Updated May 7, 2ooo
To Deal With An Abuser Without Getting Defensive" teaches victims
to stop defending themselves verbally, a variation of
approval-seeking - and begin to take responsibility for themselves. For
example, in response to "You're too sensitive," the victim might
answer, "Yes. Respect it." instead of "No I'm
Not defending yourself verbally is
about disengaging. You take responsibility for yourself when you
don't allow the other person to push your buttons and "make you"
react. No one "makes you" do anything! You react because you
haven't yet cultivated more effective, verbal and cognitive
When someone "pushes your
buttons," they have simply extended you an invitation to
participate in an interaction. Plainly, they've baited you! But you don't
have to buy into it. Disengage! Ellis and Lange's How
To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons, is a wonderful
book that systematically teaches you how to disengage.
There are times
won't work/are not appropriate:
Clearly, if you are in any kind of
physical danger, do not incite your abuser by standing up to him or
her verbally. Have a safety plan prepared
ahead of time if you have fear or there is any history of violence.
(Better safe than sorry!)
Words won't work when you don't
have the right attitude. If you haven't yet reached the point where you
recognize that it is OK to be sensitive, for example, your abuser's
next statement will make you fold. Monday morning quarterback these
situations and play back what you said. Experiment with what you could
have said. Doing these exercises will help you develop the appropriate
cognitive (thinking) and verbal skills you will need to verbally disengage
and/or stand up to your abuser. Suzette Haden Elgin's You Can't Say That To Me! will give
you ideas regarding what kinds of comments another may make that are
inappropriate and how to handle them.
Words also won't work when your
situation has gone too far. You have already lost all your negotiating
power when your abuser is telling you to leave, or is overly
disrespectful. You will see some examples of situations I feel have gone
too far in my replies to the posts in standing up to your abuser.
What do I do
when words won't work?
Well, there are few choices left.
The most effective method I know for regaining your power, let alone your
self-esteem - is to back off. Backing off can mean anything from walking
out and filing for divorce to seriously thinking about leaving and making
your plans, to going to mom's for a week, to taking a walk around the
block to chill, to caring less because you recognize your powerlessness
over your partner.
Backing off is what relatively
healthy people - who take care of themselves emotionally - instinctively
do when confronted with others who hurt them. Think: Would you hold
your hand over an open fire? Of course not. You would remove your hand immediately!
Unfortunately, the codependent mind-set too often operates along the
lines of keeping your hand in the fire because you need the warmth
and hope the fire will recognize how much you care and stop burning
you. Fat chance!
Learning to disengage and exhibit assertive verbal behavior will not fix your marriage, though some marriages
may improve. These skills will increase your personal power: you will feel better about yourself and
your increased sense of control over your life.
Take a look at this email advice on codependence, human nature,
and the effects of backing off.
What do you think?
I'd like to read the posts.
take a look at how Doc handled manipulation and intimidation attempts