Friday, February 5, 2010

Healing is Possible - A Thought for the New Year

In the depths of darkness, the kind of darkness that you can be cast into if you have a partner who tears you to pieces, it seems as though the light will never come again. But it is, truly, possible to scramble your way back to freedom and dignity, and to smile again. You can get there.

The human heart has an almost unlimited ability to bounce back from spiritually destructive experiences. Some deep part of us, the soul you could call it, fights not just for life, but for a good life, and a just one.

Your healing can begin even if the mistreatment hasn’t ended. Some important steps toward healing often happen for women while they are still mired in dealing with an abusive partner. In fact, if you get a little taste of feeling better, that can sometimes be the shift that gives you the strength to turn things around in the oppressive atmosphere that you are being forced to live in.

Certainly, you can heal faster if you can make the abuse stop, whether by calling on the police and the court system if they are helpful where you live, or involving your friends and relatives, or by threatening to leave the relationship (if you can do that safely), or by going through with ending the relationship (if you can do that safely).
I will be writing soon about strategies for making abuse stop. But my message for today is that healing may be able to start right away, and doesn’t necessarily have to wait until the big problems are solved.

Healing is stimulated by developing a kind and supportive relationship with yourself, and by developing similar relationships with other people. This is how you create the context in which deep recovery can happen, through myriad paths that we will be writing about here. Because you yourself are the closest and most accessible person to you, it makes sense to turn some attention now to ways that you can be a loving, thoughtful friend to yourself. I will write in the weeks ahead about various ways in which you can do this, but here is one way you might begin:

Stop believing anything he tells you about who you are or what you are like.

And that means don’t believe him even if he’s telling you supposedly positive things about yourself – abusive men know how to use praise as a control tactic, just the way they use criticism.
I’m not saying you have to argue with him about the mean or manipulative things he says. I realize that often it’s better, for your own peace and safety, to be quiet, or even to pretend to agree with him, so that he’ll feel triumphant and leave you alone. But in the privacy of your own mind, where he can’t hear what you are saying, keep reminding yourself that he is distorting and twisting everything, and he is so very wrong in his view of who you are.

You may be thinking, “But what about the criticisms he makes that I know are true?” Maybe your finances really are in a mess, or maybe you really have gained weight, or maybe your friends really have turned against you, and he’s throwing these things at you.

But even if he’s right, he’s still wrong. Why?

1) Because he’s exaggerating, even if there are partial truths to what he’s saying.

2) Because he’s telling you that everything that is difficult in your life is your own fault and shows what a weak person you are underneath, and that’s not true at all.

3) Because he’s ignoring how profoundly his mistreatment of you has contributed to these problems, or has even created them entirely.

4) Because people’s difficulties don’t – and shouldn’t – define who they are.

A man who chronically mistreats you is not a good source of information about who you are , including about your supposed weaknesses, or even your strengths. (Because even when he praises you, he’s doing that to try to mold you into who he wants you to be, rather than accurately reflecting back to you the person you really are – or he’s praising you to manipulate you emotionally.) His vision is too distorted, and too self-centered and self-serving, to have any useful clarity, at least when the subject is you. In short, it is impossible to abuse someone while also seeing them clearly.

Listen to yourself, and to people who treat love you and treat you well. Don’t listen to him.


  1. Hi Lundy,

    The work you do has had a profound effect in my life and still does. I'm NC 2months from my abuser. I'm still grappling with PTSD, nightmares and the many flashbacks of all the gaslighting. It's so hard to integrate. One of the things i realized, which is what you eloquently pointed out here, is that if he wasn't controlling, he was manipulating and his manipulation was full of PRAISE...and even though what he SAID was the truth he didn't MEAN it and I knew it.

    Thank you for pointing this out again, in different terminology than your book, is so true, if they were abusive ALL the time (they are and that's what MANIPULATION IS), we wouldn't be with them. IT's the praise that gets us. It got me for years.

    I hope I can eventually live in peace.


  2. Hi Mr. Bancroft,
    I found this blog after I started searching for answers once again.
    Once again I sit and think I will never be "out" of this!
    Once again I try to ask him "why" he has done this to me.
    Once again................
    I married this "person" when I was 16 years old and had been with him for 36 when it was finally enough. What is enough? I am starting to think that I am the one with the real problem? I guess it doesn't help that we of course have a business we run with a son. I know and maybe I just think things would be better if I did not have to be around him, maybe not. I started the Divorce process in Nov. 2008 still not there, my attorney kept asking my WHY I want the divorce if we are in business together and just would not get it finalized. WHY...after 36 years.....WHY? I will keep struggling with the WHY and I am glad I have found this blog. Thank you for "Why does he do that" WHY??

  3. Hello Mr Bancroft!

    I just wanted to tell you how important your book "Why Does He Do That?" has been to me. That book has pulled me out of so many dark places and really helped me get on with my life. I am technically legally married to a man who is NPD/Psychotic. Its the scariest most agonizing experience I've ever had. Soul sucking, emotional vampirism, emotional, verbal and physical abuse, controlling, gaslighting, cheating on me with 12 women, having constant parties at the house just to "feed" off people. Keeping them around to praise him. He gives them things just so they think hes cool. Split personality. Hes charasmatic to everyone in public, but when no one was around, he'd like to bounce my head off the floor. Stoned 24/7 and unable to hold down a job. I supported him for most of our marrige (good thing I made decent money) My god you name it, hes done it to me, I have PTSD, which I guess its an unfortunate side effect. I'm 3 months away from him but still feel like crying every day. I couldnt even describe in one post of what he's done. Although hes quite a differnt animal from what you describe in your book, he does have alot of the same characteristics as those do. He litterally fits in almost every catagory you have for the types in that book.
    Anyway I just want to say thank you so so much. You have no idea what you've done for me, and my self worth. I'm still in therapy twice a week and have been since I left. At times I get really down on myself and really scared, thats when I pull out your book and reassure myself. Sometimes its the only way I can sleep.

  4. Mr. Bancroft:

    RE: My father, the mysognist.

    While I have been free from a physically violent and emotionally abusive relationship from my first husband for 25 years now I find that the most significant past relationship (my father) which was also very abusive is the one that continues to create the most grief due to the long lasting effects of the abuse inflicted on me as a child. I've been reviewing your books and which one do you recommend I select that specifically addresses the lasting affects of abuse by a father directed at his daughters during our adolescent years? It is these dynamics that planted the seed for many of the relational challenges I have and still experience with men. How can I be whole again, to trust myself and be willing to trust a man when I was raised by a mysognist????

  5. Dear Mr. Bancroft,

    My 72 yr old father told me to put a small container of salt on my desk where I check emails. Each time my husband emails me; I should take a pitch of salt and throw it over my shoulder to demonstrate his words have as much worth as the pinch of salt I threw over my shoulder. I think your message was conveying a similar message.

    I have an adult order of protection and our daughter (15) has a child order of protection. I tried to push for a child order for our son (11) but the GAL felt strongly that my husband should maintain a relationship with his son. I and my kids have been seeking outside help to deal with all the trauma we have endured. This process has been painful but even the kids agree that our home has never experienced so much peace.

    One of my resources is your book “Why does he do that?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men”. The description of the abusive men in your book applies in almost every aspect to my husband.

    The only communication I have with him is through emails with a cc to the GAL for our son that is in my custody. I was told to keep emails brief and as detached as possible. I think he was told to do the same, however, it seems like he still finds a way to put his own twist on written words. I make bets with myself before I open an email about what snide remark he included this time. Most of the time he makes some reference about me not handling this situation like an adult and how all this could be handled if he could just see me face to face

    My version of reality rarely measures up to his version. Being away from him has brought light on so many of his lies that kept me in self-doubt. Your book has brought validation to my perceptions.

    Thank you for all your words of comfort and support!

  6. Mr. Bancroft,

    It is perfect timing that I ran across this blog while searching for information on a comment I read that stated, "there is healing in our tears". I discovered this blog on another person's site and now find that you had actually written it a couple of years ago. As I do not have a computer right now, I have copied the entire blog by hand, from my phone, so I can continue to refer to it in the days ahead. As many others have said before me, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for your books and teachings, and that you would also, with your busy schedule take the time to also write these thoughtful, in-depth insights in order to encourage victims of abuse. I have read several books in the past six years or so in order to figure out what I have been dealing with in my marriage. Each one gave much needed information on abusive partnerships, and with each reading, my knowledge and empowerment to do something about has grown tremendously. The thing that struck me when reading your book, "Why Does He DoThat", is your sincere caring, understanding and empathy for the victims and our families. It amazed me that you have not only figured out "why he does it," but also exactly how it makes us feel and respond. It's as if you have the uncanny ability to be on the inside of us looking out. This perspective certainly is indicative of the amount of research and study you have done. Although this is your career, your compassion comes through your work loud and clear, so that many are trusting your goodness as well as your expertise. Your words may be the only kind ones they hear for days and weeks. Thank you for this, and may God richly bless you and continue to strengthen you.