You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday.
You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. -Epicurus
What is abuse? Abuse occurs when someone’s physical space is violated by another person and as a result of this violation of a person’s physical space, the person suffers from injury or death. Emotional abuse is not abuse. What is considered emotional abuse by some, is actually when someone makes a choice to become inconsiderate and violate the unwritten rule of social courtesy.
Yes, people can be mean to each other and as a result they can behave in a multiple of passive aggressive ways to make their relationship with another person very difficult.
Consider this example, my daughter when she was learning to walk, once fell down on her bottom during one of the many times she had fallen while learning to walk. She had a look of surprise registered on her face, it was like she had been taken by surprise with the fall, then she looked up at me. I knew what she was doing, she was trying to determine whether or not this was a terrible event, or just something unpleasant she could get past.
I immediately said to my daughter,
“Good try baby. Now get up and do it again, ” I said as I clapped my hands. My daughter instinctively leaned forward and started to get back to her feet. Had I shown any level of alarm for her sudden fall, she would have busted into tears, and it would have taken me a while to determine if she had truly hurt herself, or if I had influenced the tears.
Adults behave the same way. You see, human beings are smart and what makes us smart is our creativity in seeking shortcuts to achieve goals in all facets of our lives. Ironically, this is always what also makes us dumb. How? In our quest for shortcuts we are always eager to relieve ourselves of the stress of being responsible for our lives.
The problem? As long as we have the blessing of intellect, we are always responsible for our well being from the age of maturity until we leave this world. In the absence of brain damage that robs us of awareness, this will always be the case. Regardless of your ethnicity, cultural background or your level of formal education, you are responsible for your well being.
So if you are in a relationship, where your significant other is verbally abusive towards you, it is your responsibility to set a boundary with your significant other about this behavior. You tell them how deeply hurt you are by the abusive language and you inform them what you are going to do to take care of yourself, if the behavior continues.
Labeling your significant other as a bully who should change, does not solve the problem. Chances are that after you and a third party have decided that your significant other is just a bully and not worth your time (this may be true) you are going to leave the relationship and get into another relationship where you get bullied and play the role of a victim.
Here’s another example, let’s say you have a supervisor who behaves in a prejudiced manner towards you for (insert reason here). Let’s say this supervisor takes a combined approach of being subtle and blatant in his prejudice towards you. You could write a letter to human resources, but most people who have taken this route have been shocked to learn how the human resources department in most organizations support the organization’s hierarchy regardless of incident.
You would probably achieve significant results by documenting your supervisor’s behavior and confronting him with your documented experiences and observations and informing him to cease (insert behavior) the specific behavior or behaviors. Yes, there is a good chance that you will lose the job, but why do you want to work at a place where you are not regarded with dignity on most days? In all cases where clients of mine have taken this assertive approach, the disrespect stopped, permanently.
So what do these two examples have in common? They both highlight how people are often willing to buy into a belief system that absolves them from personal responsibility just because some else instigated the wrong doing.
When people choose to misbehave, they do so by choice. So it is ridiculous that in any type of relationship with someone who is misbehaving, you can get them to change their behavior by passively or overtly shaming that person. It never works, when people take this route, they usually end up with an angry, defensive and vengeful person, opposed to giving people a choice to change, after informing them on what your future response will be if the behavior is repeated again.
Personal responsibility can be stressful, however people who practice personal responsibility experience less stress overall than others who avoid personal responsibility at all costs. Why do those who practice personal responsibility experience less stress than those who don’t? Because those who do, take responsibility for their faith, and are consistent in thinking outside traditional paradigms to solve their problems, as a result they find themselves in more favorable relationships and situations.
As human beings we are all different from each other, but equally worthwhile and valued. It is our responsibility to recognize, cherish our worthiness, and role model for others how we should be treated and regarded.
So what are your thoughts and feelings on this post? All respectful agreements and disagreements are most welcome.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions, a professional counseling private practice.