Do you know when you are being abused?
- Do you know you have been heard?
- Do you feel understood?
- Do you feel respected for what you have said?
- Do you feel safe?
If you said “NO” then abuse is happening.
Abusive behavior is committed by people who are trying to protect themselves. They feel a need to force their opinion, will or need on to another. If the world can be exactly as they think it should be, then they will feel safe. Abusive behavior comes from fear, frustration, desperation or misunderstanding. Abuse will cause the victim to pull in, withdraw, and become small or they feel a need to get bigger than the abuser and put the abuser in their place.
Abuse can come in the form of physical, emotional, mental and financial control. These are all attempts to control life and all those around them. It is done without consideration for the ones being abused. Abusive people are full of their own feelings, thoughts and needs to the point that they cannot make room within themselves for the needs, beliefs, feelings or interests of the other person. Because they do not have enough room inside themselves for someone else’s reality, they cannot have empathy.
- They cannot feel the pain they are causing.
- They only feel and think in relationship to their own pain.
- Insanity is the inability to know anyone elses’ reality but their own way of seeing things.
- Abusers are then insane.
- They have an identity that is more important than anyone elses’
- They do not understand the concept of cooperation.
- Trying to get them to truly understand others is very difficult.
In a moment of sanity, (that time they can see out side themselves and see the damage that has been done) they will feel regret. But when the abuser doesn’t get what they want or comes to some conclusion of their own making, they will become reactive, blaming and controlling again. The manipulation will start again. Then the cycle starts over again.
Know when you are abusing yourself or someone else.
Active Love is the action of love. Loving action gives a person the sense of being heard, understood, respected and safe. When these feelings are missing in a relationship, we feel abused. Check out the “What about Love” tab.
Behaving with Active Love is difficult when we function from:
- Judgement as opposed to being analytical.
- Strong opinions that override others.
- A need to control the other person’s words, thoughts or feelings.
- A strong need to be heard, understood and agreed with.
These harsh parts of our self make it very difficult to act in a loving way. There is too much emotional and mental pressure from inside our mind and body. It makes it very difficult to let anyone else’s opinions and feelings in first. That pressure makes it difficult to let any different concepts in. Watch for any tension in your body and notice the force of your voice. Objectively witness yourself. It is difficult when we are in aggressive mode. Others will feel your tension and react to it.
Develop the Watcher
We can function on multiple levels at once. We can feel sad and still be able to laugh about it. We can be happy inside and still have empathy for someone else’s sorrow. We are able to hold many feelings inside at once. We can also have many thoughts in different directions that swing from one opinion to another. These contradictions make for a very noisy internal state. To be able to break the cycle of abuse we need to develop the objective witness. That is the part inside you that can just watch without taking any sides. We need to cultivate “The Watcher.” Just take the foot off the the accelerator. Go into neutral.
Are you being heard?
When you are in a relationship there are two people involved. There is you and there is the other. There will be differences. We are all unique individuals with different life experiences and interests. When you are being listened to, you will feel deeply heard and therefore seen. You will feel like you exist in the other person’s heart. They must make it a point to listen completely to all the feelings and thoughts you are expressing. They will have questions that only make what you are trying to say more clear even to you. Being heard makes us feel loved.
- They listen with their mind, body sense and feelings.
- They can feel your tension.
- They practice empathy.
- They are listening with every intention to understand without judging.
- They take in everything you are saying in order to think about it and respond with respect and curiosity.
If you do not feel like the other person is trying to really hear you, then you will feel abandoned, alone, unsafe and like a non-being. You must listen to the feelings and assumptions that arise when you feel abused. Practice active listening to make sure you are not just reacting to what you may have misunderstood. Do not assume you understood. Check and question. Practice empathy with the other person.
You must also listen to your thoughts and feelings.
Listening to yourself is to stop all physical activity. Take a deep breath in, hold for a count of ten and slowly exhale. Draw your awareness into your body. Notice how busy your head is and drop your awareness down into your body. Just watch for any tension. Just watch. Watch yourself as if you were another person witnessing your internal reality.
- Listen to the qualities and attitude of the thoughts running through your mind.
- Listen inside and notice any inner conflicts or physical tension.
- Each of these voices has an attitude and set of belief systems.
- These are the many parts of your inner reality.
- Get to know them as if they were different people of different ages inside your head. You are not going crazy!
When you are able to watch and listen to all the different parts, it may feel like you are going crazy. Actually you are now more sane than ever. You are now conscious of your inner thoughts and feelings without getting reactive or sucked in to them. By witnessing them without arguing back at them, you are listening to your inner critic. If you criticize your own thoughts or feelings, you are abusing yourself. If you say to yourself “That thought is stupid,” or “I am being a sissy for having those feelings,” then you are abusing yourself. These voices usually are the internalized parent or some societal judge. Question the wisdom of that judge. We tend to automatically believe what those voices say. Stop being automatic.
We must witness all feelings to be able to hear them. Listen to those feelings. They are located in our body. The chest may feel tight. The heart may ache. The stomach may twist. This is called body awareness. Practice witnessing. It will train you to stay objective and not react or judge what is going on. If there is a voice inside that says,”I don’t want to feel this!” keep watching and just notice those words and how they came up. This is hearing what is going on. Do not abandon yourself and your many parts. They all have something valuable to tell you. It is not about believing what they say. It is about witnessing attentively and watching what happens to these feelings. Just watch.
Are you being understood?
Is the listener getting the meaning of what you are trying to say or feel? Is the listener able to make room inside their heart and mind for your thoughts or feelings without interruption? Many times emotions expressed with harsh words can make your message difficult for the other to take in. When we feel anger it is difficult not to attack or withdraw. This makes it difficult for the listener to hear you. We must take responsibility for our impact on the listener. If you are calm and speaking for your feelings and owning what you are thinking and not blaming the other, then you will know if the other is listening or not. Talk about your own experience. Don’t define or judge the other person. They will shut down and get defensive. They will not be able to hear you unless they are very disciplined and self knowing.
Listen to yourself and seek to understand your internal dialogue. That will help to bring changes to those thought and feeling patterns. The beliefs that create those thoughts and feelings can change just through being empathetically present to your own experience. Empathy creates a safe and loving environment for your thoughts and feelings to play out. It will leave room for the pain, to let go. Listen to learn from your self. Just say to yourself “What do you need?” Listen for an answer. This is a form of meditation.
To make sure you feel understood, you must ask the listener to repeat back to you what they thought they heard. This will make sure you are both on the same page. At this point the listener is given a chance to see if they got it right. If they didn’t, then ask if they would like to truly understand what you were trying to say. If they are willing to try again then you will feel grateful because they are trying to get exactly what you were trying to talking about. If they are not willing to do this, you will feel alone, abandoned and powerless. That is just how feelings work. Wait for a calmer time and try again.
You must also listen to yourself with empathy. Speak into a recorder or write your thoughts and feelings down. Read them out loud. This will allow the witness inside you to hear and try to understand what is being said. It is interesting how listening to our self can give us another perspective. The information just goes round and round when we keep all this inside. Expressing it and listening to it helps to break the pattern.
Do you feel respected?
Listening to a story or beliefs counter to yours can be very difficult. We respect what we agree with. In the practice of listening we can respect a thought or idea without agreeing with it. We just need to understand the other’s point of view. You can respect someone you disagree with. When you truly understand where another is coming from you can respect how they came to these beliefs and feelings. That is why repeating back to the other person what you thought you heard is so important. Repeating back with the heart and soul of what they said will make them feel like you actually understand them. They will feel safe. Otherwise they will feel put down and misjudged.
When we criticize ourselves or put ourselves down, we are showing lack of understanding and respect for our self. Respect happens with open-minded listening. When we have been truly heard, understood and respected, perceptions of our self can change. Criticizing our self and habitually believing the putdown means there is no witnessing. The judge/critic has taken over the internal conversation. Our internal judge is not good at listening. The judge is the part of our inner voice that is trying to keep us behaving in such a way that the critic or judge thinks is right. Witness and recognize the voice of the critic. Notice how it is not kind or compassionate nor understanding. Respect what it is trying to get you to believe. Treat the judge/critic with the goal of understanding with respect that they don’t even practice. Listen to your heart and feel the hurts the critic causes. Watch how that inner critic thinks. Witness.
Everyone needs respect. It gives people a sense of authority about their own beliefs, feelings and thoughts. When someone feels that what they said made sense to someone else, that is comforting. The whole picture is understood. Something feels complete and quiet inside. Make room to watch and listen without reacting.
Do you feel safe?
We do not feel safe when we feel judged. If an assessment is the result of being fully understood with respect, it is much easier to accept what a person is saying. Being criticized and judged shuts us down because we don’t feel safe. When voices are loud and forced, we do not feel safe. When we feel like our opinion is not welcome, we feel unsafe. To feel safe is to feel welcome. When we feel welcome to come out with our feelings and thoughts, we feel safe. Coming out with our feelings and thoughts is a very vulnerable space to come from. It is like tearing opening our hearts. Unless our feelings, words, and beliefs are welcome, and understood with respect, we won’t feel safe.
Many times we will hold back from speaking our truth in fear of upsetting the establishment, the family, or a romantic interest. We are afraid of driving them away or being driven away. We are all afraid of being abandoned. Freedom of speech is a necessary practice in order to have trust and understanding in any relationship of equals.