From Villain to Hero
Our founder Michael has written a book about his personal journey and what he learned about changing from a person who did harm to his partner to one who enjoys safe and loving relationships. Entitled From Villain to Hero, he shares the essential principles needed to stop domestic violence and abuse that he discovered on his transformative path toward healing and change.
Other Helpful Books
While there are lots of books about domestic violence and abuse, there are very few we thought were helpful for individuals who want to stop hurting the ones they love. Here are a few we recommend:
Addressing Domestic Violence and Abuse
- The Emotionally Abusive Relationship – Beverly Engel – Divided into three parts, this book does a great job of talking about 1) what abuse is and how it affects people, 2) stopping the abuse if you are being abused OR if you are the abusive partner, and 3) longer-term strategies for relationships and recovery. While it does not specifically focus on physical abuse, verbal and emotional abuse are often present in the same relationships and have much the same impact. Our favorite quote from the book that gives you a flavor of the tone: “There are no monsters here, only injured but brave individuals who are seeking to heal themselves from the bondage of their actions.”
- EMAP Emotionally Intelligent Mindful Acceptance-Based Program – Wendy W. Coates – An excellent, 28-session workbook used in some BIP programs that speaks to a broad range of relevant topics that those of us who are working to change our behavior need to consider. The program incorporates acceptance and value-guided decision techniques which can be very helpful in a person’s change efforts.
- Learning to Live Without Violence – Daniel Sonkin and Michael Durphy – This is a free and very practical workbook that addresses many of the most common and important issues a person wanting to change needs to consider: understanding what hurts others, how and when to use time-outs, complications with alcohol and drug use, how to think about counseling, building communication skills as an alternative to violence, stress reduction, handling jealousy, and more.
- Love Without Hurt (newer version) or You Don’t Have to Take it Anymore (previous version) – Steven Stosny – While these books, as the titles imply, are written for victims of abuse, there is a large portion that provides specific and practical techniques to help those who are doing the harm to stop. Books with practical help are a rare find, and this one stands out.
- The Batterer: A Psychological Profile – Donald Dutton – this book looks at the issue of attachment disorders and their connection with individuals who harm their partners. Attachment disorders are the result of parents or caretakers interacting with children in unhealthy ways, resulting in the children ending up with gaps in their emotional development. It does an excellent job linking a person’s past to their current abusive behavior for the purpose of finding a way to change. For a flavor, we used this book as a resource to write about the mother wound in this blog post.
Handling Anger Constructively
- Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way – Gary Chapman – A very easy to read book with practical insights and lessons completely consistent with the change process we’ve found to work. Given that rage is the pinnacle of anger, the insights and techniques for avoiding and controlling both are identical. If you read one book from this list, start with this one. Also, check out our review here.
- When Good Men Get Angry – Bill Perkins – In this book, the author addresses four issues that create anger: feeling disrespected, an excessive need for control, wounded pride, and a lack of forgiveness. He does an excellent job of providing a remedy for those issues by seeing our new identity that comes from a relationship with Christ. In addition, there is a great chapter on the blessing we can be as parents when we break the generational cycle of anger and abuse, and another chapter on what women can do to help the angry men in their lives to change.
- Anger: Taming the Beast – Reneau Peurifoy – A bit more of a technical read, we loved the author’s journaling process so much we’ve shared the essentials of it on our Journaling page.
- How to Control Your Anger Before It Controls You – Albert Ellis and Raymond Chip Tafrate – Another helpful book, especially for those who do harm in their angry outbursts. We like the easy-to-follow A-B-C-D formula that the authors lay out. You can find out more about this book by reading our review.
Counseling Techniques and Discovering Deeper Causes
- Changes That Heal – Henry Cloud – We talk about the wounds from the past, and this book provides a straight-forward plan to help us heal from those wounds and grow more into the person God created us to be.
- When Good Men Behave Badly – David B. Wexler – While we don’t see domestic violence or bad behavior as just a man issue (and neither does the author), this is a fantastic book that explores behavior that hurts a man and his relationships. It plainly shows the emotional wounds that cause the behavior and provides straight-forward ways to change it. We love that it is written in a way that men especially will relate to. We also love and the hopeful message that even a person behaving badly can be good inside.
- Wounded Boys/Heroic Men – Daniel Jay Sonkin – If you’ve asked the question, “Why am I this way” and discovered the roots of your behavior go back to your childhood (very common), this is a great book to help you start unpacking the baggage you might be carrying as a result. The link will take you to a free, on-line version of the book.
- ACT on Life Not on Anger – Georg Eifert, Matthew McKay, and John Forsyth – If your past efforts to control problem anger have not worked, this book offers a very different approach. The techniques are based on a psychological approach called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). With ACT, we learn to accept angry feelings, commit to goals that align with what truly matters to us, and act to turn those goals into reality.
Autobiographical from Past Abusers
- Angry Men & The Women Who Love Them – Paul Hegstrom – This is one of the few books we found that was actually written by a man who was violent with his wife. He candidly discusses his journey, including factors from his childhood that likely led to his abusive behavior, his long-term denial of the problem, and his path to healing and restoration of his relationships.
- Broken Children, Grown Up Pain – Paul Hegstrom – This is a follow-up book to Angry Men & The Women Who Love Them with many of the same themes, although more of a general focus on how childhood wounds play out for us as adults.
- Emotional Abuse, Silent Killer of Marriage – Austin James – Another plain-spoken book about the journey from abusive to healed, written by a man who was emotionally abusive in his marriage. This self-published title highlights many of the same themes you’ll see in our material. We reviewed this book here.
Relationship and Communication Skills
- Boundaries – Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend – The concept of relationship boundaries is so important to maintaining a healthy intimate bond, yet it can be difficult to grasp and hard to implement. Drs. Cloud and Townsend have probably done the best job of making boundaries understandable through this bestselling book.
- Nonviolent Communication – Marshall Rosenberg – Nonviolent communication is a 4-step technique of observing others’ actions without judgment, identifying our feelings about those observations, discerning our needs in the situation, and requesting but not demanding that which we need from others. By following the process, we are least likely to make the other person defensive and most likely to get our needs met.
- Crucial Conversations – Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler – While written to encompass all types of conversations, including in the work world, the ideas presented in this book will help couples navigate important subjects that have been a source of conflict without resolution. Read more about this method here.
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves – Research has shown that emotional intelligence (EQ) is more important in determining our success and satisfaction with life than IQ. The good news is that EQ can be learned and this book shares numerous strategies to help us build that skill. For those of us working to stop behavior that hurts our partners and damages our relationships, this book lays out the fundamental building blocks we need to build our EQ: managing our emotions and choosing our responses to difficult and stressful situations. You can read our review of this book here.
- Mistakes Were Made – Caroll Tavris and Elliot Aronson – We loved this book because it explains why it is so difficult for we humans to admit mistakes and the need to change. Recognizing how our brains are working against us turns out to be the key to allowing ourselves to change. Here is a review of this book.
- Mindset – Carol S. Dweck – The ability to change, like almost every human endeavor, can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People who believe that their abilities are fixed (I am who I am) are less likely to flourish. Those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed—are more successful. The Mindset concept applies not only in making personal changes, but also can be put to use in parenting, business, and athletes to foster outstanding achievement. Check out this blog post for more about this book and the growth mindset.
Faith-based Books Addressing Root Causes
- The Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren – Speaking of faith, there is a reason this is the best-selling book of all time (other than the Bible). It does a great job of answering fundamental questions, “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose?” explaining how we can find meaning and purpose when living the way God created us.
- God’s Power to Change Your Life – Rick Warren – Everything we share here is about helping you make positive changes in your life. And, we believe a relationship with God provides us with that power like nothing else. So it’s only natural to suggest a book with this title. This book by Rick Warren doesn’t disappoint. It explains how to tap into God’s power in a very straight-forward, simple to understand manner.
- Fearless – Max Lucado – At the root of much of our bad behavior is fear. If you’d like to discover more about how trusting God can relieve that fear, I highly recommend this book. He addresses the whole spectrum of fear, from worrying about our kids, to the angst of not having (or being) enough, to the terror we can feel when we think about global calamities and worst-case scenarios of the big events in our lives, like divorce, debt, or down-sizing at work.
- The Real Win – Colt McCoy and Matt Carter – While not directly related to domestic violence, anger, or the change process away from those conditions, we think it’s good to have a vision of what real success means, what your life can be, and how faith makes a difference in the outcome. This easy to read book is co-authored by former University of Texas and current NFL quarterback Colt McCoy.
Sometimes a quick read of a blog or website is really what we need. Here are some we thought were especially useful:
- We Can Stop Being Abusive – an excellent blog site written by our friend, Andrea J. Lee, where she writes about many topics related to domestic violence and abuse from the perspective of the person causing harm. Andrea realized her own emotional abuse in her marriage and took steps to overcome the issues causing her behavior.
- 15 Common Cognitive Distortions – more about distorted thinking.
- Navigating the Criminal Justice System – The criminal justice system can be a frightening and confusing world to navigate. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, here is a resource that can help you better prepare.
- Boundaries – We mentioned the Boundaries book in the recommended reading section above, but you can also learn more about this concept on Drs. Cloud and Townsend’s website.
- The Gottman Institute – Domestic violence and abuse are first and foremost an individual issue that needs to be addressed by the one causing harm. Still, there are always relationship issues that also come into play. There is perhaps no better source to help us understand and improve how we act in our intimate relationships than the Gottman Institute. The relationship concepts they suggest are based on sound and very convincing research and are widely regarded as some of the best available.
Here are some that are particularly geared for men:
- MenAlive – Counselor and author Jed Diamond covers a number of topics related to emotional wounds, how they impact our lives (especially anger), and how to heal from them.
- Good Men Project – Another great source of articles covering a variety of topics that are relevant to men and that inspire us to become the best version of ourselves.