Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Am I A Participant In My Own Abuse?!

The cycle of abuse may be old news, but it certainly seemed to fit my abusive relationship. I "reacted naturally" and made the abuse worse.

Am I codependent? Am I an abuser? Am I an active participant in my abuse? I’m starting to believe the answer to the last question is “Yes.”

I’ve got one more strategy to try. In the book You Can’t Say That to Me: Stopping the Pain of Verbal Abuse – An 8 Step Program by Dr. Suzette Haden Elgin, the author describes a situation in which the verbal abuse victim participates in the cycle of abuse by using the main three natural defenses:

  • pleading for the abuse to stop,
  • trying to logically debate with the abuser,
  • and fighting fire with fire (being abusive in return).

The author is right – those three reactions are natural and common. I’ve used all three.

However, the abuser doesn’t really want the answer to his questions or any other reaction besides the one he always manages to get – the victim’s attention. When Will engages me in one of those horrible conversations and I actively take part by giving him the attention and reactions he’s after, I am participating in my abuse (Observing But Not Participating In My Abuse).

I know by now (after having it explained to me via the books I’ve read) that participating in his “conversations” always negatively affects me and the situation. There’s no way to “win” but the reactions I give lead to a “winner.”

When I plead for the abuse or “conversation” to end, I “win” if it stops. If I’m able to logically beat him at his own word game, I “win.” If I am abusive to him in response, I “win” if I am able to get him to walk away and leave me alone.

I don’t “win” often, and I’ve never considered it “winning” when I manage to get him to retreat. On the rare occasion that I do “win”, I feel terrible. Conversely, when he “wins” I get more of the same treatment. He will continue to berate me because I’ve run out of energy or he completely withdraws and ignores me for hours or days. Sometimes after “winning” he even admits that he behaved badly. Never apologizes, but admits he behaved badly.

You know what? When I “win” I typically go to him and apologize. Imagining he is hurt makes me want to fix the situation or assuage my guilt. But I’m not always sure that he’s hurt. Sometimes I think he is simply plotting his revenge.

Anyway, in the book, Dr. Elgin gives alternate means of using language to defuse the situation before it gets ugly. The abuser can get as ugly as he wants, but the theory is that if I have enough self-control to properly react to his attacks, I can leave the situation with my dignity (and his) intact.

The problem is that at this point, I’m so angry that this has gone on so long, I’m not sure I even WANT to TRY Dr. Elgin’s techniques. I’m tired. No, exhausted. It pisses me off that I haven’t figured these things out for myself, and it pisses me off that I must be the one to start a new strategy. It pisses me off that he takes no responsibility for fixing anything!

Maybe I need an anger management class so I can get to the point of hoping this works out and having the energy and confidence to try a new approach.

No, I don’t need the class. I just need a good nights sleep and to come to terms with the fact that it’s going to continue in the same way UNLESS I change SOMETHING. I can gather my strength, overcome my anger, and give it another shot. Maybe, just maybe, this approach will work to bring a little peace to my life. The author claims that it will. All I have to do is call up my curiosity and TRY it.