Sanctuary for the Abused
Saturday, September 28, 2019
Captive Hearts, Captive Minds
Sunday, September 22, 2019
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.
MUST YOU FORGIVE?
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Common Reactions to Trauma
Edna B. Foa, Elizabeth A. Hembree, David Riggs, Sheila Rauch, and Martin Franklin
Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
A traumatic experience produces emotional shock and may cause many emotional problems. This handout describes some of the common reactions people have after a trauma. Because everyone responds differently to traumatic events, you may have some of these reactions more than others, and some you may not have at all.
Remember, many changes after a trauma are normal. In fact, most people who directly experience a major trauma have severe problems in the immediate aftermath. Many people then feel much better within three months after the event, but others recover more slowly, and some do not recover enough without help. Becoming more aware of the changes you've undergone since your trauma is the first step toward recovery.
Some of the most common problems after a trauma are described below.
Fear and anxiety. Anxiety is a common and natural response to a dangerous situation. For many it lasts long after the trauma ended. This happens when views of the world and a sense of safety have changed. You may become anxious when you remember the trauma. But sometimes anxiety may come from out of the blue. Triggers or cues that can cause anxiety may include places, times of day, certain smells or noises, or any situation that reminds you of the trauma. As you begin to pay more attention to the times you feel afraid you can discover the triggers for your anxiety. In this way, you may learn that some of the out-of-the-blue anxiety is really triggered by things that remind you of your trauma.
Re-experiencing of the trauma. People who have been traumatized often re-experience the traumatic event. For example, you may have unwanted thoughts of the trauma, and find yourself unable to get rid of them. Some people have flashbacks, or very vivid images, as if the trauma is occurring again. Nightmares are also common. These symptoms occur because a traumatic experience is so shocking and so different from everyday experiences that you can't fit it into what you know about the world. So in order to understand what happened, your mind keeps bringing the memory back, as if to better digest it and fit it in.
Increased arousal is also a common response to trauma. This includes feeling jumpy, jittery, shaky, being easily startled, and having trouble concentrating or sleeping. Continuous arousal can lead to impatience and irritability, especially if you're not getting enough sleep. The arousal reactions are due to the fight or flight response in your body. The fight or flight response is the way we protect ourselves against danger, and it occurs also in animals. When we protect ourselves from danger by fighting or running away, we need a lot more energy than usual, so our bodies pump out extra adrenaline to help us get the extra energy we need to survive.
People who have been traumatized often see the world as filled with danger, so their bodies are on constant alert, always ready to respond immediately to any attack. The problem is that increased arousal is useful in truly dangerous situations, such as if we find ourselves facing a tiger. But alertness becomes very uncomfortable when it continues for a long time even in safe situations. Another reaction to danger is to freeze, like the deer in the headlights, and this reaction can also occur during a trauma.
Avoidance is a common way of managing trauma-related pain. The most common is avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma, such as the place where it happened. Often situations that are less directly related to the trauma are also avoided, such as going out in the evening if the trauma occurred at night. Another way to reduce discomfort is trying to push away painful thoughts and feelings. This can lead to feelings of numbness, where you find it difficult to have both fearful and pleasant or loving feelings. Sometimes the painful thoughts or feelings may be so intense that your mind just blocks them out altogether, and you may not remember parts of the trauma.
Many people who have been traumatized feel angry and irritable. If you are not used to feeling angry this may seem scary as well. It may be especially confusing to feel angry at those who are closest to you. Sometimes people feel angry because of feeling irritable so often. Anger can also arise from a feeling that the world is not fair.
Trauma often leads to feelings of guilt and shame. Many people blame themselves for things they did or didn't do to survive. For example, some assault survivors believe that they should have fought off an assailant, and blame themselves for the attack. Others feel that if they had not fought back they wouldn't have gotten hurt. You may feel ashamed because during the trauma you acted in ways that you would not otherwise have done. Sometimes, other people may blame you for the trauma.
Feeling guilty about the trauma means that you are taking responsibility for what occurred. While this may make you feel somewhat more in control, it can also lead to feelings of helplessness and depression.
Grief and depression are also common reactions to trauma. This can include feeling down, sad, hopeless or despairing. You may cry more often. You may lose interest in people and activities you used to enjoy. You may also feel that plans you had for the future don't seem to matter anymore, or that life isn't worth living. These feelings can lead to thoughts of wishing you were dead, or doing something to hurt or kill yourself. Because the trauma has changed so much of how you see the world and yourself, it makes sense to feel sad and to grieve for what you lost because of the trauma.
Self-image and views of the world often become more negative after a trauma. You may tell yourself, "If I hadn't been so weak or stupid this wouldn't have happened to me." Many people see themselves as more negative overall after the trauma ("I am a bad person and deserved this.").
It is also very common to see others more negatively, and to feel that you can't trust anyone. If you used to think about the world as a safe place, the trauma may suddenly make you think that the world is very dangerous. If you had previous bad experiences, the trauma convinces you that the world is dangerous and others aren't to be trusted. These negative thoughts often make people feel they have been changed completely by the trauma. Relationships with others can become tense and it is difficult to become intimate with people as your trust decreases.
Sexual relationships may also suffer after a traumatic experience. Many people find it difficult to feel sexual or have sexual relationships. This is especially true for those who have been sexually (physically or emotionally) assaulted, since in addition to the lack of trust, sex & sexual feelings themselves are a reminder of the trauma.
Some people increase their use of alcohol or other substances after a trauma. There is nothing wrong with responsible drinking, but if your use of alcohol or drugs changed as a result of your traumatic experience, it can slow down your recovery and cause problems of its own. (See a doctor or psychiatrist familiar with PTSD if you have problems sleeping, eating, working and so on.)
Many of the reactions to trauma are connected to one another. For example, a flashback may make you feel out of control, and will therefore produce fear and arousal. Many people think that their common reactions to the trauma mean that they are "going crazy" or "losing it." These thoughts can make them even more fearful. Again, as you become aware of the changes you have gone through since the trauma, and as you process these experiences during treatment, the symptoms should become less distressing.
The information on this Web site is presented for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider.
All information contained on these pages is in the public domain unless explicit notice is given to the contrary, and may be copied and distributed without restriction.
For more information call the PTSD Information Line at (802) 296-6300 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the website of the National Centre for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Being at the receiving end of abuse (being lied to, being used, being degraded, coerced, minimized, blamed, bullied, humiliated, emotionally raped, verbally and emotionally abused, etc) IS trauma.
Friday, September 13, 2019
The Art of Saying "NO"
A lot of people just don't like the idea of having to tell people they can't do something. Or they feel obligated when a colleague asks a favour; or feel pressurised when someone senior to them needs something done.
There are even some work places where saying no is definitely frowned upon; and in, say, the police force, could be a sackable or disciplinary offence.
After having worked for some time with people where saying no either feels impossible or just isn't allowed, we created a body of work to address it. In some cases it is indeed, how to say no without ever saying the word.
Of course, there are times when saying the 'n' word is a necessity. But in our experience, there is so much anxiety around the possible consequences of using it, that people don't say anything at all, or agree to things they'd rather not, or get landed with work that isn't theirs and so on.
That can't be good for anyone, but especially the person who finds themselves staying late at the end of the day to get their own work done after they've finished everyone else's; or who swallows their resentment when they are 'volunteered' for something they don't want to do; or who quakes at the idea of having to be a bit tougher with a supplier or even someone they manage.
It's Not Assertiveness
The reason we've been asked this is that assertiveness training has been around for some time, and people wonder if this art of saying no business isn't just more of the same.
Well, no it isn't, and here's why.
We believe the very term 'assertiveness' is limiting. For instance, people say you should be assertive rather than aggressive, as if assertiveness is the only way to deal with a difficult situation. It isn't. If you are being attacked or abused, then aggressively fighting back may well be an appropriate thing to do. The key word here is appropriate.
So yes, aggressiveness may be appropriate, assertiveness may be appropriate, but there's a greater range of choice of behaviour than those two types that could be equally appropriate.
Before we discuss them, though, we want to talk about some of the things that happen to people when what they think and feel is different from what they do.
Many 'unassertive' people recognise that their pattern of behaviour is to be nice or compliant for far longer than they really want to until they reach the point of no longer being able to hold it in; then they explode nastily and inappropriately all over whoever happens to be around.
There are three ways this 'explosion' can happen. The first is that the rage happens inside the head and remains unexpressed. The second is that it is inappropriately expressed, and someone not involved, like a work colleague or secretary or even a bus conductor, becomes the recipient. The third is properly directed at the 'offending party' but is out of all proportion to the probably small, but nonetheless final-straw-event that unleashes it.
Not Nice Not Nasty
This leaves people with the impression that there are only two states or behaviours they can do: Nice or Nasty. When, in fact, they have forgotten a whole range of behaviour that lies between Nice and Nasty that can be termed Not-Nice (or even Not-Nasty).
What we've seen with assertiveness, is that it is often seen as a single form of behaviour: just say no, stand your ground, be a broken record - all quite difficult if you are truly unassertive, or in our jargon - simply too nice for your own good. The concept of asserting yourself, (getting your voice heard, being understood, being taken into account, getting your own way) needs to be broadened to include all forms of behaviour. It can include humour, submission, irresponsibility, manipulation, playfulness, aggressiveness, etc.
The key point here is that the behaviour - nice, not-nice, nasty - is chosen. We emphasise the word key, because until people are able to choose behaviour that's free from the limiting effects of their fear of possible consequences, they will not be able to act no matter how well they are taught to be assertive. They will still feel overwhelmed in difficult situations.
It needs to be acknowledged that the strong feelings associated with changing behaviour are real and valid. Once people do that, then these (usually difficult) feelings can be looked upon as a good thing, a sign that something new is happening. At this point people can start to 'choose' to have these feelings rather than having to endure them or trying to pretend they are not happening.
The idea of choice is very important. If people feel they have real choice about how they behave, they start to realise that it can be OK to put up with something they don't like. They can choose it because they want to; it is to their advantage. They then avoid the disempowering tyranny of always having to assert themselves. (Which is almost as bad as feeling you always have to be compliant or nice.)
Many people think that in order to be assertive, you need to ignore what you are feeling and just 'stand your ground'. In fact, you ignore those feelings at your peril.
Often the magnitude of peoples' feelings is way out of proportion to what the situation warrants. They may well reflect a previous difficult event more accurately. But because that previous difficulty was so difficult, it feels as though every similar situation will be the same.
It is only by beginning to experience and understand how crippling these feelings can be that people can start to do anything about changing their behaviour. Many people know what they could say; they know what they could do. Most 'unassertive' people have conversations in their heads about how to resolve a conflict they're in; but still, their mouths say 'yes', while their heads say 'no'. Knowing what to do or say is not the issue here.
Therefore, in looking at practising 'the art of saying no', it is wise to broaden the brief to so that it isn't about becoming more assertive; rather it's about changing your behaviour to fit the circumstances.
While in many circumstances assertiveness can be a straight jacket of it's own (often creating resistance and resentment), the full lexicon of behaviour can be freeing, because there is choice in the matter. Using charm, humour, telling the truth or even deliberate manipulation, may well get you what you want without having to attempt behaviour that may go against your personality.
If you add a dash of fun or mischief, The Art of Saying No becomes a doable prospect, rather than another difficult mountain to climb.
Here are some pointers of what could make it easier to say 'no'.
If you're saying something serious, notice whether you smile or not. Smiling gives a mixed message and weakens the impact of what you're saying.
If someone comes over to your desk and you want to appear more in charge, stand up. This also works when you're on the phone. Standing puts you on even eye level and creates a psychological advantage.
If someone sits down and starts talking to you about what they want, avoid encouraging body language, such as nods and ahas. Keep your body language as still as possible.
Avoid asking questions that would indicate you're interested (such as, 'When do you need it by?' or 'Does it really have to be done by this afternoon?' etc.)
It's all right to interrupt! A favourite technique of ours is to say something along the lines of, 'I'm really sorry; I'm going to interrupt you.' Then use whatever tool fits the situation. If you let someone have their whole say without interrupting, they could get the impression you're interested and willing. All the while they get no message to the contrary, they will think you're on board with their plan (to get you to do whatever...)
Pre-empt. As soon as you see someone bearing down on you (and your heart sinks because you know they're going to ask for something), let them know you know: 'Hi there! I know what you want. You're going to ask me to finish the Henderson report. Wish I could help you out, but I just can't.'
Pre-empt two. Meetings are a great place to get landed with work you don't want. You can see it coming. So to avoid the inevitable, pre-empt, 'I need to let everyone know right at the top, that I can't fit anything else into my schedule for the next two weeks (or whatever).'
Any of these little tips can help you feel more confident and will support your new behaviour. For that's what this is: If you're someone whom others know they can take advantage (they may not even be doing it on purpose, you're just an easy mark!) you need to indicate by what you do that things have changed.
Here's an Analogy:
Let's say you're a burglar. There's a row of identical houses and you're thinking of having a go at five of them. The first house has a Yale lock on the front door. The second house has a Yale and a Chubb lock on the front door. The third house has a Yale and a Chubb lock on the front door and bars on the window. The fourth house has a Yale and a Chubb lock on the front door, bars on the window and burglar alarm. The fifth house has a Yale and a Chubb lock on the front door, bars on the window, a burglar alarm and a Rottweiler.
Which would you burgle?
When you make it easy for other people, they will naturally keep coming back. By learning more effective ways of saying 'no' you make it harder for others to expect you to do what they want without taking into account what's going on for you. You become more burglar-proof.
Changing Others by Changing Yourself
A lot of us wish that the person we are in conflict with, or feel intimidated by, would change. Then everything would be all right. We've all heard this from a colleague, friend, partner and even said it ourselves: 'If only he'd listen to me, then I wouldn't be so frightened.' 'If only she'd stop complaining about my work, I'd be much happier.'
'If only' puts the onus on the other person to change how and who they are and makes them responsible for how we feel. By using some of the tools outlined above, people can get a sense of being in charge of situations, rather than being victims to what other people want.
It does seem to be part of human nature to blame others when things go wrong in our lives, or when we're feeling hard done by. If you take away the 'if only' excuse you also take away the need to blame and make the other person wrong. It's also rather wonderful to think that rather than waiting for someone else to change to make things all right, we all have the ability to take charge of most situations and make them all right for ourselves.
What also makes it easier is that we all just have to get better at 'the art of saying no'; none of us has to change our whole personalities to create a more satisfying outcome!
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
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."
Sunday, September 01, 2019
Vulnerability and Other Prey of Pathologicals
by Marisa Mauro, Psy.D.
Certain personality traits may create better perpetrators and, unfortunately certain cues may create better victims. In a study by Wheeler, Book and Costello of Brock University, individuals who self reported more traits associated with psychopathy were more apt to correctly identify individuals with a history of victimization. In the study, male student participants examined video tapes of twelve individuals walking from behind and rated the ease at which each could be mugged. The men also completed the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale: Version III (Paulhus, Hemphill, & Hare, in press) which measures interpersonal and affective traits associated with psychopathy as well as intra-personal instability and antisocial traits.
Acknowledging that fault always lies with the perpetrator, this research may empower individuals with a history of or concerns about victimization. As for myself, a prison psychologist often dealing with career criminals and individuals with psychopathic traits, I am convinced, in the course of observation alone, that certain personal characteristics are associated with tendency to be on the receiving end of bullying such as harassment and manipulation. I have found that the demonstration of confidence through body language, speech and affective expression, for example, provides some protection. This sense was confirmed by Wheeler, Book and Costello, who found that increased fluidity projected through one's walking gait was associated with less reporting of victimization. With respect to gait, the author's provide five cues of vulnerability originally reported by Grayson and Stein (1981). They state, "potential victims had longer or shorter strides, had nonlateral weight shifts, had gestured versus postural movements and tended to lift their feet higher while walking."
Besides one's walk, individuals can purposefully project dominance thereby potentially decreasing perceived vulnerability by increasing eye contact, decreasing the use of small body movements of the hands and feet, and increasing large body movements or changes in postural positioning. Personally, I have also found that conscious control of changes in affective expression, particularly through control of fear, surprise and embarrassment, as well as the rate, tone and fluency of speech decreases one's likelihood of victimization or bullying. It is recommended that individuals maintain the general projection of confidence via dominant body language even in situations where they feel safe. Potential perpetrators may perceive changes in body language signaling vulnerability and act on this perception.
Wheeler, S., Book, A., & Costello, K. (2009). Psychopathic traits and perceptions of victim vulnerability. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 36(6), 635-648.