December 10, 2011
The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse by Albert Ellis
This book is not a good resource for those in or leaving or who have already left a verbally/emotionally abusive relationship. There are several parts to this book and each covers a significant area. Of those, only the 1st and 4th parts have any redeeming qualities. The rest do too much blaming of the victim and seeking something that should not be sought.
Part 1 of this book overviews why the abuser is the way he/she is. It explains their motivations, need for approval, and joy in becoming stronger at another person's expense. It also shows the signs of an abuser and the difference between subtle and outright abusers. This part is actually very helpful because often victims of subtle abuse don't feel like they are really being abused as it isn't as outward or noticeable as being screamed at or hit. It helps validate what you're feeling and stops the doubt you may have in your mind that you're blowing it out of proportion.
Part 2 explores the “secret” of the book which to me was a load of rubbish. It is what they call REBT and the basic jist is that people only feel what they allow themselves to feel. That the abused is often an abuser of themselves because they are allowing their partner's abuse to control their feelings. It even goes so far as to claim that someone can use this technique and be happy in an abusive relationship. My largest problem with this method is that it labels different sets of thinking as “rational” and “irrational”. Since I was often told I was irrational it just opened up the wounds all over for me again.
Part 3 tells you how to use the secret. Once again I found this chapter largely useless because it went through examples of “irrational” and “rational” thought processes for different abusive situations. Again it seemed to hold the victim wholly responsible for how they were feeling. That their abuser couldn't hurt them if they didn't let them. I find this notion false because the reason abusers can hurt their victims is because they care and in caring open themselves up as vulnerable as relationships are two people being complete with each other. If you stop caring and stop being vulnerable, then there really isn't a point to continuing a relationship.
Part 4 details getting past your fear and anxiety. I actually found this part to be half helpful. Sure it had some of the same nonsense of the first few parts, but then it also had rationalizations for feeling terrible about leaving the relationship. It offered significant points on getting over the fact that the partner has found someone new and everything appears to be sunshine and roses. It tells you how you don't need someone to feel complete. And I do think those are worthy messages.
Part 5 talks about taking back your life and beginning to be happy again. But I didn't find anything very useful in those parts as it doesn't really outline a plan that someone who is currently suffering can really use. It just develops a plan for later, after you're feeling better about your situation.
I realize I sound very harsh in this review and I believe it needs to be harsh as the people who are probably looking to buy this book need the best and most thoughtful help they can get. This book is too much hard love for those who are already experiencing blame and harshness in their lives. Instead of empathizing it blames which is something no victim of abuse needs. While it does have some good points, it doesn't make this book worth reading unless you are not a victim of abuse and are reading solely for research purposes. Otherwise, it does have the potential to set someone back in their healing. If you are looking for a book to help heal, try Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft and remember that you need to take care of you before anyone else.
The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse