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Doc@DrIrene.com

Am I Enabling?

Abused Woman's Dilemma: Did I Enable This?

by Dr. Irene & Joanne

Joanne is a surfer who submitted her abuse story. Read it now if you haven't.

Dear Joanne,

Again I thank you for your wonderful story. Some thoughts:

As I re-read your page I think that you were very careful with your phrasing. There is a defensive quality, almost as though you had read through the site and had decided that there was no way in the world that you were going to give me an opportunity to somehow accuse you of not helping yourself. Am I off base?

By the way, I don't think any such thing (and so what if I did!). In fact, I chose your note BECAUSE you were able to overcome nearly insurmountable odds with a man who was subtle enough to truly make one nuts!

To clarify: I responded to "Hopeless Victim" the way I might with some clients...when there is SO much emphasis on the horrible experience (which is truly horrible), and is told in a way that suggests that she may be more interested in complaining than in empowering herself. The first step in such an individual's empowerment would be to call a spade a spade.

In any case, perhaps I need to clarify my position.

Warmest regards, Dr. Irene

 

Dr Irene;

You could be right, I can be somewhat defensive. When I sought out the help of counselors, and mind you I was very sensitive at that point in time, they all said "it's not your fault", yet, as the victim, I had to accept that I enabled, caused, or was co-dependent - and this confused me even more. It seemed to be a contradiction, and sent me on paths of recovery that were a waste of time.

I can't imagine that counselors told you that you were somehow responsible for your husband's behavior. A counselor will however tell you that you are the only one in the world with the ability to stop mis-behavior directed towards you: You cannot cause the actions of another person. Can you enable or be codependent with an abusive person? Yes, but probably not the way you think I mean. If you are responsible for your actions and you use your best judgment, it is not always "bad" to excuse the mis-behavior of a loved one. All loved ones mis-behave from time to time! Forgiveness and loving is about giving someone the benefit of the doubt. Co-dependent people in particular are inclined to forgive. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that - unless it becomes so one-sided or so excessive, that it truly hurts.  (I half-joke with my codependent clients that they should find another codependent to fall in love with! Then they can be interdependent!)

When does giving stop and codependence begin? This is hard to answer. Robert Burney thinks that the problem with our day and age is that our loss of spirituality inclines all of us towards codependence (or "outer-dependence" as he puts it). I agree. Even if a "line" existed, I'm sure it would be different for each of us.

Since my abuse experience and as part of the steps I took to ensure the prevention of, I discovered a debate about the effects of coercive persuasion and psycho-technology. I still don't understand it all, and please if you have any comments, I would appreciate any.

This sounds like a theoretical debate in social psychology and/or in cult phenomena. I am not familiar with the particulars.

I'm not even sure if I can explain what I mean. I guess it's just that I do not see where I was an enabler of any kind. I believe I was forced to think thoughts that changed my perception of myself and of my view of reality.

You cannot be "made" to think a certain way; but you can be TRICKED. Manipulative people know how to do this well.

I gave the example of the hot water. You know how when you take a bath you know about where to turn the handles for the temperature you like? After stepping into a cooler and cooler tub of water, I found myself turning the cold water further and further down, but just gradually. I thought I was losing it. How could I have enabled these thoughts through a character flaw?

You can't enable thoughts. And I'm not sure how much a language barrier is in the way. But you could say he tricked you into thinking you were losing it. The acts your husband engaged in were extremely devious and the product of a warped mind. You could be fooled because it would never occur to most people in a million years that their partner would gradually lower the water temperature!

One could make the argument that you did not have enough confidence in yourself to KNOW that you were not going crazy, but I don't think this applies to you. It is more likely that your husband was not initially abusive and his controlling abuse unfolded over time - the typical pattern.

With best regards, Joanne

Again, thank you, Dr. Irene