There are many kinds of abusive relationships, and many kinds of abuse. For example, it is possible for an intimate relationship, like a marriage, to be very abusive, especially if there is physical abuse, or extreme mental abuse. It’s difficult to deal with this situation, because the victim is often too weak or too insecure to do anything about it.
If you are in an abusive intimate relationship and want to do something about it, then I have two recommendations. First develop your self-confidence, which you can do in many ways, like using several of our recordings. Once you have the necessary courage, then get outside help. A counselor, a sympathetic doctor, a marriage therapist, even a lawyer. I know how difficult it is to take action when you are thoroughly beaten down. But it is possible. If you would like more information on the steps you can take, you can always call me.
At the other extreme from abusive intimate relationships is the normal, everyday abuse that everyone encounters if they venture out into the world. Rude motorists who cut you off, rude people in the store you visit who push in front of you, curt sales people and hyper-aggressive customers. It’s all in a day’s experience. If you are willing to listen repeatedly to the recording that accompanies this description, you will find that you can maintain your peace of mind in the face of all this trivial abuse. You might even find it amusing. As you learn to establish a mental and emotional barrier between yourself and abusive situations, and as you learn to understand the nature of abusive people, you will quickly learn to deal with abuse much better.
The casual abuse that you experience from the people around you who are strangers is relatively easy to deal with. Their abuse is not directed against you, although it might seem like it. The people who give you the finger salute after whizzing around you and nearly impacting your fender are angry with everyone and everything. They are spreading their aggression around haphazardly, and you just happened to be in their path. These people are quite miserable. They live in a hostile world, which they are actively creating and promoting by their own behavior. They wonder why people dislike them so much, and want to get back at them. They experience the world as a hotbed of hostility, which of course makes their behavior even worse. Your best revenge is to stay calm. Which of course infuriates them even more. If the casual aggressors can get to you it makes them happy. If you don’t react, it frustrates them.
The recording that accompanies this description, called “How to Deal With Abusive People”, is aimed mainly at the highly undesirable situation where you have to be in contact with someone who regularly puts you down or treats you badly, and there is no easy way out of the situation. Perhaps the person who is abusing you is in a position of power over you. Someone you can’t get rid of without resigning from a good job. Maybe you are in a long term relationship that isn’t all that bad overall, but you are under at least some degree of abuse that is hurting you and hurting your relationship.
It’s important to understand that abuse is very bad for your health. Both your physical health and your mental health. Abuse creates depression, which lowers the strength of your immune system. It can lead to serious physical illness, very serious mental illness, and even suicide. I have some personal experience with this, having come from a highly abusive family. I didn’t catch the abuse nearly as much as my father, who developed clinical depression after many years of mental abuse from his wife, mother-in-law and brother-in-law, ending up with a serious suicide attempt followed by years in a mental hospital. Abuse is very dangerous. Eventually your inner mind will find a way out of the situation, usually not a pleasant way. Some of the more unpleasant ways out of an intractably abusive situation are physical illness, or mental illness like deep depression, or violence, or suicide. At the very least, prolonged abuse can make you into a hopelessly passive and unhappy person. It’s much better to develop a positive way to deal with an abusive person or situation.
It’s very important to understand that you are most unlikely to change the nature or behavior of the other person by any kind of direct confrontation. Sometimes it might work to sit down, have a serious conversation, and let your abuser know what is happening to you. This is very risky, and is rather likely to increase the level of abuse. The abuser will perceive this as a sign of weakness, or will go into very strong (and abusive) denial, or both. They will also justify the abuse as “good for you” and possibly “necessary to get things done”. Or they will spell out in great detail exactly what inadequacies you have that justify their harsh treatment.
Confrontation of this kind can be difficult, even for people who are very strong. It is certainly not pleasant. Also a confrontation of this kind can polarize the situation. Both people establish their respective positions, and then the situation is even harder to change. I prefer a more subtle approach, which is to change the nature of the interaction between the two people involved. The place to start is with your internal reactions to your abuser and the situation.
It is possible and even not that hard for you to change your internal reactions and emotions. Any constructive change that you make in yourself will do two things; it will help you feel more comfortable, and it will eventually change the nature of your relationship. Things will get better over time once you develop you own strength and self-confidence. You will become a much less attractive target.
The first step in dealing with abuse in a situation that you cannot change is to develop awareness of how it affects you. Human beings have a wonderful way of coping with bad stuff, called “denial”. Maybe repression is a better word. We often develop emotional numbing in childhood as a way to survive in an abusive family. We soon become completely unaware of what is happening when someone insults us, or puts us down. So the first step in dealing with abuse is to develop awareness. Be sensitive to the feelings in your body…the tightness in your chest, or the tension in your arms, or the feeling of discomfort in your stomach. Your inner feelings are a sure-fire gauge of what is going on around you and to you.
You can start to learn awareness by practicing with simple things. Like concentrating on your surroundings, and being aware of the distractions of your thoughts. Many learning experiences of this kind are covered in the recording that accompanies this description, as well as the other recordings that are available.
Once you become aware of what is going on, your next step is to learn new ways of reacting to your abuser. The best way I know is to simply remain calm, and to respond rationally and without anger. What the abuser really wants is to get to you, to get you angry, or fearful, or both. This is emotional food for him or her. It gives them pleasure to exert power over other people through fear. They like it. Your first step is to deprive them of this pleasure.
Your second step might be to take control of the conversation, from time to time. After you have been soundly criticized for something you have done, admit that you could have done a better job and then ask if there is anything else that they would like you to change. This is a subtle way to take over control over where the conversation is headed. Works well.
A third step, if you are up to it, is to express interest in the abusive person. Admire something they have done, or ask them about something in their life. This will really jar them. They are usually so scary to other people that no one wants anything to do with them, outside a very small circle of acquaintances who are equally abusive.
There is another step you can take as well. Start a journal, and record every abusive incident. Describe what happened, when it happened, and any other pertinent information. Like noting anyone else who was involved, or who witnessed the abuse. Even if you never do anything with this information and only keep it to yourself, you will find that it changes the dynamic of your situation and gives you a sense of power. Because you are doing something, not just taking the abuse passively. There is also the chance that your journal may come to be very useful if the problem with your abuser escalates, and you find yourself talking to Human Relations or a lawyer.
The most important element in all of this is to develop your own self-confidence and sense of self. Unfortunately this is not something that is taught in school, and is usually not even an item of consideration in our lives. Our values today seem to center on the acquisition of things, money, power and prestige. We grow up a little short on social interaction, development of intuition, and inner peace. That’s why I created the series of recordings that are now available to you. Please use them regularly. They are available to everyone. If paying for them is a problem for you, then let me know and I will make special arrangements for you.
Just a little more about the strategy that you have just learned. It is non-confrontive and a bit subtle. I called it “going sideways”. It always seems in a battle with someone that there are only two possible outcomes; either your way or their way. You either go forward or you go backward, you either win or you lose. I prefer to go sideways, which means you don’t fight any more, but instead change the rules of engagement. This happens automatically when you change your response to the other person. This also happens when you express a genuine interest in the other person. It can happen when you start talking about the nature of the interaction between the two of you. There are lots of ways to shift the ground, without any battle at all.
Remember the Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk was the only cadet to ever pass a very difficult situational test? Klingons are attacking a freighter deep within Klingon territory. Directives are to save any ship in trouble, and to never go into Klingon controlled space. What to do? What did Captain Kirk do? He sneaked into the control room the night before and changed the tapes. He passed the test. I like to change the rules of interaction when the going gets rough.
Having read all of this, you might want to listen to the recording that I made for you to help you deal with the abusive people in your life. Here it is.