Kiss Me Thru The Phone, Walter Mitty

I think he (she?) means that, in the context of a relationship, neither individual should abuse the other. Abuse occurs when we create a problem in another person. Our abuse becomes especially poignant when we cannot begin to solve our own problems and when we cannot resolve to accept that we lack the efficacy (power and capacity) to do so.

Abuse can be insidiously subtle. Emotional manipulation through verbal abuse is learned, of course, because it leaves no visible bruises. Mentally, though, the victim suffers while you’re not even aware that you’re abusing him or her. You love this person, or you think you do, and you’re a good person, or you think you are, so, the words that come out of your mouth cannot be abusive.

Except, they are when you transfer your mean words from their desired target to the blank slate you’ve turned your partner into. (When you’ve thoroughly learned your partner’s history and forget that he or she has a future independent of you, you partner’s become a blank slate and can now be the target of your abuse. But that’s another post.)

To avoid being abusive, you’ve got to know what triggers your anxiety and know which strategies enable you to cope effectively with the anxiety. You’ve, like most people, assembled your life in such a way so that you are able to avoid those anxiety triggers entirely. Unfortunately, when you are unwillingly thrown into an anxiety-provoking situation with which you lack the appropriate level of experience, depending upon your temperament, you respond with either fear or anger.

Let’s say your boss has just defined you as incompetent. You’ve worked your ass off to, in part, avoid the anxiety that is produced by feelings of inadequacy. Since calling your boss an SOB or crying and begging your boss’ consideration are both symptoms of incompetency, you can express your fear to your partner by becoming dependent on him or her and you can express your anger by abusing him or her. With that, you’re communicating, "Don’t go, I need to hurt you to feel better."

So, you must compartmentalize your life just enough so you don’t treat your partner as you would like to treat your boss. But you must keep the window shades open so that your partner can see what’s inside. It’s difficult, but you should conceive of your partner (and yourself) as a human being whose present existence is a momentary intersection of past and future. Because you’re not wholly one concept, and neither is your partner, to exist in harmony with your partner, you must be able to combine and separate those concepts in order to cope effectively with life’s demands.

Hilary Bok (hilzoy) has a fine post about the psychology behind why the victims of abuse remain with their abuser.


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