I am continually asked, ‘why do people allow themselves to be abused?’ or ‘don’t you find it emotionally hard helping victims’ and ‘why work with high school bully victims? How will that help them in future?’
Why do people allow themselves to be abused?
We all have boundaries; think about when someone stands too close to you. It feels uncomfortable, that’s known as a physical boundary.
In a healthy relationship there are clearly defined boundaries that each person will accept or not accept about the other person’s behaviour. These are our personal and emotional boundaries.
People with good self-esteem and confidence naturally have them; this is what helps shape our own identity and self-worth and they form part of our self-protection mechanism.
An abusive person or bully will keep clear of a person with healthy boundaries, as they know the person wouldn’t tolerate their abusive behaviour.
But what about a person whose boundaries aren’t intact, who has low self-esteem and confidence?
Unfortunately, these are the type of people that abusers love. Because they know that they have damaged boundaries and will tolerate just about anything in the name of ‘love’. Their boundaries are so damaged that they truly believe it is love.
This is the part that people with healthy boundaries can’t understand and it’s not surprising they can’t. I look back at the person I used to be and I don’t understand how I allowed my self-confidence to get so low that I actually believed I loved my abusive ex-partner.
As hard as it is to imagine or understand it does happen. That’s why I gave you the simple example in the beginning of someone standing too close to you. A person with healthy boundaries would feel uncomfortable whereas a person with damaged boundaries wouldn’t.
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.” – Henry Cloud
The reason why a person has damaged boundaries can be complex from extreme childhood trauma or experiencing a bad relationship breakup. A medically trained professional is the best person to diagnose this, so don’t self-diagnose.
What I do is help people who have experienced abuse or bullying to rebuild their confidence and set up healthy boundaries. By doing this they will be able to enjoy a healthy loving relationship in the future.
Like goal setting you start small by setting up small boundaries and when the person is comfortable you start making the boundaries bigger as their self-confidence grows.
Now some people think all you need to do is think positive, read self-help books, go see a motivational speaker or meditate. These things can certainly help no doubt about that.
However, we are referring to people whose boundaries are so badly damaged that they feel validated when they are mistreated. So it’s not as simple as just thinking positive, it requires self-reflection, hard work and tough love.
Don’t you find it emotionally hard helping victims?
My answer is always no. It’s rewarding to see a person blossom and become the unique individual they were meant to be.
“Rely on yourself, and be true to who you are. What’s unique about you is what will take you far. Don’t look to others to say you’re okay. You know it, so believe it! Show your own self the way” – Wayne Dyer
Why work with high school bully victims? How will that help them in future?
It’s my belief that to slow the rate of domestic violence and abuse is to start with youths and teenagers who have experienced bullying.
Why, because youth victims of bullying, have a high probability of attracting abusive adulthood relationships later in life.
Working with them at this age, to rebuild their confidence and setup healthy boundaries gives them the best chance possible of having all the things that most of us take for granted… happiness, true love and career.
Start attracting healthy people into your life by setting healthy boundaries.