Sanctuary for the Abused

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Psychopath: Desire Driven, Untamed Nature

Our bundle of wishes drives us out of the bunk in the morning, well most of us anyway. We all have our own unique bundle that motivates us to act. No two bundles are identical, similar is as close as it gets.An act correlated to a wish or wishes in your bundle is far more satisfying than one out of sync. We are out here driving around acting on our desires and bumping into to each other all the time.

One of the most crucial characteristics we all must appreciate about bundle of wishes is that predators’ bundles are untamed.

Your chances of crashing into a predator, such as a rapist, pedophile, stalker, con artist, or the like, should be expected. Preparation is crucial to avoid a head on collision.

Awareness of a predator’s presence before you crash into them is far better then after. I learned my awareness the hard way, only after a destructive collision. Some driving lessons will help you maneuver around them.

What makes predators different is known. Their ability to mask this difference depends on your ignorance.

So what is different? Basically two things: the nature of their bundle and their lack of restraint for acting on a wish in their bundle. Predators have an untamed bundle of wishes.

Have you ever done something mean spirited and afterwards you wish you hadn’t? Two things happen as a result: guilt and behavior modification. You feel so darn guilty that you correct your behavior in the future.

Now consider the act of a predator. They do not experience guilt, thus no behavior modification in their future. No guilt equates to repetitive inappropriate behavior. No restraint by guilt sets them apart.

Two factors of our restraint are inhibition and empathy.

Inhibition arises because we feel our action might hurt somebody else. May not be true, but in our assessment we feel it is true. We do not act on this wish.

The second aspect is empathy. This is the ability to identify with someone else’s feeling. Here we assess a desire to act from the standpoint of another. If we decide our act will effect someone else in a negative way, we will not do it.

A predator has a desire and acts without this assessment. They do not have this ability. Research indicates they never will.

A predator’s bundle of wishes fall in the legal or criminal realm. A predator that is driven by legal desire is extremely pervasive and rarely identified. Criminal predators cause society’s greatest fear and when caught our legal system is designed to remove them, at least for a while.

Both types are dreadfully destructive. Personally I fear the legal variety because their impact is left unchecked. They cause significant harm to those that unwittingly get close to them.

Wake up all you domestic violence victims! If your spouse’s bundle of wishes is untamed, they do not change.

Where I place my greatest fear is irrelevant. What is relevant is a predator’s desire is either unfathomable to you (criminal) or in your mean spirited category (legal). Your fear comes from what you do not understand.

Why anybody would want to sexually assault a woman or molest a child is beyond our power of reason. Sorry to say that some wishes in some predators’ bundles are pure evil.

That they are acted upon is another predator difference. We can never be certain about the nature of somebody else’s bundle. Observing and realizing an action arising out of their lack of constraint indicates possible predator presence.

Remember we all slip up occasionally. No body is perfect. An occasional act that is mean spirited is normal. Beware of the ones who repeat the same behavior under similar circumatances.

Without inhibition and empathy some relatively innocuous behaviors can give off clues to indicate the necessity to steer clear.

As you drive down the road of your life be on the lookout for an untamed bundle of wishes.



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Friday, August 28, 2015

On Abuse, Shared Parenting, & the System

By Debbi Callander, Martin Dufresne, Janet Menezes and Ellen Murray

1. What is Joint Custody?

EM: The essence of custody is authority to make decisions about important issues for a child such as medical care. If custody is "joint", two or more persons share this authority. Joint custody does not mean that a child lives 50% of the time with each parent. The difference between sole and joint custody is not as stark as it may appear. Even a parent with sole custody can be limited in the decisions she can make (visiting times or non-removal from the jurisdiction can be specified by a court order). Furthermore, a parent with access rights is entitled to receive information from a child's school, doctor, and other important service providers.

There are variants of joint custody. With "full" joint custody, parents discuss and agree upon all important issues about a child. Their separation agreement will often provide that if here is disagreement they will mediate, with an option to go to court if disagreement persists. However, some joint custody agreements state that if there is disagreement after consultation that one parent (usually the "primary" parent with whom the child lives most of the time) can make the decision.

The Senate Committee has recommended that the Divorce Act be amended to remove the language of custody and access and instead require all divorcing parents file a "parenting plan". A "parenting plan" is an imprecise concept. It usually means a plan that sets out parenting rules (e.g., "The children will continue to attend Ryerson Public School.") and a dispute resolution process (e.g., mediation). However, it can simply set out the child's residential schedule and specify which parent shall make decisions if parents disagree.

2. What is mediation?

EM: Mediation is a process of dispute resolution. A mediator helps parties structure their discussion, consider alternatives and focus on mutually agreed-upon goals. A mediator does not have the power to make the decision for the parties if they do not agree. Mediation is not a regulated profession in Ontario. Anyone can call herself a mediator. However, there are training programmes and professional organizations for mediators.

Before mediation begins, the parties will sign a contract that sets out ground rules. It will specify whether mediation is open or closed (whether if mediation is unsuccessful, the mediator can give evidence in court about what was said in the process). Usually mediation is conducted between the parties without each party's lawyer being present. Mediation is not a substitute for legal advice. A woman should get legal advice before she mediates, so she knows what her legal rights are before negotiating.

3. What is your opinion on mandatory joint custody and parenting plans: Is joint custody a viable alternative for abused women in custody and access disputes? Why?

DC: The success of joint custody depends on key factors that are absent when there has been a history of abuse:

EM: Joint custody in a family in which there is spousal abuse is problematic for children. Some suggest that it decreases conflict; that is not my experience. A control-obsessed parent with joint custody can argue with more authority about issues in a child's life (e.g., can the child get counseling?) As for the parenting plan, one shortcoming is its' novelty as a legal construct. The word "custody" in a court order or agreement communicates to third parties (e.g., schools) who has the authority to make decisions about a child. These institutions will not take responsibility for legally interpreting a multi-page-parenting plan.

MD: Mandatory joint custody, quietly implemented everywhere, is a creation of the divorced men's lobby. Their goals: bring the State onside, terminate child support obligations, re-establish male control over women beyond separation and divorce, smear ex-partners as abusers, and generally make divorce a horrifying ordeal for the women they want to "punish." They aim their "rights" at children's best interests and at any entitlement and resources for primary caregiving parents. Any mandatory scheme will be especially hurtful for abused wives and children. Rebutting pro-Father presumptions is already proving an impossible burden, imposed on the most vulnerable parties. Wife battering will be swept under the carpet, or men will use so-called "therapy" or the promise thereof to trivialize past assaults and claim reform.

JM: This question is very difficult. To split children between parents is sometimes unfair to the child. How does the child benefit? There are some factors to take into consideration — school, friends, familiarity, and environment. When a Judge makes a ruling on behalf of the children to spend equal time with both parents this could have a negative impact or positive impact. When a woman leaves an abusive husband and still has to have contact with him because of the joint custody there are and can be a number of reasons it doesn't work:

1) The abuse could still continue;

2) The Father could abuse the privileges and not follow Court Orders — conditions in various Peace Bonds or Undertakings;

3) The difficulty this brings is too complex, for the children, the Mother, the School, the Courts, the police, the Probation Officer;

4) The children may not want it — they should be considered first of all, especially if they are old enough to understand; and

5) Men who abuse their partners can and will use children to control many situations, privacy, for one.
I originally wanted joint custody but now I am thankful that I did not get it. Because of my broken-ness, my husband could have used anything against me if I did not comply with the conditions of joint custody. This would also give him a reason to call me...control me...and because of the emotional abuse, I don't believe I could have handled the turmoil.

4. What are the pros and cons of mediation for abused women?

DC: Mediation does not work or breaks down when there is a history of abuse. Yet women agree to it because they fear costs will be assessed if they hold things up.

Tactics that corrupt mediation are not always apparent, like a certain look or gesture that will silence the partner.

Even when parties are in separate rooms, messages are transferred in language that is meaningful.

Victims are seasoned outside mediation not to challenge the abuser's agenda.

Mediation tempts victims to "compromise" needs and rights away to get it over with.
EM: A basic premise of mediation is that it involves two parties who can recognize his/her interest and bargain as equals to reach an agreement. A woman leaving a violent relationship fears abuse, and develops strategies, including compliance, to avoid it. Some abused women wish to mediate. Mediation can — in some circumstances—be quicker, less expensive and less traumatic than court action. If I had an abused client who decided to mediate despite the problems involved, I would recommend that the lawyers take an active role in the negotiation.

JM: Mediation is not suitable for women that have gone through abuse. The abuser's control can easily take over. I was frightened of my husband and would agree to almost anything he wanted. His overall body language scares me. It certainly would not be to my advantage to engage in this. I am afraid to see him, to hear him speak even when a mediator is present. I would be afraid that the mediator would not understand this or pick up on it. This information becomes defused when it is portrayed as a non-threatening exercise for the benefit of all involved.

MD: Mandatory mediation is also a creature of the men's rights movement. The premise is that fathers have absolute rights and have to be "happy" with the outcome. A father can start the process again whenever he gets unhappy. Abused women and children see their experience minimized, if not censored, in the name of "forgetting the past". Abusers have no difficulty manipulating mediation to their ends and locking themselves in their victims' lives, while avoiding accountability for their crimes, consequences of their minimal or abusive parenting and financial obligations to their children. No mediator can properly assess the intimidation, threats and previous broken promises underlying any "negotiation" with an abuser.

5. Given that feminists have noted that women do more than their fair share of the parenting work, isn't joint custody a way for men and women to share the parenting more equitably?

MD: Joint custody is about control, not tasks. Good fathers don't need to have their parenting legally-ordained, and egotistic men will not be pressed into decent caregiving by any law. One way to get men to do more parenting from the start might be to tie future entitlement to the actual work done before any break-up, to the real link created with the child(ren), as would a primary caretaker presumption. Joint custody does precisely the reverse, enshrining biology and guaranteeing the worst of parents equal "rights" to children.

EM: Joint custody is not necessarily about sharing work, but about sharing decision-making. Keeping control over a spouse is especially important to an abusive partner at the time of separation, and he will use joint custody as a vehicle to exert control, not to share work.

JM: For women that have gone through abuse, emotional or physical, the idea of equal parenting doesn't come into play. Some feminists might think differently, but when it comes to the safety of children, separating them from an abusive parent is all that really counts. Just because men father children doesn't mean that there good fathers and loving Dads. I think that mothers who have been abused and seen the impact on their children would gladly accept more responsibility when it comes to raising their children safely and in peace.

DC: The toxic parenting of an abusive spouse is not qualitatively equal to the parenting of a loving caregiver.

If father does not want more responsibility, he can put family or paid caregivers in place.

Parent relief is not effective if one is constantly worried about the children's safety.

6. What do you think needs to be done to shift public awareness and social policy issues about custody and access for abused women and their children?

MD: The goal should be to provide children and their caregivers with essential resources (safety, housing, child care, employment/income, autonomy, health services, etc.) instead of re-privatizing those needs and leaving women's and children's lot up to men's goodwill.

Raise awareness of abusers' behaviour in custody/access/mediation harassment.

Instead of romanticizing father-hood, really hold men accountable for their parental work (or lack thereof) and for intra-family violence.

Track assaults against women and children, holding the system accountable for negligence.

Label Male Lobby tactics and propaganda.

Challenge the tactical use by men of "abusers therapy", "mother substitutes" and misogynist "syndromes".
EM: Research about the effects of joint custody on women leaving violent relationships and their children must be available to everyone, including professionals who are influential in policy making and decision-making for separated families.

DC: All services require comprehensive training on the impact of violence in intimate partnership.

This training must come from frontline agencies so that it reflects the reality of women's lives.

Tools are needed to track and assess the effectiveness and accountability of services to abused women and their children.

All parties need to endorse the Emergency Measures list of the Cross-Sectoral Violence Against Women Strategy Group, in which women are telling the Province of Ontario what they need to prevent further murders and remove obstacles to the flight from violence.

JM: This is a very sad subject for me. I lost custody of my son to my abusive husband. I became very ill with chronic depression and my husband used this against me. Although I had legal counsel, it did not help. My husband should not have won custody. The impact that the abuse has had on my son is very sad. My husband had money, a house, was able to give generous gifts. The service providers in my life at the time did not want to be involved — not my doctor, the shelter, the hospital, social workers, the school, or the police.

PUBLIC AWARENESS IS A MUST. Educate the service providers, have strong protocols for the Justice system in dealing with Domestic Violence, provide education in Domestic Violence in schools, Colleges, and Universities. Custody and Access is sometimes looked at with indifference.

Judges, Crowns, and Defence are skipping through these cases when quality time and assurance for the safety of children should be taken into high regard. There are long-term effects as a result of the decisions made by the so-called professionals who do not understand the pain caused by wrong decisions — my relationship with my children will never be the same.

The decisions made never took into consideration the emotional abuse my husband and the children's father caused. The system failed me. In order for the Public to know what is really happening behind closed doors, abused women need to be able to speak openly in any and all public forums to share how the system fails us and our children.

Debbi Callander (DC) is the Legal support worker/women's advocate for Rosewood Shelter and the Sexual Assault Centre of Simcoe County. A member of the OAITH Lobby committee, she is also a single mother and a survivor.

Martin Dufresne (MD) is a profeminist activist based in Quebec City. Long involved with Montreal Men Against Sexism, he monitors Male Lobby activity, notably the so-called "fathers' rights" movement and "alternatives to justice" for wife batterers and child rapists. He is a co-founder of FIVERS (Feminists against Intimate Violence Empowerment, Resistance and Support), an international Internet discussion list dedicated to ending sexist violence. (To join, e-mail:

Janet Menezes (JM) is a survivor of woman abuse. She is currently a member of the Accountability Committee of the Woman Abuse Council of Metro Toronto.

Ellen Murray (EM) is a partner in Murray & Gregory and practices primarily in the field of family law. She currently serves as a Dispute Resolution Officer in the Superior Court of Justice. She is a member of the Legal Aid test case committee and the Advisory Board for the Barbara Schlifer Clinic. She has worked and lobbied on issues concerning abused women throughout her career.

Editor's note: Each contributor was asked the following questions, with the exceptions of #1&2, where only Ellen Murray was asked to provide legal definitions

IN THE U.S.A. - report all verbal, emotional, physical abuse of the co-parent to your attorney and the judge.  Report any slandering of you as well.  And push for SUPERVISED VISITATION if the co-parent does this.  Push for 'CONTEMPT OF COURT' orders every single time Child Support is 24 hours late.

This article mentions the male as the abuser, your abuser may well be female.

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shared by Barbara at 12:13 AM 3 comments


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Abusers Choose the Victims They Choose

Thoughts from an Abuser

Why they choose the victims they choose:

"I am very much attracted to vulnerability, to unstable or disordered personalities or to the inferior. Such people constitute more secure sources of better quality narcissistic supply. The inferior offer adulation. 

The mentally disturbed, the traumatized, the abused become dependent and addicted to me. The vulnerable can be easily and economically manipulated without fear of repercussions."

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shared by Barbara at 12:52 AM 9 comments


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When Someone Judges You or Says Things About You

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reactive Abuse - What Is It?


“…stop making out people to be evil if they fight back. Or run away. As in divorce.

You cannot force people to submit to abuse. That is the Sin of Sodom, otherwise known as making someone bend over for it. It violates the Laws of Nature. And common sense.” - Kathy Krajco

If you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship like I have, it’s likely your abuser tried to convince you that YOU are the abusive one: that YOU have PMS (a favorite accusation of male partners), YOU are over-reacting, YOU are making it all up,  YOU are the crazy one, that YOU are responsible for all the issues in the relationship, that YOU are the “time-bomb” that explodes on a regular basis. My ex-abuser even called me “Time Bomb” and mocked me about my reactions and responses to his constant abuse during the last 3-3.5 years of our relationship.

It’s a pretty safe assumption that if you’re getting this type of constant blame, mockery, and guilting from a partner in response to any and all issues that arise, you’re in an abusive relationship.

As for your partner’s assertion, yes - you may have sent angry emails or yelled or slammed doors or called names. So your abuser claims YOU were abusing him/her. Or YOU are a Narcissist, Sociopath or Psychopath.

But it’s more likely you were REACTING to being abused by your partner. What can make it even more difficult for you to see and understand at this point is that some of their abuse may be subtle and covert rather than obvious and overt. This causes further difficulty for you in identifying the abuse - and makes it easier for your abuser to convince you that it’s all your fault, or the problem is really with YOU - that you’re “crazy”, or “imagining things”.

They’ll abuse you, and when you react to that abuse, they accuse YOU of abusing THEM and they play the victim role. They don’t call it “crazymaking” for nothing!

This is the stage at which an abused partner often describes as being in the “fog” of abuse. Their abusive partner has guilted them in to accepting ALL blame for the issues in the relationship, and caused them to doubt their own perceptions of the mistreatment they’re receiving.

It’s not at all unusual for a person in an abusive relationship to REACT abusively. This does not mean YOU are the abuser, that you are crazy, have PMS etc. etc. — though the abusive partner will try to convince you that YOU are THE problem and will often succeed in guilting you into believing it. I believed it for a LONG time before I began to recognize and question the pattern of abuse and the subsequent constant blame for the abuse, and worse, the ensuing mockery because I dared respond at all to having been hurt by it.

An interesting thing to note is that an abusive partner will often be very calm when you are upset and angry. This is because when they have finally succeeded in causing your reaction of hurt, upset or anger, then THEY are in power and control over you. THIS is what abuse is about: POWER and CONTROL. And like a drug addict, they get a lot of satisfaction out of that feeling of power and control. Abusers are very disordered people in this way.

The important thing for you to know is that this relationship and this person is toxic, unhealthy, and you need to get out of it and away from this person ASAP. They are emotional vampires, sucking away from you every iota of self-esteem and spirit you ever had. (then they will complain when you have none!)

If someone can drive you to be so upset on a regular basis (and abusers are experts at this - it gives them the sense of superiority, power and control they absolutely LIVE for) then the best thing to do is GET OUT and have NO FURTHER contact with that toxic person, if it is possible for you to do so.

The thing with abusers is that they are pathologically backwards people.

Lundy Bancroft touches on this in his book. Abusive, toxic people only consider and notice THEIR own feelings and their partner’s behavior. They never, EVER consider or notice their PARTNER’S FEELINGS and their own behavior.

When they’re abusive, (verbally, emotionally, sexually, physically, financially - covertly or overtly) it is always someone else’s fault. When their partner/victim finally reacts to that abuse with anger or upset at having been abused - then that is their partner/victim’s fault too.

In their minds, it never gets down to their OWN behavior and how it affects their partner’s feelings. They like to pretend that isn’t relevant, or anything they should ever be responsible for. They ALWAYS lack empathy for their partners (beyond the early “romance” stages when they’re trying to pull you in). This lack of empathy is the mark of the beast of abuse - more than anything else.

Here’s some information that may also help explain this “reactive abuse” concept a little more:

How do you know that you are not the one who is crazy or PMS’ing and that he is really emotionally abusive?


You are being abused if:

(1) He repeats a certain bad behavior (ie: pattern of behavior).

(2) You asked him to stop (for whatever reason) and...

(3) He refuses and continues to behave the way he has.
You may well be abusing him - but that does not mean that he is not being abusive towards you. Both parties are sometimes abusive towards each other.

People who are abusers rarely consider that they might be abusive. Even if the stresses of the relationship lead into what might be considered reactive abuse, anyone who honestly tries to adjust to the other person’s actual needs, actively listens to the other person, and makes every attempt to stop such behavior, probably is not an abuser.

Abusers do not take responsibility for their own actions, and in fact often blame the abused. When the abused person reacts to the abuse, the abuser calls that reaction abuse, and will use guilt to try to get the abused to feel responsible for the arguments or difficulties, as well as for the abuser’s actions.

This is one of the reasons getting away from an abuser is so important. Everything clarifies then.


While this article is written with the male as an abuser, your abuser may well be female!

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shared by Barbara at 12:03 AM 35 comments


Monday, August 24, 2015

The place of “Cognitive Dissonance” in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

Understanding Cognitive Dissonance in relation to narcissistic abuse:

Stockholm syndrome involves the victim paradoxically forming a positive relationship with their oppressor; this is called “Trauma Bonding”. When victims of narcissistic are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, they are often seen by outsiders as somehow having participated in some bizarre way that seems to support their abuse. However, to understand how the trauma bonding occurs, it is especially relevant to understand what is involved in the decision-making and problem-solving process of the victim. This theory is known as Cognitive Dissonance.

If therapists are to understand the behaviour of clients who have been victims of narcissistic abuse, then it is crucial for them to appreciate why the victim combines the two unhealthy conditions of Stockholm Syndrome and Cognitive Dissonance as part of their survival strategy. When these two strategies are in place, the victim firmly believes that their relationship is not only acceptable, but also vital for their survival. They become so enmeshed in the relationship with the abuser, that they feel that their world (mental and emotional) would fall apart if the relationship ended. This explains why they fear those people who attempt to rescue them from their abuser, and how this creates the victim to develop cognitive dissonance and become protective of their abuser.

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term which describes the uncomfortable tension that results from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one’s beliefs (Rational Wiki). Cognitive Dissonance is a communication theory that was published by Leon Festinger 1957, a theory that changed the way in which social psychology was to look at human decision-making and behaviour. The concept of cognitive dissonance is almost self explanatory by its title: ‘Cognitive’ is to do with thinking (or the mind); while ‘dissonance’ is concerned with inconsistencies or conflicts. Simply speaking, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort a person experiences whenever they are holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously (i.e. Shall I wear the red or the blue dress?). Naturally, people do not like the discomfort of conflicting thoughts; this theory proposes that when this happens, people have a motivational drive within them that allows them to rationalize and change their attitudes, beliefs, values and actions, anything that allows them to reduce or dissolve the dissonance they are experiencing (i.e Which makes my bum look smallest?) . When it comes to victims of abuse, there are several behaviours that a victim may use for reducing their cognitive dissonance. For a start they may try to ignore or eliminate it, or they may try to alter its importance, they may even create new cognitions, but most importantly they will try to prevent it from happening in the first place.

What part does Cognitive Dissonance play with victims of narcissistic abuse?

Victims living in a household where there is narcissistic abuse are living in a torturous war zone, where all forms of power and control are used against them (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion etc.). The threat of abuse is always present, and it usually gets more violent and frequent as time goes on. The controlling narcissistic environment puts the victim in a dependency situation, where they experience an extreme form of helplessness which throws them into panic and chaos. The narcissist creates a perverse form of relationship wherein the victim has no idea of what will happen next (alternating between acts of kindness or aggressive raging). This prolonged torturous situation is likely to trigger old negative scripts of the victim’s childhood internal object relations (attachment, separation and individuation). To survive the internal conflict, the victim will have to call on all their internal resources and defense strategies in order to manage their most primitive anxieties of persecution and annihilation. In order to survive, the victim has to find ways of reducing their cognitive dissonance, the strategies they employ may include; justifying things by lying to themselves if need be, regress into infantile patterns, and bond with their narcissistic captor. Most defense mechanisms are fairly unconscious, so the victim is unaware of using them in the moment; all they are intent on is surviving the madness they find themselves in.

As you can imagine, these states of mind throw the victim into any number of inner conflicts where defense mechanisms are called for, cognitive dissonance being one. 

For example, a woman who is abused by her narcissistic spouse will hate the conditions she is living in. However with the real fear of a violent reprisal from her captor if she tried to leave, she will more likely choose to stay put. The cognitive dissonance shows itself through rationalization: On the one hand: she abhors her unhealthy relationship and all the abuse that goes with it; while on the other hand, she tells herself that he only fights with her because he loves and cares for her. This inner dialogue reduced her anxiety, allowing her to bond (Stockholm Syndrome) with her abuser, to the point that she will even protect him from the outside world if people attempt to rescue her or encourage her to leave. The result is that a massive draining conflict ensues between the person’s emotional self and their rational reasoning self. Their “cognitive dissonance” is a sign of the disharmony the victim is experiencing as a result of two conflicting ideas going on at the same time; i.e. the victim knows that they should get out of the abusive situation, but they also know that to do so will put them (and possibly their children) in great danger. While experiencing cognitive dissonance they may adopt a pattern of denial, diversion and defensiveness to control their discomfort. In the cognitive dissonance theory, the decision that decides which path the victim will take will be likely to be the path that causes the least emotional stress. In order to reduce the dissonance, the victim will choose the path of least resistance, and their motivational drive will support their beliefs and justify any decision that helps them stay safe. As you can imagine, the cognitive dissonance can lead to irrational decision making as the person struggles to reconcile these two conflicting beliefs. Researchers suggest that it is actually the cognitive dissonance that causes the victims to choose to stay put with their abuser. Furthermore, in order to support their seemingly irrational decisions to stay put in the abusive relationship, the victim makes heavy investments that almost cements them into the bad relationship forever.

There are six types of investment the victim may get embroiled in that helps to reduce their cognitive dissonance:-

Emotional Investment: Unable to get out of the relationship due to the fear of what will happen to them, the victim decides that they should stay, and see it through to the bitter end. The victim convinces themselves that “things are not that bad”, especially when the narcissistic abuser shows them acts of kindness. Their trauma bonding is interpreted as love. They use that love to feel compassion for their narcissistic abuser; they may even make excuses that their abuser suffered so much hurt and pain in their own childhood, that they cannot help the way they are. They convince themselves that by loving their abuser as much as possible they will heal their wounds, and then everything will be alright. They continue in this way, investing so much emotion in the relationship, (i.e. They shed so many tears, blaming themselves for upsetting their abuser, becoming responsible for their abusers feelings and behaviour. They worry for their abuser in case they harm someone and end up in jai. They even end up blaming themselves when there is another eruption (“I caused the upset, I should have known better”). They even go so far as to convince themselves that their abuser is the victim of society, and therefore must be protected from everybody.

Social Investment: The biggest social investment the victim makes is to the person nearest to them, their narcissistic abuser. The narcissist’s superiority will demand that they are the most important one in the relationship, and the victim (in time) will comply with that arrangement. It does not help that society in general has a matter-of fact attitude toward victims, they do not understand why a victim would stay in such an abusive relationship, let alone protect the abuser. This response can create a further helplessness within the victim, which leaves them feeling isolated and alienated. With a sense of damage to their pride, and deep feelings of shame, the victim begins to avoid further social embarrassment and uncomfortable situations, alienating themselves further with their abuser. Isolated, dependent and dis-spirited, the way is paved for more acceptance of the abuser, and the victim stays in the relationship. They become caught in a cycle with their abuser that involves a sequence of violent episodes, followed by an absence of battering, once again tension building, and finally tension escalating into another violent episode where they get hurt. Around and around it goes, and helplessly the victim looses all hope, so they settle for investing their loyalty there.

Family Investments: For a start, a narcissist is preoccupied in self investment, therefore they expect everybody to pamper to their false self (sadly their true self is in a state of atrophy). If the narcissist is a spouse, then the partner is going to have to invest heavily in their abuser until they are emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. The narcissist requires perfect mirroring and stroking continuously, when they don’t get it, they withdraw (this withdrawal is likely to lead to danger for the victim). Step by step the supposed closeness is disappearing, and the victim experiences this as a great loss (and fear), seeing this, the narcissist feels a sense of power and control. In their withdrawal state, the narcissist is going to loose their sense of specialness, power and omnipotence, this makes them very susceptible to narcissistic injury. When there is narcissistic injury, the terror monster is released, and all of the family is likely to encounter their rage. All of this is going to evoke anxiety on the victimized partner, not just around their own safety, but also for the safety of the children. The narcissist suffers from a chronic evasive pattern that does not change. Just as the narcissist is demanding of its spouse, as a parent they are also very demanding of their children, (remember that everything is about them). They see the children as extensions of themselves, representing them in every aspect. For that reason they expect their children to be high achievers, the very best in every thing that they do. However, the child is faced with a dilemma; If the child comes second best in any task, they will be perceived as being “the first looser” by their narcissistic parent. Silver medals are not seen as a reason to celebrate, they are are more likely to be perceived as a disgrace (looser). If they came first, they risk triggering the narcissist’s jealousy and envy; for the narcissist, envy always involves a comparison – they envy that which they lack. When the child shines, its success is always somehow due to the narcissist itself, but when the child fails, the narcissist takes the failure personally (narcissistic wound), and they will punish the child, whether it be by word or deed. Living with a narcissistic parent, so often the child finds it hard to get their own needs meet, which can lead to serious emotional problems for them. Because the narcissist parent is like a child their own self, there will be power struggles for attention between the child and the parent. All these dynamics are going to put strain on the partner of the narcissist, and they are likely to be the butt of all the narcissist frustration and anger, which will manifest itself as rage. Investing everything they have in their narcissistic partner is the only way the victim finds to keep the family going.

Financial Investment: Narcissist typically seeks to control the family finances, money is a love substitute for them. No matter who earn the money in their family, it is they who are entitled to control how the monies get spent. Often the victim finds themselves being put on an allowance to run the house, and the abuser closely monitors how it is spent. If there is a shortage of money, the narcissist will be stingy when it comes to members of their family spending, yet they will spend what it takes to get what they want. Where possible, the narcissist creates a complex financial situation where everybody is dependent on them, this keeps them in control. Without financial means and usually alienated, many victims are unaware of support resources they may be entitled to, they are trapped by the situation, finding themselves waiting and hoping for a better financial situation to develop so that they can make their exit and detachment easier. In the meantime they do what they can to keep their abuser happy.

Lifestyle Investment: When the narcissist is successful, they will use a lifestyle as an investment. Because they need to display their “specialness” to the world, they will want to display all of their wealth trophies (Narcissistic Supply): the big house, car, private school, business etc. All these things contribute to getting them the praise and adulation they feel they deserve. For the victim, sharing in this financial security, they may fear loosing their current lifestyle for themselves or their children. So they stay because of their fear of the poverty trap that awaits them if they manage to leave.

Intimacy Investment: Narcissism is a personality trait associated with an inflated, grandiose self-concept and a lack of intimacy in interpersonal relationships. The narcissist perceives themselves as being unique and uncommon. Being intimate requires that two people operate commonly with openness and truth (True Self) so that they relate as “equals”. The narcissist operates from a False Self, and becoming equal with anybody would only negate their notion of uniqueness, so they avoid that entirely. Unknown to them, narcissists are still held ransom to their unresolved conflicts with their primary objects (parents). Like the child, they are still harboring the deep wounds of abandonment they experienced back then. Afraid of their own negative emotions, unconsciously, they promise themselves that they will never put themselves in that position again, and they avoid further narcissistic injury by holding everybody at bay, this includes their partner and children. Unfortunately, they too, like the rest of us, are susceptible to loneliness, which is why they are always on the look out for “narcissistic supply” for attention. When they have a partner, they separate the sexual from the emotional and treat their partner as a sex object, and the typical cycle of frustration-aggression is set in motion. Unfortunately, in love with their own reflection, they are incapable of loving anybody else. Where the partner thought she had married the nice Dr. Jekyll, she now finds herself facing the raging maniac that is Mr. Hyde. In such an unhealthy relationship, she will experience the destruction of her emotional and sexual self-esteem. He is not a good father, rather than love his children he abhors them (they take the mother’s attention away from him), so they are confined to the role of being another narcissistic supply source. Furthermore, they use a type blackmail of intimacy against their partner (threatening to tell intimate detains about them that would humiliate and destroy their character). The partner finds themselves in a hopeless situation, broken, the only way out is for them to stay. This serves to send the message to the narcissist that they are truly unique and superior.

One would wonder how the victim tolerates living with an abuser who is so intolerant and hostile? For healthy relationships, tolerating intolerance is neither acceptable nor possible, but for the victim of narcissistic abuse it is vital for survival. Finding themselves in such an intolerable situation, the victim must calm the cognitive dissonance that rocks their self-esteem and self worth. The Dissonance Theory allows the victim to make their choice (even if it means lying to themselves), and gives them a way to justify that they can be happy about not making the opposite choice that would surely put them in danger. Once the choice is made and the cognitive dissonance calmed, the victim has all sorts of tools (unconscious defense mechanism) at their disposal to bolster their decision to stay in the relationship (i.e. Stockholm Syndrome, Infantilism, Trauma Bonding).


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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Confusion Technique

Confusion Technique

The birth of Milton H. Erickson’s Confusion Technique:
Milton Erickson’s Collected Papers-Volume I-pg. 259

"One windy day as I was on my way to attend that first formal seminar on hypnosis conducted by Clark Hull in 1923 , a man came rushing around the corner of a building and bumped hard against me as I stood bracing myself against the wind. Before he could recover his poise to speak to me, I glanced elaborately at my watch and courteously, as if he had inquired the time of day, I stated “It’s exactly 10 minutes of two,” although it was actually closer to 4:00pm, and I walked on. About a half a block away I turned and saw him still looking at me, undoubtedly still puzzled and bewildered by my remark."
"I continued on my way to the laboratory and began to puzzle over the total situation and to recall various times I had made similar remarks to my classmates, and acquaintances and the resulting confusion, bewilderment, and feeling of mental eagerness on their part for some comprehensible understanding. Particularly did I recall the occasion on which my physics laboratory mate had told his friends that he intended to do the second (and interesting) part of a coming experiment. I learned of this, and when we collected our experimental material and apparatus and were dividing it up into two separate piles, I told him at the crucial moment quietly but with great intensity, “THAT SPARROW REALLY FLEW TO THE RIGHT, THEN SUDDENLY FLEW LEFT, AND THEN UP, AND I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT.” While he stared blankly at me, I took the equipment for the second part of the experiment and set busily to work with the equipment for the first part of the experiment. Not until the experiment was nearly completed did he break the customary silence that characterized our working together. He asked, “How come I’m doing this part? I wanted to do that part.” To this I replied simply, “It just seemed to work out naturally this way.”
Confusion techniques are techniques that disrupt the regular pattern of a person’s conscious processing strategy, thereby enabling the development of hypnotic processes. In the therapeutic context, confusion techniques utilize whatever the client is doing to inhibit hypnosis or other therapeutic developments as the basis for inducing those developments. More precisely put, is that such hypnotic techniques are naturalistic communications which disrupt rigid mentally set patterns.

Confusion techniques are based on the following assumptions:
1. There are many automatic and predictable patterns in a person’s behavioral processes, such as the handshake;

2. Disruption of any of these patterns creates a state of uncertainty dominated by undifferentiated arousal (e.g. confusion);

3. Most people strongly dislike the state of uncertainty, and are hence extremely motivated to avoid them;

4. The arousal will increase unless the person can attribute it to something (“this happened because …”);

5. As uncertainty increases, so does the motivation to reduce it;

6. The person who is highly uncertain will typically accept the first viable way by which the uncertainty can be reduced (e.g. suggestions to drop into hypnosis).

In accord with the utilization of these assumptions, most confusional techniques follow the basic steps listed below:

a) Identify pattern(s) of expression - identify a regular pattern such as a handshake, or a particular idiosyncratic pattern of the individuals, such as fiddling with the hair when nervous.

b) Align with the pattern - this involves pacing the client until the appropriate context arises. The application of rapport and respect is critical in this step to prevent the client from pulling away from the hypnotherapist.

c) Introduce confusion via interrupting or overloading the pattern - interruptions should be short and quick, usually entailing a few interruption patterns, e.g. the handshake induction involves, initial fluctuation of sensations upon the hand, followed by the lifting of the wrist with the opposite hand, a ghostly wondering look in the eyes followed with an imperceptible release of the hand being shook. This, in turn, should provide a bewilderment and uncertainty to be further utilized.

d) Amplify the confusion - once uncertainty is produced in the subject, the hypnotherapist continues to act in a completely congruent and meaningful way, which amplifies the client's confusion.

e) Utilize the confusion - at this point the client is willing to accept any simple suggestion to reduce or eliminate the confusion, at which time the hypnotherapist can simply state "That's right … go deeply into trance … now … John."

Clinical Applications of Confusion Techniques:
An Ericksonian hypnotherapist uses confusion to support the person by creating an opportunity to disengage from the rigid limits of normal ways of being and experience the "Self", in more nurturing ways. Confusion techniques can liberate a person from a false and limiting identity.

The hypnotherapist must develop, maintain, and communicate a belief that the client is an intelligent, capable, and unique individual deserving the utmost respect, and that the intent of hypnotic communication is to support the person.

Confusion should usually be introduced gradually, after rapport has been established with the client, perhaps after the 2nd or 3rd sessions. The hypnotherapist should establish that his intent is to fully respect and protect the client’s needs and values while stimulating his ability and desire to develop the desired changes. The hypnotherapist should also make clear that fulfilling these intentions will require that he communicates in a variety of ways, one of them being confusion.

In some circumstances, confusion techniques should not be used. This particularly applies to those already deeply confused, such as suicidal individuals, and people in grieving. With these people, confusion is already present – the hypnotherapist only needs to utilize it.

The client’s processes should be the basis for selecting or developing confusion techniques. The general utilization principle that "whatever a person is doing is exactly that which will allow trance to develop", can help the hypnotherapist realize what type of confusion technique might work, and how and when it should be applied.

Key elements & workings of Confusion Techniques:
The various forms of confusion techniques developed are based on the assumption that, as humans, we require understanding, and somewhat of a comprehension to what we experience, otherwise we tend to shut down and go inside, in order to possibly make sense of the confusing occurrence.

There are various techniques employed to do this, such as the handshake induction, pantomime, shock, and various forms of verbal techniques.

The handshake induction employs the method of confusion via a pattern interrupt. Any specific pattern, which has been learned and requires a sequence of steps from beginning to end, if interrupted causes a momentary point of confusion. The key to its use is via the operator catching the moment, and offering a simple suggestion such as, “Now, Alice…just drop … deeply into trance”. Given such an understandable, easy point of direction, the confused individual accepts the suggestion and follows it.

When employing the confusion technique verbally, steps are taken via verbal wording to overload the subject’s mental abilities. This can be done using a play on words such as “knows, nose, nos”. Furthermore, irrelevancies and nonsequiturs can also be employed to achieve the desired results.

Considerations when providing suggestions for confusion to set in are that the operator speaks in a casual, but earnest manner conveying an intent, and expectation of understanding. A steady flow of language with only enough pauses for the subject to almost begin a reply, yet constantly interrupted with new trains of thought.

Eventually the play with words becomes confusing, distracting, and inhibiting, which causes the subject to develop a need for some form of communication which can be readily comprehended, and easily responded to.

Thus, “the Confusion Technique is a play on words or communication of some sort that introduces progressively an element of confusion into the question of what is meant, thereby leading to an inhibition of response called for but not allowed to be manifested and hence to an accumulating need to respond”. “The culmination occurs in a final suggestion permitting a ready and easy response satisfying to the subject, and validated by each subject’s own, though perhaps unrecognized on a conscious level, of experiential learnings”.

Milton’s Confusion Technique as printed in “The Collected Papers”,
Volume I pgs. 258, 259"

"It is primarily a verbal technique, although pantomime can be used for confusional purposes as well as for communication. As a verbal technique, the Confusion Technique is based upon plays upon words, an involved example of which can be readily understood by the reader but not by the listener, such as “Write right right, not wright or write.” Spoken to attentive listeners with complete earnestness, a burden of constructing a meaning is placed upon them, and before they can reject it, another statement can be made to hold their attention. This play on words can be illustrated in another fashion by the statement that a man lost his left hand in an accident and thus his right (hand) is his left. Thus two words with opposite meanings are used correctly to describe a single object, in this instance the remaining hand. Then too, use is made of tenses to keep the subject in a state of constant endeavor to sort out the intended meaning. For example one may declare so easily that "the PRESENT and the PAST can be so readily summarized by the simple statement, “That which now IS WILL soon be WAS yesterday’s FUTURE even as it WILL BE tomorrow’s WAS.” Thus are the past, the present, and the future all used in reference to the reality of “today”.
The next item in the Confusion Technique is the employment of irrelevancies and non sequiturs, EACH OF WHICH TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT appears to be a sound and sensible communication (i.e. - schizophasia or "word salad"). Taken IN CONTEXT they are confusing, distracting, and inhibiting and lead progressively to the subjects’ earnest desire for an actual need to receive some communication which, in their increasing state of frustration, they can readily comprehend and to which they can easily make a response. It is in many ways an adaptation of common everyday behavior, particularly seen in the field of humor, a form of humor this author has employed since childhood.

A primary consideration in the use of a Confusion Technique is the consistent maintenance of a general casual but definitely interested attitude and speaking in a gravely earnest, intent manner expressive of a certain, utterly complete expectation of their understanding of what is being said or done together with an extremely careful shifting of tenses employed. Also of great importance is a ready flow of language, rapid for the fast thinker, slower for the slower minded, but always being careful to give a little time for a response but never quite sufficient. Thus the subjects are led almost to begin a response, are frustrated in this by then being presented with the next idea, and the whole process is repeated with a continued development of a state of inhibition, leading to confusion and a growing need to receive a clear-cut, comprehensible communication to which they CAN MAKE a ready and full response."

Values of Confusion Techniques:
The values of the confusion technique are twofold. In experimental work it serves excellently to teach experimenter's a facility in the use of words, a mental agility in shifting their habitual patterns of thought, and allows them to make adequate allowances for the problems involved in keeping the subjects attentive and responsive. Also it allows experimenters to learn to recognize and to understand the minimal cues of behavioral changes within the subject. A final value is that long and frequent use of the confusion technique has many times effected exceedingly rapid hypnotic inductions under unfavorable conditions such as acute pain of terminal malignant disease and in persons interested but hostile, aggressive, and resistant.

The following was used by Milton Erickson on two separate accounts with different patients. Italicized words indicate tonal markings. “The Collected Papers”, Volume I pgs. 285, 286"
"You know and I know and the doctors you know know that there is one answer that you know that you don't want to know and that I know but don't want to know, that your family knows but doesn't want to know, no matter how much you want to say no, you know that the no is really a yes, and you wish it could be a good yes and so do you know that what you and your family know is yes, yet they still wish it were no. And just as you wish there were no pain, you know that there is but what you don't know is no pain is something you can know . And no matter what you knew no pain would be better than what you know and of course what you want to know is no pain and that is what you are going to know, no pain. [All of this is said slowly but with utter intensity and with seemingly total disregard of any interruption of cries of pain or admonitions of "Shut up".] Esther [John, Dick, Harry, or Evangeline, some family member or friend] knows pain and knows no pain and so do you wish to know no pain but comfort and you do know comfort and no pain and as comfort increases you know that you cannot say no to ease and comfort but you can say no pain and know no pain but you can say no pain and know no pain but know comfort and ease and it is so good to know comfort and ease and relaxation and to know it now and later and still longer and longer as more and more relaxation occurs and to know it now and later and still longer and longer as more and more and more relaxation and wonderment and surprise come to your mind as you begin to know a freedom and a comfort you have so greatly desired and as you feel it grow and grow you know, really know, that today, to-night, tomorrow, all next week and all next month, and at Esther's [John's] 16th birthday, and what a time that was, and those wonderful feelings that you had then seem almost as clear as if they were today and the memory of every good thing is a glorious thing "… (IF YOU THINK THAT WAS TOUGH, YOU SHOULD TRY RE-TYPING IT WITH ONE FINGER)
One can improvise indefinitely, but the slow, impressing, utterly intense, and quietly, softly emphatic way in which these plays on words and the unobtrusive introduction of new ideas, old happy memories, feelings of comfort, ease, and relaxation as presented usually results in an arrest of the patient's attention, rigid fixation of the eyes, the development of physical immobility, even catalepsy and of an intense desire to understand what the author so gravely and so earnestly is saying to them that their attention is sooner or later captured completely. Then with equal care the operator demonstrates a complete loss of fear, concern, of worry about negative words by introducing them as if to explain but actually to make further helpful suggestions.
"And now you have forgotten something, just as we all forget many things, good and bad, especially the bad because the good are good to remember and you can remember comfort and ease and relaxation and restful sleep and now you know that you need no pain and it is good to know no pain and good to remember, always to remember, that in many places, here, there, everywhere you have been at ease and comfortable and now that you know this, you know that no pain is needed but that you do need to know all there is to know about ease and comfort and relaxation and numbness and dissociation and the redirection of thought and mental energies and to know and know fully all that will give you freedom to know your family and all that they are doing and to enjoy unimpeded the pleasures of being with them with all the comfort and pleasure that is possible for as long as possible and this is what you are going to do."
"Usually the patients' attention can be captured in about five minutes, but one may have to continue for an hour or even longer. Also, and very important, one uses words that the patients understands. Both of the above patients were college graduates.

When such cases are referred to me, I make a practice of getting preliminary information of personality type, history, interests, education, and attitude, and then in longhand I write out a general outline of the order and frequency with which these special items of fact are worked into the endless flow of words delivered with such earnestness of manner.

Once the patients begin to develop a light trance, I speed the process more rapidly by jumping steps, yet retaining my right to mention pain so that patients know that I do not fear to name it and that I am utterly confident that they will lose it because of my ease and freedom in naming it, usually in a context negating pain in favor of absence of diminution or transformation of pain.

Then one should bear in mind that these patients are highly motivated, that their disinterest, antagonism, belligerence, and disbelief are actually allies in bringing about the eventful results, nor does this author ever hesitate to utilize what is offered. The angry, belligerent man can strike a blow that hurts his head and not notice it, the disbeliever closes his mind to exclude a boring dissertation, but that excludes the pain to, and from this there develops unwittingly in the patients a different state of inner orientation, highly conducive to hypnosis and receptive to any hypnotic suggestion that meets their needs; sensibly one always inserts the hypnotic suggestion that if ever the pain should come back enough to need medication, the relief from one or two tablets of aspirin will be sufficient. "And if any real emergency ever develops, a hypo will work far greater success than ever." Sometimes sterile water will suffice."

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shared by Barbara at 12:13 AM 3 comments


Saturday, August 22, 2015


One Painful Way of Defeating Yourself

Traditional Western culture has developed an interesting concept -- one that is honed to a fine edge in the United States (and its criminal justice system) and one that is found as a component of Judeo-Christian based religions.

BLAME is the concept. Notice I didn't say "responsibility." Think for a few seconds about the two words. Perhaps use them in a sentence.

Blame is an affect laden word.

Responsibility, on the other hand, does not tend to have the same level of affective (emotional) weighting.

Usually, when we think of somebody as being to blame for an event we are judging both their behavior and that person.

We are also often involved in assigning or determining guilt (he/she's to blame for the car breaking- down). It may have been the person's responsibility to maintain the car in sound working order but the implication of blame involves, to some degree, causation (he/she caused the car to break-down). In the examples, blame implies causation and guilt.

In our heritage, establishment of guilt is followed by some form of punishment. The punishments vary from standing in a corner for five minutes to saying several extra prayers to a jail term or, in rare instances, the death penalty.

Our entire culture revolves around the concept of rules (both written and un-written) that are supposed to guide or regulate our behavior.

When we break the rules one or more persons judge us guilty, announce a punishment (which is to be imposed) and inform us when the punishment is to be ended (or when we
are absolved of the guilt).

We grow up in the culture learning this type of system of

* blame, * guilt, * punishment * and absolution *

and apply it with regularity to others and to ourselves.

We do this most frequently through our self talk.

We expend vast amounts of energy determining who is to blame for a particular event or phenomena.

(Who spilled the milk? Now, come on, 'fess up, who spilled the milk? Wait 'till your father/mother gets home. He/she will find out who spilled the milk and then you'll get it.)

The determination of blame (guilt) always seems to carry with it some implied or explicit suggestion of punishment (then you'll get it). Small wonder the responsible party is unwilling to step forward.

In most day-to-day situations where people set about the task of establishing blame the activity is of little actual importance. In the example of the spilled milk, the blame establisher probably is concerned that (1) the milk is spilled (and may need to be cleaned up), and (2) the responsible party be aware that the spilling of milk is something to be avoided (and is to be mopped up).

When we seek to establish blame for an event, we send a message. The message tends to be one that implies some terrible consequence following the establishment of blame.

We are, of course, attempting to establish a punishment for the wrongful event. But punishment is not always an effective means of changing behavior, feelings, and thoughts. You have probably learned in psychology that a punishment or a reward is associated with the behavior that most immediately preceded the administration of the reward or punishment. That's essentially true! But wait a minute -- which behavior immediately preceded the punishment?

Those of you who have (or have had) dogs may recall that when the dog did something wrong, you called the dog and spanked the dog for the transgression. The first time you did this the dog came right away, the next time the dog was slower to respond and eventually the dog would not come when called. The dog would not come when called because it learned that it would get spanked when it responded to your call. You have trained the dog to not come when you call as opposed to training the dog to not dig in the garden. Humans, though certainly very different than dogs, respond to learning situations in a very similar way.

What gets lost in the process of blame establishment is most often the fundamental reason for initiating the process at the outset. That is, a person has exhibited a behavior (done something) that has had an effect on our lives that we do not like. We do not want them to do the same thing again, particularly if the same consequence on our life may result. The objective is for that person (and we may be that person) to change his or her behavior in such a way that the new behavior will likely result in our experiencing a more favorable consequence (we want them to not spill milk so we will not have to spend our energy cleaning a floor with milk on it).

By seeking to establish blame we focus on establishment of guilt rather than on changing or modifying milk handling behavior. We punish "fessing up" (or coming when called) rather than teaching new, more productive, methods of handling milk to the people with responsibility for the handling of milk. We get angry when they don't respond and when the milk is spilled again. This seems like a rather unproductive group of activities.

How might we change our blame establishing behavior? -- Not by punishing ourselves for doing it, but by seeking to replace the behavior pattern with one that may get us closer to our overall objective. When we notice ourselves saying, either out loud or internally, things like: Who's to blame, who's at fault, who did this or that, and other similar phrases and we are feeling a strong emotion like anger -- STOP -- maybe even say out- loud the word stop -- and then ask the following questions: What difference does establishing blame make? Will establishing blame change anything that is happening or has happened? Will establishing blame change the behavior of the responsible person? As you review your responses to the questions you will probably note your emotional response has less intensity and that your self talk will start to move into the problem solving mode (O.K. -- now how can I correct the problem). Once in the problem solving mode you can then start determining your immediate and long range objectives (seeing to it that the milk is mopped from the floor and teaching people how to not spill milk) and the action steps involved (getting the mop for yourself or another person and teaching the responsible person how to more effectively hold a milk carton and pour milk).

As you make a habit of taking charge of situations rather than establishing blame you will most likely find that you have much more energy available to invest in more productive activities.


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shared by Barbara at 12:35 AM 8 comments


Friday, August 21, 2015

Boundary Violations

An Approach to Understanding Dangerousness

by: David Mandel

When it comes to domestic violence perpetrators everyone wants to know: how dangerous is he? Or more specifically, what kind of violence is he likely to do in the future? Domestic violence survivors and their children can think and worry about this on a daily basis as they attempt to avoid or minimize the impact of the abusers’ next attack. In the judicial system, agencies such as adult probation look for information which will help them allocate supervision resources towards the most serious and dangerous offenders. Child protection service agencies want to understand whether a domestic violence abuser can be successfully prevented from harming a victim and her children through restraining and protective orders.

While researchers strive to isolate profile factors of abusers who will kill or do serious damage, anecdotal information from survivors of domestic violence continues to be the best common sense source of information about dangerousness. For instance, men who threaten to kill their partners, who have physically assaulted them when they were pregnant or have forced their partners to engage in unwanted sexual behavior are perceived as some of the most dangerous. Men who stalk their victims, willfully violate court orders and assault them in front of others also fall into this category.

What do these men have in common? Is there an aspect or pattern in their behavior that would be useful in assessing the behavior and dangerousness of all abusers? All these behaviors share a distinct quality which can be described as a "boundary violation." A "boundary violation" is an action which by its very nature penetrates the physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries of another person. All types of violence share this characteristic to some degree. By examining the extent, severity and the frequency of the "boundary violations" in the behavior of an abuser, we can begin to see a pattern emerge that may be useful in assessing for future dangerousness as well as the path towards successful intervention approaches with an abuser.

First of all, evaluating an abusive man based on his history of violating his victims boundaries orients the assessment process towards an essential dynamic in domestic violence cases. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary uses the words, "break", "disregard", "interrupt" "disturb", "desecrate" and "rape" in association with the words violation or violate. All these words accurately describe the range of experience of battered women and their children at the hands of their abuser. By engaging in a pattern of abuse, a batterer "breaks, interrupts and disturbs" his victim's control over her own time, energy, physical space and even her thoughts. When we understand domestic violence as a boundary violation, we refocus the community dialogue on the serious impact of the behavior on the victim and her children. Our understanding of the abuser changes from seeing him as someone with a "temper problem" or someone who "lost control" to someone who is breaking the trust of his loved ones. And we are implicitly acknowledging the right and need for women and their children to have their own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual boundaries.

Second, by knowing how far a particular abuser has gone in his "boundary violations" we can begin to see his dangerousness more clearly. Was he physically violent to his partner when she was pregnant? If he was, he has demonstrated his willingness and ability to strike out against a very vulnerable form of life. Has he stalked his partner against her wishes and in disregard for court orders against him? If he has, he has demonstrated his unwillingness to respond to either his victim’s request for physical space or legal and social injunctions against his invasion of her space. Has he been violent to his partner in front of others including children, friends, family or in public? If the answer is yes, then he has displayed a willingness to humiliate and shame his partner in addition to assaulting her. Has he been sexually assaulting toward his partner? If the answer is yes, then has demonstrated his willingness to override and ignore her most basic and fundamental right: to control her own body. The questions can continue: Has he broken into her house? Has he spied on her? and so on.

Three useful perspectives emerge from examining the extent, severity and frequency of the boundary violations.

First, a profile develops of the offender centered on the most crucial aspects of his behavior. What social, ethical and moral norms is the abuser willing to violate in order to get his own way? What requests from the victim, her children and legal and social authorities is he willing to disregard in order to get what he wants? The more an abuser indicates his willingness to "break, interrupt, desecrate, and disturb" the normal human needs of his victim and accepted legal and social boundaries, the more dangerous he is.

Second, a picture forms of the abuser's level of disconnection from himself and others. To become abusive, a man must forget about everything except his goal of control. Focusing on revenge or proving oneself right takes all precedent over the impact of his behavior on his children or his partner's feelings for him. He disconnects from his other values, and he disconnects from the real long-term impact of his behavior. The more time a man spends disconnected from himself and others, the more dangerous he is. The greater the degree of disconnection the more dangerous he is.

Third, if you analyze the boundaries an abuser is willing to cross, you may also begin to see which boundaries he respects and won't cross. We know that many abusers, when they become aware of the impact of their behavior on their children, begin to make an effort to change. For instance, a study showed that a number of men who had been physically violent before their partner became pregnant stopped their physical violence during the pregnancy. This kind of information can help the court, social service workers and community agencies begin to develop individual and community strategies designed to leverage these pre-existing patterns.

A battered women intuitively understand many of these things. Her fear level can quickly rise when her partner becomes quiet. His disconnection from her and the family may be a precursor of a violent incident. The same may be true for a sarcastic or critical comment. A outside observer may fail to understand how a small, cutting comment telegraphs so much about his willingness to violate her emotional space. Battered women are constantly trying to discover the boundary the abuser will not cross to hurt her or her children. For instance, a victim might strategize "Let me invite our friends over. He's never violent when other people are around," or "I need to call the police because he always leaves me alone for a few months after the police get involved."

Professionals working with domestic violence may benefit from examining the patterns of abusers from the "boundary violations" perspective. This method of organizing our thinking about abusers can enhance our efforts to develop the most effective assessment and intervention strategies in our work to diminish and ultimately stop domestic violence in our society.

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