How to Deal With Abusive People – Effectively

by Annie Kaszina on February 16, 2016

Who do you learn how to deal with abusive people from?

How to deal with abusive people is, quite probably, one of the most essential recovery skills you need to learn.  It’s also the skill that abusive people really don’t want you to learn, for obvious reasons.

Normally, the people from whom you learn how to deal with abusive people are… abusive people.  But they aren’t interested in teaching you what you should know. It is in their interest to block you from knowing how to deal effectively with abusive people, just like them.  So, what they focus on teaching you, is how they want you to be.

How do they want you to be in order to provide themselves with maximum gratification?

They want you to be,

  • Subservient
  • Apologetic
  • Fearful
  • Anxious
  • Confused
  • Defensive
  • Willing to take the blame
  • Invisible

An emotionally abused woman is supposed to be barely seen but frequently hurt.

“It’s all your fault” – the key rule of all abusive relationships

A key rule of any abusive relationship is that everything is your fault.  Your role is to make an abusive partner feel better.  You don’t do that by challenging him.

You can’t even do that by being loving and supportive. What an abusive partner and abusive people, in general, want is to feel they have power over you. It’s a seesaw kind of thing:  they derive their power from making you feel weak.  If they have to choose between love and power, they choose  power every time.

No wonder it’s impossible to have a relationship with them.  They favour dark, negative, hostile feelings; you don’t. They love the emotional ugliness in their life.  It works well for them.  You hate it. You’ve seen more than enough of all that for one lifetime.  Why would you want more?

So that leaves you with the challenge of how to deal with abusive people.

First off, you have to realise that you can’t deal with them the way you might like to: you cannot love, cajole, or persuade abusive people – that includes bullies as well as your own personal emotional abuser – into socially acceptable, adult behaviour.  They’re not interested in behaving nicely: they’re interested in getting your attention and making you frightened of what they will say or do next. So that you will be the puppet at the end of their strings.

Apologising, and appeasing won’t work.  Nor will reasoning with an emotional abuser – at least as long as there is an element of appealing to their better nature.

On the other hand, I currently have one client who does very well when it comes to reasoning with her wildly abusive ex-husband.  Over the past few months she has scored some notable successes with him – but without fully realizing that she had found one of the secrets of how to deal with abusive people. Until I pointed it out to her.

On several occasions she has got him to do what works best for her.  She has done thins not by appealing to his better nature. (She’s come to accept that if he has a better nature he’s not going to take it out of its mothballs just for her.)

Instead, she uses her good brain to see how she can present situations to him in such a way that he sees that his best interest Is served by doing what she suggests. It doesn’t harm that he is so splendidly arrogant that he starts from the assumption that she’s a complete idiot who could never outmanoeuvre him, anyway.

That’s one part of how to deal with abusive people: you need to package what you say to them carefully so that they see where their best interest is served by what you propose.

You have to make the shift from wanting them to be how – and how – you want them to be in order to make you feel better, to working out how you need to be in order to appeal to their lively self-interest.

But there’s another, more fundamental piece that comes first as regards how to deal with abusive people.  You’ve been trained to shrink yourself into the smallest possible space when attacked by your emotional abuser.  It’s about making yourself too small a target to attack.

It doesn’t work.

How to deal with abusive people

The only way to deal with abusive people is to stand up to them.   You have to make a stand for yourself, and let them know that you will not tolerate their attack.

And that statement comes with a caveat: not for one moment do I suggest that you should stand up to a violent – or potentially violent – partner.  Where your physical safety is concerned, you have to think very carefully.  In the case of a violent partner, you need to plan your exit route meticulously,, and resort to stealth.  Sometimes, walking away – very quietly – is the wisest way to stand up for yourself.

You can never afford to underestimate the threat posed by a violent partner.

But that brings us right back to the reason why you need to stand up to abusive people in the first place.  Each time you do NOT, you are giving them permission to continue, and up the ante.  You give them the message that it is okay to treat you in an unacceptable way.  You sanction their appalling behaviour by your presence.

How do you know if someone is behaving abusively towards you?

Let’s make this as simple as possible.  In all my years of working with abused women, I’ve never yet heard someone say: “I don’t know if he is abusive” when he was not.

If you even have to wonder, given how used to emotional abuse you are, then it’s abuse.

The short answer to how to deal with abusive people is this: you have to break the habits of a lifetime – your own habits. Once you do this, you stop being attractive prey for abusers, and you  liberate yourself from the old hooks of co-dependence.  Which means you’re finally free to show up as the person you’ve all but forgotten you are, and have the wonderful life you deserve. There’s so much that needs to be done to spread awareness of how to deal with abusive people.  If this post resonates with you, please click to share on social media, and help others, too.

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