working to break the intergenerational cycle of abuse passed down on my father’s side of the family. That short documentary spoke to my soul. From that day onwards I stopped worrying that I was not the perfect mum. It did not matter that I was winging it. It helped me forgive myself for the many mistakes I made along the way.

After watching it I joined my husband upstairs and we lay on the bed and he held me as I cried my heart out. Thank you, I kept telling him over and over again.

Every now and then, when I feel insecure and I fear that I am failing as a parent, I go to my room and I watch that video, and it helps me find peace.

It ends with me.

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