Sunday, July 31, 2016

How Letting Them Hurt You Actually Hurts Them

Sometimes I use examples from our workshop participants to illustrate points and create lessons--and once in a while we get such a great detailed answer that I have to share the whole thing.Recently we have had a participant of the tutorial answer the questions, "Explain why we are actually hurting another by giving them everything they want and by allowing them to be mean to us."

The answer was so profound that I decided to share it with all of you. Michele is taking her time with the tutorial and trying to absorb the principles  behind what Dr. Marshall and I teach. Her answer is a lesson in itself--Please take the time to read her response to this questions and see if it makes sense to you:
We can be hurting people by giving them everything they want. We can be spoiling them, enabling them or helping them become bad people.
Because I'm a "helper" (one who worked in social services), this concept was and is so hard for me to understand that I quoted the answer from the article, to help me focus. I had to remind myself of something I was once told by someone who heard me talking to my husband. "Be nice.", my father said. I replied, "But, I'm right!". He said, "Yes, and be nice." Finally, I'm starting to understand. Being nice and being right are not on opposite sides of the spectrum. Okay, I can be nice while not enabling.
I have often been guilty of enabling abuse. As I started to truly understand the concept of the GR, the easiest example I could come up with in real life is with potty training the puppy. If we allow the cute puppy to do whatever they want without consequence and then they jump on guests and pee on the floor, they become a grown-up, not-so-cute dog that no one wants to be around. If we help the puppy learn to control her behaviour, (pee outside and greet guests appropriately) then they're a "good dog".
People aren't the same as dogs, but some things are comparable. If we allow someone to be mean and abuse us, then we're not helping them control their behaviour and they learn to use abuse to get what they want. We're hurting that person because, in the future no one will want to be around them.
This was the second part of the lesson: "Give an example from your relationship where your partner is bullying you, and you remain "nice" without rewarding and putting up with his bad behavior." 
He talks to the dog instead of me when he's giving me the silent treatment. I used to get mad at his disrespectful behaviour, asking that he speak to me and then when he didn't, I'd freak and shriek. Basically, I'd get myself worked up because he paid more attention to the pet than he does to me. Ugh. I don't need him to speak to me to know that I'm important, but his  behaviour's still rude.
I knew that my show of anger wasn't going to change things, so I tried changing my behaviour. At first, I tried not reacting, just waiting until he got over it, as long as he was "not speaking" to me. For eleven days, he didn't initiate a conversation. I answered every direct question and only spoke to him if I needed to. Finally, I had to sit him down and explain that while I can probably live like that for the next four years, it isn't good for either of us. I started asking how he was feeling and generally showed an interest in him, modelling the behaviour I'd like him to show me. He stopped "not speaking" to me.
Now, when he starts giving me the silent treatment. I change my reaction. I don't need him to talk to me; sometimes it's more peaceful when he's quiet, lol. So, as long as I don't need to consult with him for something, I'll read or go for a walk until I figure he isn't angry. Then, since he often says things like, "I don't know how to talk to you...", I'll begin a conversation.
I'm no longer trying to teach him anger management - since it hasn't worked in 20 years, it won't work now. Instead, I'm using my skills to manage my own emotions.
So let us know what you think of how Michele has come to understand that being "nice" to an abuser is not nice at all.


  1. I love you Michele! I didn't take my time at first...I rushed through everything. I figure that is the reason it took me longer to get it. Thank you for sharing this Shelly, about Michele.

  2. I appreciate what you have written I would like to add sometimes there is one more component, the person abusing gives no choice but to give into and be nice in the face of constant bullying by threatening and following through with threats to the victim if he/she does not comply with the bully's demands. Sometimes giving in is the only way to be safe until a plan can be made for escape.

    1. This is especially true for those facing physical abuse and less so for verbal and emotional abuse--peoe think they have to comply becasue that is how its always been--or they are fiancially dependent...everyone's situation is different--these are not cookie cutter answers. Just remember, they cannot continue to abuse unless you allow it.


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