How widespread is abuse? If we examine some of the assumptions behind the abusive mindset, we may be surprised to find that these reflect some culture-wide attitudes. In fact, the abusive personality shares core elements with general cultural beliefs. This awareness helps explain why abuse -- physical, mental or emotional -- can be so common. What seems to be an increasing prevalence is related to an increasing awareness of dynamics that have been below the surface, but which are now coming up to consciousness. Healing, therefore, must involve a cultural shift in thinking and not a mere condemnation of those who express unconscious mass predilections in an admittedly inappropriate and extreme way. This mindset reflects a world-view based on fear, scarcity and separation that values power and control to get what one needs to be happy. One's basic mistrust is reflected in a lack of respect for others and for one's environment. Whatever religious ideals are held, God is somehow separate from one's day to day life.
What kind of shift needs to happen to resolve this misunderstanding of ourselves and our place in the universe? First of all no matter what our individual pasts, we have to own our responsibility for our experience as adults, and the role our beliefs have in creating it. We must realize that we are not victims but have a choice of what we live by and an unlimited potential we can consequently fulfill. By understanding that truth is implicit in our actual experiences we may be able to find the doorway to a larger benevolent Life that is within us. In this world-view one's inner truth is one's path -- a path leading to one's greatest good that one must learn to walk on. We may trust ourselves and life because there is a deeper wisdom and purpose to it. Our feelings and our love connect us to this larger whole and therefore need to be acknowledged.
abuse: To transgress, attack, violate, mistreat or to misuse authority.
violence: To abuse or to use vehement (angry) force.
Characteristics of abuse
Anger: Toxic hostility, overtly or covertly expressed.
Attack: Put downs, invalidation, undermining, transgressing, trivializing, criticisms, accusations or judgments about other's reality, thoughts, feelings or actions. Physical, emotional or sexual assault or violation.
Domination: Attempts to control, use, coerce, threaten, manipulate or establish power over others.
Denial: Denying the intent or the act of abuse. Pretending not to understand what's going on. Denying the other's feelings or perceptions. Blocking communicating about the abuse by ignoring, "forgetting" and withholding.
Double messages: Confusing contradictory communication -- expressions of "love" or being nice alternate with abuse. Words and actions are incongruent.
Assumptions of an abuser --The ego's "power over" reality
No responsibility for anger: Others are responsible for it and can therefore have it dumped on them.
Arrogant authority: One has authority and superior knowledge that extend over others.
Arrogant rights: Others are threats that one has the right to use power over. One has to control life and others to be safe and secure.
Truth is feared: Reality is something that threatens so denying it is expedient.
Life is conflict: --a continual struggle for survival and supremacy where force or power has a natural role. Trust is suspect.
Separation: One is an isolated and vulnerable ego. Defenses, not openness, are necessary. Intimacy and real relationship are quite limited--others are valued for what one gets from them.
Feelings have to be denied: Feelings indicate vulnerability and threaten control and so need to be repressed.
"Reality" can't be changed: Because some of these assumptions are prevalant in our culture, they are assumed to be legitimate. One's experiences seem to justify one's beliefs.
Vs. assumptions of a Self-centered, "personal power" reality
Responsibility: One is responsible for oneself and one's experience. We are not victims.
Authority: One only has authority over oneself. Ultimately knowledge derives from the Self or God.
Rights: Everyone has equal innate rights and boundaries which demand respect.
Truth: One's truth is one's path and one's salvation. One's personal truth derives from one's inner and intrinsic being.
Life: --can be trusted. Our personal life is an aspect of a larger creative life which has a wisdom and an intention for us.
Interdependence: We are all interconnected and need to cooperate for our own good. Intimacy and sharing ourselves is safe, joyful and enriching.
Feelings connect us: Our feelings and our love connect us to ourselves, to our spirit and to others. By acknowledging and accepting what is experienced we come to realize ourselves.
We can choose to change our beliefs: We may believe in a "reality" of separation, fear, death, attack and scarcity or we may believe in and trust Life, our Self, our feelings, our power to co-create what we want. Our beliefs and assumptions manifest themselves in our experience.
Recognizing and changing abusive victimization
Explaining usually doesn't help: The entrenched abuser is interested in control and power, not understanding or reason. Victims who feel bewildered or responsible for the abuse need to realize that it is not their fault. Trying to explain assumes the abuser has the same interests.
Obliging the abuser doesn't help: It doesn't change the abuser's underlying oppositional hostility--rather it shows him his tactics are working.
Showing the pain doesn't help: Abusers repress empathetic feeling -- therefore no real intimacy is possible. Compulsive controlling doesn't allow for real feeling or intimacy.
Realize equality and mutuality are not possible: Recognizing that abusers are not willing to accept others as equal makes sense out of a lot of confusing interactions.
Recognize that the abuser is not being rational: The abuser is in a defended ego state that is disconnected from a loving relation to others.
Abuse itself is the issue: --not what the abuser says. Abuse is a boundary violation--not a disagreement. Make it the issue.
Trusting yourself and your feelings helps: Recognize that as a victim you have been conditioned since childhood not to trust your feelings and have allowed others to define what is right for you.
Setting clear limits and boundaries helps: Get clear on your limits, rights and boundaries and call the abuser on every violation.
Recognize that the abuser must give up denial of abuse to change: -- and then work through the feeling of powerlessness which is behind it.
Recognize that you can't change another: --but you don't need abuse or the illusion of relationship. And you do have a right to respect and a nurturing environment.
Realize you can create and realize what you want: You have the capacity!
Do You Operate as a Victim or Victimizer?
Do you have enemies? Is your boss, the I.R.S., or certain individuals or groups out to get you?
Do you often think in terms of "us vs. them"?
Do you tell others what to do or imagine that you know what is right for them? Are you hurt because people don't seem to appreciate your good advice?
Do you try to control what significant others do or how they live their lives? Do you expect your children or partner to think as you do?
Do you continue to nurse a lot of resentments or hurts from the past?
Do you feel moments of depression, hopelessness or powerlessness?
Do you often blame others for things that happen to you? Are you often angry and distressed because people do "stupid" things?
To what extent do people or circumstances have to change for you to be happy?
Are you compulsive, rigid or controlling about certain things?
To what extent do fears and negative expectations color your outlook?
Checklist for a Healthy Relationship
Below is a checklist of typical boundaries and positive self values (yours may be different) that need to be asserted for a relationship to work and be healthy. Which are part of your relationships?
NO — YES
disrespect. — respect
abuse, violations, transgression — thoughtfulness and consideration
constant criticism, blaming, put downs — appreciation, positive regard
raging or yelling. — feelings are "shared with" the other, not "dumped on" them
addictions, "using" behaviors. — responsibility
name calling, accusations — direct constructive expression of feelings
invalidation or disparagement — allowing space and differences
demands, orders. — love and acknowledgement of personal rights
selfishness, opposing values. — shared interests, values and goals
controlling behavior, being closed. — cooperation, openness
threats, manipulation, intimidation. — direct expression of wants or needs
duplicity. — sharing and intimacy
hostility, basic mistrust and antagonism — positivity, trust
double standards. — equality and mutuality