Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade, 2003
Price: $16.00

ISBN-10: 0425191656
ISBN-13: 978-0425191651

In the United States alone, two to four million women are physically and emotionally assaulted by their partners. At least one out of three American women will be a victim of abuse by a husband or boyfriend in her lifetime. And while all physical violence in relationships includes a strong element of emotional violence, there are still more relationships in which emotional abuse alone is the weapon of choice. It is the latter that can be so difficult to detect from the outside looking in, so easy for the abuser to hide not only from others, but even to rationalize to himself. Yet the damage done from emotional abuse, with or without the physical component, is far more injurious in the long run and far more complex to heal.

Author Lundy Bancroft was former co-director of Emerge, the first program specifically created for abusive men in the United States. He has worked extensively with abusive men for nearly two decades and has frequently been expert witness in the legal system involving abuse cases.

Bancroft outlines the early warning signs of an abusive man; ten abusive personality types; the role of addiction in abuse; what can and cannot be changed in abusive men; and how to get out of an abusive relationship safely.

One of the most frequently accepted myths, even by therapists, is that the abusive man’s partner is in some part accountable for the abuse—if only as “enabler.” First among 17 myths Bancroft dispels in his book is that the victim of the abuser plays any part whatsoever in the abusive behavior of her partner. Bancroft writes:

“Part of how the abuser escapes confronting himself is by convincing you that you are the cause of his behavior, or that you at least share the blame. But abuse is not the product of bad relationship dynamics, and you cannot make things better by changing your own behavior or by attempting to manage your partner better. Abuse is a problem that lies entirely within the abuser.” (pg. 19)

If Bancroft’s book hammers home nothing more this one truth, then it is worth its weight in gold. Today’s therapists and many modern-day books of relationship self-help commonly advise that it “takes two to tango,” that both partners are accountable—yet Bancroft dismantles this theory and illustrates time and again how an abusive man is an entity in himself. The victim’s only role in this dynamic is to protect herself, and, ultimately, to leave the relationship as the abuse usually only escalates—not only over the length of that particular relationship, but also over a lifetime of relationships in which the abuser is a partner. The longer (and more intimate) the relationship, the more his abusive behavior has time to surface and escalate.

One by one, Bancroft invalidates all the common excuses an abuser will inevitably use. The exploded myths are:

· He was abused as a child.
· His previous partner hurt him.
· He abuses those he loves the most.
· He holds in his feelings too much.
· He has an aggressive personality.
· He loses control.
· He is too angry.
· He is mentally ill.
· He hates women.
· He is afraid of intimacy and abandonment.
· He has low self-esteem.
· His boss mistreats him.
· He has poor skills in communication and conflict resolution.
· There are as many abusive women as abusive men.
· His abusiveness is as bad for him as for his partner.
· He is a victim of racism.
· He abuses alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behavior.

While many of these circumstances may indeed apply, none of these are excuses or even causes for his behavior. Dealing with any of these issues, while that may be otherwise helpful to him as a troubled individual, will not have any lasting affect on his abusive behavior. In fact, dealing with any of these issues first and foremost, rather than dealing directly with his thought patterns, can and often does aggravate his abusiveness.

What Bancroft proves with admirable ease and inarguable clarity, building block by block, is that the abusive man is not only in complete control of his behavior, but that he chooses to behave as he does because he feels justified and he enjoys the control he yields. He takes pleasure in controlling another human being and having her at the beck and call of his ego—most often, in the form of multiple affairs, some of which may or may not be abusive in nature (yes, an abuser can be nice to some while cruel to others, evidence of the control he has over his behavior).

In his mind, this man has built himself up to be supremely entitled. Therapy will not work on him, because it is not his underlying emotions that are the core issue, but his thinking process. That is, his lack of a healthy value system, his lack of empathy for the person he abuses, his general disrespect for women. It may or may not be that he had a rough childhood with poor role models. But somewhere along the way, the abuser made a choice to be who he is, and the rewards of his abuse are too great for him to want to make the necessary changes. He will resist changing, will often insist change is “impossible” for him, and is expert at listing endless reasons and excuses why he remains as he is. “He may hide what he does because he thinks other people would disagree with it, but he feels justified inside.” (pg. 35)

Hand in hand with abuse is the abuser’s compulsive lying. He not only lies to his partner, but he lies to himself. Always concerned with the image he presents to the public, he often rewrites his own history and presents a whitewashed version of himself and his life to others. Over time, he becomes so convinced of his own lies that he can even be capable of passing a lie detector test. Why sweat it if you believe it? In his mind, how he behaves is based on acceptable reason. Even as the truth is put irrefutably on the table, he will insist on his own “truth” at any cost.

Typically we hear of abuse being handed down from generation to generation, i.e. the abused becomes the abuser. Bancroft argues this is not genetic as much as it is observed and, in adult years, chosen behavior: “… research has shown that men who have abusive mothers do not tend to develop especially negative attitudes toward females, but men who have abusive fathers do; the disrespect that abusive men show their female partners and their daughters is often absorbed by their sons … the great majority exhibit a more subtle—though often quite pervasive—sense of superiority or contempt toward females, and some don’t show any obvious signs of problems with women at all until they are in a serious relationship.” (pg. 41) The casual and short-lived relationship may allow him to keep his charming mask intact, but the more longstanding and serious a relationship, the more the abuser shows his true colors.

Bancroft explains the dangers of therapy with abusers, why it escalates abuse rather than alleviates it in the long run. “You can’t manage an abuser except for brief periods. Praising him and boosting his self-opinion may buy you some time, but sooner or later he’ll jump back into chewing pieces out of you. When you try to improve an abuser’s feelings about himself, his problem actually tends to get worse. An abusive man expects catering, and the more positive attention he receives, the more he demands. He never reaches a point where he is satisfied, where he has been given enough. Rather, he gets used to the luxurious treatment he is receiving and soon escalates his demands … The self-esteem myth is rewarding for the abuser, because it gets his partner, his therapist, and others to cater him emotionally.” (pg. 43)

It is no accident that many if not most abusers have problems with pornography use and cheating on their partners. Pornography is based on objectifying women, building the sense of justification in the mind of the abuser for his behavior toward women, who are, in his mind, more object than human, not worthy of respect or empathy, and exist merely for his pleasure.

“Objectification is a critical reason why an abuser tends to get worse over time. As his conscience adapts to one level of cruelty—he builds to the next. By depersonalizing his partner, the abuser protects himself from the natural human emotions of guilt and empathy, so that he can sleep at night with a clear conscience. He distances himself so far from her humanity that her feelings no longer count, or simply cease to exist.” (pg. 63)

Bancroft sums it all up: “Abuse and respect are diametric opposites: You do not respect someone whom you abuse, and you do not abuse someone whom you respect.” (pg. 64)

And where there is no respect, there is no love. While many abused women stay in abusive relationships even after the abuse surfaces time and again, hoping for change that never happens, Bancroft reminds us that respect is the necessary ground floor on which love is built.

“The more a man abuses you, the more he is demonstrating that he cares only about himself. He may feel a powerful desire to receive your love and caretaking, but he only wants to give love when it’s convenient.” (pg.64)

The abusive man may not consciously be lying when he tells his partner he loves her, but he is probably unable to recognize the emotion of real love. He easily confuses it with a “powerful stirring” that is actually nothing more than having a desire for a partner “who devotes her life to keeping him happy, a desire for sexual access, a desire to impress others by having you as his partner, and his insatiable desire to possess and control you. It is not that the abuser is incapable of genuine love,” Bancroft says, as much as it is his inability to “really see you.” (pg. 65)

With all this confusion in abusive relationships about what is and isn’t genuine love, Bancroft offers: “Genuine love means respecting the humanity of the other person, wanting what is best for him or her, and supporting the other person’s self-esteem and independence. This kind of love is incompatible with abuse and coercion.” (pg.65)

Another reason therapy fails so miserably with the abusive man is because he is a practiced liar—a form of emotional abuse in itself—and cannot be relied upon to be honest with himself, let alone his therapist. Bancroft writes of his experiences in programs that do work with abusive men, and how initially very few of them will admit to how extensive their abuse has been. While all will admit, quite freely, in fact, to some of their abuse, few if any will admit to its full extent. They may also have so justified it in their own minds that they no longer recognize it as abuse. Regrettably, it is a rare therapist who will contact the abused partner for her side of the story (something Bancroft and the Emerge program always does), which will inevitably vary radically from his. It is impossible to treat what one does not know. Without checking on their stories, too many therapists inadvertently validate the abuser and help rather than defer his faulty thinking.

Most abusers cheat on their partners; it is a large part of their sense of entitlement. Bancroft refers to this type of abuser as “The Player.” He is extremely needy of female attention. Charming and flirtatious when he chooses to be, he plays his women, friends and lovers, against each other, all to serve his ego. His tactic is to tell each of his women how the others have mistreated him, eliciting each one’s support and validation. He uses women with no regard for the effect of his behavior on them. He will blame past breakups on the women rather than to take responsibility for the common denominator: himself. It is not uncommon for this type of abuser to claim that he was the abused one, and that if he ever reacted in abusive manner, it was surely her fault. She had it coming to her.

An abuser is, however, neither monster nor victim, Bancroft states. He has two sides to his personality, distinct as Jekyll and Hyde, and so his partner will hang onto the relationship sometimes for many years, pinning her hopes to his “good” side and suffering through the bad. He is fully capable of being a good and loving man. The point is… he chooses not to be. By adulthood, the manipulative and controlling behavior he learned from various sources growing up—key male role models, peers, and pervasive cultural messages—has become so deeply integrated that he acts largely on automatic. “He knows what he is doing but not necessarily why.” (pg. 113)

Bancroft lists red flags for women potentially entering into or already in abusive relationships to protect themselves:

· He speaks disrespectfully about his partners – “A certain amount of anger and resentment toward an ex-partner is normal, but beware of the man who is very focused on his bitterness or who tells you about it inappropriately early on in your dating … be cautious also of the man who admits to abusing a former partner but claims that the circumstances were exceptional, blames it on her, or blames it on alcohol or immaturity.” (pg. 115)

· Be cautious of the man who says that “you are nothing like the women he has been involved with, that you are the first partner to treat him well, or that earlier women in his life have not understood him. You will be tempted to work doubly hard to prove that you aren’t like those other women, and one foot will already be in the trap … a few men have the opposite approach, which is to glorify and elevate their former partners so that you feel like you can never quite compete. If he starts to lament the fact that you aren’t as sexy, athletic, domestic, or successful as the women who went before you, I can assure you that you won’t measure up any better later, no matter how hard you try. He wants to feel one up on you so that he can have the upper hand.” (pg. 115)

· He is disrespectful toward you – cutting and sarcastic early on, even after you have expressed that such behavior is hurtful to you, or the opposite extreme of putting his women on a pedestal, another form of objectification.

· He does favors for you that you don’t want or makes such a show of generosity that he makes you uncomfortable – if that early behavior seems too good to be true, chances are, it isn’t.

· Nothing is ever his fault – he blames something or someone else for anything that goes wrong or is not to his liking. If he makes apologies, they are insincere and followed by justification.

· He is self-centered – “Self-centeredness is a personality characteristic that is highly resistant to change, as it has deep roots in either profound entitlement or to severe early injuries, or both (in narcissistic abusers). (pg 118)

· He abuses drugs or alcohol or has an addiction to pornography.

· He pressures you for sex – “is a sign of seeing women as sex objects rather than human beings,” precursor to how he will later rationalize his cheating, pressuring other women for sex.

· He intimidates you when he’s angry – and this includes not only physical violence, but using his size and presence to make you flinch or feel afraid.

· He has double standards – because all abusive men have one standard for themselves, another for you, especially when it comes to how you express your anger. His anger can be freely unleashed at any time; yours must be short-lived and by his permission only.

· He treats you differently around other people – dispelling the myth of being out of control, note that the abuser is quite capable of turning off his behavior in society and in the work place, while using you as a scapegoat. Outsiders often are fooled into thinking he is a loving partner (image is important to him), while behind closed doors his shadow side emerges.

· He is attracted to vulnerability - He enjoys playing the role of “rescuer,” preying on “damsels in distress” that are vulnerable and so can easily be manipulated and controlled.

Bancroft discusses in great detail what is and is not abusive behavior (we can all be abusive on occasion, but watch for ongoing patterns that will not change even when confronted about the behavior) and how to respond. He lists typical responses that indicate you are dealing with an abuser (the abuser commonly tells you that you are being “too sensitive” when his hurtful remarks reach their mark). Bancroft also describes the “gaslighting” effect the abuser uses on his victim, constantly traveling back and forth between good guy and bad guy to keep you unsettled and confused. He will take back words he said one moment, only to tell you in the next that is not at all what he meant, causing his partner to question her sense of judgement. He is expert at mind games.

Skeptical of change, Bancroft advises skepticism in the victim not yet ready to leave, and describes, again, what to watch for in the abuser to detect that his apologies and promises to change might actually be sincere. To begin with, he states, the abuser who is sincerely remorseful will not put a timeline on the expression of your hurt and anger, “giving you some extended room to be angry about what he did, rather than telling you that you’ve been angry too long or tying to stuff your angry feelings back down your throat,” nor will he make excuses or try to offer rationalizations for his behavior. (pg. 133) If he complains that your “grievances” take too long and tells you to “get over it,” he has not yet taken responsibility for his behavior and is showing a lack of readiness to change.

In spite of abuse, many partners of abusers have a very difficult time leaving. In explanation of this bond between abuser and abusee, Bancroft discusses why it is actually more difficult to leave an abusive relationship than a normal relationship that has run its course. “The longer you have been living with his cycles of intermittent abuse and kind, loving treatment, the more attached you are likely to feel to him, through a process known as traumatic bonding.” The longer you stay, Bancroft warns, the harder it becomes to leave. His advice is to leave sooner than later, especially if children are involved. (pg.134)

Bancroft gives recommendations for finding help (legal advice, support groups, therapy for the abused partner, which he suggests the abuser should pay for as part of making amends), from checking with the source to uncover deceit (he strongly suggests women involved with these men to check with each other rather than to accept his side of the story), to hotlines and organizations to assist women in abusive relationships.

“If I were asked to select one salient characteristic of my abusive clients, an aspect of their nature that stands out above all others, I would choose this one: They feel profoundly justified. Every effort to reach an abuser must be based on the antidote to this attitude: Abuse is wrong; you are responsible for your own actions; no excuse is acceptable; the damage you are doing is incalculable; your problem is yours alone to solve.” (pg. 376)

Why Does He Do That? is a comprehensive book offering much good advice and a deeper understanding of the abusive relationship. Bancroft concludes with a call to action for society—to not look the other way when we see abusive behavior, to offer support to abused partners, to take a second look at the kind of behavior we encourage with the current trend to objectify women. Awareness and sensitivity to this epidemic of domestic violence (and make no mistake, emotional abuse, too, should be considered violence) can go a long way to eliminating it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Crude Awakening - The Oil Crash (Movie Review)

Movie (Documentary) Review by Zinta Aistars

Directors: Basil Gelpke, Reto Caduff, Ray McCormack
Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC
Language: English
Number of discs: 1
DVD Release Date: July 31, 2007
Run Time: 85 minutes

Price: $26.95

Another documentary, a companion to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, that I am recommending to everyone that crosses my path - especially if they are crossing in a machine. This is the wake-up call to our oil-addicted nation that we need to get started on those 12 steps of ending addictive behavior, and we need to do so in fast forward.

Produced by award-winning filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack, A Crude Awakening explores the crisis approaching at blink speed, beginning with those nations, US at the top of that list, who are dependent on oil (and don't think we are talking just about our cars, but all products produced from oil, e.g. aspirin, plastics, paint, candles, solvents, perfumes, lotions, cosmetics, carpets, toothpaste, roofing, etc.) who will be hit the hardest. Just a few short decades ago, we were told this supply of "dinosaur's blood," "black gold," would last forever, at least a few more centuries (said Nixon), but in fact is nearing the bottom of the barrel now.

How are we responding to this approaching crisis? Are we doing research? Developing alternative energy sources? In small pockets, perhaps, but not nearly enough to replace what energy we are using now. No solar, nuclear, wind, or other forms of energy can possibly replace the amount of oil energy we are presently consuming. Indeed, watch those who line up to buy Hummers, these steel road monsters that get a whopping 10 miles per gallon. Are we really so incapable of thinking beyond our own shallow and selfish instant gratification? Are we so willing to make our children and grandchildren pay? One wonders whether such drivers shouldn't be prosecuted for treason. Even as we continue to keep our heads in sand, we now desperately dig for oil in sand - another sign that the pure stuff is already nearly gone.

In a series of interviews with various experts, this film explores what has been, what is, what will soon be if we do not face up to our oil addiction immediately. Concluding thoughts with which the film leaves us: we are accountable for the government we have voted into place. We have an administration that responds (at best) to a crisis, but does nothing to prevent a crisis. It is up to us, the voters, to make the calls, write the letters, create the loud and clear demand that alternative energy sources be researched and developed as soon as possible. As in, yesterday. It is up to us to let our representatives know that we will support them if they work toward alternative and sustainable energy sources. It is up to us to make this a primary concern in upcoming elections. It's time. It's past time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult (November 1, 2007)
Price: $26.95
ISBN-10: 0670018260
ISBN-13: 978-0670018260

A mesmerizing read, thorougly engaging, painfully revealing of the dark that lurks inside each and every one of us, and right beside that shadow, the light. I first heard about "The Mascot" on an NPR station, with both son and father being interviewed--and I knew this was a story I needed to read and ponder. After all, it touched upon some part of my own heritage as a Latvian born of immigrant parents, come to the United States during WWII as refugees fleeing the Soviet occupation in Latvia.

This is the story of Uldis Kurzemnieks, by birth Ilya Galperin, a Jewish boy caught in the turning wheels of the Nazi onslaught and Holocaust. To the best of his memory, Uldis/Ilya tells his story to his son, the book's author, Mark Kurzem, and his memory seems remarkable indeed for one so very young. In bits and puzzle pieces, the now elderly man recalls his childhood of close escape from Nazis executing Jews in Belarus, his mother and siblings of those who did not survive. After six months wandering in the woods, eating berries, wrapping himself in the coat of a dead soldier, the boy is rescued by a group of Latvian SS soldiers who subsequently transform him into something of a miniature soldier-mascot. They treat him well. But here is the flux of the circumstance: the very ones who save his life are also the same who execute more Jews, and not all of them realize that the boy is Jewish, too. This is the story of extreme paradox, in which we see that one man, one group of soldiers, can exhibit mercy just as they exhibit unspeakable cruelty. Perhaps all soldiers can say the same.

The horror of the Holocaust is incomprehensible and unforgivable. Many are accountable, by commission just as by ommission of deed. No doubt, young Uldis witnessed in very close encounter the worst of humanity and suffered lifelong for it. What makes my Latvian heart ache, aside from this, however, is that the author of this book sweeps with just as broad a brush across another nation--the Latvians--as was swept across his--the Jews--as if an entire nation of peoples can be called wholly good or evil. Indeed, very few individuals can be called one or the other, but contain a blend of both, let alone an entire country be crossed off as such.

The irony of this is that the Latvian nation has suffered a very similar fate and at almost the same moment in time. This is a tiny Baltic country that has been occupied by one great power or another through almost its entire history. We, too, have been herded onto cattle cars in the dark of the night at gunpoint, our children and elderly executed, deported to concentration camps in Siberia, our property, our homes and land and businesses annihilated or stolen from us, our families dispersed, our freedom denied us, and lived through many years of strategic genocide. Kurzem accuses us of whitewashing our history to hide our sins against the Jews. I would argue that ALL histories are a mix of truth and propaganda; look to its source to find its slant. We, too, carry a mark of guilt on our foreheads, and I will not deny it. We owe apologies, even as apologies are owed us. Caught between two superpowers, two great evils, we made hard choices that I am not equipped to defend or accuse in that I myself have never stood in such a position, nor my own child, my own home so threatened. Only those who have stood in such a place, their own families under threat, can truly say what they would do to save their own.

Consider, too, the source of at least some of Kurzem's most damning evidence against this battalion of Latvian soldiers: the Soviets. I will not make excuses or rationalizations, only urge the author, and this book's readers, to consider that no one entire nation should be so marked as wrong or right, but each individual called to judgment for his or her actions. Just as Americans would hope not to be judged by Abu Ghraib in Iraq or My Lai in Vietnam or the Trail of Tears in the South U.S., so let us practice tolerance and understanding for all until proven otherwise, and not curse an entire nation for the actions of a few.

That aside, I plan to give this book to read to my friends and family. It is a remarkable story. While not all details can be verified, memory being what it is, enough is evidence-based that we can, and should, learn from this story and engrain it in ourselves: this must never happen again.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

Paperback: 88 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press; 1 edition (September 3, 2007)
Price: $14.00
ISBN-10: 0807068977
ISBN-13: 978-0807068977

Live long enough, live deep enough, and you will find, as Mary Oliver does in these 43 poems collected in "Thirst," that all grief edges joy, all joy is edged by grief. It is only in a deep and courageous immersion into life, and perhaps also that place beyond life, that one can fully experience this wonder, a kind of yin and yang, the light beside the shadow, phenomenon that is living with thirst, quenched or unquenched.

There is nothing pretentious about Oliver's poetry. She is simplicity and purity itself. Thirst is how she approaches living, and now dying - in her expression of grief for the loss of her longtime life partner. This does not change how she approaches living, only intensifies it. "My work is loving the world," she writes in her opening poem, "Messenger." She observes the world, then observes herself in it, part and parcel. "Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums./Here the clam deep in the speckled sand./Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?/Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me/keep my mind on what matters,/which is my work,/which is mostly standing still and learning to be/astonished."

Much of this collection is Oliver's conversation with God having a conversation with her. Their dialogue is filtered by nature, where everyplace is a place of worship and every living thing ministering to her and she reciprocating. Her dogs speak of unconditional love and simple acceptance, an exchanged gaze with a snake is looking into the eyes of divinity (and not the darker side). Praying can be done through the weeds in a vacant lot. The words do not have to be elaborate, Oliver writes, "but a doorway/into thanks, and a silence in which/another voice may speak." This same sentiment is echoed with utmost simplicity in the poem, "The Uses of Sorrow" - that a box full of darkness given to her by another can also be a gift, a richer blessing.

When you think you cannot go closer, or dive deeper, or come up into brighter light, as Oliver writes in her poetry - you can. Just when you think Oliver cannot elicit more beauty out of the everyday word - she does. We thirst for more.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself by Beverly Engel

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

Paperback: 244 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (January 21, 1992)
Price: $13.95
ISBN-10: 0449906442
ISBN-13: 978-0449906446

It can take years, even a lifetime, to heal from emotional abuse. The author, Beverly Engel, lets us know within the first pages that she has endured a history of abuse, and from this background, she has made her career choices, mainly, to become a therapist helping others in similar circumstances.

The abused person is often taken by surprise, emotionally involved before the abuse fully takes hold. The abuser often has a two-sided personality, referred to as Jekyll and Hyde - one charming and intelligent and likeable, the other a cruel and perverse tormentor.

Engel writes: "It is often difficult for a woman to admit that she is indeed being emotionally abused, particularly if she is competent and successful in other respects... many women who are being emotionally abused do not even realize what is happening to them. Many suffer from the effects of emotional abuse - depression, lack of motivation, confusion, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, low self-esteem, feelings of failure, worthlessness, and hopelessness, self-blame, and self-destructiveness - but do not understand what is causing these symptoms."

The process seeps into the psyche like a slow poison, rearranging our ability to cope. "She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to her abuser."

Which is perhaps the hardest to understand, by the woman herself as well as family and friends who keep asking - "Why do you stay? Why do you put up with it?" - and never find a rational answer. There is none. Engel explains, "Emotional-abuse victims become so convinced they are worthless that they believe no one else could possibly want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go."

Engel takes us through the ways that emotional abuse expresses itself and how it works. "Emotionally abusive lovers and mates cause tremendous damage to a woman's ego. They have our trust, our vulnerability, our hearts, and our bodies. Using a variety of tactics, an abusive husband or lover can damage a woman's self-esteem, make her doubt her desirability and hate her body, and break her heart... When we love someone we tend to make excuses for his behavior; we always want to give him the benefit of the doubt. This is especially true when the other person is good to us in other ways." The abuser, Engel writes, makes his partner believe "she was so stupid, ugly, and unlovable that she was lucky to have him... told her she wasn't as pretty as the other girls he had dated, that she wasn't good in bed, and that his friends didn't think she was good enough for him."

And who is he? Often, Engel says, he is an addict of some kind, whether to alcohol or drugs or sex, and his own self-esteem is so low that he can keep a partner only by causing her self-esteem to be even lower than his own. He is frequently the product of abuse himself, often taking on the traits of his own abusers. He tends to be socially isolated, unable to maintain any healthy friendships or other relationships.

Once Engel has helped us understand the process and the damage done by it, she encourages and instructs on how to release years of pent-up rage in constructive manner, while rebuilding confidence. There are no shortcuts to healing. Finally, she helps us to understand how to stop repeating the cycle by finishing unfinished business, how to recognize the red flags of an abusive person when we first meet him. If we have not allowed the time to release our anger and heal the damage, we are doomed to repeat the pattern.

For this reason above all, this is an important book to read for anyone who has felt the lash of such abuse. Take the time to understand. Take the time to work through the damage. Take the time to heal. Take the time to nurture yourself back to health and rebuild your ability to love and to know real love when you meet it.