WORKING TOGETHER TO CREATE AN ABUSE-FREE FUTURE
Publisher: Beverly Engel
You are receiving this ezine because you are either a
client, a colleague, or a reader who has emailed me to thank me for writing
a particular book or to ask a question. The purpose of this newsletter is to
pass on information to you that I feel will be of value in your life,
especially concerning the issue of abuse prevention.
Each month I will write an article concerning the issue of
abuse and how we can all work together to create an abuse-free future, both
for ourselves, our loved ones and for the world at large. Sometimes the
article will be a personal response to a current event, an event in my own
life, or a response to reader’s questions. This subject of abuse is a broad
one and articles may include everything from "How to determine whether you
are being abused or abusive" to "How to avoid another abusive relationship,"
from "It is safe for you to try to reconcile with an abusive parent?" to
"How to apologize when you have been abusive or hurtful to someone." I hope
these articles will inspire you and offer support and encouragement. I also
hope they will encourage your own thinking and reactions concerning this
subject. I welcome your feedback via email and will include responses from
time to time in upcoming newsletters. In this way we can open a dialogue
from which we can all learn. I also welcome your stories and suggestions as
to how we can all participate in what I consider the most important task
anyone who was ever abused can accomplish—not passing on the legacy of abuse
to your partners or children.
In the News from Beverly segment I will include
announcements of upcoming events, workshops or conferences relevant to the
treatment or prevention of abuse. Feel free to send me announcements you
feel readers will find of interest. I cannot guarantee I can include them
all but I will do my best to include what I feel is relevant. I will also
announce my own upcoming workshops and books. I ask that you order books
directly from Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com as I do not sell individual
books directly to readers. If you would like to attend a workshop, feel free
to email me directly at
Please forward this ezine to anyone you know who is
interested in preventing or healing childhood emotional, physical or sexual
abuse or emotional, physical or sexual abuse in adult relationships. If you
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to anyone for any reason. Thank you for trusting me with your personal
BREAKING THE CYCLE OF ABUSE
By Beverly Engel
You decide to do something, perform one small action, and
suddenly it’s a tide, the momentum is going, and there’s no possibility of
turning back. Somehow, even though you thought you foresaw all that would
happen, you didn’t know the pace would pick up so.
If you think about it, breaking the cycle of neglect and
abuse is one of the most significant endeavors any of us will ever embark on
in our lifetime. This is especially true for those who were emotionally,
physically or sexually abused as children and for those who have been
emotionally or physically abused as an adult. There is no greater gift to
give to oneself, one’s intimate partners or to one’s children than to stop
passing on to others the abuse or neglect that we ourselves have
Abuse and neglect never occur in a vacuum. When a child is
emotionally, physically, or sexually abused it not only damages the child
but it damages the offspring of that child. It damages other members of the
child’s family—particularly his or her siblings. The same holds true of
spousal abuse. When a man beats his wife he is also damaging his
children—and his children’s children. The same is true when one partner
emotionally abuses his or her spouse in front of their children.
Domestic violence and emotional abuse in adult relationships
damage more relationships and more lives than anyone can imagine. Domestic
violence is a national tragedy of staggering proportions—up to six million
women are believed to be beaten in their homes each year, four million
incidents are reported.
If we ever hope to bring more peace into our world, we must
start by ending the emotional and physical violence that occurs in our
homes. Having made the connection between childhood abuse and adult abuse
and violence, we need only expand this knowledge to help us understand the
violence that occurs in our communities. Children who are neglected or
abused are far more likely to become either bullies in school or the victims
of bullies. Many of the students who have taken up arms at school were found
to have been the target of vicious bullying by their classmates. And we know
that a majority of those in prison for violent crimes were emotionally,
physically or sexually abused as children. Those who are mistreated
perpetuate a culture of violence that affects us all. Therefore the work we
do on breaking the cycle of abuse in our own families will have even greater
ramifications for society at large.
If you were emotionally, physically or sexually abused as a
child or adolescent, or if you experienced neglect or abandonment, it isn’t
a question of whether you will continue the cycle of abuse or neglect, it is
a question of how you will do so—whether you will become an abuser or
continue to be a victim. The sad truth is that no one gets through an
abusive or neglectful childhood unscathed and an even sadder truth that no
one escapes without perpetuating the cycle of violence in some way. In many
cases, those who were abused or neglected become both abusers and victims
throughout their lifetimes. Although this may sound unnecessarily negative
to you, it is the truth. Research clearly shows that those who have been
abused either absorb abuse or pass it on. In the past twenty-five years
studies on abuse and family assaults strongly suggest that abused children
become abusers themselves and that child victims of violence become violent
adults. Individuals with a history of childhood abuse are four times more
likely to assault family members or sexual partners than are individuals
without such a history. Females who have a history of being abused in
childhood are far more likely to continue being victimized as adults.
Most of you who are reading this are aware that there is a
risk that you will repeat what was done to you in some way. And for many of
you, that risk has already become a reality. You’ve already begun to abuse
your partner, neglect or abuse your children or other people’s children, or
abuse your employees or coworkers. You’ve already been emotionally or
physically abused by at least one partner and perhaps already established a
pattern of being re-victimized in the same ways you were as a child.
From a Legacy of Pain to a Legacy of Hope
If we are honest, most of us remember moments when we heard
or saw ourselves interacting with our partner, our children or someone else
close to us in ways that are far too reminiscent of the way we ourselves
were treated as a child. We usually react to these moments with disbelief
and horror: "Oh, my God, I sound just like my mother," or "I can’t believe
I’m acting just like my father." We simply cannot believe that we have
repeated the very behaviors we despised in our parents.
The truth is we all bring with us the legacy of our
childhood—whether it is security and nurturing or abandonment and neglect,
guidance and respect or abuse and disdain. In fact, we carry the legacy of
not only our own childhood but also the childhood of our parents and their
parents before them. Unfortunately, often times this legacy is a legacy of
pain. Although many parents try to treat their children better than they
themselves were treated, generation after generation of people continue to
pass down emotional, physical and sexual abuse to their children and their
We also repeat the legacy of pain by reenacting the abuse we
experienced at the hands of those other than our parents. Those who were
sexually abused as children—whether it is by parents, other caretakers or
authority figures, siblings, or older children—tend to either reenact the
abuse they experienced by introducing younger children to sex, by becoming
child molesters when they become adults, or by being continually
re-victimized as adults. Research shows that children who are sexually
abused tend to act out their anger and rage by becoming bullies, torturing
animals, and abusing other children. Adult females often reenact their abuse
by becoming strippers and prostitutes, while adult males often become sex
addicts who make unreasonable demands on their females partners.
The Less Obvious Legacies of Abuse and Neglect
There are also more subtle legacies of abuse and neglect.
For example, those with such a history are often unable to see their
partner, children and even their coworkers clearly. Instead they see them
through a distorted lens of fear, distrust, anger, pain and shame. They see
ridicule, rejection, betrayal and abandonment when it really isn’t there.
Their low self-esteem will cause them to be hypersensitive and to take
things far too personally. And they will likely have control issues causing
them to either have a need to dominate others or to be far too easily
dominated by others. Those with a history of neglect or abuse are often
unable to trust their partners. Instead they repeat the past dramas of their
parents and perceive their partners as enemies instead of allies. Those who
become parents find that it is difficult to see their own children’s needs
and pain without being reminded of their own. They also find it difficult to
allow their children to make a mistake without taking it as a personal
affront or a sign that they are not a good parent. In work environments past
dramas with their parents and siblings get reenacted with bosses and
Think about the effect the neglect or abuse you experienced
has had on you. How has it affected the way you view yourself and the way
you view others? What kind of a legacy are you going to pass on to your
children and your children’s children? While these may be depressing or even
frightening thoughts, there is a way out of the seemingly endless cycle of
abuse and neglect. There are coping skills that can be adopted, positive
ways of dealing with anger and shame that can be learned, and ways to make
up for the personality deficits that usually accompany experiences of
neglect and abuse. There are ways for you to confront your pain, anger, fear
and shame directly so you do not have to transfer it to your partner, your
children, your friends or your coworkers. Last, but certainly not least,
there are ways to break into an abusive or neglectful family system, expose
it for what it is, and repair the damage so that one more generation of
children do not grow up to either become an abuser or a victim.
How Do You Break the Cycle?
There isn’t just one way to break the cycle—there are many,
- Making the connection between your current behavior and your childhood
history of neglect or abuse. This will require many of you to come out of
denial once and for all about exactly what was done to you as a child and
the impact it has had on your life.
- Placing what was done to you in the context of your family history. As
you explore your family history many of you will be shocked to learn that
such things as alcoholism, child abuse, child abandonment, domestic
violence, depression and other emotional problems, and criminal behavior
have been in your family going back many decades.
- Learning to manage your emotions—especially the emotions of shame,
anger and fear.
- Changing the negative attitudes and beliefs that create a victim or
- Choosing intimate partners who are capable of having an equal
- Learning healthy ways of resolving conflicts in your intimate
- Deciding whether you are a good candidate to become a parent
- Learning parenting skills that will ensure that you will not become an
abusive parent and pass on neglectful or abusive family patterns.
- Continuing to work on healing from the abuse or neglect you
- Working on individuating from your parents and other caretakers.
- Breaking into your dysfunctional family system to help make sure that
other family members do not harm your children or continue to treat you in
If we are to truly break the cycle of abuse we must remove
the stigma that is attached to being a victim or a victimizer. No one
consciously sets out to become an abusive person. Neither does anyone set
out to become a victim. We are propelled into these patterns by our
upbringing, by our own experiences of trauma and neglect and by our
inability to work through this trauma and neglect. Getting stuck in blame
and shame will only hamper your progress in breaking the cycle and will
serve no positive function.
Given the right amount of support, education and strategies,
anyone can break the cycle.
* This article was adapted from the introduction and first
chapter of my newest book, Breaking the Cycle of Abuse: Moving From An
Abusive Past to Create an Abuse-Free Future. I’ve written many books on
abuse but none are more important than this book.
BREAKING THE CYCLE: HOW TO MOVE BEYOND YOUR PAST TO CREATE
AN ABUSE-FREE FUTURE will soon be in paperback.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT BREAKING THE CYCLE
"We all have the power to break the cycle of abuse. In this remarkably powerful, wise, and compassionate book, Beverly Engel leads readers step by step through a program that will help survivors of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in childhood to heal from their wounds so they don't need to re-enact their abusive pasts. She offers expert advice and strategies to help parents and would-be parents avoid doing to their children what was done to them and helps both abusers and victims in emotionally and physically abusive relationships make vitally important changes in their relationships."
—Susan Forward, Ph.D., author of Toxic Parents and Emotional Blackmail
INCREASING YOUR EMOTIONAL FITNESS
You probably work hard to keep yourself physically fit—but
what about your emotional health? Do you put much effort into staying
emotionally fit? Research shows that there is a powerful connection between
the state of our emotions and our physical well-being. If we don’t know how
to address and manage our emotions we can become overwhelmed, stressed,
anxious, depressed, argumentative or even explosive. Learning to manage your
emotions is one of the most effective ways to avoid becoming abusive.
In this workshop you will learn:
|A process to help you "check-in" with your emotions on a daily basis.|
|How to identify anger, fear, sadness and guilt and clear it from your
- How to discover the "message" each emotion conveys.
- How to deal with so-called "negative" emotions in a non-reactive,
- How to handle work-related stress and burnout.
- How to cope with the stress of the holidays.
- How to identify unhealthy anger styles (i.e. aggressive, passive,
aggressive) and replace them with a healthy anger style.
DATE: Saturday, November 19, 2005 TIME: 10:00—4:00
PLACE: Satori Lifestyle Center at Avila Bay Club, Avila
COST: $80.00, includes light lunch.
TO MAKE RESERVATIONS: Call Beverly Engel at (805)528-7544 or
the Satori Center at: 595-7600 ext.223. or email Beverly at:
Email Forum: Truly Preventing Domestic Violence
Beverly has been asked to be a panelist in this email forum
along with other experts, including Robert Enright, Ph.D (noted forgiveness
researcher and author) and Warren Farrell, Ph.D bestselling author. The
event starts Friday, Nov.11 and concludes midnite the following Friday. I
will pass on the results of this groundbreaking conversation. Sponsored by:
The Simple Society Alliance for Human Empowerment.
I hope you enjoyed this issue of Working Together to
Create an Abuse-Free Future.
To find out more about Beverly Engel, go to
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