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My Path from Doormat to Dignity: Breaking the Bonds of Emotional Abuse, Past and Present

Excerpt from "My path from Doormat to Dignity"

A valid reason for self-incrimination

Imagine you are being devalued without provocation and your legitimate feelings mocked. Your words are twisted, and you are falsely accused. The offender knows where you are the most vulnerable, so that's where he aims his arrows – for maximum impact.   Now suppose there is someone present who is in a position to do something about it: stand up for you, protect you, and set the record straight – but they don't.  Instead, they appease the abuser, making it easier for him to strike again, and again. What kind of a person would fail to speak up on your behalf against such glaring injustice?  Wouldn't you just brim with righteous indignation at such a spineless coward?  Who would betray you like this – you maybe? 

If there was ever a legitimate reason for self-incrimination, allowing oneself to be significantly and repetitively wronged is it!  The internal voice that cries "stop mistreating me" is valid, healthy, and necessary.  The God-given instinct to pull back from the source of an emotional wound is no more something to be ashamed of than retracting your hand from a hot stove – even so, ashamed I was.  

Excerpt from "My Path from Doormat to Dignity" foreword by Karla Downing


Jane Bartelmes, like many of us, grew up in a dysfunctional family. It was there she learned to be a doormat whose purpose is to be stepped on so it can absorb the dirt from the feet of the person standing on it. It was this that Jane was programmed to do as a young child with an abusive father and a passive mother. And like many of us, she continued this same behavior in her relationships as an adult.


Believing it was wrong to upset others, she willingly gave up her right to confront her abusers.  Understanding anger to be a sin, she stuffed it and instead forced herself to be patiently passive and non-reactive. Thinking love must tolerate all wrongs, she didn't stand up for herself or say no to protect herself. Feeling guilty when she spoke up, she backed down and reversed her position. Applying forgiveness, repeatedly without any requirement that the person's behavior change, she continued to be mistreated. Absorbing blame from whomever placed it on her, she didn't consider that the other person could be at fault.


It's difficult to describe the confusing inner dialogue of a person in a difficult relationship. The questions, self-invalidation, the anxiety, the fear, the guilt, the confusion, the denial, the self-reproach, the pain, the frustration, the disappointment, the hopelessness, and the insecurity are relentless. The effort put into thinking about what is right and what should be done is monumental, absorbing not only time but mental and emotional energy. Jane describes this inner dialogue brilliantly as she brings you along through her personal journey of being unhealthy to becoming healthy. While she describes her experience, she is teaching the reader the truths she is learning in an easy to absorb way, abolishing the myths and replacing them with the truth through logical reasoning, personal examples and biblical principles.


As she travels on her journey, you will be able to identify with her experiences and struggles, especially if you have been in difficult relationships. You will be challenged and prompted to ask yourself what you believe about anger, pride, humility, unconditional love, guilt, confrontation, judging, and forgiveness. Times that you have done what Jane did will flash into your mind and at the same time, you will be asking yourself the identical questions. Along with Jane, you will be correcting your misbeliefs with the truth.


At the end of the book, you will have been transformed along with Jane from a doormat to a person of dignity able to deal with difficult people in an assertive and healthy way by detaching with love, confronting with courage, setting boundaries, loving responsibly, and walking in truth.



Karla Downing, M.A., LMFT

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Founder of

Author of 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages; When Love Hurts; The Truth in the Mirror; Boundaries for Adult Children and Rebellious Teens