Alice’s husband criticized, harassed, bullied and controlled her. Even though she felt that the longer she stayed with him, the more she would lose herself and her future, for many reasons, she was afraid to stand up to him. She wondered how long it would take for her to develop the courage, strength and skill to get away and make it on her own.
Helped by coaching, Alice went through two steps:
- Developing the courage, strength and determination to get away, no matter what obstacles she put in her mind or he put in her path. She developed the endurance and flexibility necessary to pick up her spirits, no matter how she felt.
- Creating a plan and carrying it out successfully. That meant adjusting the plan as she saw what worked and what wasn’t effective. That also meant continuing on no matter how many times she fell down; getting up one more time than she fell.
Breakthroughs and step-throughs. The inner shift can be:
- Immediate and sudden (a breakthrough).
- Slow and building until a critical mass or tipping point is reached, at which point there is a breakthrough moment. That’s like the old quote: “At long-last, to be enlightened instantly.”
- Slow and cumulative (step-throughs).
Alice followed the second path. She had to remove all her objections one-by-one before she was ready to take the last step. For example, she had to overcome her ideas that:
- She deserved everything she got because she wasn’t perfect or wasn’t the way he wanted her to be.
- She would be weak and bad if she gave up on him; if she stopped thinking he could change.
- She had taken a holy vow to be his wife; she must keep it, no matter what.
- She couldn’t make without him.
- The kids needed a father.
- If she stood up or left him, he’d commit suicide and it’d be her fault.
- If she stood up or left him, he’d ruin her reputation or kill her and get the kids.
One step at a time got Alice there. Often we want to see if each next step is okay, not a disastrous change in life, before taking the one after that. We don’t want to step off a cliff – especially since the future is really not clear and we can’t predict with certainty that the ground is stable and firm ahead.
Finally, one night, in front of the kids, he grabbed her, put his face right next to hers and yelled that he would never change; she could expect him to do this every day or every moment he felt like it and it was important for the kids to see who the boss was.
Something in Alice snapped; she had a breakthrough. It was over for her. Instead of the usual flash of hot anger followed by guilt and fear, she felt a cold determination fueled by rage. She was done taking his bullying…forever.
Outer change usually requires more time (step-throughs):
- Skill learning is often step-through.
- Alice had to learn to resist her own self-bullying, guilt, fear and falling back.
- She had to resist the attempts of people to lure her or order her to go back.
- She had to resist her fears that he would take everything, including the kids, or that she’d be unable to support them.
- She had to resist her fears of being alone when some people they were once friendly with deserted her and took her husband’s side.
- She and her lawyer had to adjust her plans in response to his dirty tricks.
- She had to explain to the kids and to not give in to their attempts to minimize or ignore her husband’s behavior.
Alice discovered that each step taken successfully reinforced the next step and made the process faster. Someone told her it was like continuous improvement in the workplace. She felt it was more like learning to walk. And one small step can change your life.
Looking back, Alice realized she couldn’t stop her husband from behaving the way he chose, but she could get him out of her environment; she could create a bully-free zone around herself and her children.
Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps. Call me to design a plan that fits you and your situation. And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.