Skip to main content

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse: How to Move Beyond Your Past to Create an Abuse-Free Future



Breaking the Cycle of Abuse: How to Move Beyond Your Past to Create an Abuse-Free Future

Beverly Engel

ISBN: 978-1-119-23514-9 October 2015 288 Pages


"A beacon of hope for women and men who fear that they will pass the abuse they have suffered on to their children, partners, or employees. Humane and compassionate but also clear and down to earth, this is a wonderful contribution to the literature on healing."
--Lundy Bancroft, author of When Dad Hurts Mom and Why Does He Do That?

"In this remarkably powerful, wise, and compassionate book, Beverly Engel leads readers step by step through a program that will help survivors of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in childhood to heal from their wounds so they don't need to re-enact their abusive pasts. She offers expert advice and strategies to help parents and would-be parents avoid doing to their children what was done to them and helps both abusers and victims in emotionally and physically abusive relationships make vitally important changes in their relationships."
--Susan Forward, Ph.D., author of Toxic Parents and Emotional Blackmail

If you were emotionally, physically, or sexually abused as a child or adolescent, or if you experienced neglect or abandonment, it isn't a question of whether you will continue the cycle of abuse but rather a question of how--whether you will become an abuser or continue to be a victim. In this breakthrough book, Beverly Engel, a leading expert on emotional and sexual abuse, explains how to stop the cycle of abuse once and for all. Her step-by-step program provides the necessary skills for gaining control over emotions, changing negative attitudes, learning healthy ways of communicating, healing the damage from prior abuse, and seeking out support.

Throughout, Engel shares many dramatic personal stories including her own experiences with abusive behavior. Breaking the Cycle of Abuse gives you the power to shatter abusive patterns for good and offers a legacy of hope and healing for you and your family.


Part One: Understanding the Legacy of Abuse.

1. What Will Be Your Legacy?

2. Assessing Your Risk Factors.

3. Why We Do to Others (and Ourselves) What Was Done to Us.

Part Two: Facing the Truth and Facing Your Feelings.

4. Coming Out of Denial 59

5. Learn to Identify and Manage Your Emotions 72

6. Learn How to Identify and Manage Your Shame 86

7. Managing Your Anger 115

8. Coping with Fear 138

Part Three: Abuse Prevention Strategies.

9. How to Prevent Partner Abuse 157

10. How to Prevent Child Abuse 181

11. If You Have Already Become Abusive 202

12. If You Have Already Been Abused or Established a Victim Pattern.

Part Four: Long-Term Strategies to Help You Break the Cycle.

13.Emotionally Separating from Your Parents.

14.Facing the Truth about Your Family Legacy.

15.Breaking into the Dysfunctional Family System.

16.Continue to Heal.




Recommended Reading.


According to Engel, "in the past twenty-five years studies on abuse and family assaults strongly suggest that abused children become abusers themselves," yet victims often don't receive any treatment until their repetition of the abuse is already underway. In this clear, empathetic self-help book, Engel aims to stop that cycle by teaching readers to remember the past truthfully, to identify and manage their emotions, and to recognize the characteristics of abusive relationships. An experienced psychotherapist and prolific author (The Emotionally Abused Woman; Loving Him without Losing You, etc.), Engel is also an abuse survivor herself. Her attitude towards her readers is gentle and understanding; she clearly knows firsthand how difficult victim and abuser patterns are to break. Readers are expected to perform a good deal of homework aiming at self-discovery: answering simple questions, writing down their memories, tracing family patterns, etc. Some may argue that Engel presents the most crucial advice--what to do if you've already become abusive--too late in volume, by which point an abuser may have dropped the book. But the middle chapters--on shame and its manifestations, on anger, sorrow and fear--are some of the best, especially when Engel delves into the effects of physical, sexual and emotional abuse on children. Though she deals thoroughly with the psychology of victims, Engel concentrates far more than in her earlier books on trying to reach violent and sexual offenders. Violation begets violation, she says. Parental attitudes and behavior, be they cruel, indifferent or supportive, are passed on to later generations. This book is an excellent choice for readers who come from an abusive past and are struggling to make a brighter future for themselves and their families. (Publishers Weekly Annex on-line, November 15, 2004)