Abuse is systematic. It's not a rude episode, or being gauche or ignorantly doing something someone else doesn't appreciate, though abusers will claim that's all it is, and that it's just an isolated incident. It is repetitive and cyclical. So, look for recurrent themes or situations. Do you find yourself repeatedly involved in the same kinds of unpleasant situations with vulnerable others.
I believe abuse is an addiction. It's giving away a feeling you don't want to someone who is vulnerable by creating the feeling in them. Then, they feel worse, and you feel better.
Abuse tends to be multi-generational, passed down from parent to child by example and experience. If you've been abused, you've learned how to do it. You have a choice as to whether you will continue the passing down to the next generation of the abuse system.
Abusers avoid taking responsibility for their own behavior. They say they lost control, blew up, went off, didn't mean to, weren't thinking, don't know why they did it, or "it wasn't the real me," etc. All of these responses are denials of personal responsibility for one's own behavior.
Abuse is almost always contextual. Abusers behave badly in environments where there is secrecy and vulnerable victim availability. Abusers do not tend to try to abuse their boss, the policeman on the corner, or anyone they perceive as more powerful than they are.
Abusers have "selective amnesia" they "don't remember' doing a lot of the cruel and oppressive acts they've committed. They can express apparently genuine outrage at the abuse behaviors of others, while not recognizing the similarities to their own behaviors.
Abusers shed "crocodile tears." They are "sorry" briefly, and then quickly want their victims to feel sorry for them. They may lack real empathy for others, but pretend to experience it because they thing it's expected, or that it works for them to keep their victims available.
Abusers are self involved, and they want everyone else focusing on them. They think all issues are really about them, not about their victims.
Abusers are dishonest. They live a life of pretense.
1. Were you abused as a child/teen by a parent or other relative?
2. How do you deal with emotional discomfort? Do you use addictive behaviors to change your emotional/physical state? (gambling, shopping, food bingeing, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes.)
3. Do you come home to a happy family, and find that your children are crying within five minutes of your arrival, or someone is "in trouble" ?
4. Is your family dinner table a place where children are regularly punished or reprimanded, and you find it necessary to send them away, or make them unhappy during or after the meal? Are there other repeated events or activities where similar trouble happens: trips, outings, holidays, bedtime, shopping, etc.
5. Are your spouse or children afraid of you?
6. Do you force or coerce affection or companionship, or sex on any family member or love interest?
7. Have you ever raped anyone? Had rough sex without the other person's complete agreement or consent? Have you made your partner cry because of your physical treatment, or by denying them something or forcing or coercing them about something?
8. Is there a cycle of building tension, blow up on your part, denial of responsibility on your part, admission of guilt, repentance, and then a "honeymoon period" afterward, that repeats in your home or relationship?
9. Do you think you are responsible for making your significant other "shape up" behaviorally or otherwise? Are you jealous? Do you restrict the activities or range of movement of your significant other?
10. Do you have rules and regulations for your significant other or children that causes them to fear you or fear displeasing you? Do you withhold or deny them privileges or opportunities unnecessarily? Do you get satisfaction from doing so?
11. Has your significant other restricted her interaction with friends and family in order to avoid displeasing you or angering you?
12. Is your spouse or are your children depressed?
13. Is there one child of yours that gets more punishment from you and more criticism than the others?
14. Do you find that tension builds in your household, but is cleared when a big fight occurs, or when someone is punished?
15. Are you dishonest with yourself about your own motives in disciplining your children or trying to control your spouse?
17. Have you ever caused repeated physical injury to your significant other or child "by accident?"
18. Do you behave as courteously and respectfully toward your family members or significant other as you do to your boss at work?
19. Do you "give away" your feelings, when you don't like them?
20. Did you mistreat animals or pets when you were a child?
How can you tell if you are being abused?
This may sound like a silly question to the outside observer, but it isn't. It seems like surely a person would know if they were being abused. Surely there would be hitting and cruelty, obvious cruelty. Not necessarily.
Some of the most accomplished abusers never lay a hand on their victims. Remember the movie What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? The sister played by Bette Davis relentlessly abuses the sister played by Joan Crawford. It's both blatant and subtle together. And we discover at the end of the movie that the Joan Crawford character has been abusing too, but in the most subtle and secret of ways.
Emotional abuse can be so subtle, so hidden, that those outside the abuse circle find it impossible to believe. The people inside that circle may even doubt their own perceptions, partly because the abuse is subtle and partly because the abuser helps them doubt. He insists on it. Part of his abuse is planting and nurturing self-doubt in his victims.
So how can you tell if it's happening to you? If any of the following are happening, you need to wonder. If several are happening, abuse is what it is.
* You automatically feel a sense of dread, fear, or unease when a certain person comes home from work, or enters the room. Or you have a nonspecific sense of needing to protect yourself or others when they approach
* You have recurring physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, rashes, or diarrhea at or after times of interaction with or proximity to certain people. For example, before or during trips with them you experience symptoms you do not experience when travelling with others.
* Someone else in your family is being abused. If someone close to you is being abused, you are being emotionally abused. You are experiencing feelings of fear, hate, shame, powerlessness, guilt, and remorse, all created in you by the abuser. Abusing a child is a favorite way for abusers to abuse indirectly a parent or grandparent.
* You find your circle of activity getting smaller and smaller. You are becoming isolated progressively from your friends and loved ones. You no longer do many of the things that once gave you pleasure. You don't go where you used to.
* You notice that you do not feel as competent as you did before you began associating with or began a relationship with a certain person.
* You don't take as good care of yourself as you did before the relationship.
* You don't express your opinions or feelings as much as you did before. It doesn't seem safe, they now seem unimportant, or would only cause trouble.
* You catch yourself altering your thoughts to please or avoiding displeasing another person.
* You find that you can't seem to succeed at something simple like being on time when you are with the person you suspect of abusing you.
* The other person in the relationship has two standards of behavior, one for the outside world where he is well respected and competent, and another for home.
* The other person is secretive about his personal life and asks you to help maintain fictions about it.
* You have, in the middle of or after an argument or episode the uncanny feeling that you have been there many times before, that you know how it will end, and that it will recur again.
* Your friends or loved ones express concern about the other person's efforts to control you, or his unfair treatment of you or your child.
* Things or experiences that are precious to you are "trashed" by the other person. Or possessions that are special unaccountably disappear, or are "accidentally" broken or lost or damaged.
Learn from all your past experiences, whether they be twenty years ago or twenty minutes ago, and whether they were good or bad. In the case of good, notice what you did right, and if bad, notice what you needed that you didn't have available, and add it, then install it in your future. See my ebook, particularly chapter 16, for how to do it.
9. Strengthen your boundaries, and extend them outward further than they have been, because if you've been abused before, you haven't had strong enough ones, nor were they extended far enough. Have a buffer zone in your boundaries, a warning zone, far out from where you could be hurt. And enforce them.
8. Get distance from any boundary invader, and keep them that far away. You don't have to be close to those who are invasive. There are millions of people in the world who will treat you respectfully, hang out with some of them instead.
7. Focus on your own needs and make sure they are met. Don't be so nice to people who don't reciprocate or who take advantage.
6. Figure out precisely what you actually want in a partner or friend, and look for someone like that. Don't go for anything less. Don't even date anything less. If he/she needs some work to bring them up to standard, pass them by. Let someone else fix them. Go for one that works without tweaking.
5. Raise your standards for how you treat yourself, and for how you allow yourself to be treated. If you value yourself, and live like you do, others are more likely to value you, and treat you accordingly.
4. Remember that you are educating the people around you all the time as to how to treat you. If they've gotten the wrong idea about it, re-educate them. All you have to do to change their behavior is to change yours.
3. Practice saying no. Practice saying it looking in the mirror, say it 100 times a day. Practice with friends and co-workers, practice with your family, until it's easy. Then use it.
2. Remember Juliet's Rule: 1. Never start before you're ready. 2. People will do to you what you let them.
1. Trust your gut. If your gut tells you you're not comfortable being around someone, or with their treatment of you, get away, and stay away. You don't need to be able to understand it or explain it. Trust your early warning systems. They're there to protect you.
We need to think of abuse in tiers, or layers, or antecedents and work on those. When I read about a tragic abuse situation in the news I always think, I want to know the story behind the story. What happened in the lives of the perpetrators or the ones who didn't protect the victims that made it possible for them to act as they did? How was this abuse situation created, and what needed to be different in those people's lives that would have made it never happen at all?
Abuse is usually a multi-generational skill, as is being victim fodder. How can the church help prevent the abuse set-up at its source?
The authoritarian mindset (maybe more about that later) doesn't cause abuse, but it creates a climate in which it can flourish. Teaching and supporting individual responsibility for one's behavior helps avoid that mindset. So, for Christians, teaching the doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer, and supporting its application would help.
Avoiding restrictive, limiting, or derogatory stereotypes in illustration and metaphor in sermons and teaching would help.
Pastors, priests, mullahs, and other leaders and teachers need to be trained in college and seminary about abuse components and environments friendly to abuse. Because abuse is so widespread in religious families and practices the area needs to be a part of pastoral and leader training. And the training about it needs to be competent and well informed, not a minimalist rehash of outdated religionized pop psychology based ideas.
Personally, I believe the usual interpretations of "becoming one flesh" passages in the Bible and the usual application of those interpretations are off the mark and help create a climate friendly to abuse. They make it difficult if not impossible for married couples to retain their own individual autonomy as persons, and thereby cause conflict in marriage and put potential victims at additional risk.
No one should have to give up their self to become "one" with someone else. Historically it's a flawed doctrine and doesn't have a very pretty origin. It has to do with the belief, via Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, that woman is not made in the image of God, but only becomes so when joined in marriage (becoming "one") with man, who is, of course, made in the image of God. As it was put, "They become one person, and he is that person," and that's why newlyweds were referred to as Mr. and Mrs. John Doe. She has ceased to exist as a person because she has become absorbed by his person.
People don't become "one" person when they get married. The verse says "one flesh" not "one person," but because the original reason for thinking they become one person has been forgotten, it is still preached as though it's that way.
Personal coaches encourage their clients do what we call "extreme self-care." It's a very pleasant way to expand one's horizons, learn how to take good care of the person everyone is supposed to take good care of--because it's your job, and because also, then other people won't have to take care of you because you didn't bother to.
Clients are often stymied when I ask them to add lots of pleasure to their life, add pleasure to everything they do. I can hear the puzzled silence on the phone, and then often a "...what do you mean?" They are so unaccustomed to treating themselves really well, having pleasure doing it and adding pleasure everywhere that they've forgotten how.
One can use imagination to get started. Suppose you had the resources of Cleopatra, what would you have your servants do for you?
It runs all the way from sensual pleasures like eating a gelato scoop with slow, total immersion in the taste, texture, and satisfaction, to facials, walks in the mist, sitting by a fountain, reading a delicious book, writing poetry, playing with children, lying on the grass looking at clouds, taking a nap, buying flowers for one's self, a pedicure, new luxurious underwear, perfume, to stopping at every step on the stairs to recall a joyful experience and savor it fully again.
It's adding so much pleasure to your life/experience, all the time, that it frees you up, shines you up, and makes joy a natural thing again.
Coaching clients sometimes don't take self care too seriously at first. They usually go along with it to humor the coach and because it's sort of a pleasant idea. But, when they've engaged in extreme self care for awhile, they begin to understand that the benefits go far beyond what they thought they'd get when they began self care improvements.
Extreme self care (just what it sounds like) is even more important for people who have been abused. They need to remember how important and valuable they are, how they have been valued in the past by those who really understood how fine they are, and treat themselves the way they really deserve to be treated, which is excellently.
And, think about it, if you want other people to value you and treat you really well, then you'd better show them a good example by treating yourself that way. If you want others to value you, you have to value you. And extreme self care is just a hands-on way of valuing ourselves.
What do you do when you still love the nice side of your husband?
Remind yourself that it is OK to keep the love you had and have. You are living apart from him and changing the nature of your relationship because it is the wisest and sanest thing to do. It doesn't have to do with love, but with action that is necessary.
Nobody teaches people how to manage loving predators, those who hurt us or hurt those we love. It's as though everything is supposed to be good or bad, when often it's just plain a mixture.
I think the way to deal with it is to allow both the good and the bad to co-exist and to make our decisions on what needs to be done, ought to be done, has to be done, not on how we feel about the one who we love but cannot live with because it is destructive and wrong.
Don't try to reconcile it. Just let it be unreconciled. Eventually, when you get further from this time, it will sort itself out.
I believe abuse is a form of addiction, that is, the abuser uses abuse to change their emotional/physical state just as a tobacco addict uses a cigarette to change their state. It becomes an addiction when other state change agents fall away and the addictive agent becomes the main or only way the addict can change their state.
Then they are dependent on it.
The abuser uses abuse to change their own emotional state. They "give away" whatever feeling they are uncomfortable with, to the victim. If they are sad, they make the victim sad, if they are angry, they make the victim angry, etc., then the abuser feels better.
So, no matter what the victim does, she/he can't win. They are there in the abusers life in order to satisfy their need for a victim.
Abusers get secondary satisfaction by reminding the victim of abuse. They may bring up a previous episode in casual conversation just to see the victim remember their humiliation or fear. I'm thinking som eof them would get satisfaction at hearing the victims recount their pain at being abused. Abuse isn't quite like a crime of passion or robbery committed by someone who doesn't think it really affects others. Abuse's whole purpose is to make someone else feel bad.
Also, abusers can create separate parts of their personality for the abuse/non-abuse environments. They will even say they find it difficult to remember clearly the abusive episodes later, that they switch gears. They can be horrified at someone else's abuse, not realizing that they are guilty of the same class of action. It's like the adulterer in the play The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, who when asked to recite the 10 Commandments, could recite all of them except the one about adultery, which he could not remember.
I think it's probably possible for an abuser to stop abusing, but not with most of what is offered as help at this time. Abuse is often treated as though it's an anger problem, which it is not, or a lack of control, which it definitely is not. I believe it is an addiction, and must be treated as such for change to happen.
Counseling for abuse has had a low to zero success rate. I have heard news of some program that claims better success, but don't know anything about it or whether it has proved to be as lastingly successful as it claims.
The low success rate, and inappropriate approach in most abuse situation counseling needs to reinforce the victim's determination to focus on their own life and get away from the abuser rather than waste her energy and time on trying to "help" or "fix" him, or "give him the benefit of the doubt."
When I began writing my book Heirs Together I thought it important to define marriage early on. It's always a good idea to determine what one is talking about before one begins talking about it, I thought. So, I began researching marriage historically, what it has been, how we came to think of it as we do today.
What I found is that marriage has been many things throughout history. Only one constant was present, that marriage is a more or less personal relationship between two people, usually a man and a woman. That's all. During most of the history of marriage it has not been a religious ceremony, but an agreement between families and/or the two people involved. It was a practical matter, not a religious matter.
Marriage ceremonies were often very simple, and did not require the services of a priest or religious representative. The church insinuated itself into the business of marriage and turned it into a religious ceremony in which the woman ceased to be a person, but was joined with the person of the husband. That's how we get, "man and wife," not "husband and wife," and why a married woman was known, not as Mary Jones, but as Mrs. John Jones--he was still John Jones, however.
Christians, raised to believe that marriage is some sacred pact with God and that the two people are somehow inseparable, are taught that the metaphor about the church being the bride of Christ has something to do with their own marriages.
Historically, and legally today, a "real" marriage is any marriage that the culture defines as marriage. It's a real marriage even if the couple hates each other, or lives separately, etc., if that is what is legally and culturally considered marriage.
People often think that it's not a marriage anymore if the couple no longer love each other, or one has betrayed the other, or broken their vows. It may not feel like a real marriage, but it still is until it is legally dissolved, because all marriage actually is is a legal designation. The couple has certain rights they can go to court to try to claim and have some hope that those rights will be upheld.
Personally, I believe everyone should negotiate a marriage contract, as is common in certain parts of the world, and which was often done historically. If that is done, and abuse defined and listed as part of what would break the contract and have certain penalties, then there will automatically be some deterrent to abuse, and some protection from it. And clear penalties if it occurs.
The church needs to catch up with the times and be more realistic about marriage and divorce--and abuse. Christians need to know that they are responsible to create their marriages and not be hounded and coerced to stay in them if their best efforts at creating a satisfying one for themselves aren't working.
The victim has been essentially asked to live a lie by the abuser from the time the abuse began. It goes like this: The abuse episode happens, and the abuser claims they aren't to blame, and blames the victim. The victim knows this isn't true, but because they've been carefully selected by the abuser, they don't run out and tell everyone who will listen what has just happened. They are shocked, jarred, and knocked off center. So they are immobilized instead, trying to figure it out, wondering what sparked the episode, wondering if they could have done to prevented it.
At some point, following that episode, or some future one, the abuser goes to the next step and becomes "sorry." First they deny they did it, or meant it, or that it was their own fault. But, then, eventually, they admit it,cry and are full of remorse. They are so sorry, it wasn't the "real" them, they did it because they were tired, or drunk, or had a bad childhood, or are having trouble at work, etc. They beg for forgiveness and promise it will never happen again.
Does the victim look them in the eye and say, "Right, it won't ever happen again, because I'm outta here.! No, because the victim is a kind and loving person who wants to understand, and also wants to believe. Does it never happen again because the victim says, "Right, because if it does, you will have to sleep sometime, and I have a nice cast iron skillet in there that will fit the corner of your block head just right." No, because that wouldn't be the nice thing to say. Does the victim at least go and tell everyone who should care? No, because that would be cruel to the poor creature who has poured his heart out in anguish--it would humiliate him! She stays silent.
Fast forward to years later when the victim finally stops believing the lies and the promises and reveals the secret she's been hiding. She has been, for years, humiliated silently and secretly every time she had to appear in public with the man and not shout out what he's been doing to her. She's also humiliated because he's helped her feel insignificant and defective, because she's made a bad choice in a husband, because she's not been able to get free, because she knows she's been living a lie and didn't know how not to because she thought the cost was too great if she stopped.
Being willing to face that feeling of humiliation is a first step to letting it go and realizing that it's not the feeling they have to have, that they can go on to pride in being strong enough to face it, strong enough to stand up for themselves, strong enough to not care so much "what other people think," strong enough to move beyond focusing on the abuser and focusing on themself instead.
The humiliation is greater for some people than it is for others.When it is, it takes that much more wisdom and strength to face it. One woman was married to a fellow psychologist and had written a book on marriage with him as co-author. They were also in business together in the same clinic, and had a blended family. She discovered he was having an affair, and didn't want to break up with the woman he was involved with.
They had signed a contract with the publisher to promote their new book on marriage together on TV talk shows across the country and had to honor it. She told me that she had to appear on those talk shows with him, sitting beside him onstage pretending they were not divorcing, and in spite of the fact he was living with another woman. (She'd asked him to at least wait until the tour was over to move in with his new love. He had refused.). She was completely discredited, she felt, in her profession and publicly humiliated. She quit her own radio show, left the practice, and moved to another state to start over.
There are public figures, including public Christians, who face the loss of their livelihood, trashing of their books, and national derision when they divorce their spouses. A case in point, Anita Bryant. How do you imagine she felt, having written good things about her marriage, when she divorced her husband, knowing she would face the destruction of her career writing for the religious marketplace as well? Humiliated? Probably. And then she moved on.
Question: How do you handle the attacks and accusations of other people who are telling you that because you left your husband, you have disobeyed God?
I highly recommend Mary Poppins' attitude. She pulled herself up straight and said, levelly, "I want to make one thing perfectly clear--I never explain anything." Thing is, and this is difficult for victims because they've tried very hard to please (one reason they make good victims) and be considerate and blameless, you don't owe anyone an explanation for your actions. One way abusers work their dirty deeds is through the use of questions. Notice how some people use questions to control others, to make them uncomfortable, to invade boundaries, to use as an excuse for getting insulted, getting angry, getting their feelings hurt.
It's useful to experiment and train yourself to not answer questions you don't want to answer. I used to think it was only good manners to answer questions that were asked me. But I learned that I don't have to do that, and there are many ways of stepping aside. As in, when I was once told there was a ladies meeting coming up and they'd like me to be there. I did not explain, I just said, "Thanks, but I won't be able to be there." The response was an abrupt, imperious, "Why not?" I did not answer the question, but kindly restated, "I won't be able to come," and changed the subject.
Another possibility for responding to the people who think they have a right to imply or state that you are in the wrong, is to stand firmly and with dignity, look them in the eye and say, "Some people have a good public behavior and a very different private behavior. I left my husband because of his private behavior." Then, look at them meaningfully, and walk away, or look away, or change the subject.
Another response to this sort of thing is to say, "It has been very difficult for me to have to make this decison, taking me years of trouble to come to it. And it's been and will be very difficult for me to have to do all the things that are coming to me as a result. I hope you understand that it's not something I really want to talk about right now."
Yet another, is to say, "Thank you for caring. I'm sure you know there is much more to the story than you have heard. I hope you'll understand that I'm doing what is absolutely necessary."
> Why do people side with an abuser who claims to have repented and ignore the needs of the abuse victim?
There are several reasons why people will side with a repenter and against the one who is taking action to protect themself from future injury.
1. They may be trying to carry out poor instructions they've received from bad preaching/teaching. They don't know what to do, feel they should do something, and so parrot what they've been taught without thinking it through.
2. They may simply not know what to do, but think they should say something. And what they usually say in such a case is something critical, limiting, or negative. As in, what I thought grownups always did when the children were having a lot of fun. They'd say, "Go outside and see what they're doing, and tell them to stop." Sort of, "it's always safe to be again' it."
3. They may envy you for some ability you have that they think they do not. This situation gives them an opportunity to try to "take you down a peg."
4. They may feel guilty because they are afraid they've had a hand in causing the problem.
5. They may feel ashamed and guilty because they think they may have caused the problem to be worse, or not helped prevent it earlier.
6. Lots of Christians, have goofy ideas about forgiveness. They really don't understand the implications of what they claim to believe, but they don't hesitate to tell other people to act on those goofy beliefs.
But, the important thing to remember is that what they think and/or say has nothing to do with you. You are the one who decides, who has the most at risk, and who is responsible for your actions.
1. Always have leverage
2. Increase your leverage
3. Gather your resources
4. Always be increasing your resources
5. Create Distance
6. Take yourself out of the danger zone
7. Turn experiences into learning, resource generating, future enriching, generative change catalysts.
plot the games
ask what was needed
what could you have done differently to get a different outcome
mentally add it in and re-run the experience with the new outcome
fine tune it
go to your future and imagine three situations in which you can add the new resources to change outcomes there.
go to a long future and sprinkle key abilities related to the experience throughout your future.
Work toward the above every day.
9. Create a future worth going toward
10. Harvest your past
11. Don’t think about the abuser when you don't need to. Schedule thinking about them. Make it a positive experience.
12. Change the focus of your attention--away from them, toward yourself.
13. Build your resources and reserves.
14. Avoid contact and conflict by studying patterns of the abuser’s behavior and interactions with him/her.
15. Write down all abuse episodes on a daily basis and process them using step 7.
16. Gather an album of supporters. Remember all the people in your past who have loved you, supported you, admired you, encouraged you. Notice what each one has to say in an affirmation of who you are. Go further into the past and imagine what your forbears would say to you, about how they worked and hoped for you, what they love about you, what they want for you. Assemble people you have never met, who you admire, imagine what they would say to you to encourage you and support you. Imagine all this cloud of witnesses supporting and advising you throughout your future. Add to them an anticipation that you will meet others who will love and appreciate, advise, and support you. Consult them in your thoughts whenever you need advise and encouragement.
17. Change the balance of power. Empower yourself, disempower the abuser. Make that a constant, ongoing project/effort, to empower yourself, and to lessen and remove power over you from the abuser. Even in the smallest areas, keep changing the balance of power.
18. Work toward what you want.
19. Aim high. Be generous with yourself.
20. Tell yourself every day, as often as you need to, “It isn’t about them/him. It’s about me.”
21. Don’t try to change the abuser. Change yourself.
22. Get away. Be in the business of getting away every day. If you can’t go now, work toward going. Make it your task to set up the procedure, assemble the raw materials, moving forward. Even if you don’t think you can, or don’t know if you want to, set it up. Make being in the presence of, association with the abuser a totally optional matter for you, so that at any moment you can, if you want to, get away free and clear. Make it possible for all your associations to be voluntary at any time, in any place.
23. Save money for yourself.
24. Protect your valuables
25. Assemble and document and protect evidence of abuse.
26. Find safe places for yourself. Maintain them and use them.
27. Resurrect and protect lost parts of yourself.
28. Learn to take observer position.
29. Don’t cast pearls before swine.
30. Don’t give yourself away. Don’t be vulnerable to abusers. Avoid intimacy with abusers. They can’t handle it.
31. You didn’t cause it, and you can’t fix it. Don’t take responsibility for it.
What to do with those crazymaking double messages:
1. Identify them for what they are. Whenever you have that gut
feeling that what you've just heard doesn't stack up, stop and
identify for yourself what is the mismatch, the contradictory
information, the non-sense to it. The first requirement is that you
are clear about what has just happened, that you don't internalize it
as a valid message.
2. Decide what your best response is. You may choose to simply
respond internally by saying to yourself, "That's a contradictory
message." Or, "The words don't match the non-verbals or actions."
You may decide to respond to the one making the statement or
exhibiting the behavior with, "That doesn't add up." Or, "That
doesn't make sense to me," without asking or even desiring to discuss
it further. This is best done in a level tone without any accusation
or complaint, just simply stating that it isn't a sentence or claim
that makes sense, or doesn't match up with what you are seeing.
3. Notice whether the double message is a warning of action that may
come. With some abusers a crazymaking statement or double message is
an indication that more abuse is to follow. That someone is
vulnerable and they are going to strike further into the vulnerable
territory. If that is the observed abuser's style, then get away from
them, protect the vulnerable people. Avoid the abuser and get you and
the children away into other activities where they are less
4. Strengthen your own personal boundaries and beef up your
self-care. Double messages are intended to make people feel confused
and vulnerable, insecure and doubtful. Use this opportunity to make
yourself and those you love see things clearly, and be more fully
protected. Use it as fuel for moving in the direction of enriching
yourself and your children rather than retreating in vulnerable fear
5. When you get double messages or crazymaking it may be an
invitation from the abuser for you to engage in an argument or fight.
Do something else instead. Create distance from them. Don't reward
the double message with what they are going for, let them learn
through experience that it doesn't work and gets them even less of
what they want.
6. Remember that action works better to get what you want than talk
does, especially with an abuser.
This site is the home for a book-in-progress. I'm tentatively titling it the Abuse Recovery Handbook. It will contain material from years of research. I have also participated on email discussion lists on the subject of abuse, and coached clients in my personal coaching practice who were or had been in abusive relationships or who were victims in other abusive situations.
I intend for the handbook to cover a wide range of topics related to abuse, with answers to questions, recommendations, advice, and stories from personal accounts of abuse and recovery. Facts and identities will be change when necessary to protect the privacy of individuals.
All material on this site is copyright 2009 by the author, Patricia Smith Gundry, and may not be reproduced in any form without written permissoin from the author.
I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and recommendations.