How to Abuse Yourself and Blame Others

Sunday, Apr. 24th 2011 10:45 PM

Have you ever been physically abused by a romantic partner? How did it make you feel – angry, helpless, bitter, betrayed? And more importantly, did you retain the same relationship with that person after he or she revealed that violent tendency?

I recently spent time with the brilliant Byron Katie, author of the exceptional classic book, Loving What Is. As she discussed “The Work” – her trademark system that helps individuals come to peace with all of the truths about themselves so they can be free to find happiness – one participant stood up and asked how to come to peace with physical abuse. Katie masterfully described a fenced yard, with a dog and a sign that says: “This Dog Bites.” She explained that if you do not want to get bitten, you simply walk away from the yard. However, if you enter the yard and get bitten, “the dog did not bite you; you bit yourself.”

I wanted to stand up and applaud. Admittedly, I have covered this topic in the past (see “An Important Distinction in Many Successful Relationships“), but Katie’s answer was so inspirational that I feel this issue is worth revisiting.

Another way of capturing her sentiment is to say that people rarely exhibit a particular behavior just once. Serious physical confrontations are usually preceded by less serious ones, and even by conflicts that are not physical but still speak volumes. These initial encounters are the signs warning that this dog will probably bite. If that’s not enough evidence, the first time the dog does actually bite you, it becomes clear that he or she will be apt to do so again.

Yet, often those of us that cry “abuse” have ignored the warning signs, disregarded past behavior and re-entered yards with violent dogs. Then we are upset to be bitten (again). I am not suggesting that anyone deserves to be hit by a partner, though some people might convince themselves that this is true of them. People who rely on this type of “physical communication” simply require a target. There is no reason to take it personally or to feel as though it is your fault. It is simply the way these people interact with others. But unless you are literally held captive, continued “abuse” does become your responsibility. The physical and emotional pain become self-inflicted wounds, because once you know the dog bites, you have the choice to adjust your proximity to it accordingly.

So, as you weigh your candidates for partnership, consider this: If there is a sign (or signs) that tell you this dog bites or this partner hits, stay out of the yard. And if you insist on blaming someone for what Katie characterizes as your abuse of you, blame yourself. It sounds harsh, I know, but coming to that realization now could save you a world of hurt (and possibly an even worse fate) down the road. And understanding this concept of self-abuse will take you one step closer to being a more Powerful Person in a Partnership.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

www.FrankLove.com

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Leave a Comment: Let Us Know Your Thoughts

How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

7 Comments on “How to Abuse Yourself and Blame Others”

  1. Cheryl Downey Says:

    I love the biting dog metaphor. Perfect. I just blogged on relationship patterns also. Must be spring and the right time of the year to be thinking about relationship change!

  2. Dawn Davidson Says:

    Let’s avoid victim-blaming.

    I’m a real fan of Byron Katie, and “Loving What Is” is a great book. And that said, I’d like to emphasize that getting yourself out of range of the biting dog is not the same thing as condoning the dog biting. People, unlike dogs, can be taught right and wrong. The dog may not be to blame for biting you (it is what IS: “this dog bites,”) but neither are YOU to blame for the dog biting. A properly socialized dog does not bite. If the dog bites, then the dog is inappropriately trained to be in the situation s/he’s in. The dog’s *behavior* is not the victim’s responsibility.

    Yes, it is your *responsibility* to heed warning signs, and to keep yourself away from obvious danger. And that said, not everyone can read the signs. Think of it as the emotional equivalent of not being an English speaker, for instance, or never having been taught to read. Responsibility for the dog’s behavior rests on the dog itself, and on those responsible for the dog. In a real life human example, with an adult human, that means the responsibility for the action of the abuser rests on the abuser, not on the victim. The victim, however, does have a responsibility to take care of themselves and to leave a dangerous situation when/if it becomes clear that it is dangerous. Which, if they don’t “read English” might not be as soon as an outside observer would think. And if there are other complicating factors, might be far more difficult than simply not entering a fenced yard.

    Ultimately, the potential victim might need education in reading signs. The dog might need training in how to appropriately express needs, or interact with others. And if the dog can’t be trained, then more drastic action might need to be taken to separate the dog from other humans. Nowhere in here is it necessary for either the dog, those responsible for the dog, or the victim to “blame” anyone. “Do or do not; there is no ‘try'” as Yoda says. Yes, move yourself out of range. No, don’t blame anyone, not even yourself.

  3. Yao Khepra Says:

    I agree with the Dog bites analogy. No one may deserve to be abused but some time people put themselves in situations that they unintentionally earned the abuse. Cause and effect basically

  4. Jane Says:

    I like the analogy, but think it’s too simplistic.

    My parents used to physically abuse me. However, I was not in a position to avoid proximity to that. Does that make it my fault that they bashed me?

    Worse, was their insidious mental and psychological abuse. You don’t even know it’s happened until years later – so how are you to remove yourself from it?

    Ditto a relationship I’ve been in. I’m not sure who was abusing whom – except to say that we both probably were – some more subtley than others.

    It’s not always easy to pick out potential abuse – sometimes you’ve been abused in the past and don’t really know what is or isn’t abuse. Sometimes, it creeps up on you. Sometimes it’s subtle manipulation.

    But, worst of all, you know the dog might bite, but you’re trapped in the yard with it with no obvious way out.

    It’s very naive to think that people can always just walk away from situations once they realise the extent of the dysfunction. Unfortunately, people are often overtaken by events, didn’t see it coming and can’t get out even once it’s occurred.

    Some more maturity please.

  5. Lara T. Says:

    great article! It touches upon a hot issue here (in South Korea ~the culture in which I live): conscious awareness & acceptance of personal responsibility. This society enculturates it’s people to NOT take responsibility. This forms the base of my work here.

  6. Verbal Abuse: The Whole Truth | Frank Love Says:

    […] can be free to find happiness – one participant asked about coming to peace with a history of physical abuse. Afterwards, another woman asked about how “The Work” applies to verbal abuse. Katie […]

  7. Abuse or a Learning Experience: You Pick | Frank Love Says:

    […] This is why I maintain the position that I took in my verbal abuse blog and in an earlier one on physical abuse: If you can learn or grow from an experience, it isn’t abusive. It is a learning experience. […]

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