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

SELF WORTH

I was recently skimming old journals of mine when I found an entry that made me do a double-take.

… because I doubted my worth, I never sought a partner who, on paper, might appear my equal. I sought men who I ‘felt’ for; whom I could ‘help’ with my compassionate heart…”

In other words, people I was (thought I was) superior to.

You can hate me for saying it– out loud, but I’m doing it anyway – because I think a lot of people out there do the same. We are drawn to safety (“inferior“); We are confident in our role (“fixer”); We like feeling “in control”.

I was in therapy at the time. I was in my mid-20s – a naive believer that “love could conquer all!”

My therapist said, “but at what cost?”

I remember being stunned. Because HE WAS RIGHT! How much of my true self had I sacrificed for the sake of this unchallenged belief??

I had to challenge my own “instincts” – after all, they were based on “safety”, not reality.

In reality, I had a master’s degree (no financial help from family). I had overcome many major challenges: I refused to be a victim of my childhood – from learning disabilities, abuse from my stepfather; to an unloving, absent mother.

I was, in actuality… AWESOME!

I learned to view my anxiety as a burden instead of ‘good instincts’. I learned to re-interpret it as a faulty warning system, and to dive in, instead of running.

30 years later, I thank my therapist for challenging me with such perfect timing.

It’s an art.

Get a good therapist.

It makes a difference.

 

The First Task of Life: Survival and Our Quest to Be Loved

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The First Task of Life – to Be Loved

Love is the most compelling force for our species – not survival. Babies do not survive without love. Food, shelter and food are not enough. Children actively seek a love-bond with their caregivers and there is nothing more frightening to us as children than the possibility that we would not be loved or accepted by significant persons in our lives. We know we need it to survive and our sense of physical safety is intrinsically linked to our sense of emotional safety. These emotional drives shape most behaviors and are associated with our core fears of rejection, inadequacy or abandonment.

Built-in Safety – Early “Survival-Love Maps”

Born with a burning curiosity, we yearn to know everything there is to know about ourselves and about our world. Learning is one of our key attributes of human beings and a healthy brain is almost always in “learning mode”. We are wired to struggle, to learn, and to engage in processes that make us feel vulnerable, and yet, expand our capacity to grow.

Our first learning, however, was through mirroring our parents. Messages about what they needed from us, whom they thought we were, and what they thought the world was like, were etched in our brains and formed our first sense of self. If our parents were scared and insecure, upset or anxious, regardless whether their anxiety was directed at us or some other person or event, it activated our own survival response. We “knew”, without concepts, that there was danger. We learned to feel the same, thus forming a set of instructions or “rules” that can endure throughout life (Dr. Daniel Siegel). .

These early survival-love maps allowed us as children to subconsciously distort our responses to the environment to feel the level of emotional safety we needed. Subconsciously, we “decided” or “learned” certain rules that best ensured we would receive some measure of “good feelings.”

But by the time we reach adulthood, this map has outlived its usefulness to us. No longer the solution, it becomes part of the problem instead.

Unless we break free of our automatic responses to these early survival rules, we are destined to live an unfulfilled life. These love-maps can block the ability to form healthy intimacy and relationship bonds in adulthood.

Signs of an Ineffective Love-Map

  • Do you have a hard time connecting inwardly to get to know yourself and others intimately?
  • Are you dependent on others to love and value you – before you have learned to love and value yourself?
  • Do you rely on sources outside of yourself to feel normal? For safety, strength and happiness?
  • Is it hard to remain calm, confident, and centered when you feel stressed or triggered?
  • Do you feel more vulnerable than you actually are?
  • Do you find it difficult to identify what you are feeling? To know what you want?
  • Do you often act as though other people’s needs are more important than your own?

 Life is not about the destination; it’s about the process.

It has never been about getting our parents and others to unconditionally love us. Rather, it’s about the lessons, and what we learn about ourselves and life along the way. As an adult, who you want to put in charge of the power you have to make life-shaping choices? Will it be you as a conscious agent and choice maker of your life – or your subconscious survival-love map?

Here’s the good news. Human beings are resilient – the human brain has the capacity, known as neuroplasticity, to heal and change the limiting reactions created earlier to cope with life.

Part of the Work of Change could include:

  • Begins with a life long commitment to choose to live authentically and honestly in relation to self and others.
  • Involves understanding how our brain works, and the power of our thoughts and emotions in shaping behaviors.
  • Requires courage to become more aware, present and reflective of our mind and body, our inner experience and of life around us.
  • Involves a willingness to face our fears and transform them into courage.

 

Adapted from an article by:  Athena Staik, Ph.D.

The First Task of Life? Survival and Our Quest to Be Loved | Neuroscience and Relationships.

5 Things You Must Do Before You Look for Love Again.

(Worth Reading from Off the Web!)

Ah, we all love being in love, yes? Who doesn’t? How we love to have that warm fuzzy feeling when you have that special someone  bring you flowers, open the car door for you, leave cute little post-it notes on the coffee maker for you.  Yes, love is bliss. With it, also comes that beautiful “I’m in love” glow that all your friends are so jealous of. You have a skip in your step, butterflies in your tummy and life is just so damn good. You wish you had that. That love. You’d do almost anything to have it, wouldn’t you?

Not so fast, sunshine.

 

 5_things_you_must_do_before_you_look_for_love_again

That love will come at a very high price if you don’t have this one very crucial thing.

SELF LOVE! Yup, I said it. Self-love.

Do you have a history of attracting losers and cheaters and control freaks? Are you constantly attracting the wrong kind of guy? I’m going out on a limb here and assume that if you are reading this article then you answered yes to those questions. Do you ever wonder why this keeps happening to you? The answer is simple. You don’t love yourself enough yet. I know, I know, this sounds mean, but you have no idea how true it is.

When we don’t hold our values as high as they should be and our boundaries are weak, we allow less than desirable partners into our lives. Why? Because we want love so bad we’ll do just about anything, right?  Even settle for the wrong kind of partner. But what kind of love do you want? Don’t you want that happy, trusting, butterflies in your tummy kinda love? That faithful, beautiful, warm love? You know the kind. The kind that gives you a skip in your step.  The kind that makes you feel like the most beautiful, most loved, most adored and most important person in the whole wide world.
So how do we love ourselves first? There’s no magic pill here, no quick fix. This might take a bit of time. How much time depends on you and how fast it takes you to realize that you are awesome!!
  • The first thing you need to do is believe that: you ARE beautiful,  you ARE wonderful,  you ARE important, and YOU are the most special and magnificent person in the whole wide world. Yup, you sure are. Tell yourself this daily. Hourly if you have to. Say it. Mean it. Feel it. Believe it.
  • Make a list of what you want and what you don’t want. Do NOT compromise the *don’t want* part of this list.
  • Set boundaries. This will help you become a stronger person when you do this and stick to it!
  • Look in the mirror and tell yourself how beautiful you are and how much you love yourself. I do this all the time. Honest I do. ♥
  • Know what your values are and don’t sacrifice them for anyone, ever.

When you love yourself so much, you will soon feel happy and confident and with that, you will attract men that see this confidence and beauty inside of you. These men will treat you with respect, admire you and won’t try to take that away from you. These are confident happy men that want the same in their woman.

If there is something about yourself that you don’t love, then change it! Change it now! The longer you wait to do that, the more losers you will attract. It’s a vicious cycle, really. Stop the cycle. You have the power in you to do that. Oh yes you do!! Trust me on this one.

 

Original: 5 Things You Must Do Before You Look for Love Again..

All You Want to Know About Therapy

For Therapy to work, you must have a good connection…

and that’s why        

self-help books don’t work.

Our emotional lives, with all their emotional cues, are on board before any verbal or conceptual ability appears. And the consequences of these experiences are unaffected by intellectual efforts to change them.

That may be because emotions, and our most powerful “memories”, seem to be stored in the right hemisphere of the brain. And yet our thinking (or intellectualizingis a left-hemisphere activity.

Books and conversations about why we act the way we do are certainly helpful, but they don’t seem to be enough to effect real changes in our interactions with the world and ourselves.

So how can we make real changes?

Only by recreating as much as possible the initial conditions in which the processes were created in the first place.

We are born wired to seek connection with others. 

You may have heard that your first loves (parents) create the models for every relationship there after. They become our relationship-blueprints. Our experiences, especially with our caregivers, will become unconscious, intuitive memories that form the basis of our emotional life.

So if you want to change the deep, unconscious patterns that define your reactions to life’s events, you need an environment that can mirror those earliest connections, while, ideally, re-writing them (“neuroplasticity”). The result is a more harmonious existence in your current situations.

A powerful way to do this is through a positive connection with a trained professional (i.e., a psychotherapist). Good therapy aims to create a safe connection with the client so that emotional healing can take place.

And there is more to it, of course. Techniques that require direct experience have proven effective, such as working with the “inner child , mindfulness meditations, Journaling and others. I believe these techniques work because they access the right-brain.

When my client opens up to me as much as they can in a session, I know that we are accessing the right-brain. In doing so, the chances for authentic change become possible.

If you’d like to contact me, have a question, or want to chat, please click the link:

Work and contact info

call, 801-252-6754 (private voicemail, 24/7),

or Email me:  JaneLCSW@gmail.com

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Stay in Love by Staying Out of Fantasy

Old CoupleThere is hard science behind the notion that true love can last a lifetime. A neurological study from Stony Brook University revealed that couples who experience “romantic love” long-term, keep their brains firing in similar ways to couples who have just fallen in love.They defined “romantic love” as characterized by “intensity, engagement and sexual interest.”

If lasting love is an attainable goal, then what’s getting in the way of achieving it? What keeps so many people from maintaining that excitement and closeness they once felt with a partner?

One psychologist would argue that many couples can preserve “romantic love” by avoiding the trappings of a “Fantasy Bond.”

The fantasy bond is a concept developed by psychologist Robert Firestone. It describes an illusion of connection a couple forms that replaces real acts of love, affection, and relating. A fantasy bond exists when a couple starts to forego their individually and lose the “me” to become a “we.”

The most remarkable sign that a fantasy bond has been formed is when one or both partners give up vital areas of personal interest, their unique points of view and opinions, their individuality, presumably to become a ‘unit’, or a ‘whole’. The attempt to find security in an illusion of merging with another leads to an insidious and progressive loss of identity in each person.

According to Dr. Firestone, people have a tendency to reenact the defensive styles developed in childhood. Once old defensive styles are triggered,the individual acts with this defensive posture, blocking the development of a genuine, unique relationship with the partner.

The fantasy bond allows us to feel secure and connected to someone else, while numbing us against some of the more painful emotions that love stirs up, such as fear of loss, memories of hurt, longing, or rejection.

Unfortunately, we cannot selectively block out pain without also blocking out joy.

Without knowing it, couples tend to set up routines and fit each other into roles rather than face the unpredictability and inherent challenges that come with maintaining passion, excitement, and a deep sense of fondness for another person, separate from themselves.

So what are some signs that you may be in a fantasy bond?

• Less eye contact
• Breakdowns in communication
• Less frequent affection and routinized lovemaking
• Loss of independence
• Speaking as one person, overusing “we” statements
• Using everyday routines as symbols of closeness, in place of being emotionally close
• Engaging in role-determined behaviors (i.e., as father, wife, breadwinner, decision-maker), rather than developing yourself based on your personal goals and interests
• Using customs and conventional responses as substitutes for real closeness and relating

If you notice that your relationship has some of these qualities, don’t despair! A fantasy bond exists on a continuum. It isn’t a black or white, good or bad label for your relationship. Once you realize that you have fallen into some form of a fantasy bond, it is possible to reemerge as a happier, more in-love version of yourself.

To do this, you must first investigate and explore how your old wounds were triggered. Therapy can help you with that. It’s often hard to discover on your own. Then you can engage in behaviors that encourage real and meaningful contact with your partner, i.e.,try the opposite of what’s on the above list.

Ultimately, you can become the person you want to be in your relationship—minus the fairytale, but with a much happier ending.Stay in Love by Staying Out of Fantasy.

Some excerpts from PsychAlive: http://www.psychalive.org/stay-in-love-by-staying-out-of-fantasy/

Test: How Much Do You Admire Each Other?

Fondness and Admiration: Assessment

From Dr. Gottman’s Relationship Blog

happyPeopleAccording to research, fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Getting through stressful times and managing conflict is much easier if you and your partner regularly show how highly you value each other!

The following questions have been designed by Dr. Gottman to assess the current level of fondness and admiration that exists in your relationship.

On a sheet of paper, please answer T for true and F for false.

  1. I can easily list the three things I most admire about my partner.T F
  2. When we are apart, I often think fondly about my partner. T F
  3. I will often find some way to tell my partner “I love you.” T F
  4. I often touch or kiss my partner affectionately. T F 
  5. My partner really respects me. T F 
  6. I feel loved and cared for in this relationship. T F
  7. I feel accepted and liked by my partner. T F 
  8. My partner finds me sexy and attractive. T F 
  9. My partner turns me on sexually. T F 
  10. There is fire and passion in this relationship. T F
  11. Romance is definitely still a part of our relationship. T F
  12. I am really proud of my partner. T F 
  13. My partner really enjoys my achievements and accomplishments.T F 
  14. I can easily tell you why I started dating my partner. T F 
  15. If I had it all over again, I would date the same person. T F 
  16. We rarely go to sleep without some show of love or affection. T F 
  17. When I come into a room, my partner is glad to see me. T F 
  18. My partner appreciates the things I do in this relationship. T F 
  19. My partner generally likes my personality. T F
  20. Our sex life is generally satisfying. T F


Scoring:
Give yourself one point for each true answer.

10 or above: This is an area of strength in your relationship. Because you value each other highly, you have a shield that can protect your relationship from being overwhelmed by any negativity that also exists between you. Although it might seem obvious to you that people who are in love have a high regard for each other, its common for spouses to lose sight of some of their fondness and admiration over time. Remember that this fondness and admiration is a gift worth cherishing. Completing this exercise from time to time will help you reaffirm your positive feelings for each other.

Below 10: Your relationship could stand some improvement in this area. Don’t be discouraged by a low score! There are many couples for whom the fondness and admiration system has not died but is buried under layers of negativity, hurt feelings, and betrayal. By reviving the positive feelings that still lie deep below, you can strengthen your bond enormously!

If your fondness and admiration for each other are being chipped away, the route to bringing them back always begins with realizing how valuable they are. Fondness and admiration are crucial to the long-term happiness of a relationship because they prevent contempt – a corrosive that, over time, breaks down the bond between partners –  from becoming an overwhelming presence in your lives. The better in-touch you are with your deep positive feelings for each other, the less likely you are to act contemptuous of your partner when you have a difference of opinion.

http://www.gottmanblog.com/2012/11/fondness-and-admiration-assessment