036: Ask David — Empowering the Victim With the Five Secrets

Don’t blame the victim!

IMG_1028In a recent blog, David described three types of “Reverse Hypnosis,” and talked about how frequently patients can hypnotize therapists into believing things that will tend to sabotage the therapy. Reverse Relationship Hypnosis means that the patient persuades the therapist that she or he really is a victim of the other person’s bad behavior. If therapists buy into this type of thinking, it can prevent the patient from examining ways she or he may be contributing to the problem.

But a blog reader made a fairly strong and impassioned comment that sometimes this may be mistake when the patient really IS a victim, and cautioned against blaming the victim. David’s goal is never to blame patients, but rather to empower you.

David and Fabrice begin by discussing the fact that sometimes people vacillate between other-blame (it’s all his/her fault) and self-blame (it’s all my fault), and emphasize that neither approach is helpful. If you blame the other person, the problem escalates and may turn to violence, but if, instead, you blame yourself, you’ll probably end up feeling worthless, guilty, unlovable, and depressed.

So what’s the solution to this dilemma? Dr. Burns encourages patients to use the Five Secrets of Effective Communication and make a radical change in the way they communicate with others, along the lines of EAR. E stands for Empathy, A stands for Assertiveness, and R stands for Respect. You can examine each of the Five Secrets if you CLICK HERE.

David gives five compelling examples of how to deal with people who REALLY ARE violent and abuse, including a raging psychiatric patient who was threatening the staff and on the verge of exploding, a serial killer who kidnapped a social worker who had attended one of David’s communication workshops, some drunken, abusive teenagers in a huge jeep who threatened David, an insulting, demoralizing, critical boss who put down everyone who worked with him. He includes with the story of a Lutheran minister,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was imprisoned and mistreated by the Nazis during world war two.

This is a controversial topic that David included in the podcasts somewhat reluctantly, so give a listen and tell us what you think! Right now the world seems to be spiraling into greater and greater hostilities. Does David have a point? Or is he way off base?

2 thoughts on “036: Ask David — Empowering the Victim With the Five Secrets

  1. Hello David and Fabris, unfortunately, as you know, many victims (especially women) do get blamed when violence happens to them. Even though we know that they are not at fault, encouraging victims to do something different (such as using the 5 Secrets of Effective Communication) can seem as though the victims are being blamed again, even though this is not the intention. David and Fabris do a nice job here of acknowledging this dilemma while showing that victims (although not guilty of anything when assaulted or abused) can, courageously, be an incredible instrument of change.

    • Hi Michael, Thanks for the excellent and thoughtful comment!

      Yes there is a lot of blame in the world for sure, and it is extremely destructive. There are two forms of blame–self-blame, which triggers depression, shame and worthlessness, and other-blame, which triggers anger, hostility and conflict in relationships, and trauma and aggression, including war. Empowerment and accountability are radically different, and exist in a different dimension, so to speak. Other-blame is rarely or never the solution to a relationship problem. In fact, my research and clinical suggests that other-blame is one of the major causes of relationship problems. But the antidote to Other-blame is never self-blame! That’s kind of like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire!

      Anyway, that’s my take on it, for better or worse!

      All the best,


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