Sanctuary for the Abused
Friday, October 31, 2014
Victim Blaming, Codependency, and the Analogy
Here's how I view this idea that the pain I feel in my relationship is "my fault", and stemming from "old wounds" or due to my "codependency".
Let's say when I was three I fell down some stairs and broke my leg. And let's say that I fell down those stairs because someone bigger than me, someone who was supposed to care for and protect me, pushed me.
Let's also say that as a three year old I couldn't get myself to a hospital and no one brought me so my leg never healed right leaving me with a bum leg that I could eventually walk on, but not quite right. In fact, my whole skeletal structure became compromised because I had to favor one leg over the other causing all sorts of other things to get thrown out of alignment. Back problems, neck problems, muscle problems, etc. But I learned to live with it, and I was functional as best I could be.
Years later I meet a man who loves my quirky crookedness and we fall in love. He is kind. He is attentive. He makes me feel good. But then things start going a little awry. Then one day, with not a whole lot of warning, man walks up to me with a baseball bat and nails me on the bum leg, breaking it again.
So I've got a broken leg, a re-broken leg, and I go to the hospital.
Here are two possible scenarios.
What should happen:
At the ER the doctor takes some x-rays and comes back to tell me what's what. "You've got a pretty hefty fracture and we're going to have to set the leg and then put a cast on. After 8 weeks in the cast I'm going to want you to do some physical therapy. What I'm concerned with is that you also appear to have an old fracture that didn't heal right, and we're going to have to fix that too. The good news is that the new fracture is on the same line, so by fixing the new fracture, and with intense therapy, you'll be almost as good as new, in fact better than you have been for years. I'm sorry this happened to you. We'll give you something for the pain for a few days, and after that the pain will be bearable enough for you to handle on your own, but you'll be coming in for regular check-ups so we can be sure you're healing properly this time. Also, I think you might benefit from a self-defense class so that once you're healed you'll have a much better chance of keeping yourself safe from harm. Good luck and we'll see you in two weeks."
What happens in the codependent/co-addict model:
At the ER the doctor takes some x-rays and comes back to tell me what's what. "You've got an old fracture and that's what caused this new one, so really it's your fault that your leg is broken. As for the pain you're feeling, that's also your fault. Clearly you are focusing on the pain too much and if you could just detach from it you'd realize there's really nothing to fuss about. You're bringing up your old pain and that's simply not the correct way to go about this. You say you were hit with a baseball bat? Obviously you put yourself in a situation to get your leg broken again because you're addicted to getting your leg broken. Look at how many times this has happened to you? Given your history, it's likely your leg is always going to be getting broken, but if you learn to realize that the pain your feeling is just wrong thinking, and as long as you go to a support group for the rest of your life, you'll be able to learn how to not worry or feel pain when your leg is broken. We good here?"
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking
From "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David D. Burns, M.D.
1. All-or-nothing thinking - You see things in black-or-white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure. When a young woman on a diet ate a spoonful of ice cream, she told herself, "I've blown my diet completely." This thought upset her so much that she gobbled down an entire quart of ice cream.
2. Overgeneralization - You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as "always" or "never" when you think about it. A depressed salesman became terribly upset when he noticed bird dung on the window of his car. He told himself, "Just my luck! Birds are always crapping on my car!"
3. Mental Filter - You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors a beaker of water. Example: You receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical. You obsess about his reaction for days and ignore all the positive feedback.
4. Discounting the positive - You reject positive experiences by insisting that they "don't count." If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn't good enough or that anyone could have done as well. Discounting the positives takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.
5. Jumping to conclusions - You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion.
Mind Reading: Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you.
Fortune-telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. Before a test you may tell yourself, "I'm really going to blow it. What if I flunk?" If you're depressed you may tell yourself, "I'll never get better."
6. Magnification - You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities. This is also called the "binocular trick."
7. Emotional Reasoning - You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel terrified about going on airplanes. It must be very dangerous to fly." Or, "I feel guilty. I must be a rotten person." Or, "I feel angry. This proves that I'm being treated unfairly." Or, "I feel so inferior. This means I'm a second rate person." Or, "I feel hopeless. I must really be hopeless."
8. "Should" statements - You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. After playing a difficult piece on the piano, a gifted pianist told herself, "I shouldn't have made so many mistakes." This made her feel so disgusted that she quit practicing for several days. "Musts," "oughts" and "have tos" are similar offenders.
"Should statements" that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general, lead to anger and frustration: "He shouldn't be so stubborn and argumentative!"
Many people try to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if they were delinquents who had to be punished before they could be expected to do anything. "I shouldn't eat that doughnut." This usually doesn't work because all these shoulds and musts make you feel rebellious and you get the urge to do just the opposite. Dr. Albert Ellis has called this " must erbation." I call it the "shouldy" approach to life.
9. Labeling - Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying "I made a mistake," you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser." You might also label yourself "a fool" or "a failure" or "a jerk." Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. Human beings exist, but "fools," "losers" and "jerks" do not. These labels are just useless abstractions that lead to anger, anxiety, frustration and low self-esteem.
You may also label others. When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, you may tell yourself: "He's an S.O.B." Then you feel that the problem is with that person's "character" or "essence" instead of with their thinking or behavior. You see them as totally bad. This makes you feel hostile and hopeless about improving things and leaves very little room for constructive communication.
10. Personalization and Blame - Personalization comes when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn't entirely under your control. When a woman received a note that her child was having difficulty in school, she told herself, "This shows what a bad mother I am," instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman's husband beat her, she told herself, "If only I was better in bed, he wouldn't beat me." Personalization leads to guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy.
Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways they might be contributing to the problem: "The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable." Blame usually doesn't work very well because other people will resent being scapegoated and they will just toss the blame right back in your lap. It's like the game of hot potato--no one wants to get stuck with it.
Ten Ways to Untwist Your Thinking
From "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David D. Burns, M.D.
1. Identify The Distortion: Write down your negative thoughts so you can see which of the ten cognitive distortions you're involved in. This will make it easier to think about the problem in a more positive and realistic way.
2. Examine The Evidence: Instead of assuming that your negative thought is true, examine the actual evidence for it. For example, if you feel that you never do anything right, you could list several things you have done successfully.
3. The Double-Standard Method: Instead of putting yourself down in a harsh, condemning way, talk to yourself in the same compassionate way you would talk to a friend with a similar problem.
4. The Experimental Technique: Do an experiment to test the validity of your negative thought. For example, if during an episode of panic, you become terrified that you're about to die of a heart attack, you could jog or run up and down several flights of stairs. This will prove that your heart is healthy and strong.
5. Thinking In Shades Of Grey: Although this method may sound drab, the effects can be illuminating. Instead of thinking about your problems in all-or-nothing extremes, evaluate things on a scale of 0 to 100. When things don't work out as well as you hoped, think about the experience as a partial success rather than a complete failure. See what you can learn from the situation.
6. The Survey Method: Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and attitudes are realistic. For example, if you feel that public speaking anxiety is abnormal and shameful, ask several friends if they ever felt nervous before they gave a talk.
7. Define Terms: When you label yourself 'inferior' or 'a fool' or 'a loser,' ask, "What is the definition of 'a fool'?" You will feel better when you realize that there is no such thing as 'a fool' or 'a loser.'
8. The Semantic Method: Simply substitute language that is less colorful and emotionally loaded. This method is helpful for 'should statements.' Instead of telling yourself, "I shouldn't have made that mistake," you can say, "It would be better if I hadn't made that mistake."
9. Re-attribution: Instead of automatically assuming that you are "bad" and blaming yourself entirely for a problem, think about the many factors that may have contributed to it. Focus on solving the problem instead of using up all your energy blaming yourself and feeling guilty.
10. Cost-Benefit Analysis: List the advantages and disadvantages of a feeling (like getting angry when your plane is late), a negative thought (like "No matter how hard I try, I always screw up"), or a behavior pattern (like overeating and lying around in bed when you're depressed). You can also use the cost benefit analysis to modify a self-defeating belief such as, "I must always try to be perfect."
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Separation Safety Plan
Step 1: Safety during a violent incident. Victims cannot always avoid violent incidents. In order to increase safety, battered victims may use a variety of strategies.
I can use some or all of the following strategies:
I can keep my money and car keys ready and put them (place) _________________ in order to leave quickly.
I can tell _____________________about the violence and request they call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my house.
I can teach my children how to use the telephone to contact the police and the fire department.
I will use _______________________ as my code for my children or my friends so they can call for help.
If I have to leave my home, I will go _____________________ (Decide this even if you don't think there will be a next time).
If I cannot go to the location above, then I can go to___________________________or ______________________________.
I can also teach some of these strategies to some/all my children.
When I expect we are going to have an argument, I will try to move to a space that is lowest risk, such as ____________ ____________________. (Try to avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, kitchen, near weapons or in rooms without access to an outside door).
I will use my judgment and intuition. If the situation is very serious, I can give my partner what he/she wants to calm him/her down. I have to protect myself until I/we are out of danger.
I can use some or all the following safety strategies:
I will keep copies of important documents or keys at _______________________.
I will open a savings account by ______________, to increase my independence.
Other things I can do to increase my independence include:
The domestic violence program's hot line number is ____________ and I can seek shelter by calling this hot line.
I can keep change for phone calls on me at all times. I under stand that if I use my telephone credit card, the following month the telephone bill will tell my batterer those numbers that I called after I left. To keep my telephone communications confidential, I must either use coins or I might get a friend to permit me to use their telephone credit card for a limited time when I first leave.
I will check with ____________________ and _____________ to see who would be able to let me stay with them or lend me some money.
I can leave extra clothes with _________________________.
I will sit down and review my safety plan every ______________ in order to plan the safest way to leave the residence. _____________ (domestic violence advocate or friend) has agreed to help me review this plan.
I will rehearse my escape plan and, as appropriate, practice it with my children.
Safety measures I can use include:
I can replace wooden doors with steel/metal doors.
I can install security systems including additional locks, window bars, poles to wedge against doors, an electronic system, etc.
I can purchase rope ladders to be used for escape from second floor windows.
I can install smoke detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for each floor in my house/apartment.
I can install an outside lighting system that lights up when a person is coming close to my house.
I will teach my children how to use the telephone to make a collect call to me and to _______________(friend/minister/ other) in the event that my partner takes the children.
I will tell people who take care of my children which people have permission to pick up my children and that my partner is not permitted to do so. The people I will inform about pick-up permission include:
________________________________________(day care staff),
___________________________________(Sunday school teacher),
I can inform ______________________________(neighbors), _______________________________________(pastor), and, _______________________________________(friend) that my partner no longer resides with me and they should call the police if he is observed near my residence.
The following are some steps that I can take to help the enforcement of my protection order:
I will give my protection order to police departments in the communities where I usually visit family or friends, and in the community where I live.
There should be a county registry of protection orders that all police departments can call to confirm a protection order. I can check to make sure that my order is in registry. The telephone number for the county registry of protection order is _________________________________.
For further safety, if I often visit other counties , I might file my protection order with the court in those counties. I will register my protection order in the following counties: ___________________ and _________________ that I have a protection order in effect.
I can call the local domestic violence program if I am not sure about B, C, or D above or if I have some problem with my protection order.
I will inform my employer, my minister, my closest friend and _____________ and ____________that I have a protection order in effect.
If my partner destroys my protection order, I can get another copy from _________________.
If my partner violates the protection order, I can call the police and report a violation, contact my attorney, call my advocate, and/or advise the court of the violation.
If the police do no help, I can contact my advocate or attorney and will file a complaint with the chief of the police department.
I can also file a private criminal compliant with the district justice in the jurisdiction where the violation occurred or with the district attorney. I can charge my battering partner with a violation of the Order of Protection and all the crimes that he/she commits in violating the order. I can call the domestic violence advocate to help me with this.
I might do any or all of the following:
I can ask ________________ to help screen my telephone calls at work.
When leaving work, I can _____________________________________ __________________________________________.
When driving home if problems occur, I can _______________________________ __________________________________.
If I use public transit, I can ________________________________________ _______________________________________.
I will go to different grocery stores and shopping malls to conduct my business and shop at hours that are different than those when residing with my battered partner.
I can use a different bank and take care of my banking at hours different from those
I used when residing with my battered partner.
I can also __________________________________________.
If drug or alcohol use has occurred in my relationship with the battering partner, I can enhance my safety by some or all of the following:
I can also ___________________________________________.
If my partner is using, I can _____________________________.
I might also _________________________________________.
To safeguard my children, I might ________________________ and ______________________________________________.
Step 7: Safety and my emotional health. The experience of being battered and verbally degraded by partners is usually exhausting and emotionally draining. The process of building a new life for myself takes much courage and incredible energy.
To conserve my emotional energy and resources and to avoid hard emotional times, I can do some of the following:
If I feel down and ready to return to a potentially abusive situation, I can _____________________________________________.
When I have to communicate with my partner in person or by telephone, I can ____________________________________.
I can try to use "I can . . . " statements with myself and to be assertive with others.
I can tell myself - "_____________________________________ ______________________________" whenever I feel others are trying to control or abuse me.
I can read ____________________________to help me feel stronger.
I can call ___________________, ___________________ and _________________as other resources to be of support of me.
Other things I can do to help me feel stronger are __________________________, and _______________________________.
I can attend workshops and support groups at the domestic violence program or _________________________, or _____ _______________to gain support and strengthen my relationship with other people.
Money : If I don't take any money from the accounts, he/she can legally take all money and/or close the account and I may not get my share until the court rules on it if ever.
These items might be placed in one location, so that if we have to leave in a hurry, I can grab them quickly.
When I leave, I should have:
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
How Language is Used to Abuse
"Where the hell do you get off tellin' me your mama said I'm not what you need. If she knows it all, that's where you need to be" --Toni Braxton
If you are still in an Abusive relationship you probably have millions of things running through your head right now. Hopefully, you've left him and you're gaining back your clarity of mind.
Learning how an Abuser uses language to attack and dismantle your self worth can protect you from dating an Abuser again. An Abuser uses language early in the relationship to create or worsen your self esteem issues. His tactics get more devious as time goes on. If you're still seeing one of these guys, get out now. The longer you wait, the harder it is to repair yourself.
Some sites give advice on how to respond to abusive language. I do not. I believe all abusive language should be avoided by leaving the situation. In my mind, there is no reason to argue with an abuser, because there's really no way to win other than to say, "This is not acceptable. If you do it again, I am leaving." When he does it again and he will, leave and stay gone.
An Abuser Uses Language to:
- Create self doubt.
- Create dependency on him and his perception.
- Coerce you into questioning reality. ("crazy making")
- Attempt to make you feel small.
- Convince you your friends are untrustworthy.
- To bring you to tears.
- Ultimately turn your back on your world entirely.
Hallmarks of Abusive Language:
* Outright Language such as name-calling, put-downs or verbal assaults.
(yelling, "Slut!" or "You're a selfish whore!")
* Throwing your past at you.
("Remember when you f*cked up?" or "I can't believe you used to..." or "You should feel lucky I'd even date someone who...")
* Using others as validation for the Abuse.
("You're the dirt on his shoe." or "Your late grandfather would sure hate to see the liar you turned out to be." or "None of your friends care about you.")
* Using imagined others to validate the abuse by using "we", "they" and "everybody."
("Everybody thinks you're pathetic." or "We don't think this conversation is important.")
* Lies that directly challenge what you know to be true.
("You don't care about me." or "You're selfish." or "I was not at the bar last night." or "I never did/ said that" or "that never happened" or "Of course I love you, care about you.")
* Lies about you to friends/family.
("I told my grandmother you cheated on me." or "I told my mother you said..." or "I told everyone you...")
* Usually hints, never asks for information, avoids answering questions. Forces information from you.
("I'm supposed to answer that when you're just a lousy..." or "I know what you did last night. My friends keep tabs on you.")
* Constantly tries to threaten you into doing degrading things to "prove" your worth.
(Says he'll leave if you don't swear on a Bible or take a lie detector test)
* Constantly threatens to leave, hurt you or someone you care about.
("You wait until I find him. He'll never speak to you again." or "Open your mouth again. I dare you." or "If you cry. I'm leaving.")
Once an Abuser has demoralized you, there is nothing you can do to restore your relationship to the false glory it was in the beginning.
Using language, the Abuser tears you apart slowly, until you are so hurt and shattered you don't know which way is up or down.
Seek help and you'll discover your soul, mind and heart have been ravaged by a force stronger than even the toughest of women; the monster rotting the Abuser from the inside out. It is not your job to heal him. It is your job to heal yourself, especially if you have children who need a whole mother.
I say this often, it is never the victim's fault she was Abused, but now that your eyes are open and you realize you are being abused, it is your choice to stay or leave.
For your sake I hope you leave and never, ever look back.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Abuser Tactics with Children
Tactics During the Relationship
Battering/abusing her in front of the children
Threatening to hurt or kill her in front of the children
Telling the children that the victim is to blame for the violence/abuse
Justifying the violence/abuse to the children
Telling the children that the victim is a bad parent
Using other relatives to speak badly about the victim to the children
Yelling at the victim when the children "misbehave"
Getting the children to take the batterer’s side
Telling them that the victim is crazy, stupid, and incompetent
Abusing or killing the family pets
Using children as confidants (see: covert incest)
Threatening to commit suicide
Withholding money for children’s needs
Physically abusing the children
Threatening to take children if she leaves
Driving recklessly with the children and/or the victim in the car
Abusing drugs/ alcohol in front of the children
Watching pornography in front of the children
Coming home intoxicated
Tactics After Separation
Asking children what she is doing
Asking who she is seeing
Blaming her for the separation
Blaming the victim for the relationship ending
Telling the children that they cannot be a family because of the victim
Talking about what she did "wrong"
Calling constantly to talk to the children
Showing up unexpectedly to see the children
Criticizing her new partner
Assaulting her new partner
Forcing the children to interact with his new partner, without the mother's knowledge or consent
Withholding child support/ monies for living expenses
Blaming her that HE is not paying child support
Showering children with gifts during visitation
Undermining her rules for the children
Picking up the children at school without telling her
Keeping them longer than agreed on
Abducting the children
Threatening to take custody away from the victim if she does not reconcile with the abuser
Blaming her for their health/ emotional problems
Telling them she is an alcoholic, addict, or mentally ill
Making frequent court dates to change the parenting plan
Saying she didn’t want them
Physically abusing them and telling them not to tell their mother
Abusing his new partner in front of them
Changing visitation plans suddenly and/ or frequently
(feel free to print this out and show it to your lawyer and family)
Sunday, October 26, 2014
The Man Vanishes or No Closure
More and more men are perfecting an infuriating alternative to the painful, drawn-out breakup: the disappearing act.
By Amy Sohn
Not long ago, I dated a guy who had a habit of calling from pay phones. He said cell phones were rude and caused brain cancer, and he’d call from loud street corners to murmur intimate things into my ear. One night, I was sitting at home thinking about him when the phone rang. I heard horns blaring. “Dan?” I purred.
“How’ve you been?” he said. We started catching up, and just as I asked him when he wanted to get together, his money ran out. The operator said to insert another dime. “I’m not sure I have one!” he shouted, and then he was gone. I waited a few minutes, calculating the amount of time it would take him to run into a bodega and get change. After five minutes, I decided the first bodega wouldn’t give change so he’d had to walk a few more blocks to a restaurant or a store. A half-hour passed. Then a few hours. After three days, I broke down and left him a message, saying I hoped he hadn’t been hit by a truck. He called back to say his ex-girlfriend had moved back in with him and not to call again. I realized then that she might have moved in weeks before, and that his final pay-phone call had been his cowardly attempt to wriggle out of my life without an official breakup talk. He’d been trying to pull one of the most insidious and common New York City dating practices: a fadeaway.
With the rise of Internet dating has come a new carelessness about dating etiquette, and serial daters are increasingly choosing to beg out of mediocre relationships by cutting off all contact. Generally, it’s the man who pulls the fadeaway, since the onus is usually on him to call. And though most fadeaway victims agree that it’s acceptable after a few dates, what’s surprising is just how many people end long-term relationships this way. It seems the breakup talk is a thing of the past.
Bryan, a marketing executive, 35, is one recent victim: “Last fall, I met this guy out at a bar, and we totally hit it off. He said he had just gotten over a relationship and didn’t want to get in anything serious. I was like, ‘Fine.’ We went out all of September, he went away in October, and we lost a little momentum. Then Thanksgiving came, we each went home and came back, and he would not return my phone call. I was like, ‘You rat bastard! I cannot believe you are trying to do a fadeaway after two months!’ I wrote this scathing e-mail a page long. Of course I received no response.”
He says that in any dating situation, even a short-term one, he would always prefer a courtesy call. “If you’re old enough to date, you’re old enough to say, ‘I’m not interested.’ Whatever their reasons are, they can keep them to themselves. But if someone doesn’t call, I’m left in this void that leaves me open to too much speculation. I become more self-critical.”
Heather, 31, who’s in magazine marketing, has had more than a few guys pull fadeaways on her—and says they’re a by-product of an overall lack of courtesy: “People don’t care. It’s a huge problem, especially in this city. It’s so bad that I’m actually waiting for a fadeaway right now. I’ve been on five dates with this guy, and I’m starting to feel like I’m never going to hear from him again. That would be awful, but I’m starting to expect it because it’s happened so often.”
“If you’re old enough to date, you’re old enough to say ‘I’m not interested,’ ” says one fadeaway victim.
Chris London, a 41-year-old lawyer, says he’s tried honesty—and it backfired: “I got set up with a friend of a friend, and almost immediately I knew that I didn’t want to sleep with her. We had some drinks and I dropped her off without trying anything. Later, I called her and she said, ‘Do you want to get together again?’ I said, ‘No, I didn’t really have a love connection, but I had a really good time with you.’ She said, ‘So let me get this right. You’re fucking calling me because you don’t want to go out? I don’t need any more friends.’ ”
These days, he’s not sure which approach is best: disclosure or avoidance. “In either case, they could be upset,” he says. “When you tell a woman there’s no chemistry, it means ‘I don’t find you attractive.’ Women don’t want to hear that. In some cases, leaving them in the dark is better. Then they can say ‘He’s a player’ and forget about it.”
Disappearing acts may be more common nowadays because in the age of Internet dating, people often get a false sense of intimacy through e-mail before they even meet. The woman who’s thrilled that Kazooguy is so hot in person may not know that he’s furious she posted such an outdated picture.
Some fadeaways happen because the two people really do have an intense connection, and then one of them reflects on it and gets scared. The same guy who asks you to spend the weekend with him on the second date is almost guaranteed to fall off the face of the planet before you ever reach the third. (This means you, Sullivan County Share House Boy.)
Those seeking to avoid fadeaways had better not sleep with a paramour early on, says Anastasia, a writer, 31: “If you sleep with the guy immediately, you almost have to assume he’ll fade away.” Anastasia has had three guys pull fadeaways—all men she met online—and found it infuriating. “I think when a fadeaway really is bullshit is when people start alluding to things down the line,” she says. “I dated this guy who said things like ‘It would be so much fun to take a road trip together.’ We went out four or five times, and then he never showed up to this party I invited him to . . . If men knew how bananas it drove us, they wouldn’t just cut off contact. It’s like that Glenn Close line: ‘I will not be ignored.’ ”
So what’s the mature alternative to disappearing? Anastasia thinks it’s e-mail. “E-mail is cowardly, but it’s so much better than nothing,” she says.
She is now seeing a man she met through mutual friends: “It was only when I started dating this guy who I didn’t meet online that the inconsistency stopped. He asked me out on dates and gave me no doubt about what he felt for me. I feel very lucky right now because he has behaved so well.” She pauses, as though trying to figure out what to make of it. “Maybe it all comes down to timing. Or maybe it’s because he’s Swedish.”
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Trauma: Emotional & Psychological
Trauma. The word brings to mind the effects of such major events as war, rape, kidnapping, abuse, torture, or other similar assault. The emotional aftermath of such events, recognized by the medical and psychological communities, and increasingly by the general public, is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Now there is a new field of investigation that is less familiar, even to professionals: emotional or psychological trauma.
What is emotional or psychological trauma?
The ability to recognize emotional trauma has changed radically over the course of history. Until rather recently psychological trauma was noted only in men after catastrophic wars. The women's movement in the sixties broadened the definition of emotional trauma to include physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually abused women and children. Now because of the discoveries made in the nineties known as the decade of the brain, psychological trauma has further broadened its definition.
Recent research has revealed that emotional trauma can result from such common occurrences as the breakup of a significant relationship, a relationship with a pathological person or having a pathological parent, a humiliating or deeply disappointing experience, the discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition, or other similar situations. Traumatizing events can take a serious emotional toll on those involved, even if the event did not cause physical damage.
Regardless of its source, an emotional trauma contains three common elements:
- it was unexpected;
- the person was unprepared; and
- there was nothing the person could do to prevent it from happening.
It is not the event that determines whether something is traumatic to someone, but the individual's experience of the event. And it is not predictable how a given person will react to a particular event. For someone who is used to being in control of emotions and events, it may be surprising – even embarrassing – to discover that something like a breakup or car accident can be so debilitating.
What causes emotional or psychological trauma?
Our brains are structured into three main parts, long observed in autopsies:
- the cortex (the outer surface, where higher thinking skills arise; includes the frontal cortex( the most recently evolved portion of the brain)
- the limbic system (the center of the brain, where emotions evolve)
- the brain stem (the reptilian brain that controls basic survival functions)
These scans reveal that trauma actually changes the structure and function of the brain, at the point where the frontal cortex, the emotional brain and the survival brain converge.
A significant finding is that brain scans of people with relationship or developmental problems, learning problems, and social problems related to emotional intelligence reveal similar structural and functional irregularities to those resulting from PTSD.
What is the difference between stress and emotional or psychological trauma?
One way to tell the difference between stress and emotional trauma is by looking at the outcome – how much residual effect an upsetting event is having on our lives, relationships, and overall functioning.
Traumatic distress can be distinguished from routine stress by assessing the following:
- how quickly upset is triggered
- how frequently upset is triggered
- how intensely threatening the source of upset is
- how long upset lasts
- how long it takes to calm down
If we can communicate our distress to people who care about us and can respond adequately, and if we return to a state of equilibrium following a stressful event, we are in the realm of stress. If we become frozen in a state of active emotional intensity, we are experiencing an emotional trauma – even though sometimes we may not be consciously aware of the level of distress we are experiencing.
Why can an event cause an emotionally traumatic response in one person and not in another?
There is no clear answer to this question, but it is likely that one or more of these factors are involved:
- the severity of the event;
- the individual's personal history (which may not even be recalled);
- the larger meaning the event represents for the individual (which may not be immediately evident);
- coping skills, values and beliefs held by the individual (some of which may have never been identified); and
- the reactions and support (or lack of...) from family, friends, and/or professionals.
Anyone can become traumatized. Even professionals who work with trauma, or other people close to a traumatized person, can develop symptoms of "vicarious" or "secondary" traumatization.
Developing symptoms is never a sign of weakness.
Symptoms should be taken seriously and steps should be taken to heal, just as one would take action to heal from a physical ailment. And just as with a physical condition, the amount of time or assistance needed to recover from emotional trauma will vary from one person to another.
What are the symptoms of emotional trauma?
There are common effects or conditions that may occur following a traumatic event. Sometimes these responses can be delayed, for months or even years after the event. Often, people do not even initially associate their symptoms with the precipitating trauma. The following are symptoms that may result from a more commonplace, unresolved trauma, especially if there were earlier, overwhelming life experiences:
- Eating disturbances (more or less than usual)
- Sleep disturbances (more or less than usual)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Low energy
- Chronic, unexplained pain
- Depression, spontaneous crying, despair and hopelessness
- Panic attacks
- Compulsive and obsessive behaviors
- Feeling out of control
- Lashing out at friends, family
- Irritability, angry and resentment
- Emotional numbness
- Withdrawal from normal routine and relationships
- Memory lapses, especially about the trauma
- Difficulty making decisions
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Feeling distracted
- Re-experiencing the Trauma
- intrusive thoughts
- flashbacks or nightmares
- sudden floods of emotions or images related to the traumatic event
- Emotional Numbing and Avoidance
- avoidance of situations that resemble the initial event
- guilt feelings
- grief reactions
- an altered sense of time
- hyper-vigilance, jumpiness, an extreme sense of being "on guard"
- overreactions, including sudden unprovoked anger
- general anxiety
- obsessions with death
What are the possible effects of emotional trauma?
Even when unrecognized, emotional trauma can create lasting difficulties in an individual's life. One way to determine whether an emotional or psychological trauma has occurred, perhaps even early in life before language or conscious awareness were in place, is to look at the kinds of recurring problems one might be experiencing. These can serve as clues to an earlier situation that caused a dysregulation in the structure or function of the brain.
Common personal and behavioral effects of emotional trauma:
- substance abuse
- compulsive behavior patterns
- self-destructive and impulsive behavior
- uncontrollable reactive thoughts
- inability to make healthy professional or lifestyle choices
- dissociative symptoms ("splitting off" parts of the self)
- feelings of ineffectiveness, shame, despair, hopelessness
- feeling permanently damaged
- a loss of previously sustained beliefs
Common effects of emotional trauma on interpersonal relationships:
- inability to maintain close relationships or choose appropriate friends and mates
- sexual problems
- hostility (towards the wrong person or thing)
- arguments with family members, employers, friends or co-workers
- social withdrawal
- feeling constantly threatened
- feeling no one understands you
What if symptoms don't go away, or appear at a later time?
Over time, even without professional treatment, symptoms of an emotional trauma generally subside, and normal daily functioning gradually returns. However, even after time has passed, sometimes the symptoms don't go away. Or they may appear to be gone, but surface again in another stressful situation. When a person's daily life functioning or life choices continue to be affected, a post-traumatic stress disorder may be the problem, requiring professional assistance.
How is emotional trauma treated?
Traditional approaches to treating emotional trauma include:
- talk therapies (working out the feelings associated with the trauma);
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves changing one's thoughts and actions, and includes systematic desensitization to reduce reactivity to a traumatic stressor
- relaxation/stress reduction techniques, such as biofeedback or breathwork; and
- hypnosis to deal with reactions often below the level of conscious awareness.
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming)
- Somatic Experiencing
- Integrative Body Psychotherapy
Friday, October 24, 2014
I think that often, when a victim says he or she "forgives" someone, they are just pretending that they aren't powerless to make the offender stop it or to get back what he stole.
Talk about "playing Pretend."
The reason I say this is because it's fashionable to forgive all sorts of unforgiveable things, and you hear people doing it every day.
You even hear people claiming to have forgiven a criminal while at the same time testifying against him in a hearing for imposing the death penalty.
How much farce can we take!
The word forgiveness has been totally bastardized by preachers and holier-than-thous. The nearest I can figure, they have all but corrupted it into meaning some kind warm, fuzzy feeling you claim to have toward someone you may nonetheless want to be executed for what he did.
Forgiveness. I know it's three syllables, but is it really that tough a word?
I'm in line with theologians on this (because they tend to think instead of just preach whatever sells). They will be the first to tell you that you cannot forgive an offense in progress, for example. It's bogus.
Can you forgive someone while they're trying to kill you? While they're raping you? While they're breaking into your home? Theologians will be the first to tell that this brand of "forgiveness" ain't real forgiveness and amounts to ALLOWING the offense. It's just bending over for it.
If you live with an abusive narcissist, you cannot forgive him or her. Why? Because they deny what they do to you, let alone that it is wrong. They show no remorse. The don't promise to stop. In fact they make a virtue of doing it and show that they fully intend to keep right on. That is an offense in progress. You cannot forgive it.
All you can do is lie by pretending to forgive it. You're just powerless to do anything to stop it and are deluding yourself to remain in denial of that fact. This is a little mental game you play with yourself to feel you have some control over the situation.
Again, for example, if someone has stolen from you and squandered the money, you may be able to forgive without restitution. But if he has the money in the bank, you cannot forgive him until he gives it back. Because that ain't forgiveness: it's extortion. You're just powerless to do anything to stop it and are deluding yourself to remain in denial of that fact.
It's the same if he stole something even more valuable, like your good name. It must be restored before you can legitimately forgive.
The truth is often painful. But not as painful as fleeing into denial of it. For, it is true: having the courage to know the truth is key, because the truth will set you free.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Leaving a High Conflict Person
by Randi Kreger
It's been tough. After many months or years, you see no alternative but to separate from your high conflict partner (HCP). The process of leaving an HCP is tougher than you may be used to. These guidelines, developed over the years by people who have separated, will help.
Make sure you're ready to leave. Some people leave impulsively. Later, they miss the person or feel guilty. If you've tried a variety of techniques designed for high conflict partners and they haven't worked, or you and your children are suffering, it's time to let go.
No take backs. Once they see you are really going to leave, HCPs usually back off from their abusive tactics. You may receive gifts, flowers, and all kinds of promises to change. Not buying in is tough, because everything in you will desperately want to believe them.
But restructuring a personality takes years. While people with borderline personality can get better, narcissists seldom do. Insist on therapy. You have issues you need to face too, and your own recovery to undertake.
To stay in reality, keep a notebook of all the reasons why you want to leave. List all the ways you've tried to change things, along with their results. Make a list of all the hurtful things your partner did and read it when you feel weak.
Avoid contact. Whether you reach out to your ex or vice versa, the results will be confusing and painful. If you contact them, you might find they've moved on. Don't invite contact or respond to it, no matter how curious you are or how validating you may think it might be.
Now is not the time to tell your ex you think they have a personality disorder. Don't write letters to their therapist or family. Don't tell your ex what to do or continue to try to fix them. It's over. Move on. If you feel guilty about leaving your partner, remember, your partner functioned without you before you met them--as did you.
Take care of yourself. You've been through an extremely stressful experience and you need time to heal. You're probably dropped the habit of caring for yourself, or have developed serious problems with depression--even traits of post traumatic stress disorder. Seek professional help if you haven't already.
Go for a walk. Go to a coffee shop and be open to conversation. If you have hobbies (especially creative and expressive ones) use this new-found time to pursue your interests. Look upon this as a great new beginning. Go back to school. Set some new goals. If you've learned unhealthy coping techniques, like drinking, seek help.
Isolation may be one of your biggest problems. Even if you don't feel like it, make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and reach out to supportive family members. Ask them for what you need. They may say you should have left long ago; on the other hand, they might tell you you're doing the wrong thing. Stay true to yourself. Be specific about what you need and don't need from them.
Continue therapy. Self-awareness is actually one of the "gifts" received from having been in an abusive situation. With enough work, you may actually come out of the experience as a stronger person.
Take time to process this journey. Even if the relationship was bad and you're happy about getting out, you may go through the stages of grief characterized by Dr. Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages don't happen overnight, and you will go back and forth between them. Give yourself time.
Whether you were together for a long time or a short, intense time, you had hopes and dreams. You thought this person was a soul mate and you're convinced you'll never find someone you'll love as much and who will love you. This isn't true. A new relationship may not be intense, but it will be more intimate.You need time to grieve both the loss of what was and what you hoped would be.
If you were married, anticipate a difficult, high conflict divorce. You need the booklet Splitting: Protecting Yourself When Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist by attorney Bill Eddy. (He also has a CD.) There simply is no better source.
Prepare for a distortion campaign. An abandoned partner may try retaliating and starting a "smear" campaign or distortion campaign. This consists of making false allegations or exaggerating the negative in things that may have happened years ago. If your partner degraded previous partners, assume the worst.
While you can't prevent this, you can do damage control. Quickly anticipate what your ex might say--think of old arguments and false accusations. Next, have short, informal chats with people who may be on the receiving end. Briefly mention they may hear things and ask them to talk to you to see if they're true.
If you are getting divorced and your spouse is making false accusations and gathering negative allies, you need to respond at once. See Splitting for a step-by-step process on what you must do to protect yourself and your children.
When you start dating again, be aware of red flags.of potentially abusive people. You know this person acted abusively. So why does it hurt so much now that they're gone? Why do you feel almost addicted to the other person, even missing all the drama and intensity of the relationship?
The reasons for this are complex. You brought certain issues into the relationship; so did they. The combination of trauma with intermittent good time creates a strong bond--an unhealthy one. You may be mistaking intensity for intimacy.
People who have patterns dating high conflict people may be trying to resolve issues stemming from important childhood relationships. Explore this with a therapist before getting into another relationship. This is critical.
People can be great at hiding their illness in the beginning of a relationship, but in retrospect, you will see that some early signs were there. Don't rush into any new relationships before you have fully processed the previous bad one.
In the end, you will be amazed that you even allowed yourself to stay in such a relationship, and even more amazed to find that you now have the inner strength and awareness to avoid repeating it in the future.