I receive a weekly newsletter from Brian Willis at Winning Mind Training. In his latest newsletter he quotes Lon Bartel, a law enforcement trainer in Arizona who said, “People change out of desperation or inspiration. Desperation results in short term change. Inspiration, results in powerful and lasting change.”
When I was in relationship with the sociopath, I made desperate changes. Living in constant fear, I was desperate to keep him happy. In my desperation, I contorted and distorted myself to fit the image he told me I had to fit. Most of what I did was about keeping him happy and my life, as it were, intact. Often, the changes I made were ‘inspired’ by his anger. I would do just about anything not to have to experience his anger, and he knew it. Because I believed him when he told me I could never be free of him, I didn’t look beyond the narrow corridor of my life with him, to see that away from him was where real change happened. Away from him was where my freedom started.
Using intermittent reinforcement, he trained me to be his co-conspirator in my self-destruction. He would rage and I would succumb. The breaks between rage and ‘happiness’ grew shorter and shorter, and I became less and less willing to tempt the fates by disagreeing with him. I learned very quickly that my silence and acquiescence bought his ‘good humour’. Eventually, it took less energy on his part to keep me silent as I fell beneath the weight of the sorrow that was pervading my life and my fear of his anger. Desperate for the return of Prince Charming, I kept letting go of what I knew to be right so that I wouldn’t have to face the Prince of Darkness raging before me.
And then, one day he was arrested and I was set free. In that moment I was inspired to make lasting change. To accept the gift of his removal from my life as a miracle, and to soar free.
Lasting change comes easy when we are inspired to create the life of our dreams away from abuse.
I am often contacted by women and men who are involved with an abuser. They write to tell me their stories, and to ask me how they can change what is happening in their lives. My response is always — love yourself enough to know you deserve more than his/her abuse. Love yourself as an abused woman/man and give yourself the gift of freedom by naming what he/she is doing and choosing to accept you have the power to change your life. You can’t change him/her. In fact, whether or not he/she can change is not the question. Are you willing to make an inspired change in your life by stepping away from him/her and stopping the abuse in your life?
Sounds easy — it’s not when the abusers voice is roaring through your mind, telling you lies you can’t believe but don’t dare disbelieve.
One of the hardest aspects of leaving an abuser is naming what they’re doing as abuse. Our minds recoil from the reality, fall back from the precipice of the truth. How could someone who says they love me, willing, knowingly, consciously choose to hurt me?
Believe it. Name it. They will. They can. They do.
Accepting that truth is frightening. If they could do it willingly, then what role do I play in what is happening, in what happened? Answering that is tough. We don’t want to be participants in abuse, and so cannot accept that we had something to do with what has happened to us.
The inspired choice, the choice that will create lasting change, is to accept — I am 100% accountable for what happened to me. Doesn’t make what he/she did right. And it doesn’t make me accountable for what he did. Abuse is never right. What it means is, I accept I can’t change the past, or what he’s doing. I can, however, turn up for me today and take 100% responsibility for what I do, right now, in this moment.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson
It accepting that I am 100% accountable for my life today, I also accept I have the power to make inspired, not desperate changes. I accept the challenge of choosing long term change over short term relief from his/her abuse.
Hard stuff. Life changing. Liberating. But hard.
When we ‘love’ someone who is an abuser, our minds become twisted into the insanity of their crazy-making behaviours. Love shouldn’t hurt as much as it does, but we begin to accept the pain of loving them as part of the norm of our existence. In that acceptance, we let go of our belief in our right to live free of abuse. For some, living free of abuse has never been their reality. For others, the crazy-making of the abuser is new — and thus, a surprise, an unbelievable occurrence in their lives. Regardless of whether we were conditioned to accept abuse or accept it because of current conditions, we repeatedly explain it away when we say, “I can’t believe this is happening to me”.
Believing we are being abused is the first step to creating lasting change.
Believing we have the power to change our lives — and acknowledging we cannot change the abuser, is the next step.
Inspired change requires courage. It takes guts and it takes a commitment to self that overrides the voices in our heads telling us ‘this (the past, abuse, pain and turmoil…) is all we deserve’.
No one deserves abuse. No one deserves to live in fear.
And no one can give us the gift of freedom except ourselves.