These are some principles that I have found to be helpful in healing the pain and suffering that occur in an abusive relationship. I speak to you, those that have been overcome by abuse – whether it be physical and or emotional. You deserve to live a life without fear. You deserve to be loved and to feel safe.
I also speak to you, the abuser. You may be harder to reach, but I say to you – you too have the right to be loved and safe – even with, or possibly, especially with yourself. You can find the pure and true self-hidden away deep inside of you if you wish to do so. I speak to you both.
The way out is difficult. The only way out is to take one step at a time. It is a winding and difficult path, but what can be harder than the prison of fear, domination and control? If you, as victim, feel you take your actual life in your hands as you become empowered the way out is fraught with much danger. But there still is a way.
I speak to you, the victim: easy to say, hard to do, but simply put you need to say no to abuse, disrespect and manipulation. I say to you, the abuser, you need to say yes to humility, honesty and integrity.
You, as victim need to re-activate and honor the alarm system, the intuitive capacity to feel what is safe and what is not.
Allow the light of truth to penetrate through the maze. Allow yourself to see the forest for the trees. You as victim need to protect your heart from people with whom you are not safe. You, the abuser needs to open your heart in love – to give and to receive.
Unless both of you work on yourselves, healing in the relationship cannot occur. Sometimes, separation or distancing is the only way to change the dynamic.
Both victim and abuser contribute to the dysfunctional relationship. If you know that, then you are empowered to make the changes necessary for safety and love. You have more power than you think.
For healing to occur in the relationship, both you as victim and you as abuser need to take appropriate responsibility for your role. For the victim your role in enabling the abusive behavior; for the abuser, taking responsibility for the suffering you cause in the victim.
Both the abuser and victim need to understand the point of pain that has caused this perversion of human relationship: “What part of you has been disabled causing you to undermine/be undermined in the present (abusive) relationship?” Therapy is often needed to delve into the deep-seated reasons for the dysfunctional behavior of each party.
For both the abuser and the abused, a deep internal assessment is needed: Why do I, as the abuser, act in such a cold and hurtful way? What happened to me that I treat “the other” so? Why do I, as the victim, set myself up to be mistreated, bamboozled and manipulated?
Freud called it the “repetition compulsion.” We are driven to repeat that which we do not understand. By “remembering” the original traumas, we have the chance to feel the pain, then release it – rather than acting out compulsively an essential repetition of the pain of our past.
Pain denied is not the absence of pain: pain has to go somewhere. The conscious feeling and acknowledgement of pain (as hard as that is) is necessary. Once felt and acknowledged it can be released. Otherwise pain tends to “embody” in the physical body and can end up in physical disease.
Both abuser and victim need to heal the split inside them instead of using the other to act out hidden/shadow aspects of them.
The abuser’s mantra is: “I am right. I have the power.” Healing occurs when the mantra becomes: “I know, love and accept myself.” “I accept responsibility for myself.”
The victim’s mantra is: “I get what I deserve.” Healing occurs when the mantra becomes: “I know, love and accept myself.” “I accept responsibility for myself.”
What does it take to change? Does it take bottoming out? Sometimes victims say No to abuse only when they are the equivalent of “on the ground.”
Healing occurs with the recognition that safety is prerequisite in relationship. Honor, acceptance and respect are the bedrock of a loving relationship.
Authentic Power (as outlined by Gary Zukav and Linda Francis in their books) is the goal of both the abuser and the victim. Zukav/Francis recognize that external power, whether it is from one individual to another or one nation to another, implies domination of one over another. This behavior is based on fear and insecurity on both sides.
Abuser and victim alike can heal by aligning their thoughts and behavior with their “Higher Self” or what some call the “Soul” and the values that lie deep within.
Humility in the abuser implies that the insecure ego can only feel true power by honoring the self and the other. The victim is coming from the other direction: with what might be considered “too much” humility, the victim needs to recognize their own worth, and stand up for the self, not validating the abuser; not in aggrandizing, but with empowered humility.
Power addiction acts in the brain like drugs or alcohol: the limbic system (the flight or fight center) is over stimulated by excessive firing causing a form of pleasure in the “winning.” Healing occurs when the “drug” of “Power” is pulled, allowing for the natural pleasure center to be re-activated.
An authentically empowered person does not need to compete to prove their worth (Victims point of view: “Look at me, I am such a good woman, wife, mother.” Abuser’s point of view: “I am better than you because I have power over you.”)
The ability to forgive is the hallmark of an empowered human being – forgiving the self and the other for the limitations inherent in each of us, in our personalities. This does not mean that the concept of forgiveness rationalizes continuation of the abuse.
An authentically empowered person can see with clarity, beyond the illusions of the power game. Seeing with wisdom and compassion removes judgment. For the abuser, this may mean removal of the focus on their victim and coming home to the self – taking stock of what is inside, taking responsibility for their own pain, needs, longings and desires.
For the victim it may mean taking the focus from their abuser, coming home to the Self that is wounded, acknowledging their pain and healing those wounds with Self Love (leading to self-worth).
Here is another dilemma that sometimes blocks movement forward: I call it the investment dilemma. The victim often stays “because I put so much into this relationship, I can’t leave now.” It is the equivalent of “throwing good money after bad.” Ego and pride prevent an honest evaluation of what is the truth now, is my life working for me now?
This is related to what we could call “failure avoidance.” Victims may stay in the mistaken belief that they are a failure if this abusive relationship is ended.
What we are seeking is a spiritual evolution.
The transmutation of suffering to transcendence is a life-changing process. By releasing the abuser the victim, now survivor, allows the other to discover their true path (if they choose), and the survivor, learning from the pain, moves along their own enlightened path. Maya Angeleau speaks: “Stepping onto a brand new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation which is not nurturing to the whole woman (man).”
I find Julie Henderson’s book “The Lover Within” inspirational. She writes,” You are the One!” You are present for yourself from birth to death. You are the one who needs love, understanding and forgiveness. By loving yourself first everything else and everyone else is put in perspective.
Love, in essence, is the answer. How to manifest love to oneself and others is the answer. Love yourself more! It sounds simplistic but please ponder
Awareness gives us the opportunity to change. It is my hope that this conversation will lead to true, internal, authentic empowerment for those of us who are identified as abusers and victims – leading us out of the darkness and into the loving light.
I thank the many clients that have assisted me in seeing the many faces of abuse, and ultimately through their courage and soul searching, to honor them in their flight toward freedom, back to themselves.
Copyright December 26, 2013