March 12, 2000
Recovery from codependent
victimhood usually occurs in a series of often overlapping stages. Here is
a rough outline of what you may expect, though each individual is
Stage. The victim is relatively brain dead here. Your energy is
spent on justifying your abuser, working overtime to "make him or her
happy," and hiding the truth from yourself. You often pay with
physical and / or emotional symptoms. Your self-esteem is non-existent.
& Disbelief Stage. The victim doesn't know which end is up!
You have just learned about abuse and are shocked to realize that your
relationship may be abusive! You need validation and support. You are just
learning to trust your senses.
Advice: This is the time to
"do nothing." Simply become aware of what is going on,
and notice how you feel about it. This is not the time to stand up
to your abuser. You are getting ready to do that down the road. Pay
attention and become increasingly aware. Read books like The Verbally Abusive Relationship and The Gift of Fear.
Stage. There is a sharp sense of outrage over what has been
happening! Your victim's buttons are all showing! You are angry, defensive, blaming, and full
of guilt now - and you are internally fighting all of it! If you are at
all impulsive, without realizing, you are likely to act out and behave as
abusively as your abuser! Oooops!
Advice: Don't act out! You are
right to be angry, but realize you don't know how to effectively
stand up to your abuser yet. You are probably acting out towards those
whom you perceive as weaker than yourself. This is the time to sit with
your feelings, and do nothing - until you know what you need to do. Read
books to help you with your anger like Harriet Lerner's The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing The
Patterns of Intimate Relationships and Change Your Life Now: Powerful Techniques for Positive
start reading assertion books like Don't Say Yes When You
Want to Say No and Your Perfect Right.
Assertion skills are very important!
Warning: Don't get stuck in this
stage. Your job is to listen to your anger's message, but chill before
you act - so that when you do act, you act effectively. Watch the
defensiveness. You don't need it - since there is nothing to defend!
Responsibility Stage. Finally. You are very clear on what's
going on, you are able to stand up to your abuser. You may have left. You
have developed adequate self-control skills and are less likely to be
Above all, you increasingly
recognize that you are in control of your life - and that you do
not have the power to make another person happy or miserable. You realize
that your abuser is a victim too, but you know it is up to them to fix
themselves - if they want. You feel great about yourself!
Advice: Continue increasing your
wonderful skills! Read books that target your weak areas, remain aware,
and Monday morning quarterback situations which you wished you had handled
differently. The next time something like the last yukkily-handled
situation comes up, you will be better prepared.
Warning: This stage is highly
addictive. Congratulations and enjoy yourself! Your personal power will
grow with practice and you will become increasingly adept at handling
life's dilemmas. You may get so good at running your life, you find that
you only rarely Monday morning quarterback situations anymore. You find
yourself just intuitively handling them! Yippee!
Reading: An ever-expanding, full
listing of recommended readings can be found at The Bookshelf.