Monday, May 26, 2008

It's not abuse, it's just my interpretation?

PhotobucketI want to mention a book I have mixed feelings about. The book is "The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse" by Albert Ellis and Marcia Grad Powers. It is based on the principles of cognitive therapy which I am familiar with through the work of Dr. David Burns who I highly recommend. I found the ideas about changing my thoughts about the situation to be very helpful, but I will address my main area of disagreement with the authors first.

One of the main concepts of the book is: "You, and only you, create all of your feelings"

Well, ur, not really. If that were true there would be no such a thing as verbal abuse. If it were only our interpretation of events that hurts us then one could say, "Its not abuse when your husband calls you a fat, ugly, stupid, worthless cunt, it's just your interpretation of the event that leads you to feel bad." Give me a break.

Even if you know that you are not a fat, ugly, stupid, worthless cunt, you don't need to believe there is any truth to the statement to be shocked and stunned that your husband said those things. Or suppose you are overweight and maybe you aren't the brightest bulb on the tree, you certainly aren't worthless and it is horrifying that someone who claims to love you would try to use something you might feel sensitive about to demean you.

The worst part for me isn't the actual words, it is that this person who claims to love me, my husband, is trying make me feel bad, whether I accept his assessment of me or not. You could be a fashion model with a genuis IQ and still be hurt, not because you believe the words, but because your husband spoke them, and tried to make you feel "less than".

"You, and only you, create all of your feelings" is no more true than the old "sticks & stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" routine. Or the classic "I'm not responsible for your feelings". Where did that come from? Is it some co-dependency recovery run amok? I usually hear someone say "I'm not responsible for his/her feelings" from people who have just done something particularly shitty to another person and now wish to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the harm they caused. But I digress.

Later in the book the authors appear to contradict their main thesis and acknowledge that while you have some choice about how you feel, that it is not a complete choice. I agree.

I would not recommend this book as the first one to read about verbal abuse. Patricia Evan's book is far superior. Evan's book validates the pain, confusion and frustration. It is important to first feel the pain. It's also important to move out of pain. That's where the Ellis/Powers concepts helped me.

I'll post about the helpful aspects of the book next time. (Unless something more interesting or urgent comes up.)



CZBZ said...

Can I just tell you how sick to death I am of hearing such nonsense? Anyone who has dealt with a manipulator knows only too well that specific feelings can be triggered by another person.

While it's useful to believe we have power to make choices no matter what our emotional reactions might have been, it's ridiculous to say other people can't make us feel anything we don't ALLOW them to make us feel.

It's just another way to Blame the Victim and let the abuser off the hook. That's my two cents anyway.

Oh, one more thing. Suggesting we become invulnerable fortresses is counterproductive to creating healthy relationships!!


jennie said...

I hear ya CZ. In fact, the idea that we, and only we, create our feelings could be a handy tool for manipulators/abusers to use when their target expresses pain about the abuse. Yuk.

A healthy intimate relationship requires vulnerability which requires safety. If you reach a point where you are no longer bothered by abuse, there are some very big walls between you and the other person.

Anonymous said...

This article is very, very helpful.

Here is a discussion of it on the Rick Ross website.

Thank you again. I thought I had experience in understanding this and your article helped me look at it from an entire new, and liberating angle.,12906,56911#msg-56911

Blog Directory - Blogged BlogCatalog