I did not realize the psychological and emotional impact of some of the rules of our home until I no longer had to live under them. I wasn't even aware these were rules, it was just how it was. When it came to any kind of home or auto maintenance that was his domain. Even though I am a fairly accomplished woman, holding down a professional job, completing a degree, I truly believed I was absolutely incapable and weak. Overcoming this conditioning has been one of the most rewarding parts of my recovery.
It's been a slow process to overcome the conditioning of believing "I can't". Even just touching a drill was frightening for me, it was almost like it would electrocute me or something.
Why did I believe this? The only reason was that is what I was told. I had never failed, I had never messed anything up, I had never even tried. Gathering the courage to challenge my fears and tackle home projects has been one of my most difficult undertakings. I couldn't even see the limitation. It had become so deeply ingrained. The deep seeded beliefs are incredibly strong, you will fuck it up, it will be expensive, you just can't . I was unconsciously ruled by these thoughts.
I was not allowed to touch or repair anything at my house. If I did, I would be met by extreme anger and an attack on my intelligence and self-worth. "what the fuck are you doing, Fuck sakes, now I have to deal with it you stupid bitch". Near the end, he did allow me to refinish the hardwood floor, because he truly had no interest in doing it himself. But overall I was not to touch unless he said so. It left me with an immobilizing feeling of helplessness. Reinforcing that I was unworthy. This type of coercive control impacts on so many levels. It forces you to be dependent, it affects your self-worth, and your sense of competence. It weakens you. It's also neglect, which is also a form of coercive control. The family being forced to live in inadequate conditions, with no voice in the matter. I remember his mother saying once after visiting our home that children's aid would likely take the kids if they saw our home. I find it funny she said it to me, not him, there was literally nothing I could do about it at the time.
I have a particularly strong memory of our first home, I wanted to repaint the master bedroom. It was the first time I remember him telling me I couldn't do it because I would do a lousy job and make a mess. This assertion was not based on evidence. Up until that point I had not done any painting or any form maintenance. It was an automatic assumption, I was incompetent. For some reason, I accepted this. Only he was capable. I was supposed to just "shut my pie hole" and live with it. (the words "Shut your pie-hole" still feel like such a slap. Every time he said this it felt so incredibly demeaning and insulting, I remember him laughing, as if it was a joke, which made it even more humiliating.
In any case, It became deeply ingrained in me, not to touch tools, and to just accept my living situation. And of course I was absolutely NEVER EVER allowed to hire anyone. It also meant I had to live with things in the house either not started or half finished for years. This same rule went for car repair. I drove vehicles that were in a dangerous state. Cracks right across the windshield that caused on coming traffic to blind me at night. A front end completely shot with an axel that announced my presence to everyone within a 200 meter radius. All of which kept me feeling like shit, and made me easier to control overall.
Abusers use this type of behaviour frequently to establish control over you. It was up to him what I was ALLOWED to do. (WTF, I see this now as insane) It also established him as the expert, I was an idiot. Another reminder of my place as the subservient one of the relationship. I had bounds, and he defined them. I was never really aware of all the different ways this was reinforced through different tactics, but with hindsight it is clear. It is somewhat shocking to me the level of control he exercised in our home. I had become so accustomed to the constraints that I just accepted it as the way it was. I quelled the frustrated voice inside. The idea of picking up a hammer myself was unthinkable. The on-going reminders that I was an ungrateful bitch grew the doubt in my perception in the situation. I didn't know what was appropriate or reasonable to expect. Perhaps I was an ungrateful bitch. Even with all this, I thought I was a capable strong woman, in charge of my own thoughts and behaviour, he even called me the warden suggesting I was the one controlling everything in the house. That is actually ridicules. Classic strategy though.
This had an extremely detrimental effect on my psychological well being. There is an underlying message I was not worthy of having a nice home, or even a complete one. That is good enough for you. There is no need to worry about your safety in a car that suddenly veers toward the ditch, "it's just a groove in the road" This was coupled with having to endure his anger about how I complained about things, and he was a slave for us. He was always reprimanding me about how I didn't appreciate every things he did, to the point that I would become ecstatic over even the smallest repair. (OMG he planted a tree, THANK YOU HONEY) Managing your expectations, and teaching you not to expect much.
Being able to call professionals, or even fix things myself has become a major factor in healing. I get so much satisfaction when I can make my own decisions. The smallest things fill me with joy. It's these little things that help me heal. Realizing that I am capable, it doesn't matter what anyone has told you. Understanding that those accusations, those limitations where about him establishing control and had nothing to do with my competence. I realized, so what, its just a part, it can be fixed, it's my money so if I waste it trying something new no big deal. Everyone has a first time of doing anything, no one is perfect right off the bat. So, give it a shot.
Yesterday, I installed my own dishwasher. It gave me a wonderful feeling, I am so proud of it. I ran it, and happily no leaks. Up until I turned it on, I really believed it would leak. There is no way I could actually do it right. But, I did. It's more than just a new dishwasher for me. It's building a sense of competence and learning that I AM capable. I can do it. I am learning that this stuff is no where near as hard as he always made it out to be. I am also learning, that I am actually pretty good at fixing stuff. It takes me a little while to figure it out. I often need someone to show me. But, the things I have done to date, turn out really well.
YOU CAN DO IT! A little step is still a step. Go for it.