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Do People with Toxic Behaviors Deserve Compassion?

I got this question from a few of y’all thanks to the posts as of late and it is an important one.

I also am asked what motivates my posts (I get this question this so much!). They are inspired by a variety of things. Many of my clients are going the same things at the same time. Trends like this are what inspires most of my posting.

Now for my answer:

YES. They do. They’re in deep pain. They’re struggling. They’re hurting. They’re lost.

Note for survivors: You do not need to have compassion for your abuser. Focus on your life, your healing. You are not selfish or wrong for not forgiving or having compassion. Period.

But, for codependent people, this is a hook. It is a hook into their fantasy of being able to fix someone and make that person feel their love (thus rescuing them and hopefully becoming so valuable to that person that they’ll keep the codependent in their lives).

This is why I am so f*cking black-and-white with what I write (because it is for codependents and ex-codependents).

So, how do we show compassion for those that have toxic behaviors and act out in harmful ways?

If you’re a codependent, you approach it this way:

1) Refer them to professional help and GO ON WITH YOUR LIFE. If they’re a family member, you refer them to professional help and GO ON WITH YOUR LIFE. If they’re your spouse, you ATTEMPT THERAPY and invite them to it.

If they take ownership of their behaviors and stop their blame-game and start a new pattern of behavior of sharing, asking, and owning rather than taking, demanding, and blaming, you two have hope! KEEP GOING!

If they DO NOT DO THIS after repeated attempts (and this lasts for years), then you are faced with a difficult choice. Do you stay and tolerate a little (or a lot) of DRANO from the toxic person and lose your health, wealth, identity, and sanity? (NOT JOKING. Look up Intermittent reinforcement and what it does to mice. I’m not being extreme)

Or do you leave?

Countless clients have faced this. Many ask “what do I do?”

Each time I give it back to them. “You need to choose what is best for you here. This is where your power is. This must be a choice you make because you receive the consequences.”

I’ve used this same approach with couples that turned it around (yep, I’ve helped couples save their marriage/relationship! More than I’ve seen end, actually).

This is a sacred and important decision. One that you make from your heart and gut.

Now, if you’re non-codependent, here’s how I’ve seen people support recovering abusers:

1) Refer them to a professional and support them. Keep your eye out for patterns of contradictory behavior and claims. Watch out for blame-shifting and victimhood. Maintain consistent and firm boundaries.

People that are changing their lives and actually healing start off with lots of blame. Then they gradually start owning more of their behavior and eventually come to expressing their role in things AND acknowledging the hurt they experienced, too.

They start behaving from their natural, healthy identity.

This takes years.

I know. I did it.

2) Refer them to a professional and go on with your life.

Notice that having a relationship isn’t a requirement to have compassion? Notice that tolerating their behaviors isn’t a requirement either? Yep. People behaving in toxic ways need therapy and help. Not a relationship.

There are valuable rules for those who are supporting survivors and/or abusers: do not encourage the abuser to make amends with the person they hurt. Do not encourage the survivor to forgive the abuser or to stay with them. Do not assume your relationship experience gives you insight into how to help them with theirs. They are NOT the same (as evidenced by the results in the relationship!).

If you haven’t been through it, you cannot understand it. It is like sex, you can think you know about it, but until you’ve had it, you really have no clue.

Assume you have blind spots and they are affecting your understanding.
Believe the survivor and respect the growth the abuser will make. Just know this, abusers are skilled at lying and putting on a public persona. They are not the same person privately as they are publically.

I know this because I was this. I was a liar. I was a neglectful spouse and a selfish one. I was verbally abusive and emotionally explosive. I blamed everyone for my pain and avoided ownership of my heart and my life and the results I had.

It took very painful, very exposing work to heal and breakthrough. Then I had to face my own toxic codependency, too.

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