Many of my students live with domestic violence every day.

I am no longer shocked when a beautiful young woman enters my classroom on crutches, eyes blackened, lips swollen, broken bones. Their “man” doesn’t appreciate the value of education.

I offer them assistance, counseling, shelters. They always refuse.

There is always an excuse. It was always their fault. If they hadn’t been late, if dinner had been ready, if the kids had been quieter, if the house were cleaner, if they hadn’t been talking to a male student, if, if, if.

One woman was thrown from a 3rd story balcony, another gets punched every time she tries to come to school.

None of them deserve it. None of them believe that they don’t deserve it.

They are all young. They are all mothers. They are all poor. They are all trying to make a way out through an education. School is a warm safe place to land. Home is not.

Some will succeed. The balcony woman dropped out.

Domestic violence rears its head in all economic situations, all educational levels, all ethnicities, all religions. It is an ugly secret that is hidden behind makeup and sunglasses; hidden behind false trips down stairs and walking into walls that never existed; hidden by shame.

Some pretend and hope we won’t notice. We notice.

I cannot imagine what life for them must be like. I don’t pretend to have the training necessary to help these women.

I am trained to teach business and technology.

But I can listen. I can hug them. I can encourage them. This takes no training.

They all feel trapped yet none are. The trap is in their heads.

All I can do is try to point them toward freedom. I cannot force them to go.

Just as a fly will continue to bang against a window until it searches for another way out, they remain trapped in whatever situation they are in until they search for an alternative.

They must choose to search. I can only provide the arrow that points the way.

Whether it is domestic violence, a dead-end job, or substance abuse, you are never a victim of anything but your own choices.

No matter your situation, you are not a victim. There is a way out once you decide to change the way you think.

The 4 Ps will light the way to the exit. You must decide to go.

  • Permanence
  • Personal
  • Pain
  • Proactive

Permanence

This, too shall pass if you want it to. No situation is permanent until you resolve yourself to the status quo.

The belief that nothing can change is emotional poison. You are on the road to emotional death. Turn around and find an exit. It is there if you look.

Accepting the present merely hardens the reality. Stop indulging in the beliefs of hopelessness. Help is right in front of your nose. You must be willing to make a change in order to receive it.

Hold yourself accountable instead of blaming outside factors. You are in control of your future.

You must remember that in order to harvest you must plant. The time to plant is NOW.

You have the tools to change your circumstances. You have the ability to make good decisions, but each decision comes at a cost. Make a choice and accept the cost of the choice.

Not choosing is also a choice, it is your choice. It has a cost and a price to pay. Only you can decide if the price is too high.

Personal

Many people remain in unhealthy situations because they feel that it is somehow their destiny.

God or the universe is somehow punishing them for bad decisions, or just plain does not like them. There is no such thing as bad luck, only bad decisions. You can always make better ones as long as you are alive.

No matter how painful your present situation, you are not the only one who has had this problem. You have not been singled out for special suffering.

You do, however decide how long you will suffer. You do control your destiny. What do you want your future to look like?

The first step toward planting change is to stop asking the wrong questions:

Why me? is not the right question.

Why not you? is a better one. You have been given a unique opportunity to overcome a challenge. You are being strengthened by the process.

You have not been singled out. You are not a victim of bad luck. You are in the midst of growth and learning. Everyone has their own burdens to bear. Yours are not unique.

The right questions, therefore, are:

What can I do to make the situation better?

What needs to change? In order for the situation to change, you must believe you have the POWER to change. You must believe that you CAN change and change NOW.

What am I learning from this?

What can I use this for to help others?

Pain

Your present situation and your future all hinge on what you attach pain to. We move toward pleasure and away from pain. In case of a tie, pain wins.

People who feel victimized by their situation are actually trapped in a pain-pain barrier. They feel that no matter what they do, they will have pain, so they choose either what they perceive as least painful, or choose to do nothing.

The women in my classes are faced with this dilemma. They attach leaving their abusers with pain – poverty, loneliness, guilt, shame, fear, religious punishment (in the case of divorce.)

Sometimes (and unfortunately many times they are right) these women fear escalation of violence if they leave. They fear losing their children and sometimes their lives. Some have been stalked and have resigned themselves to a life of fear.

This emotional pain is stronger than the physical pain they endure from the beatings, so they remain in the present situation. The internal pain is stronger than their external pain.

Sometimes we link more pain to change, to the unknown than to our present situation. We stagnate due to our fear. We are afraid to leave our jobs, move to a new city, start a business because we what-if ourselves into staying put.

Our subconscious is keeping us in our comfort zone.

Before you can plant the seeds of change, you must reach your pain threshold. You must experience pain so intense that you must change NOW.

You must link more pain to staying in your present situation than moving ahead. Once you can do that, change will begin.

I know one woman who remained in abuse for 17 years until her husband began to abuse the children. The pain of watching her children suffer was enough for her to pack up THAT DAY and leave without a dime to her name.

If you fail to change, it is because you have not reached your pain threshold. This threshold is different with each person.

Your destiny is shaped therefore, by what you attach pleasure and pain to, not by current circumstances.

I don’t blame domestic violence on the target of the violence. I blame it squarely on the person who does the beating. They are in control of their emotions and their fists. They refuse to do so.

If it were up to me, I would lock the whole bunch of them up without chance of parole. But no one asked me.

Having said that, however, we must look at the unpleasant reality of culpability. Although not popular, you must admit your role in your current situation in order to realistically change. This is the painful part of the process.

SHORT-TERM PLEASURE CAN CAUSE LONG-TERM PAIN.

A 16 year old who chooses to drop out of high school and has a baby with her 18 year old boyfriend who is also a high school dropout must realize her culpability in her current situation.

You must admit to past mistakes in order to change them. Excuses and blame lead to more mistakes.

Likewise, LONG-TERM PLEASURE CAN CAUSE SHORT-TERM PAIN. Anything you want to change will require breaking through short-term pain.

My students come to class because they have reached their pain threshold. Each time a woman shows up for class in spite of the crutches, slings and black eyes, she is making that change. She is moving toward a better future.

Although I wish they would take my advice and go to a shelter where they can be physically safe, by enduring, they are at least breaking through the short-term pain for long-term pleasure.

She is making a statement that she has had enough. She is becoming stronger each term.

Proactive

Change is a function of motivation, not ability.

DECISIONS, NOT CONDITIONS DETERMINE DESTINY.

You must plan your own life, or someone else will. If you choose not to live proactively, it is your decision, your choice, your fault.

How we interpret events shapes our lives.

How we deal with failure shapes our lives.

When we experience enough failure, we develop a sense of learned helplessness. We indulge in beliefs that life is somehow hopeless; we are somehow hopeless and worthless.

When I listen to my abused students, I often hear the same thing over and over. Their abuser tells them that they are worthless, incapable, stupid, ugly, etc. Eventually they become convinced that they are unworthy of happiness.

They learn to be hopeless.

I ask them point blank – are you? Then I show them why they are not any of those things. I bring them PROOF. They must choose whether to accept or reject my proof.

One thing I have been successful at with these women is pointing out their abilities. Each class they attend, each paper they write, each examination that they pass adds another positive weight to their self-confidence scale.

Even when they fail an exam, I show them how much they have learned instead of what they did not learn. I teach them what they must do the next time in order to pass.

I do not feel sorry for them, only for their circumstances. They are strong and able, they must just believe in themselves.

I never give these students special treatment. To do so is a great disservice to them.

Instead, I hold them to the same standards that I hold their classmates to. They are accountable.

For the first time in their lives, they experience fair treatment. They begin to see that life truly is fair and they are not some sort of cosmic loser.

Once they begin to understand themselves, they are less apt to accept the negative assessments of their self-worth from their oppressors.

Through education, they develop a better vision for their lives. They begin to improve upon the idea of what is good enough for them. They begin to fight back emotionally.

Once they begin to understand that they and no one else is responsible for their decisions, they are able to make choices that create a better future for themselves and their children.

Because they are not victims, they will succeed in life.

Law of Attraction

People who feel victimized are exhausting to be around. They complain constantly and drain your own emotional energy with their tales of woe.

They unknowingly evoke the law of attraction to further their own negative state of affairs.

Positive people and positive opportunities will avoid those who constantly complain about their circumstances.

Positive people are attracted to other positive people and repelled by victims.

When I see my abused students march down the aisle to receive their degrees next month, I do not see victims, I see survivors.

Success will be attracted to them because they took control and made a change.

This, dear readers is why I teach.

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About living4bliss

Mental Health Food is the place to stop to get your bliss on everyday. I give tips, hints and sometimes a little silliness to help you navigate the challenges of life. We have a great community of positive bloggers that keep the bliss going all day every day. Make sure to visit their blogs, too. Mental Health Food is a product of Believing Life Is Setup for Success, Inc. (B.L.I.S.S.) in Thornton, CO. We have been in the business of teaching success since 1991. We provide workshops, consulting services and now videos that help people just like you start and maintain successful businesses and personal lives using what you already have. Enjoy a daily dose of Mental Health Food; nourishment for the mind.

4 responses »

  1. I will be sharing this article with some of my clients! Many of my clients are stuck, only in their heads. They choose to stay in the most miserable situations to avoid the anxiety that change often brings. I can do my part to help them see the light, but as you said, I can’t force them. Thank you for such a great article. I hope this brings light to many suffering individuals.

  2. living4bliss says:

    We often want so much to help. From the outside the answer seems simple – just leave, but as bad as the physical injuries are to these women, they cannot compare to the emotional injuries that they suffer.

  3. Each step that they pass makes a stepping stone. Before they know it, they’ve graduated. Wish them well for me!!

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