Quick Update: The summer heat and humidity have finally arrived in Spain. Because of this, I’m going to suspend the production of Video Blogs for a while. Unless we have another unseasonably cool day, it’s probably going to be September before you “see” me again. Sorry about this. But the lights are pretty hot at the best of times, never mind in the August heat. Now on to today’s rather serious blog.
I get all kinds of emails, from people wanting a few tips on meditation to those who are in horrifically painful situations and need someone to shine a light for them (or just someone who can confirm that the light even exists.) I feel grateful and honored when my readers reach out to me and share what are at times incredibly personal details. Their willingness to trust me and the fact they resonated with my writings enough to reach out, mean more to me than I can express. Sometimes, the questions I get can be shared directly (with permission, of course), but often the mails I get are much too confidential in nature to be posted publicly. It’s often these questions, however, that can provide the most benefit to others in the same boat.
In the past few months, I’ve been corresponding with several women who are struggling to get out of abusive relationships. I don’t know if my mails have been truly helpful to them – there is no quick fix for this kind of situation, but I like to think that I’m shining a light on their path. I feel that I have a pretty thorough understanding of what these women are going through. You see, I’ve been where they are. When I was 19, I became involved with a man who was abusive. The relationship lasted six months, but the damage lasted for years. This post isn’t directly about my story, but about the overall issue of abuse. I simply wanted to let you know from where I get my perspective.
Obviously, complex situations such as these involve more than a few beliefs. I do feel, however, that the issue of abuse has the structure I’ve outlined here at its core. And I know that this one article isn’t going to turn anyone’s life around. But knowing the main underlying causes of why some people abuse and why others allow themselves to be abused, could well help someone in this situation get onto the road to recovery and freedom. It could also help those who have a victim of abuse in their lives gain a better handle on how to best assist that person when they’re ready to make a change.
For the sake of this post, I’m going to be focusing on the dynamic of a man abusing a woman. There are instances of the reverse, of course, as well as abuse in same-sex relationships. In cases where a man is being abused, his belief structure would be somewhat different. I may break this down in a future post.
Why people become abusive
Contrary to what many people may think, there truly are no evil people in the world. No one is intrinsically bad. Everyone has a reason for everything they do. Now, we may not agree with those reasons, or even understand them, but to that person, those reasons are valid. So, what could possibly possess a man to abuse his partner? Often, the abuser genuinely loves his victim. How could anyone emotionally or physically hurt someone they actually love?
People who abuse are people who are in pain. Those of you who read this blog regularly will recognize the pattern of powerlessness. I’ve written about it before. Hurting others, in whatever shape or form that abuse may take, is a way to regain a sense of control. Power over others feels better than no power at all. This is at the heart of all violence – people who have a profound sense of powerlessness will lash out in all kinds of ways in order to regain some semblance of the feeling that they have any authority in their own lives. It can, and often does, get very, very ugly. Not everyone who feels powerless turns to violence or abuse, of course, but everyone who turns to violence is coming from a powerless place.
Those who feel this helplessness and attempt to find relief through gaining power over another person, seek out those who will “participate” in this game. This participation isn’t conscious, of course (if it is, it’s not abuse, it’s sadomasochism), and often neither party is actually aware of the selection process. Men who abuse will look for and pick women who display certain characteristics and body language. Again, often this is done at a subconscious level.
Abusive men generally have incredibly low self-esteem themselves. They’ve often developed all kinds of protective mechanisms to try and combat this. Abusing their partner is only one of several ways in which they seek relief. The often have incredible career success (due to rampant ambition to try and prove themselves) or abysmal career failure (they feel so low, they see no sense in trying). They are often easily offended by even the most arbitrary things. They may be extremely sexually promiscuous (trying to feel like a stud) or incredibly vain (they may spend tons of time at the gym, or wear disproportionately expensive clothes, drive a sports car, wear a gold watch, etc.) in an attempt to appear to be “more” than they are. They will do anything to avoid appearing weak, because deep down inside, that’s exactly how they feel. None of these mechanisms ultimately work, though.
Note that I am not excusing abusive behavior in any way. I am simply explaining the underlying cause.
Why people would allow themselves to be abused
A woman with very low self-esteem, who tends to internalize blame (everything becomes her fault) makes the ideal candidate for a man who’s looking for an ego raising punching bag.
In a nutshell, women who find themselves in abusive relationships have a belief that the man’s happiness is fully and completely their responsibility. Their self esteem becomes completely tied to the man’s approval. When the man becomes cruel, he’s not behaving in an unacceptable way. It’s because she’s done something wrong. She has failed to keep him happy, and his reaction is simply a consequence.
Beliefs such as these almost always get formed in childhood. The abused woman doesn’t necessarily have to come from an abusive household, however. The belief could’ve been picked up vibrationally. So, if the mother of the woman was abused, for example, and never fully cleaned up that vibration, her children could’ve picked up that frequency even though the mother never remarried and no actual abuse ever took place in the children’s home. An extremely controlling father could help to form such a belief, even if he was not actually abusive. Any environment that would’ve caused the little girl to believe that it was her job to keep the adults, particularly the males happy, and therefore caused her to think that any signs of disapproval or unhappiness on the adults’ part was directly her fault, could easily lead to a tendency to become the victim of abuse later in life.
The woman thinks that the situation in her home is “normal”. Walking on eggshells to keep him from blowing up, taking full responsibility for the volatility of his moods, and even fully blaming herself for the beatings she receives, are all just part of “the way it is.”
The cycle of abuse
No one enters into a blatantly abusive relationship (ok, almost no one). There’s a clear pattern in how the abuse develops.
In the beginning, the abuser is kind, generous and attentive. Considering the woman’s extremely low self esteem, this attention is often the first time in her life she’s felt truly cared for by a man. She feels loved. She feels better. But her self esteem becomes inextricably tied to his treatment of her. He’s not being kind because she deserves it. He’s being kind because he’s such an amazing person, and she will often feel immensely grateful to him.
Next, the man begins to control her environment. He cuts her off from all friends and family, first in subtle, manipulative ways (“wouldn’t you rather spend time with me? Don’t you care about me?”) and sometimes in less subtle ways (“I don’t like your friend Mary” or even “I think Mary’s pretty hot.” i.e. “if you bring her around, I might fall for her and leave you”). The idea (and remember that most abusers are not fully aware of what they are doing) is to completely control her perspective. There should be no one to tell her that what she’s experiencing isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
The abuse begins subtly, more manipulative than violent, escalating to verbal abuse and fits of rage. The verbal abuse destroys what little of her self-esteem may have been left. Displays of anger are terrifying to the woman, who sees his loss of control as her own failure. Had she done this or that better, he wouldn’t have gotten angry. In her mind, his reaction is completely her fault. Every outburst is then followed by his lavishing affection upon her. So she switches between small amounts of bliss (his affectionate periods) and ever lengthening stretches of suffering (his abuse and/or withholding of affection), and yet those tiny slivers of feeling good are worth all the pain. This is also how drug addiction works.
By the time the abuse (emotional and/or physical) is in full swing, the woman’s self esteem is so tied to the man’s approval of her, that leaving is no longer an option. Getting out would represent a permanent loss of his affections. And this often seems like the ultimate failure – an outcome that must be avoided at all costs. Women have paid with their lives to avoid the loss of an abusive partner.
The idea of leaving him is also made difficult by a variety of other reasons:
- She’s ashamed that she let it get that far. Who lets someone hit them and doesn’t just leave? Even if she’s intellectually aware that the situation she’s in isn’t acceptable, her emotional state and underlying beliefs keep her stuck where she is. She fears that others won’t understand how she could let it get that far (and honestly, they often don’t).
- She may be physically afraid to leave. Not all abusive men threaten to kill their wives or girlfriends if they leave (they often don’t have to), but women getting killed by their abusive exes isn’t exactly a rarity. If children are involved, this actually makes the situation worse. She believes that them having an abused mother who’s alive is better than having a dead mother. Other alternatives often don’t exist in her eyes. He promised to find her and she believes him fully.
- She truly loves him and believes that he loves her. She believes that if she loves him enough, she can “fix” him. It’s not his fault that he abuses her, he can’t help it. And if she can just find the right formula somehow, she can save him from his pain and then he’ll always be that nice version of himself.
What to do if you’re being abused
Get. Out. Now. You cannot save this man. I’m not saying that he can’t potentially be saved, just not right now and not by you. And that’s not because you are broken. You are not. It’s because at this point in time, you are both in a lot of pain. It’s this pain that’s making you a match for each other. As long as you both keep the vibration you’ve got right now, neither one of you can help the other. You will both stay stuck exactly where you are. You need to change your energy, and in order to do that, you have to get out. You have to get away from him. You have to get away from each other.
You cannot love him enough to make him stop hurting you. It’s never going to get better. It will only get worse. As long as he is with you, he will abuse you. If you really want to save him from himself, get away from him. You are not the cause of his pain. You are an angel who has been trying to save him. But you can’t. He has to save himself. And the only way that will EVER happen is if you leave him to go and save yourself.
I want to tell you that you deserve better than this, because you do. But I know that you can’t hear that right now. I want to tell you that there are good men out there, kind men, who would NEVER raise a hand to you or say mean, awful things to you. Men who will respect you. Men who will never give you a reason to be afraid of them. But I know that this, too, is too far of a reach. You will come to learn that in time.
Right now, get some help. Find a therapist, a friend (they will still love you, even if you abandoned them. They WILL understand), your family. Reach out to someone and let them help you. Because no matter what you may believe about yourself right now, hear me when I say this: Being abused in any way, verbally or physically, IS NOT OK. It’s not normal. You’re not supposed to be afraid of the man you love. Not even for one second. He’s not supposed to hurt you. Even if he apologizes afterwards, it’s not ok. And it’s not going to stop. Ever. You have to get out. It’s your only option. And yes, it is possible.
If you have no one, reach out to me. I’m here. I’ll read your mails and I’ll write you back. I can’t fix everything, and I can’t come to your house and get you. But I can believe in you. I can listen to you. And I can keep reminding you that you can’t save him and that it’s not your job to, but that it is your job to save yourself. Because even though I know it’s very hard for you to hear this right now: you do deserve so much better. You are worth so much more. You are allowed to be happy. Truly happy. You are allowed to feel loved and protected. You are allowed to feel safe. And take it from me, you CAN get there.