|The idea for this page was spawned by a highly
relevant phrase a reader used in a recent email: "Without a victim, there is no
"I'm a 51
year old female, married to the same man for 29 years and just discovered Pat Evans' books
on Verbal Abuse. I also read the book Boundaries and many of Melanie
Beattie's books on Co-Dependency. Subsequently I am learning to set boundaries for
the first time in my life, recovering although slowly and gradually from codependency AND
recognizing verbal abuse and just realizing how many controlling and abusive people I have
allowed to trample on my self esteem and inner peace. Not only my husband but also some
friends, my sister, and my 3 daughters have been abusive. I have been the codependent
people pleaser, and hoop-jumper. The more I attempted to gain the intimacy and approval I
longed for, the worse the abuse and control would become. FINALLY its like a
"DUH" to me...I see that it takes two to tango.
Without a victim there is no abuse".
This lady "got it." She understands that in her
need to get stuff from other, she allowed herself to be mistreated. Nobody made
her do it. Her power is in her recognition and acceptance of that fact as well as in her
freedom to purposefully act otherwise. She recognizes the damage she allowed to be
inflicted on her self esteem and inner peace. She understands that she is the gatekeeper
and caretaker to these essential parts of herself. It is up to her to clarify her limits
and permit no trespass.
While taking responsibility for your own life may sound
terribly lonely to the uninitiated, it is the most wonderful and natural place to live!
The abuser and the victim do not take responsibility for
|The victim gives away the
store to get love and approval.
expects the loved one to give them the store. Or else...
This bargain does not work because
the exchange of care taking duties are no substitutes for self-esteem,
self-regard, and self-love. Esteem et al can only be granted by
the Self. They must be earned, and cheating doesn't work.
Self-esteem, Self-control &
Without self-control and self-discipline there can be no self-esteem.
How can you feel good about yourself if you don't feel good about the way
you behave? Self esteem is the result of personal power: control and
discipline over the self. An individual must trust themselves enough to know that they can deal with
any situation. Trust in the self is attained as one learns to exercise the
cognitive, emotional and behavioral skills to needed to facilitate smart,
and the victim do not seek to control the self, the only one they have any true power
over. They each look to control each other, other people, situations, outcomes.
The victim obtains some sense of esteem by working hard at pleasing the
abuser (and anyone else), in the hopes of getting approval. The abuser
attains some sense of esteem by convincing others of his or her worth. What hard
work for so little return!
Thoughts Distort Reality
Automatic and irrational thoughts
underlie the distortion of reality. In the email example above, the writer
finally recognized that jumping over hoops for loved ones would not make
her them love her more. She had to accept that all the hoop-jumping in the world
would not work, and in fact worked against her. Yet, the thought
"doing for doing equals love" governed her existence for years.
Her thought was automatic in
that it operated in the background. Yet, until she noticed it, she was not aware it operated at all!
She was on autopilot because the thought governed her behavior! The thought
was irrational in that
it is not true that hoop-jumping brings love. Pleasing usually
brings approval, which is not love, and is most likely to result in being taken for granted.
In order to see reality more clearly,
had to dump the fantasy - or the automatic thought. Until she accepted
what is ("DUH"), she got nowhere.
The effects of automatic and irrational
thoughts are profound and far-reaching and are the basis of
A few more common irrational
expects to receive undying love once their broken partner is "healed" through their
somewhere out there is a perfect person who is all-caring and who will never, ever
disappoint. The abuser insists on being perfectly cared
for, no matter what!
Some results of irrational thoughts:
Substituting approval for
self esteem results in an unending and unsatisfying cycle of doing for,
doing for. There is tremendous anger underneath the
giving, but the distorted reality keeps the anger from
identifying its true target - and doing (or not) something about
Self-esteem and self-respect are compromised because deep down, it is difficult to feel OK about
oneself when the self has given away its power to exercise choices.
Others or fate or the self is blamed for
one's woes. How can an individual feel good about themselves when they
have put on a blindfold, tied their hands behind their back and rely
on intuiting the needs & expectations of loved ones to guide and
The abuser, who makes their partner responsible for their comfort,
well-being, happiness, etc., gives away their power. Expecting another
disappointment in a harsh world, they get it ("Seek and Ye Shall
Find") and then lash out.
Self-esteem and respect are severely compromised. Deep down, this
individual feels like a cad. No amount of denial can justify treating others poorly.
This translates into a lack of inner peace and consequent inability to sit still and be
with themselves. "Winning", "getting over" and other
types of power substitute for self-esteem. As these individuals begin to own their behavior, they are
Sensing their inherent brokenness, the
"pity pot" is a place angry people know well. Why me, why
The Obsession to Feel OK
victim person lives inside an uncomfortable and never-ending cycle
of denial and self-deceit where esteem supplies are substituted for
They are obsessed with being loved and
compulsively engage in behaviors that will win approval or
affection. They need an outsider to "make" them feel OK,
and sell themselves short in the process of acquiring it.
The anger that inevitably builds
towards the person they do so much for is usually hidden and
expressed elsewhere in situations where they feel more power.
The angry person lives inside an uncomfortable
and never-ending, compulsive
cycle of denial and self-deceit where esteem supplies are substituted for
being cared for or by the thrill of
"winning" and convincing others of their power.
The obsession to feel OK is momentarily met by
moments of perfect caring or shows of power.
Like saccharine, the taste is bittersweet, but there are no calories
with which to sustain life. Read email from a man trying to take responsibility, but not
really succeeding yet here.
|Victims of controlling,
abusive partners have an especially difficult time since in an effort to
appear particularly loyal, they often have given away their resources.
While the odds may be stacked against the
victim, the simple reality is that there are 2 choices. Do something or not.
|Abusive people are
in fear, though this is not obvious. They don't trust themselves and are terrified
of their lack of control. They don't know what they may do! They are looking for
to impose boundaries on them - so they may feel safer. Partners who
impose few limits are regarded with increasing contempt.
Getting Stuck in Anger &
Anger is an easy place to get stuck. It feels
better than depression. Anger is
a necessary emotion which provides lots of information. What matters is what is done
with the anger and the message its trying to give you.
The abuser is stuck in anger and blaming
because they have not owned up to their responsibility for their own
stuff. It is much easier to fault another for what went wrong than to own
a problem and fix it.
The victim is typically unable to access his
or her anger, though it is there, often masquerading as depression.
But the anger still leaks out, hence the saying "...angry where you
shouldn't be and not angry where you should be." Read email from a
lady who is hurting herself by blatantly not taking responsibility here.
The former victim who gets stuck in anger
is mis-behaving as poorly as
the abusive person. Getting stuck in anger is what happens when the former
victim begins to use some of the techniques of the abuser. This is not empowerment.
This is blaming.
On Blaming The Victim
Some may interpret that this viewpoint somehow blames the
victim. Not so. Neither the victim nor the abuser are off the hook. Each has to work out
their own stuff, which has absolutely nothing to do with the other person's
stuff. There is no other way out. Nobody can do it for you. Read email from a former
victim who is stuck in anger.
Getting stuck in fear, terror, mistrust,
The fix: Don't get stuck in
self-blame, rage, anger, woes, etc. Take responsibility, take control of
your life and fix what you don't like.
trust anybody that much! While, control over the victim's fate is exactly what the
controller appears to want, they really don't. They want limits placed
on them. They will not like the limits, but will respect you for
||Nobody is that trustworthy! How can you
possibly trust anyone to anticipate you well enough to know what you
need? They simply can't do it, no matter how much they may
love you or want to. It is your job to care for yourself, like it or
To achieve personal responsibility, an individual must be
able to recognize and accept what is, exercise enough control over the self to do nothing
while weighing the alternatives and choosing the best available option.
Then calmly, and skillfully acting. Emotional,
out-of-control behavior is likely to diminish self-respect despite the
Without personal responsibility and its requisite
control-over-the-self, there can be no self-respect.
If an angry person treats
their partner poorly, how can he or she possibly feel OK about themselves? Considering
the hoops most angry people jump through to conceal their true
agenda from the world and, often enough, from themselves, how badly they
feel about themselves is obvious.
If a victim person permits
be treated poorly, how can he or she possibly feel OK about themselves
there is not enough self-respect to end the abuse? If this victim accepted reality
and therefore understood that the noxious behaviors they permit are not
OK, they would be furious.
A Recovery Map
Give up denial, accept reality. Yes, reality
may be unfair, painful, etc., but it is. No matter how much you may hate it or
want to wish it away, you cannot. (Reality can also be really cool!)
Distorted reality is a
byproduct of irrational
thoughts that create panic, depression, helplessness, etc. While believing a fantasy is
created to protect the self from bad feelings, it ends up creating them.
Self-deceit is an
excellent way to give your personal power away and to lose control over
your life. Why would you want to do that?
Avoid the common traps of getting stuck in
If-Only Land, It's-Not-Fair Land, My-Way Land, I'm-An-Awful-Person Land or any other type
of compulsive over-emotionality. No matter how "unfair," "terrifying,"
etc. reality seems, it is. There is no other (sane) option.
When you do get stuck in a trap, and you will, just notice that you are there. Then get yourself out.
Obsessing over unfairness,
unlovability, awfulness, etc. is counterproductive and offers nothing but pain.
Obsessing is not about
noticing your feelings, sitting with them, or letting them go.
Obsessing is a symptom and just another way of not facing what is.
Chill out and begin to problem solve. This is
the time to sit with yourself and notice your feelings and what information they are
trying to convey. Be objective and honest with yourself. Take your time and weigh your available
Sit with what is
uncomfortable or sad. Notice it. What is it telling you?
Let it go. Get on with the
rest of life.
Act. This is the level of skill, such as assertion, as
opposed to acting out of any type. Mastery at this level promotes trust in the self,
self-respect and personal power.
|When in doubt, do nothing.|
|Monday morning quarterback your failed experiments, learn
from them and repeat steps. Simply move on and incorporate new knowledge.|
|Pick up a good "how to" book on
assertion. Learn what you don't know.|
of the Story:
There is no
"good guy" and no "bad guy." We're all a little broken. So, don't
worry about what your partner is doing or not doing, just look at what you're doing.
Attaining personal responsibility is each person's business. Nobody is off the