Escape from the “Abuse Contract”

Hello Dr. Burns,

I am Elif from Istanbul Turkey. Several years ago i found myself in a depression due to my boyfriend’s oppressive attitudes. For many years i accepted his oppressive personality because i loved him. But one day i realized that oppressive attitudes were just a form of psychological violence. And I started to hate myself and my boyfriend.

Then I read your book, Feeling Good, and it really healed me. I just want to say thank you for giving me back my happiness!


Hi Elif,

I am so glad you were able to overcome your depression and get your happiness back after reading Feeling Good. That’s heartwarming and awesome. I am so happy for you!

I am currently doing workshops on the treatment of trauma victims for mental health professionals in the United States and Canada. I describe what I call the “abuse contract.” This is an unwritten contract between someone who is the victim of abuse and the individual who does the abusing. There are three parts to this contract.

  1. I (the abuser) get to hurt you for my own pleasure. (The abuse can come in many forms—sexual, psychological, financial, physical, social.)
  2. The blame will be entirely on you, my victim. You are dirty and bad. You are abused because you deserve it. I am faultless, like a god.
  3. We have to keep this a secret, even between ourselves. You cannot tell anyone. If you ever suggest, even to me, that I am doing anything wrong, I will really hurt you!

Although this contract sounds totally absurd, for some strange reason many humans will buy into it, just as you had done. Victims will sometimes blame, even hate, themselves because someone else is treating them shabbily and exploiting them. This happens to children who are abused, but adults who are abused will also buy into the Abuse Contract.

Escaping from this horrible trap represents a form of enlightenment, liberation, and self-love.

Thank you for giving me permission to publish your email on my website under an assumed name. I appreciate your generosity, especially since your note may bring hope to some others who are currently experiencing abuse. Sadly, there seems to be an epidemic of abuse worldwide, and even of more concern is that the violence, aggression and exploitation seems to be on a dangerous increase throughout the world just now.

So many men seem to think they have the right to own and exploit women! The insensitivity and cruelty of humans is truly mind-boggling.


David Burns, MD

Elif kindly gave me permission to publish her photo proudly holding the Turkish edition of Feeling Good! Click here and enjoy!