The Emotionally Abusive Relationship
by Beverly Engel
As opposed to The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, this book was fair, even and dedicated to working toward a solution. It explored in depth (or rather, encouraged the reader to explore in depth) the root causes of abuse. It explored the reasons why people become abusive, and why people become targets of abuse. The reasons are remarkably similar.
This book encouraged introspection, rather than blaming. By the most broad definitions, everybody is abusive at some point in their life to some degree. When you recognize that certain behaviors are abusive--or shall we say, they cross a boundary?--you start to see it everywhere. A lot of people cross boundaries with good intentions and with very light hearts. It's understandable and easy to forgive. (Others do so maliciously to control others--and I find that behavior sickening and demeaning.)
This book accentuated the fact that "abuse" is a term which describes an entire continuum of behaviors, from mildly annoying to severely damaging. From that point of view, I found it very uncomfortable because it made me a tad paranoid about myself and other people. A friend would make a sarcastic joke and I would think, "That was abusive" instead of "Good old so-and-so." Or I would snap in frustration at my kids and think, "Was that just discipline? Or was that verbal abuse? Or both? Or neither--maybe just me feeling frustrated and taking it out on them?!?!" I guess that is the point of self help books--to make us think about our lives and relationships in another light, with the goal of using that information to improve things?
I think that this book could be an interesting read for anybody, not just people who have a history of dishing out or accepting emotional abuse. It has a lot of interesting things to think about.
The book starts with some broad defining chapters, then moves on to discuss the root of abuse. It talks about how our world is defined so much in our childhood that trauma in our youth can take years to overcome. Today at my twins' annual checkup, our pediatrician said that this year will be a defining year for the two of them. Many people think of how "normal" life is (for better or worse, I might add) according to how life was when they were about three years old. This makes sense.
The book then has chapters that are checklists for both "how to stop being abused" and "how to stop abusing." It assumes that people want to change for the better and are capable of doing so. This is a big improvement from The Verbally Abusive Relationship.
I easily give this book an A for its coverage of the subject matter and I recommend it as interesting reading to people who are interested in human psychology, interpersonal communication, or those who recognize that something in their past or current relationships is uncomfortable to them. I learned a lot and I think I made some positive changes in my attitude toward others as a result of this book.
P.S. Thanks to my friend "Q" for the book recommendation. It was fun to talk about it with you!