We typically call someone who uses abuse to control or manipulate others an abuser. I certainly have, in countless previous articles, but perhaps there’s a different way we can view these individuals, one that gives us a more charitable perspective as well as relieves some of our cognitive dissonance.
At the same time, we must always remember that there is no excuse for abuse,and those who use such tactics need to take full responsibility for their choices and actions.
Part of my training to become an inner healing life coach has included the study of a therapeutic method called internal family systems (IFS). Developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, IFS suggests that within each of us are many sub-personalities or “families,” such as wounded parts, those parts of us that try to protect us from further hurt, and parts of us that we may not like.
Although our primary self—made in the image and likeness of God—was created as a cohesive whole, we live in a fallen world. We get hurt, we hurt others; we develop addictions or traumas, we feel anxious or ashamed.
Under the IFS model, we can now separate our core, primary self from our various sub-parts. For example, I’m not an anxious person at the core of my beinghood, but I do have an anxious part, a part that has tried to take over and run the show in an effort to alert me of the emotional danger I was enduring for so long. Now that I’m in a safe place, I no longer need that protector part to be so prominent; I only need her to step forward and alert me to real threats. Part of my own work in healing from trauma has been to create harmony within my nervous system by honoring that part, while integrating it to the background role it deserves—to come out only as a justified warning that something in my life is off-kilter.
Yet how does this idea apply to someone who is abusive in their relationships?
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.