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May 17, 2006
Column #1,290
Advance for May 20, 2006
"You Don't Have To Take It Anymore"
by Michael J. McManus

Millions of women are married to angry, resentful, emotionally abusive men. They "walk
on eggshells" fearful that anything they might say or do, will set off a rage. Powerful emotions
such as love, guilt, shame and abandonment anxiety keep them attached to a person who could
become physically abusive.

"You Don't Have To Take It Anymore," is a new book with a powerful answer for both
the woman being abused and her abuser. It was written by Dr. Steven Stosny, who appeared on
"Oprah" last year.

The book "will prevent problems of anger, abuse, physical battering and just
plain unhappiness by eliminating the resentment that leads to all of them," he writes.

How? By rediscovering one's core value of compassion for oneself and for others.

Stosny himself grew up in an abusive home, and has a hole in his head from when his
father threw a shingle at the boy aged three, which cut into his skull and had to be surgically
removed. His mother moved out of the house 13 times before she left him for good.

As a graduate student, Stosny asked his mother about the abuse and she told him, "Find
out why these men and the women who do it can't feel enough compassion. Figure out how to
make them more compassionate, and you'll really have something."

That insight set the course of Stosny's life and career.

His book begins with helping the woman break free from her expectation that she is
dependent upon him for her emotional well-being. "You must heal and grow, whether or not he
changes," he writes. Even though she may feel that he ought to make the changes, her own pain
tells her that she has "to become the fully alive person you are meant to be. This means you have
to remove the focus from him and put it squarely on you. Happily, that is also the best thing you
can do to help him and your relationship."

Stosny argues that all forms of abuse are failures of compassion. The husband's anger and
resentment are about his inability to live up to his core value of compassion. He stops caring
about how she feels. That makes the wife feel unlovable.

The book shows her how to rediscover her core values of being a loving person - so
compassionate toward her husband that she helps him out of his self-destructive path.

Traditional marriage counseling will not help either of them. Indeed, it makes it worse.
Because the man is 10 times more likely to drop out than his wife, therapists try to help the male
explain why she is to blame in a given incident. Instead of addressing his abusiveness, the
therapist may focus on her judgmental tone of voice which "pushed his buttons."

Stosny's approach is the exact opposite. Based on years of working with court-referred
clients who had beaten their spouses, he tells men stop thinking that she has to change. "You feel empowered when you control how you behave, in accordance with your deepest
values." He asks a husband to sign a document obligating him to "make a supreme effort to be
compassionate with you. I will try hard to understand and sympathize with your perspective."

He asks men to write down "What is the most important thing about you as a
person," as a husband and father. What drives men to act against these core values are core hurts
a feeling of being disregarded, unimportant, devalued, powerless, unlovable. On the other hand,
each time a man is compassionate toward his wife, he gains power and self-confidence.

He teaches men a technique calls HEALS, to replace habitual anger with memory of their
core values. The H stands for HEALS, which they repeat in their mind: HEALS HEALS.

The E is to Experience briefly their deepest core hurt.

A is Access their core value.

L is to Love yourself.

And S is to Solve the problem.

Stosny urges men to practice HEALS a dozen times a day for six weeks: before they get
out of bed, before they leave the house, at a morning break, at lunch time, etc. In time, this
reprogramming enables the man to automatically replace his anger with love. That rebuilds his
marriage.

One study of court-referred clients reported that a year later, 90 percent of the physical
violence had stopped and 80 percent of verbal violence.

This book is a must read for clergy, therapists and anyone in an abusive relationship.
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