Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship

Worth reading from off the web!

womanInDespairPXfreeThere are three essential elements to an abusive relationship:

1.  Consistent occurrences of power and control over another

2.  Chronic feelings and displays of disrespect

3.  Unhealthy attachment mistaken for love

Abusers are highly deceptive and the victim, as well as others, have no idea that he is being abusive at all.  He purposefully undermines his victim’s individuality and confidence by dominating conversations and suppressing her identity, making her into a mere object for his purposes. He minimizes anything about her, including her opinions, accomplishments, concerns, feelings, or desires.  This causes her to do the same and she learns to minimize herself as well.

Abuse and respect are polar opposites

He has a chronic attitude of disrespect towards his partner.  A respectful relationship is not abusive and an abusive relationship does not contain respect. An abuser views his partner as his property, which allows him to feel powerful and in charge.

It is essential for an abuser to feel this way because he has a fragile ego and delicate sense of self. Without feeling more powerful than his partner he feels weak and vulnerable. Feeling any sense of vulnerability taps into his sense of powerlessness which he is unwilling to experience for any reason. As long as he sees himself in the “one up” position his fragile ego is kept at bay.

Abuse is caused by the belief system of the abuser. The abuser has developed a deeply ingrained sense of superiority and entitlement which does not go away by learning how to manage anger or resolve conflicts. Abusers use anger to control. They engage in conflicts to abuse their partner; show their superiority; and keep intimacy away. Since intimacy requires vulnerability, a feeling abusers avoid at all costs, they have no interest in developing such closeness.

Abuse is not the same as conflict. A conflict involves a difference of opinion. Abuse involves the need for the abuser to stifle the feelings, thoughts, opinions, and values of the abused. An abuser refuses to accept any accountability or responsibility for any of the problems in the relationship. His hallmark attitude is one of superiority and blame. It is not the conflict that is the problem. The abuser caused the conflict in the first place. There can be no resolution.

There is no way to “approach their partner appropriately,” or “pick the right time to address something.”

Abusers can choose any reason to blame his victim for an abusive incident. Abusers abuse because they choose to. It is the abusive mindset that allows them to abuse for a number of reasons:

(1) They are unhappy and they don’t know what to do with their emotions.

(2) They dump their rage and shame on others.

(3) They may have a narcissistic or anti-social personality disorders.

(4) They feel in control, powerful, strong, and superior, which helps them keep all weak, needy, and vulnerable emotions hidden.

(5) Some people abuse because they were taught this as children and operate out of this inner working relationship dynamic.

Whether abuse is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual, or some rendition of all of these, there are some basic components of abuse; these are: blame, criticism, neglect, oppression, minimization, rigidity, ridicule, lies, invalidation, lack of accountability, no remorse, no apologies, repeated name calling, double standards, violence, and a consistent lack of empathy.

Realize that abuse, like addiction, is a chronic “disease” that progresses with time, meaning it only gets worse.

Can an abuser be cured?

Of course anything is possible.

Here are the signs that an abuser is changing:

  • he is willing to be accountable to his spouse and others;
  •  he is willing to never have a sense of entitlement in any relationship, for any reason,
  •  he shows self-reflection and insight;
  • he stops blaming others or minimizing, justifying, or rationalizing his own attitudes and behaviors;
  • he listens to and validates others, including his spouse;
  • while he is never going to be perfect, when he messes up, he apologizes, shows insight into what he did wrong, shows remorse, and changes.

 

Abusers in recovery are just like alcoholics in recovery

Alcoholics can never even have one drink ever again in order to maintain sobriety. Abusers can’t be like “normal” people who may be rude or disrespectful at times. Recovery for an abuser needs to be different from what comes natural for the partner. Coddling an abuser and showing him empathy only exacerbates his entitlement. Recovery for an abuser requires that he does not allow himself to ever be rude, disrespectful, entitled, or invalidating ever again. Instead, he is humble and compassionate at all times. No excuses.

About Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Whittier, California (www.lifelinecounseling.org).

Edited for readability   Source: Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship | The Recovery Expert

How to Stop Hurting and Take Your Power Back

When we think other people are hurting us, we have no power. We feel hopeless.

What if we thought of what was said or done as just being a mirror for us? – revealing to us what we are deeply thinking about ourselves?

Now we have our power back.

The Work of Byron Katie does just this – she calls it the “Turn-Around”

Einstein once said, “There is only one question worth asking: ‘Is the universe kind’.”

When you step into the grace of this wisdom, you can see nothing but kindness. But I’m getting a head of myself….

We have always been told not to be judgmental of others. Yet our minds are constantly assessing, and therefor, judging. We learned to keep these judgments private. These judgments turn into beliefs – stories – that run our emotional life.

Concepts are not a problem until you believe them. At that point, you are responsible for them. In the same way, by being aware of our responsibility for thoughts, we suddenly have responsibility for our power, our happiness, and our freedom.

For 1,000’s of years, we have innocently thought our suffering is caused by things outside of ourselves. So, it seems obvious to also look outside of ourselves for the solutions. Our mind runs these stories constantly, “he should/I need/ I want/...”

“The Work” invites us to find these deeper thoughts, put them on paper, and investigate how they’ve affected us. Thoughts arise. We can’t force these thoughts to stop. Once investigated, however, these thoughts may finally leave us.

It’s not that the mind is the enemy. On the contrary. The mind simply IS. By gentle, curious investigation, the same thoughts that we believed caused our misery can offer us peace.

It is only the unknown or denied parts of self that are in chaos. Feelings are a wonderful reminder to look at your thinking.

Byron Katie created the “Four Questions and the Turn Arounds” after years of extreme feelings and behaviors that were often unbearable… One day, when she was simply “despairing”, as usual, she listened to her minds constant chatter. Then she heard, “Is it TRUE?”, which stopped her dead in her tracks.  From there, she developed a simple process with which to meet any disturbing thought. She called it – “The Work”.

Turn-arounds may be shocking! For example, “He should put me first” turns around to “I should put HIM first”…  And why would I expect him to practice a concept I wouldn’t want to do? It also turns around to “I should put MYSELF first”… That’s my job!

Find out more:

http://thework.com/en/do-work
http://thework.com/en/tools-do-work

Revealing the Unconscious Through Art

Do you ever feel overwhelmed but don’t know why? Or feel “odd” but can’t make sense of it?

Try drawing… nothing in particular, just let the pencil move across the page. Then do another page. Try it using your non-dominant hand – crazy… I know.

But it works! Discover what the infamous Carl Jung did –

Ahhh! Calmed and reassured.

 

What Are Your BLIND SPOTS?

There’s this cool diagram called the Johari’s Window:

JOHARIwindow2

People have used it for various purposes, but I like to use it as a tool for living more consciously – More authentic, self-actualized, congruent, non-defensive and trusting. 

Briefly, quadrant 1., OPENess, is the aspects of self that we easily share with others.  Quadrant 3. includes the aspects about self that we keep private (HIDDEN).  Quadrant 2., BLIND SPOTS,  are the things others’ know about us that we aren’t aware of,  and quadrant 4. are the aspects of self that are unconscious, UNKNOWN.

In reality, your internal boxes are not equally divided.  They may change proportions depending on the relationship or your moods.  If the goal is to become a more congruent, authentic person, then we must expand the OPEN area, which requires disclosing more about ourselves, as well as being willing to accept feedback from others about how they perceive us.

For example,  Andy thought he was pretty open towards others.  And he was.  But when he received feedback from his friend, Janet, that he seemed to get defensive when she shared an opinion different from him, he just couldn’t see it. He became even more defensive.

This would be Andy’s BLIND SPOT.  As he thought about what Janet said, he looked into his HIDDEN quadrant for some clues. Had he always been like that, or was it just with her?  Through gentle inquiry, he was able to realize that, when people disagreed with him, he felt like he wasn’t “good enough” –  something he felt frequently growing up in a household with many older siblings.

Andy was willing to disclose his discoveries with Janet, thus expanding his OPEN area.  He was willing to respect her feedback, and as a result, expanded his OPEN area even more.

The more we bring our blind spots to awareness, the more freedom we have –  the more we can live an authentic life.  Instead of automatic responses to factors that present themselves in everyday life,  with self-awareness,  we learn that we can exercise choices in our responses.

Ahhhh! Freedom!

How to Communicate Effetcively

Communication Skills using the

Awareness Wheel

I remember reading somewhere that the average person has about 3000 thoughts per minute, along with the corresponding emotions, expectations, and conclusions. I don’t know how they came up with 3000, but lets assume it’s true – That’s a lot of stuff going on! If you want to be clear and congruent in your communications, it’s essential that you slow this process down. You have to learn how to check in with yourself.

One of the tools I use with my clients in therapy is called The Awareness Wheel. Once mastered, it helps the user understand their experiences (awareness), and, if desired, communicate clearly to someone else.

Each experience can be broken down into the following five categories:

AwWheel

  • Sensing or the Facts- what you have seen or heard. They are behavior descriptions, as if seen from a video camera, without evaluation or ascribing meaning.
  • Thoughts – what you tell yourself the facts mean. They are the interpretations, beliefs, conclusions, or stories you tell yourself about what is going on.
  • Feelings or Emotions – Keep it simple: Happy, sad, mad, or afraid.
  • Wants or intentions– What you think will fix the problem.
  • Doing or ActionsWhat you actually do.

Becoming a better communicator

  • Perception Check: This is my guess, am I accurate?  Sometimes it is a good idea to test, clarify and alter your interpretations by moving back and forth between the sensory data and your interpretations. (FACTS and THOUGHTS)

A common problem in relationships that often occurs is the result of confusing FACTS with interpretations about what is happening. Our interpretations generate emotions, and we can be caught up in our anger or hurt because our interpretation is different from our partners. The model helps you to clarify interpretations and emotions by going back to the original sensory data (what you saw, heard or felt) and checking each other’s interpretations. You may or may not get to agreement on the meaning of what you witnessed, but it’s helpful to know what each of you is thinking and perceiving.

  • Use Responsible “I” Statements  

Speaking as though we know the “other’s” intentions, feelings, or thoughts is offensive. By using “I” statements, we show that we are speaking responsibly about something we should be an authority about – ourselves!

  • Reflective Listening or “Mirroring”

Reflective listening consists of slowing the conversation down, while assuring your focus is on being a good listener and not your defense! After a sentence or two, you, the Listener, repeat back in your own words what you think your partner is saying. You then ask if you heard them accurately and completely. You keep trying this until your partner says, “Yes, I feel understood.” Then you switch, and you say a few sentences to your partner, and they repeat what they heard back to you.

Exercises using the Awareness Wheel

  1. Get to know yourself. Journal regularly about your experiences using the Awareness Wheel. Learn the difference between FACTS (what you have seen or heard); THOUGHTS (interpretations/ stories I tell myself about the Facts)); EMOTIONS (body-feelings – Happy Sad Mad Afraid); WANTS (goals or intentions – what you think will fix the problem) and the ACTION taken. Keep in simple.
  2. Practice expressing your Awareness Wheel, through writing first, to another person. Remember to use responsible “I” statements. Ask yourself:*** “ How can I say this in a way that the OTHER person is most likely to hear me?”

For example:

“When _(Facts)_   I thought    (Thought/Belief)    and I felt  (Emotion)  . What I’d like is  (Request/Want)What do you think?” (invites sharing)

Or:

“I felt _(Emotion)  when you _(Facts)_ because  (Thought/Belief)  , and I want _(Request/Want)_. What do you think?”

For example:

Let’s call my clients Joe and Jess.

Jess comes home after a frustrating, but productive day at work. She gets out of her car, and notices, again, the dead spots on the lawn (sensory data). She scowls (feelings- anger) and thinks (thoughts), “How many times do I have to ask Joe to fix the sprinklers!!!” (Wants and actions).

She enters the house and hears a football anouncer blaring from the TV (sensory data). She roles her eyes (feelings: sad/disappointed)  and thinks, “He’s not even with the kids. It’s like I have THREE children instead of two.”

Jess goes into the kitchen to find her mother feeding the kids their dinner, and is so thankful that she at least has her mother!  Jess thinks she wants a divorce.
Because Jess has worked with me for a while, she decides to not act on all these conclusions, but goes to her room to journal about first. 
After summarizing the last 5 minutes (as written above), she asks herself : 

“ok, so WHATS the issue?”.

I don’t feel supported;  and I’d like a more equal partnership. 

She practices her approach in the journal first, remembering the advice :”How can I say this in a way that Joe is more likely to HEAR me?”

Can I talk to you about some things? (Invites participation). 

Ok. This is just my perception, ok? When I got home today, I noticed the dead grass again, then I walked in to find you watching TV while mom was feeding our kids. (SENSORY DATA). And I Thought to myself ‘Joe isn’t taking our talks seriously!’ … because – I mean – how many times have I asked you to help me take care of the house better? How many times have I told you that the kids need more time with you (prior Wants and Actions)??  Naturally, I am incredibly frustrated (Feelings)! I’m seriously getting to the point of giving up (Want), and I may want a divorce.(future Action).

Finding the SELF through Folklore

books
“Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote the bestseller “Women Who Run With the Wolves” , a collection of folktales interpreted from a woman’s perspective, revealing the archetypal wild woman. With her easy-to-grasp writing style of a storyteller, she appeals to women who want to find more meaning in life. Her interpretations help us find such meaning by getting us in touch forgotten qualities, she says, that have been dangerously tamed by a society that preaches the virtue of being “nice.”

Dr. Estes found the wolf-woman parallel while studying wildlife biology.

“Wolves and women are relational by nature: They are inquiring, possessing great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, intensely concerned with their young, their mate and their pack.” She also writes: “Yet both have been hounded, harassed and falsely imputed to be devouring and devious, overly aggressive, of less value than those who are their detractors.” ~ A Savage Creativity

She defines the wild woman archetype not as uncontrolled behavior but as a kind of savage creativity – the instinctual ability to know what tool to use and when to use it.

“All options are available to women,” she said, and adds, “Everything from quiescence to camouflaging to pulling back the ears, baring the teeth and lunging for the throat.”

Women who have always been taught to be nice do not realize they have these options. She said, “When someone tells them to stay in their place, they sit and stay quiet. But when somebody is cornering you, then the only way out is to come out kicking.”

Yet everything about nature is essentially wild, too.

“We need to see and understand that whatever stands behind nature is what God is. Nature is the manifestation. We see things about nature that are beautiful, like the blue sky, and it fills us with almost a prayerful excitement. When I look at it, I feel still. I have seen this sky every day of my life and I am still in awed by it. That is what the wild is – this intense medicinal beauty. To look at it makes you feel whole. To hear it, if it is ocean or water running in a stream, is to feel made whole again. To see a thunderstorm or a lightning storm is to somehow be energized by it. Even tornadoes and earthquakes– to be rocked to your very foundations by the power made in all these things. This wildness is in every human being, so a man or a woman would essentially be no different from one another at the very elemental core.”

Being in touch with the wild woman archetype is also about getting in touch with one’s soul. Dr. Estes says,

“The soul – just as it is – is complete. It is never doubted, it is never lost. The ego may become injured. The spirit may also become injured, but the soul remains, always. I think the soul is incredibly ineffable and you cannot really talk about it. We make pictures and tell stories, but in reality, we are reaching into a dark bag and trying to describe it in a poetic way – because we can never describe, in common words, what it is that we feel and see.

Little Red Riding Hood by Gustave Doré

Little Red Riding Hood by Gustave Doré

Yet we must have the ability, like all poets, to move through different images as we develop an idea to express the soul. And we also could move away from and develop a new idea, the more clarity we have. Jung did it all the time. If you read Jung’s works you will see him constantly contradicting himself because he is developing as he goes along. So whatever metaphors we use, it will be very interesting to see if we still believe them, or if we have not found better ones, in 10 or 20 years.”

We describe life in metaphors. Find more meaning in your life through folklore!

Stay tuned for YOUR next episode!

Article sources: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/28/weekinreview/conversations-clarissa-pinkola-estes-message-for-all-women-run-free-wild-like.html and http://www.menweb.org/estesiv.htm

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All Is Wecomed

ThichNhatHanh

Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation,

should be welcomed, recognized, and treated

on an absolutely equal basis…

because they are ourselves.

The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind.

I clean this teapot with the kind of attention

I would have were I giving

the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath.

Nothing should be treated more carefully

than anything else.

In Mindfulness,

compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.”

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

It’s so common to be afraid of ourselves. We think there are parts that must be hidden, even from ourselves. But in MY experience, there is nothing to fear – nothing to shy away from.  Everything – when met with true understanding – becomes Beautiful… Clear...  as it should be.

Sometimes we need to act with profound courage … to take a leap of faith… to explore our secret parts with someone we can trust to guide us gently.

This is why I love being a therapist – It’s a privilege to help an individual along their path to self-actualization.

Quote from:― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

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