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No One Can Abuse Me, That’s My Job

Last updated on September 21, 2020

Poison ivy turns colors in the Fall

The Mind Loves to Pull the Abuse Card

When I’m trying to justify not dealing with a difficult situation, I label it abuse and cut and run. Everyone would understand. If someone is yelling at me, I call it abuse. If someone is mean to me, I call it abuse. Then I have a justification for staging a counterattack or escaping. Labeling it abuse is my get-out-of-jail-free card.

But it still feels like stress. Justification diverts attention to what they are doing wrong (and takes the spotlight off of me), but it still doesn’t feel like peace to me. I usually feel a lot of anger when I see someone as abusive. And regardless of whether I leave or stay and fight, that anger eats me. 

Luckily Anger Leads me to The Work

When I feel the anger from what I believe is abuse, I want to strike out. But I’ve learned to strike out on paper instead by writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. “Let me deal with my anger first,” I think, “then I’ll decide what to do.” 

When I did this recently, I rediscovered a turnaround that I had forgotten when I did this work some years ago. The insight that came to me was, “They can’t actually abuse me. In order for it to be abuse, I first have to assume the victim stance, otherwise it’s just them making noise, it’s just them going crazy.” 

I Found this Very Freeing

With this turnaround, I could see that my experience of “abuse” depends totally on how I view it. In an abusive situation, I’m much more in control than I tend to think. The other person may be abusive, but it doesn’t become abuse for me until I assume the position of a victim. 

Otherwise the same abusive action would be seen with compassion: someone having a bad day, someone venting, someone getting caught by my own traps and defense mechanisms. When I see this, even if they are loud, or even physically abusive, I’m not a victim internally.

And when I’m not a victim, I’m not frozen with fear and rage. I can think clearly. I simply let words roll off my back, or I look for practical ways to get away from any kind of physical violence. I’m calm, I’m balanced, and I’m free inside—simply dealing with someone else who is being irrational (or maybe who is being more rational than I think). Either way, I’m not becoming irrational myself.

No one can ever abuse me unless I start viewing myself as “poor me the victim,” crumpling inside Seeing that gives me a lot of room within myself.

Join Us for Open Sessions Every Week

Want to experience the process of self-inquiry that leads to you finding your own insights? Join me for free Open Sessions every week. We do The Work together and I answer questions about The Work. See you there! (Or sign up to get the recordings.)

Have a great week,

“We call it “verbal abuse” when someone tells us the truth about ourselves and we don’t want to hear it.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Further reading: Are you Pushing your Abuser Down?

About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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