Dear Dr. Irene:
Based on my experience, it seems a bit foolish to use the word
"allow" as in "victims allowing the abuse." The
word "tolerate" fits better, because abusers expect to do as
they darn well please and will punish anyone who hinders their activity.
Victims learn to tolerate - or else! Allowing or giving
permission are rarely part of the equation, except in the mind of an
abuser of course. I agree with you.
"Tolerate" is a better word. In fact, I think it is so much
better, that I'm tempted to change all instances of "allow" to
"tolerate" on the site. But it's too big a job, so I
Parenthetically, I use the word
"allow" not to connote that you gave permission, but that you
did not know enough to take your power and do what you had to do to disallow
the abuse. But, I still like your word better. It has a better
As a former victim, I know all too well how hard it is to take a stand
against abusive behavior. Abusers are not motivated to stop.
In fact, their negative behavior usually escalates when their victim tries
to resist or begins to set limits.
In the Taking Responsibility Stage (see
Stages), I am willing to take responsibility for the fact that I
should not have tolerated it, but I am not willing to go so far as to say
I allowed it because I never did - it was foisted upon me against my will.
To even consider otherwise seems self-abusive. Yes,
abuse certainly was foisted upon you. Abuse is certainly not in the same
realm as self-mutilation.
It seems like the more time and distance between now (freedom) and then
(oppression) the more outrageous and ugly that old picture looks.
Sometimes I still feel anger, but I mostly feel sad about it all.
My Question Is: Does this sound like a normal part of the process?
Could it be that I need more time and distance? Or do you think this
"allow" versus "tolerate" thing could be holding me
back in my recovery? Any ideas? K
Yes, your feelings are
"normal," whatever that is. Most women who have tolerated
abuse for long periods of time feel the way you do. That feeling is your
continued anger and outrage over what was done to you. Yes, I think you
need more time and distance. And the good news is that time and distance
are free for the taking.
Is "allow" vs.
"tolerate" holding back your recovery? I don't think
Is it indicative that you have yet
more anger to work through? Yes. It is a button.
Are you splitting hairs in spending
time in your head on this distinction? Not at all. First of all, you
are correct. Second, it seems to me that you are using this distinction to
empower yourself and to deal with what was. Third, you are doing
good stuff with your pondering: you are asking questions and examining
yourself. This is about taking responsibility. You compose a
thoughtful letter and make an excellent argument for your position without
attacking. Control over anger is about taking
As you deal with your abuse, my guess is
that "tolerate" vs. "allow" will no longer have the
emotional impact it has for you now. Let nature take it's course; it's
Thank you K for your input. My very best
wishes, Dr. Irene