By Maryel McKinley   

What Did I Do To Deserve This?


Welcome to my new column on relationships, I am so glad you’ve decided to join me as we explore a plethora of Relationship Secrets Of Success! (S.O.S.) In each issue I hope to address the different keys to having a successful and fulfilling relationship.

For this first issue, I will be covering the subject of abuse. If  you’ve ever experienced this it is suggested that you get the tools to heal now, before you move into any kind of relationship.

Caveat: You do not need to have black eyes and bruises to be the recipient of relationship abuse. How will you know if you have suffered emotional abuse? Have you ever felt like you were at the end of your rope, you just can’t take it anymore, you are sick and tired of being sick and tired and dammit, “What did I do to deserve this!?”

Well, you are not alone and according to author, Dr. Joan Mc- Neill,  the news is GOOD! How can the news be good when you feel like yesterday’s trash left out to dry for one too many days?!

The inspirational book, “What Did I Do To Deserve This,” has the  answers to all your questions and doubts, for it was born out of the same unfathomable pain that you may be experiencing right now. And, you will learn that abusive relationships can include employer/employee, mother/daughter, friend to friend, etc.

This book addresses complete healing of the body, mind and spirit, and is packed with wonderful meditations, healing exercises and prayers, as well as the true account of how Dr. Joan McNeill walked through her own personal hell to blossom like the radiant butterfly she is today.  Our conversation was one of the most inspiring interviews I have ever done.

I strongly recommend this book for everyone, whether you have been abused or not, as it addresses the core of who we really are, thereby helping the reader to set a solid foundation for future healthy relationships.

Dr. Maryel: How did you come up with the title for your book?

Dr. Joan: I had just left my abusive marriage and was living in a safe house when I had a profound moment. I raised my hands to the sky and said, “What did I do to deserve this? God, if you teach me what it is, that it was something of necessity for my growth, then I promise you right here and now I will share the passion and the blessing with others, and I will help them to see what you are going to show me.” It was a holy moment.

Dr. Maryel: Are there stages you went through?

Dr. Joan: There is a drug called hope. That is what fed me. Maybe if I act this way, he will change, or if I try to be better at cooking and cleaning or change my makeup and hair, then he will be nice. Then one day the lights come on.

Awareness is the first step. Then comes integration. Integration is  when you stay long enough in the relationship to watch how you contribute to the game. It’s like watching a video. It all becomes clear and you integrate the awareness into the relationship. Next comes the decision. Does this person bring out the best in me? Is this person right for me? Do I want to live with this person for the rest of my life? And a decision has to be made.

It became nauseating for me to see how I became the doormat. The price for the prize of awareness and integration becomes the fact that you can’t play the victim anymore. And you really can’t judge the world;  you start to see how you play the victim and the victimizer in the same breath.

There are two very loud emotional roots. 1. Worthlessness 2. Abandonment. These two buttons are the buttons that are pushed. There  is no person on this earth whom I’ve met that does not suffer from some degree of intensity when the button of worthlessness is pushed. The abuser will push these buttons to the extreme.

A victim has the same buttons which make up the exquisite chemistry.  The victim finds someone whose life is out of control.  Subconsciously they set themselves up to focus so much on trying to help their mate they don’t have to focus on their own sense of worthlessness. They think  they will do such a great job changing their mate, that the mate will  respond with gratitude and say, “Look how wonderful and worthwhile you are,  look what you’ve done for me”. But that never happens! In this dance, both players are trying to avoid the worthless part of themselves, like two sides of the same coin.

Dr. Maryel: So it takes two to tango in this game!

Dr. Joan: Absolutely! When I was going through my healing process, all the material said how sick you are, you are defective etc. therein reinforcing my worthlessness. So I am offering a new way of looking at it.

Dr. Maryel: How do we prevent it from happening again?

Dr. Joan: When you have done the healing work, you will no longer attract, or be attracted to, those people. Consider the universal law  of what you focus on grows. With your new self you will surround yourself with peers who are like-minded and support you for who you are at the moment.

For those who haven’t done the work, what typically happens is they consistently negate their intuition, and common sense it away with  their head. Ask anybody who has been abused. I once asked a patient, “When you walked into that elevator did your  gut tell you not to?” She said “Yes but I got in anyway and was raped!  Their intuition says “Hey, careful” but they do it anyway. It is the consistent and chronic abandonment of the self.

Dr. Maryel: So the soul becomes so starved for this attention that the craving becomes far louder than your true gut feeling or intuition that may be screaming “Careful! This guy is going to use and abuse you!”

Dr. Joan: Exactly. My book offers a holistic approach to healing, as this is the way to transform the chemistry into wholeness.

Dr. Maryel I notice you use the word transformation, not change.

Dr. Joan: Change is temporary but transformation is lasting as it operates at the root level, at the level of energy.  We don’t want to live in fear that every person we meet will become a batterer. I offer  a way to transform, at a root level, the chemistry that attracted these failed relationships and how to move away from it.

One day the reader will realize they have ‘Graduated’ out of the old self. This is when they will help others change their lives. All of us have something to offer others once we’ve done the work.

Dr. Maryel: Helping others is part of the continued healing process. Then they are more able to participate in healthy, committed, intimate relationships that are not fear-based and are safe havens where each person can grow.

Dr. Joan: Intimacy offers a safe haven in which each partner may ‘grow up’ into themselves in front of the other.  Intimacy is: Into Me You See. Intimacy must first start with the self.

The most important ingredient I tell people is, “Stop crucifying yourselves!” Instead say, “Hurray, I’ve become awake about my circumstance, now I can go about my business on this earth and do what  I came here to do!”

Dr. Maryel: Your experience, strength and hope is like a shining star that will be a beacon of light for thousands of people who will read your book and become transformed. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our readers?

Dr. Joan: We tend to give ourselves less, and expect the world to give back to us. Part of recovery is to start honoring yourself in the way you wish people would honor you. We need to be as committed to  ourselves as we want others to be committed to us.

Dr. Joan McNeill, Ph.D., has a private practice in San Diego CA; is a  DV group facilitator at the YWCA and is a faculty member of the Rand Institute for Pain. E-mail her at 

Dr. Maryel McKinley is a certified hypnotherapist, addictions specialist and relationships counselor. For a free wedding planner  book or free premarital counseling session, please call Elegant Weddings (818) 593-2007, e-mail  or check out their website at  

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