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Social Clubs / An Open Letter


Subject:  Re: An Open Letter Date:  10/10/2012  4:32 PM
Author:  ThyPeace Number:  39569 of 46580

You can, however, help them to see that their self-worth is greater than they believe it to be. One of the most common acts of these types of abusers is to convince the victim that nobody else would love them as much as the abuser does, because the victim is so worthless. It keeps the victim from wanting to leave "the one person who will ever really love them". Until this belief changes, the victim won't usually leave.

How do you accomplish this? I have no idea.

I happen to have studied abuse, a little, in the course of learning a lot about marriages and how they come undone. I never understood abuse until I started studying Steven Stosny's work on domestic violence. (See note.) His books range between marginal and decent -- he really needs a good editor -- but his research appears to me to be completely sound. A short summary will not really do much good, but the above really gets to the heart of it.

Both people in an abusive relationship usually have absolutely awful self-worth. The abuser almost always thinks that the victim is actually at fault, because the victim has made the abuser feel so bad about him or herself. The abuser has hard-wired (I should probably say firm-wired, as they can be changed) neural connections between feelings of humiliation/hurt/disappointment straight to violent change. Re-training the neural pathways to take a different course is possible, but requires weeks and months of practice. (For more information on those practices, which I recommend for every person who has ever lost their temper, see Best $49 you will ever spend.)

For the partner of an abuser, the dance is much more complicated. As FryDaze says, there is nothing worse -- and harder to understand from the outside -- than believing that you deserve your own suffering, no matter how bad it is. When I've encountered that, I've followed Stosny's advice and focused on the relationship itself. The victim, essentially without fail, still loves the abuser. Often hates them too, but those go together in many relationships. So when you talk to the victim, you have to acknowledge the love and value it even if you don't understand it. And then you talk to the person about the most compassionate decision that they can possibly make, for the sake of the abuser. To read more about this aspect of abuse, Stosny does have a decent book: Love without Hurt.

To do that, you have to understand that the abuser lives with extreme amounts of guilt and self-hatred for the things they do. The only way to stop the suffering of the abuser (yes, they are suffering -- I'm not saying they suffer as much, only that they do suffer) is to stop the abuse. Victims will often take a stand to protect their kids and their abusers when they will not protect themselves. It has to do with our biological reactions to sabre-tooth tigers, apparently...

So if you can't convince the victim to protect himself or herself, sometimes you can work with them through love, to protect the abuser from further abuse that worsens the self-hatred and guilt. It is a terrible and frightening journey for everyone involved. But sometimes it actually works.

ThyPeace, remembers the sad, hard days of talking to people in these situations all too well. It was one of the most heart-opening experiences I have ever had. And I hope every one of them is in much better places now.

Note: All of the above assumes the abuser is capable of compassion. Sociopaths and psychopaths are not capable of compassion. Because of that, they're unable to learn to change their behaviors using compassion. For them, there is generally a much more rational cost-benefit analysis that has to be done, and only with limited success.
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