The First Step in Stopping Abuse
The first step to stopping verbal abuse is to understand what we call the Miracle Principle, which simply states: If you don't dance together, the dance ends. Although the idea behind the Miracle Principle is simple -- we can stop being verbally and emotionally abused by not allowing it -- it takes considerable knowledge, practice, and skill to implement it. Stopping abuse means having respect for yourself and taking responsibility for how you allow people to treat you. This is not the same as blaming the victim. Abusers are adept at creating fear, guilt, and helplessness, it is understandable that many of the abused feel trapped. But feeling trapped is not the same as being trapped. You are only as trapped as you allow yourself to be. You can begin the process of understanding all this by going through the workshop, "You are a Target." It's free. for the first half you only need do the lessons, for the second half, you need to have the book Respect-Me Rules for the lessons. At the end, we will give you a completion certificate.
The methods behind the Miracle Principle empowers targets. It shows you how strong you really are. Only you have the power to take off that shirt with the bull's-eye on the back. Not only does the Miracle Principle tell you that you are strong enough, but it also opens the door for acquiring the tools necessary to make change. It is not easy, by any means, but it is possible to implement definite abuse-stopping techniques. They are available from various resources such as the book Respect-Me Rules and Patricia Evan's Verbal Abuse.
Some people are lucky enough to have an innate sense of the Miracle Principle. They are virtually immune to abuse. Dr. Marshall first realized these people existed when he caught the tail end of a conversation between two college students waiting for class to begin. One was telling the other about her recent first date. She accepted that date because she thought he was cute and he seemed so nice. However, he did a few things during the first date that made her uncomfortable. For one, he talked a lot about himself -- his wonderful accomplishments, his grandiose life plans -- and seemed to have very little interest in knowing more about her. When she attempted to squeeze in the fact that she was an accomplished ribbon dancer, he responded with, "That's stupid." Later in the date, he yelled at her when they got lost after she had inadvertently given him incorrect directions. Dr. Marshall heard her sum up what she thought of her date: "Can you believe this guy? I don't take that type of treatment from anyone. I feel sorry for whoever ends up with him!" It may seem obvious that no one would put up with a person like that, but unfortunately, many volunteers out there do! Someone used to being a target would be trying to please him -- would not talk about themselves and listen attentively to make him feel good, and apologize for giving the wrong directions and try to make it up to him.
The college student who knew her own worth, gave the guy only one chance--although she accepted the dance (date) at first, she quickly decided she didn't want to dance with an abuser. No one has to give away power. Being a victim is not determined by the oppressor, but by the attitude of the target. If you doesn't like the dance, you can stop dancing. It really is that simple.
The target's goal should be to stop focusing on how badly her spouse treats her and ask herself, "How badly will I allow myself to be treated?" In other words, how low will she allow her self-esteem to be pummeled? "Am I ready to set boundaries I will not allow him to cross?" she must ask herself. The greatest obstacle to ending abuse in relationships is the target's lack of knowledge about how much power she has to stop it.
Ask yourself in what ways you have given your abuser the power to continue? A target must consent to be abused. She has to give away her power. One of the most difficult concepts to convey in psychotherapy is the fact that we often invite continued mistreatment from others. This is a subconscious process of which we are seldom aware. The best example of this process is a study that was conducted concerning mugging victims (Grayson and Stein, 1981).1 The study's investigators came up with some surprising findings. The convicted criminals they interviewed explained they only chose to rob those who they predetermined were vulnerable. The studied their possible victims and through subtle body language determined which were vulnerable. For instance, the criminals could determine how much confidence potential targets had by how they walked and carried themselves. Signs of vulnerability included moving in an uncoordinated manner and walking with an abnormal stride -- taking steps that were either too long or too short. In other words, a change in walking pattern can reduce the chances of being mugged! This is but one example of how we send out subtle signals that tell others how to treat us. Those who walked confidently were telegraphing the message, "Don't tread on me."
Is it possible to send out this type of self-protective message to our partners and others with whom we interact? If so, how do we do it? That is exactly the point of the Miracle Principle and Respect-Me Rules. With the right knowledge, we can acquire the power to protect ourselves from verbal and emotional abuse. Once you understand how to use these concepts, a miracle can occur in your life. You have the power to stop a pattern of abuse by taking off the bull's-eye!