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what not to say to a victim of emotional abuse

What Not To Say to a Victim of Emotional Abuse

Most people have an inadequate understanding of narcissistic and emotional abuse. Often, this leads to giving well-intentioned but bad advice to victims. The two things victims are commonly told are to either stay in the relationship and pray for things to get better, or cut their losses and run for the hills. While they seem like rational options, they don’t provide solutions that help out both the victim and the abuser. Dr. Hawkins elaborates on what not to say to a victim of emotional abuse and the other options available.

What Not to Say to a Victim of Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse can be a devastating experience that leaves victims feeling trapped, helpless, and isolated. When someone you care about is enduring emotional abuse, it’s crucial to provide support and guidance.

However, not all advice given to victims is helpful or constructive. In this article, we’ll explore two common but polarizing pieces of advice often given to victims of emotional abuse: “Stay and Pray” and “Run for the Hills.” We’ll discuss why these extreme viewpoints might not be the best course of action and propose a more balanced approach to help victims navigate their situations.

The “Stay and Pray” Dilemma

The Stay and Pray advice is often well-intentioned and grounded in religious or moral beliefs. It encourages victims to maintain their commitment to the relationship and believe that divine intervention will miraculously improve the situation. While prayer can be a powerful coping mechanism and a source of solace for many, relying solely on it to resolve emotional abuse is not a practical or advisable strategy.

Dr. David Hawkins, director of the Marriage Recovery Center, raises an essential point when he challenges the wisdom of “Stay and Pray” as the primary advice for victims. He argues that, based on his extensive experience working with victims of emotional abuse, this approach is fundamentally flawed. While praying and maintaining faith are valuable, they should not be substitutes for taking tangible actions to address abuse.

A More Balanced Approach: Instead of dismissing the idea of staying altogether, a balanced approach would involve consulting with a knowledgeable professional who can provide guidance tailored to the victim’s specific circumstances. This expert can help assess whether intervention, therapy, or counseling is appropriate and what form it should take. The key is to combine faith with practical steps towards healing and resolution.

The “Run for the Hills” Reaction

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the “Run for the Hills” advice. This extreme perspective urges victims to flee from the relationship immediately, asserting that change is impossible and that all hope is lost. While this advice may seem like a protective measure to prevent further harm, it can also be problematic.

Dr. Hawkins points out that labeling all individuals with narcissistic tendencies as utterly incapable of change is an oversimplification. While it is true that narcissistic behavior can be challenging to address, it doesn’t mean that change is entirely out of the question. People can learn empathy and improve their behavior, especially under the right conditions.

A More Balanced Approach: Rather than hastily advocating for victims to escape their situation, a more balanced approach involves encouraging victims to seek professional help to understand the dynamics of their relationship better. This includes assessing the potential for change in their partner and determining the appropriate steps to ensure their safety and well-being. It’s essential to explore all available options before making any drastic decisions.

Seeking a Balanced Perspective

Finding a balanced perspective when dealing with emotional abuse is crucial. Victims need a support system that acknowledges the complexity of their situation and offers guidance tailored to their specific needs. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Consult with experts: Reach out to professionals who specialize in emotional abuse and narcissistic behavior. These experts can provide insights, evaluate the situation objectively, and offer strategies for dealing with abuse effectively.
  2. Explore intervention options: Determine whether an intervention, such as therapy or counseling, is suitable for your situation. These interventions can help both the victim and the abuser address underlying issues and work towards healthier dynamics.
  3. Safety first: Always prioritize your safety and well-being. If you ever feel physically threatened or in immediate danger, seek help immediately. There are numerous organizations and hotlines available to assist victims of abuse.
  4. Consider your personal boundaries: Reflect on your boundaries and what you are willing to tolerate. Setting clear boundaries is crucial in any relationship, and communicating them effectively can be an essential step in addressing emotional abuse.

In conclusion, the “Stay and Pray” and “Run for the Hills” extremes are not the most helpful advice for victims of emotional abuse. Instead, a balanced approach involves seeking guidance from knowledgeable professionals, assessing the potential for change, and prioritizing safety. Remember that every situation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. By taking thoughtful and informed steps, victims can regain control of their lives and work towards healing and resolution.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: What Does The Bible Say About Divorce

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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