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Fear of Feelings! Treating Male Suicide & Depression
Male Suicide & Depression continuing education MFT CEUs

Section 14
Track #14 - Psychic Pain, Blacking Out, & the Costs and Payoffs
of Domestic Abuse

CEU Question 14 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Depression
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs, Nurse CEUs

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In the previous track we discussed Systematic Desensitization As a cover up for the underlying depression many males may lash out at others and become batterers. According to "How Men Handle Depression," "What you see are the footprints of depression or the defenses a man is using to run from it. We see it in self-medication, isolation and lashing out."

Anger is classically a way of passing psychic pain on to others. It's a way of making others pay for your clients own emotional deficits. This lashing out anger can fuel the depression that leads to suicide.

Share on Facebook Five Costs of Violent Behavior
As you know, abuse is not only about losing control, getting angry, or blacking out. The lashing out male needs to see the benefits and costs of his battering behavior. The costs of violent behavior are high. But these costs may not be obvious to your client who is masking his depression and possible suicidal thoughts with battering. As you listen to these 5 costs, consider a client you are treating. What costs, if any, is he most concerned about?

Cost #1. Is your client concerned about being arrested? This is an obvious consequence to violent behavior, yet as you know, many batterers truly believe that they won't be caught and what they are doing isn't wrong in the first place. Darrell, a 42 year old carpenter, had been court ordered into anger management therapy after severely beating his wife, Trish. Darrell stated, "I can't believe I had to spend two nights in that stinking place and just for putting her in line! Somebody has got to do it, and it is my right as her husband."

Cost #2. Is your client concerned about not being able to return home? As you know, if a batterer is arrested, there is the very real possibility that he will not be able to return home until going to court. Darrell stated, "I had to get my mom to go over there and get me some clothes. Imagine, I couldn't even set foot in my own house! She doesn't pay the bills. I do. She should have had to stay somewhere else."

Cost #3. Is your client concerned about seeing his kids? As you know, many abusive men aren't allowed to see their children until they see a judge. When reflecting on his ugly divorce to Trish, Darrell stated, "I never laid one finger on those kids. Why would I punish them for having a stupid and lazy mother? It's not their fault! Now I can't even see them until I finish these classes and the judge gives the 'OK'."

Cost #4. Is your client concerned about wasting his time and money? As you know, the majority of batterers are court ordered into anger management classes. They have to pay for the classes and could possibly miss work in order to make one of the meetings. Most abusive men look at these classes as a waste of time and money. When considering his anger management therapy Darrell stated, "I really don't think all this is necessary!! I may have gotten out of line a bit, but this is ridiculous! I'm missing 2 hours of work and paying for this crap!"

Cost #5. Is your client concerned about giving his partner the upper hand? In his mind, he gave his wife the upper hand by being caught. Now she thinks she can say anything she wants. When thinking back on his arrest, Darrell stated, "I can't believe she sent me to the can! I hate that place almost as much as I hated the smug look on her face when I saw her in court."

Have you noticed that all of these comments have to do with how inconvenient the consequences of Darrell's abuse were for him? As you know, men that batter women normally aren't concerned about how their violence hurt someone else, but how it hurt them. The effects on those that they have hurt matters only to the degree that it will affect them.

Anger is a negative experience so closely bound to pain and depression that it can sometimes be hard to know where one of these experiences ends and the others begin.

Share on Facebook Six Payoffs for the Abuser
Of course there are ways batterers benefit from the abuse of others. Otherwise, they wouldn't keep doing what common decency tells them they ought to stop. As you listen, consider a client you are currently treating and which of these 6 Payoffs makes his abuse worthwhile.

Payoff #1. Does your client use the abuse to get his way? Darrell said that when he got home from work, everybody would get in line. "I never had to say 'It's my way or the highway,' because it was pretty much understood."

Payoff #2. Does the abuse make your client feel powerful? Darrell stated, "I know I have the power. No matter what was going on before I got there, it was over when I walked into the house."

Payoff #3. Does your client abuse his partner so he gets to be right? Darrell stated, "When she got home one night, she was being all snooty and refused to explain where she was and why she hadn't fixed any meals for the kids. That irritated me, so I popped her one. It worked. She was always home and always had dinner on the table after that night."

Payoff #4. Does your client feel that the abuse gives him a final say? Darrell stated, "I get to have the final say. When I say we're done talking, we're done talking. She knows better than to push me past that point."

Payoff #5. Does your client abuse his partner so he doesn't have to ask twice? Darrell said that all he had to do was give Trish a look and she'd get in line. "I might as well have just snapped my fingers," he stated.

Payoff #6. Does your client abuse his partner so he gets to make all of the decisions? Darrel stated, "I never had to worry about where she was or what she was doing, like going out to the bars. I just put my foot down. She wasn't going. Period!"

Many batterers will keep on abusing their partners because the benefits outweigh the costs. He believes that feeling superior and getting his way is more important then being sent to jail or wasting money on anger management classes. Abuse is not an addiction. It is not a physical craving that is out of the batterer's control.

So, why doesn't he just change? Because there is a short-term gain to using control and abuse, and there is most definitely a long-term cost. As you know, many batterers don't change because they like the short-term gain, but cannot see the long-term costs of their destructive behavior. I'm sure you will be able to recognize this resistant behavior in recognizing costs as I describe Mitch, Cory, and Harold.

Mitch always complains about being tired during our sessions, and wants to leave early. He doesn't really care about what has gone on in the group. He just wants to do his time and get out. Mitch hasn't learned anything. He already "knows it all."

Cory, a construction foreman who is what we would call a perfectionist, likes to argue with every comment made by almost anyone. He often starts by saying, "Let me tell you where you're wrong." Of course, he leaves out the rest of that thought, which would be "and where I'm right."

When Harold walks in, and I know I have to be ready to deal with him. He'll try to take up the entire two hours talking about how he was denied due process and how his wife is at fault too. It really "pisses him off" that she isn't also here in the group. Harold's wife agrees with him. She claims that she, too, is at fault and that Harold is basically a good guy. At least that is what he tells us.

Share on Facebook Six Step Anger Visualization Technique
As you know, with resistant clients such as Mitch, Cory, and Harold, asking how the abuse started is an extremely important question. Obviously, if they never think about how it started how can they get past the resistance that is being shored up by a larger payoff than a cost. I found that the 6 Step Anger Visualization Technique helped Mitch, Cory, and Harold in understanding how their abuse was triggered.
-- Step #1. In an individual session remind the client of a cost he had stated for ex: concerned about seeing their kids.
-- Step #2. Ask them to briefly describe a controlling, abusive, or violent incident.
-- Step #3. Ask the client to close their eyes and visualize the situation.
-- Step #4. Ask the client what they were thinking before the act of control, abuse, or violence.
-- Step #5. Did your thoughts somehow trigger your actions?
-- Step #6. Did your feelings somehow trigger your actions?

Asking about how the abuse started is really an important question to perhaps link it to depression. The answer is important, and the question is important. If he never thinks about it, how will he change? Well, he won't, of course. As you know, with many abusers, nothing is ever their fault, they are either blaming the system or their partners. Thus, layers of blaming others masks their underlying depression.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 14
What are six battering Payoffs? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet

 
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