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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 09-May-07


Wednesday 09-March-07

Patterns of abuse

One of the sad things about the human condition is that we can become stuck in patterns of victimhood which can ruin lives. A while ago I had a letter from a guy who was well educated but miserable and mystified by the way that others always seemed to be aggressive towards him. He had been abused young and was still living with his mother. He asked for books to read and advice. Below is what I wrote back.

Hello xxxx

You are in a place from which you want to move. If you're ready to do what's necessary, you can do this.

The first step is to see your situation without prejudice, without judging yourself or others.

People who are not normally aggressive don't get aggressive with a single person for no reason. If you were abused young, then the pattern is probably burned into your subconscious and it creates 'victim' behaviors that your conscious mind may not be unaware. Others thus respond to your subconsciously-created behavioral patterns.
If your mother is sympathetic, then it's possible also that she is a part of the pattern and is reinforcing the loop -- you get abused by others and then get sympathy from your mother.
I don't have specific books to read, but I can make some suggestions. Areas of the site you could look up include 'Johari Window', 'Coping', 'Drama triangle', 'Psychoanalysis' and 'Assertiveness'.
You are not alone -- this is a common pattern for many people whose early experience as victims leads them into potentially life-long patterns of abuse. Some reverse this and become abusers. Others just keep being abused.
The good news is that, as with other patterns, this can be broken. It does take determined effort and great courage, which I think you have.
If you can, find a good therapist. Try starting with somewhere like local social services -- they often work with this pattern. Try the phone book or the web. Talk with your doctor. The best route is often from a recommendation.
Another thing you can do is start your own self-help group (or find one that is already going). Advertise discreetly for others who are stuck in victim patterns, then meet and talk about these. Beware of such meetings becoming reinforcers of the patterns -- find ways to help each other break out of the loop.
I do sympathise with your situation and wish you all the best in creating a new you.
Best regards

Is this the perfect advice? Probably not. I deliberately started with offering the hope that he could break out from the pattern. From a single letter I can only guess at the detail of his dilemma, which is why I advised finding professional help. If he was unable to do this, the next advice is to get together with others in the same boat. Knowing that you are not alone is often a great comfort, although the danger is that all you get is sympathy and reinforcement. The trick of getting out of patterns is to break them, repeatedly.

I do hope he found some way out of the hole. We have one life and it is a shame to waste it in depression.

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