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having mental health problems, abuse victims frequently would rather consider themselves intrinsically defective than accept that they are being abused.
This form of label denial protects their fragile egos, helps them feel in control, and keeps them from having to confront the real problem: They have chosen an abusive mate.
Instead, they may think, “This is just how relationships are” or “I’m not abused because I stand up for myself.” If you suspect emotional abuse is occurring, it is wise to lay out the stages of recovery early on when the subject comes up, or as soon you deem that the client is ready to address the issue.
Of course, as with much of our work, you will likely need to reiterate the stages and remind clients that passing through them may take months or years.
While it is true that we need to let some comments or actions in close relationships roll off our backs, a stiff-upper-lip, turn-the-other-cheek attitude is not a healthy way of reacting to intentional mistreatment.
Rather than provide lengthy therapy and communication coaching that is actually going nowhere because the abusive partner lacks the capacity or motivation to change, the therapist must lay on the line what he or she observes.
I have heard of too many cases in which therapy has gone on for years without meaningful relationship change, reinforcing not only abuse but also the misguided belief that this is what a partnership is meant to be.
Abused clients sometimes enter therapy in Stage 2 when the relationship is already an ongoing battleground.
In fact, they may not even realize they are being abused.