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Recognizing The Signs Of Abuse


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People who are desperate for love will see it where it does not exist, like a thirsty person in the desert who imagines a mirage of water just ahead. When love is not forthcoming, they may hope that psychiatric medication or a top-notch therapist will be able to get the person to be more loving. It is difficult to accept that some people may never learn how to love. They won’t see that an abuser’s niceness is carefully calculated to satisfy a need for dominance. Instead, they interpret these “crumbs” of niceness as signs that the person is capable of love perhaps at some distant time. In contrast to an abuser narrative, a victim narrative goes like this:

I deserve it. If I’m scorned, neglected or rejected, I must be doing something wrong. I should have known better. I should have known what would upset him/her and avoided it.

Being abused is the price one must pay to maintain a relationship. I must give up my identity and independence to make a relationship work. I am a saint for bearing abuse with stoic silence and innocent hopefulness.

I believe in the power of love. I can get anyone to love me if I just remain loving and loyal despite the abuse. It is possible to satisfy people’s needs if I can just be smart enough to figure it out. And if I don’t, it’s my fault and my failure. Something is very wrong with me. Otherwise, I’d be loved.

I need them. I’ll never make it on my own. S/he provides me with my financial security. I can’t handle the cold, cruel world on my own. I’m scared to be alone. I’ll go crazy or turn into an embittered hag.

I’m sure s/he doesn’t really mean to hurt me. Or, s/he lost control due to the effects of a difficult childhood or a psychological disturbance. If I can understand why s/he is so mean, I’ll be able to change their behavior.

Intense physical passion must be a sign of genuine love.

I am fascinated by qualities that are the opposite of my own. They are self-confident, lacking introspection, so cool and uncaring of whether they are liked or not. I’m inferior, because I am overly introspective, overly sensitive, unable to set limits and I’m a compulsive people-pleaser and approval seeker who will do anything to make people happy.

It is an exciting challenge to think that I have the power to get a cold, nasty, domineering person to become sensitive and caring. It’s not possible that some people have no need for love. There must be great sensitivity deep down there somewhere. If I keep trying, I’ll get it.

If I divorce, my children and I will be scorned by society as misfits and I will be shamed for being disloyal to the institution of marriage.

Since abusers are pathological liars, I will lose custody of my children, since abusers will bribe the judges and claim that I am abusive or insane.

In order to cope with abuse, people with a victim mentality must identify these beliefs and do the hard work necessary to change them. They must learn to think,

No matter how imperfect I am, I do not deserve to be scorned or shamed.

I am not responsible for other people’s bad middos. It is not my job to keep adults calm and not my fault if they are irritated or angry. Abuse has nothing to do with others’ behavior. Abuse is a habit and a mind-set.

Taking abuse is not proof of love or loyalty.

I deserve appreciation, affection, attentiveness, acceptance and allowing. And if I don’t get it from others, I can give it to myself.

Dr. Adahan is available for consultations at 718-705-8404 or emett@netvision.net.il

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