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HOW ABUSERS CAN CHANGE To begin the arduous process of change, an abuser must recognise that: • The most important thing about him – his core value – is his love, support, and protection of his family.


• His emotional distress was caused not by his wife but by his violation of his own core value.


• He is far less anxious when he feels emotionally connected to his wife.


• He likes himself when he is compassionate to her, dislikes himself when he blames her, and hates himself when he abuses her. These deep emotional realisations merely


begin the process of change. Lasting change does not occur in big waves of emotion, but in the steady trickle of everyday, routine value, respect, and compassion. (To love big, you have to think small.) The recovering abuser has to practise regulating his daily anxiety – every time it occurs – with his core value, i.e., by appreciating his wife and children.


THE PROCESS OF HEALING When abusers learn a tool called HEALS, and practise it for several weeks, it builds a conditioned response to help them automatically convert anxiety, resentment, and anger into compassion. In other words, compassion will once again become their natural response to the distress of loved ones, like it was when they were young children, and, in most cases, like it was when they first got married. Then, by habit, the recovering abuser


hyperactivity, low self-esteem, over- emotionality (anger, excitability or frequent crying) or no emotions at all. Witnessing a parent victimised is usually


more psychologically damaging to children than injuries from direct child abuse. Seeing a parent abused is child abuse. Symptoms of victims and abusers often include one or more of the following: trouble sleeping, frequent periods of sadness and crying, continual worry, anxiety or excessive anger, obsessions (thoughts you can’t get out of your mind) and confusion or impaired decision- making. Abuse tends to get worse without intervention from someone outside the family.


HOW TO GET YOUR ANGRY OR ABUSIVE MAN TO CHANGE I was surprised by the hundreds of men seeking help who contacted me after seeing an Oprah show that I presented on the emotional abuse of wives. But I must say that, before the show, only a handful of the more than 4,000 angry and abusive men I have treated sought help on their own, without their wives or the courts pressuring them. That’s because their addiction to blame makes them think that they are merely reacting to everybody else.


The hard fact is, you may have to leave


your husband to motivate him to change. If he is violent or threatens violence, call the police or file for a civil protection


order. (Most communities have domestic violence hotlines to help you.) Leaving or calling the police may seem drastic, but they are the most compassionate things you can do. Your tough-love demands are likely to be the only way to help him stop the behaviour that makes him lose his humanity as he harms you and your children.


HOW YOU CAN KNOW THAT HE’S WILLING TO CHANGE The vast majority of angry and emotionally abusive men can change if they have the courage to give up blame and do the hard work of recovery. The following are signs that he is willing to take on the hard and sometimes painful task of saving his family. He recognises that: • You and your children are important enough for him to change.


• He needs help to change. Saying, “I just won’t do it any more”, makes as much sense as a surgeon trying to take out his own ruptured appendix.


will begin to see his anxiety, resentment, and anger as a kind of ‘gas gauge’ telling him that his core value is on empty, and he needs to fill it up by increasing his value and respect for his wife and children. Most important, the recovering abuser


must be especially compassionate to his wife’s post-traumatic stress reactions. Now that she feels safer and more confident, a lot of anger and anxiety about past abuse will begin to surface at unpredictable times. If the recovering abuser becomes defensive, i.e., fails at compassion, he will once again seem to her like the abuser of the past, but if he greets each one of these episodes with compassion and understanding, she will see that he is different and that she can safely be her natural, non-defensive, powerful self. The recovering abuser must understand


that his wife will not be able to trust him completely for a long time, no matter how much she tries. Love and compassion are unconditional, but trust, once it is betrayed by abuse, has to be earned, gradually and slowly. For many months he will have to do most of the compassion work unilaterally, to help his wife heal the wounds of years of abuse. Recovery from abuse is never a 50-50 deal; the former abuser has to do at least 90 percent of the work.


NOVEMBER 2014 21


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