Mandy Kloppers

How do I stop my abusive behaviour towards others?

Recently, a reader wrote to me telling me that he recognised his behaviour in one of my blog posts on “crazy making”. He wanted to know what he could do to stop being abusive towards his girlfriend. I gave him some advice on email and went online to look for any other resources that I could find. This is when I realised there is very little out there for perpetrators of abuse.

Why do abusers abuse?

Usually, abusers are victims in their own right. This doesn’t justify the abuse in any way at all but it does go some way to explaining why it happens in the first place. Abusers have often had difficult childhoods and have experienced abuse themselves. Either by neglect, violence or parents who bullied them in some way. It is very rare to find an abuser who has had an uneventful happy and stable upbringing.

Forms of abuse

Abusers often use passive aggressive behaviour initially. This is indirect behaviour to get what they want rather than being upfront and direct. Their efforts to manipulate will be subtle and might even across as loving in the beginning. Wanting to know where you are all the time because they care, wanting to know who you are with…control in the beginning of a relationship can be disguised as care and concern but it soon escalates to a more sinister and stifling level. Then the verbal abuse commences. Criticising everything you say and do…there is often a pattern to abuse and it tends to worsen over time.

What to do if you think you are an abuser

Acknowledging that you are abusive is a good start. Taking responsibility instead of blaming others is the next step. I once asked a client whether his girlfriend deserved to be hit if she provoked him. He said she definitely deserved it and that it was her fault her hit her. When I told him that this view was incorrect and that he always had a CHOICE, he looked at me confused. He blamed his girlfriend for provoking him and never understood that he chose to hit her rather than walk away. At every stage we have a choice – we are responsible for our actions and reactions to others irrespective of what they do to us.

Understand why the abuse occurs

Look for the triggers – what gets you riled? Is it jealousy, is it feeling out of control? Why is that so bad? Ask yourself what you are afraid might happen? Is your behaviour working for you – probably not.

Other people often inadvertently trigger our fears and we return to that “place of survival” where we have to protect ourselves – maybe the way we had to when we were children. We revert to a childlike state where we act out instead of stopping and thinking before reacting. It never helps, it only makes the situation worse. If you find you can’t control your abusive behaviour and walk away, it might be worth seeing a therapist/counsellor to help you understand why you need to behave this way.

Abusers often tell me that even while the abuse is happening, the have small voice telling them to stop but their urges to act out overrule the inner voice. That’s good news though because it shows that there is a sense of justice within you, it just need to be coaxed out more.

Sometimes we need to learn skills that we didn’t see as children. We have to learn to deal with conflict without getting angry and lashing out. Talking isn’t always a sign of weakness. Anger may get others to do what you want but it will lose you respect – self respect and respect from others. No one really likes to be a bully but often they don’t know how to stop.

Women bully too, they can be relentless and make a man feel he isn’t good enough. Women are good at plotting and planning and can be very good at passive aggressive behaviour.

Abusers often feel quite powerless underneath and often feel they can only get what they want through denigrating others. This is mistaken thinking though, good communication is far more effective than anger and emotional abuse.

Adopt the belief that others care and aren’t deliberately against you. Watch what you choose to believe about the world and others, this is crucial to reducing domestic abuse in all its forms. When we mistrust and feel no one is on our side, we go into defensive mode, we put on our psychological armour and get into the “trenches”. It takes guts to take the “armour” off and face your fears, be vulnerable instead of attacking.

The longer the abuse has existed, the harder it is to undo but it can be done with commitment to the process. Contact me if you wish to book skype therapy to help reduce domestic abuse.

Mandy X

About | Domestic violence

Domestic violence is caused by an abuser’s desire to gain power and control over their partner, and takes many forms:

Physical abuse

  • Physical abuse is the most recognisable form of abuse, and can range from a slap or a shove to a black eye, cut lip or broken bone. It doesn’t always leave marks or scars

Emotional abuse

  • Emotional abuse is an attack on personality rather than the body. If someone is altering their behaviour because they are frightened of how their partner will react, they are being abused

Sexual abuse

  • When someone uses force or threats to make their partner have sex, or make them perform sexual acts with which they are uncomfortable

Financial abuse

  • There are many different forms, including someone taking their partner’s money, stopping them from working, placing all the bills or debts in their name, or monitoring how they spend money









Photo by moggs oceanlane