Having grown up in an abusive family and now in a relationship with an abusive wife, Bradon believed the excuses constantly dished out to him by his abusive mother and wife. Beaten down, confused, hazy, and exhausted, he sought out help from a therapist. At first, he could not comprehend that he was the victim of abuse. He believed the lies that he was to blame. He thought abuse was only physical. But then Brandon learned it could also be verbal, emotional, mental, sexual, spiritual, and financial.
One of the steps in healing from the abuse was to not accept the excuses his abusers used to justify their behavior. So he made a list, evaluated each individually, changed his perspective, and refused to absorb the tossed responsibly. Here is Brandon’s list.
- “I’m sorry but…” Any apology that ends with “but” is not a real apology. Rather it is an attempt to pass the blame onto the other person while not fully accepting responsibility. A true apology is expressed with remorse and doesn’t point the finger. There is no “but” at the end of it.
- “It’s all your fault…” Blame shifting is a common tactic abusive people use to deflect their behavior. By pointing out some minor infraction done by the other person, they justify their abusiveness. It’s also done to avoid responsibility, admit to doing wrong, or having to see things from a different perspective.
- “You are so much like…” This statement is typically followed by the name of a person that either the abuser or the abused despises. The idea is that by saying the victim is acting similar to a distasteful person, the abuser is absolved for their behavior. It is also a way of making the abuser superior to the inferior victim.
- “You triggered me…” While the statement could be truthful, using past trauma as vindication for future abuse is not acceptable. Victims who want to heal, use their triggers to identify potential negative reactions so they can get better, not so they can continue to harm others. Being triggered is not a valid excuse to take advantage of someone.
- “You make me so angry…” Here’s a thought, “Why do you want to be around someone who makes you angry?” No one can “make” another person angry, at some point the choice to emote is a decision. But if someone is constantly antagonistic, why be with them? Clearly, the relationship is not on a positive track.
- “If you treated me with more respect…” Respect is earned over time, it cannot be commanded instantly. People who demand respect often don’t deserve it. Respect should be given in the same measure it is received. Abusive behavior is not justified because of a lack of respect. That does nothing to gain respect and everything to lose it.
- “If you didn’t react that way…” This is another form of blame-shifting where the victim’s responses are used to acquit the abuser. Most victims find that even when they modify their reactions, the abuser still does the same thing. It becomes a never-ending shifting of expectations designed to keep the victim on their toes.
- “Because you don’t listen to me, I had to…” Instead of trying to find calmer ways of addressing an issue, the abuser uses this as an opportunity to escalate. There are any number of reasons why a person might not be listening and trying to force the matter does not make things better. This is punishment similar to the way a parent speaks to a child.
- “If you hadn’t done…” This is another combination of shifting the blame by highlighting a flaw in the other person. The underlying manipulation is to impose a parent/child relationship where the abuser is the authoritarian and the victim is needing correction. Once again, the abuser becomes superior and the victim inferior.
- “Your words hurt me so…” There is an old saying, “Hurt people hurt people”. But even if a person is hurt by a statement, they are still responsible for how they react afterward. Being hurt is not an excuse for abusive behavior.
- “My whole family is this way…” By assigning blame to their family of origin, the abuser minimizes their actions as collective behavior. Because everyone in the family does in, then it is OK to continue abusing. Unfortunately, there are cultures that also say something similar.
- “It’s in the blood…” Instead of using abusive behavior as a means for deciding to change, the abuser says it’s part of their personality or someone in their family is the same way. This allows the abuser to escape responsibility and assign responsibility to a parent or culture. Again, everyone is responsible for their own behavior.
- “You won’t take me seriously so I had to…” Abusers are generally dichotomous thinkers; things are either one extreme way or another. There is no middle ground. So when the victim minimizes a statement, they are forced to overreact instead of finding an alternative solution. This is a no-win situation for the victim.
- “You brought this on yourself…” This is another version of blame-shifting with an added twist of fortune-telling responsibility. By saying the victim should have predicted the abuse and avoided the subject, once again, the abuser is absolving themselves. It is a clever way to cast blame.
- “You know what sets me off…” Everyone can be set off by something. Anger is a normal and healthy response during grieving when a person feels violated or taken advantage of, or even when someone they love is being harmed. Abusers, however, use their anger to abuse others.
- “If you weren’t such a *#@^%…” Name-calling is abusive behavior by itself. It demoralizes a person while elevating the abuser to superior status. Using it instead of apologizing widens the gap further. Don’t tolerate this behavior from anyone.
- “You’re just being sensitive…” For the record, being sensitive is a gift, not a curse. This statement takes the positive traits of the victim and turns it into a negative. It is a reflection of an abuser not valuing the sensitivity victim and instead, making fun of the victim for feeling an emotion.
This exercise helped Brandon to set new boundaries with his family and leave his abusive wife. These are lame, false, and deceiving. They are not coming from a place of honesty, love, care, or concern for the other person.