previous track provided you with a listing of six common methods abusers use to control, as well as an outline for a Personal Power Exercise.
In this track, we
will discuss four rationalizations that battered women use to excuse their partner's
abusive behavior in an attempt to manage the situation. We will also outline four
basic "If Only" Destruction Techniques to get past these rationalizing
The following is a list of four common "If only" rationalizations
as to why a controller becomes abusive. See if they don't sound familiar.
4 Common Rationalizations of Abusers
The first "If only" rationalization used to manage the
unmanageable is the common assumption that drugs and alcohol lead to abusive behavior.
Kaufman and Straus found that wife battering was seven times greater among binge-drinking,
blue-collar men who approved of wife slapping. However, while undoubtedly drugs
and alcohol make abuse worse, as you know they cannot actually cause the abuse
to happen. Therefore Chris' "if only" rationalization that "if
only" the alcohol may not change the behavior.
For instance, Raven,
a 27-year-old mother said, "I would tell my kids that their dad suffered
from a disease called alcoholism. But then Ted started abusing me when he was
sober. That blew it for me. I had to accept the fact that the alcohol was a cover,
and that the real issue was his and my denial of an existing problem." Does
Raven sound familiar to you?
Interestingly enough, according to the New
Jersey Uniform Crime Report, a positive correlation exists between domestic
violence and addiction. This positive correlation between domestic violence
and addiction ranges from 44% to more than 80% according to some research studies.
Have you found this high correlation between addictions and violence to be used
as a tool by an abuser to facilitate his denial? "I mean, after all, I was
drunk. So how can I be to blame!" This denial also facilitates the batterer's
minimizing his problem and responsibility for his behavior.
A second "If only" rationalization used by battered
women to manage their situation is that a dysfunctional, abusive childhood caused
the batterer to act in an abusive manner. However, it might be noted that studies
indicate that well over half (approximately 65-85%) of adults abused as children
do not grow up to abuse their children or spouse.
Lauren, a 37-year-old
woman spent countless hours cleaning the house, cooking meals, taking care of
the kids, and screening Chad's phone calls from bill collectors. Lauren stated,
"I used to say to myself, 'Poor Chad, he never was loved by his mother. His
father beat him regularly and then died when he was 11. That's why Chad dumps
his frustrations by telling me that I am a bitch and a slut. But even though I
feel sorry for him, understanding of his childhood has gotten me nowhere. The
reality of this situation is that the more my husband continues slapping me around,
the more he hurts our family."
As you can see, Lauren was able to see through
her "If Only" rationalization of Chad's dysfunctional childhood; he
is still responsible for his own behavior.
addition to alcohol and dysfunctional families, a third "If only" rationalization
in an attempt to manage the situation of a battering partner is the batterer's
insecurity. Here is an example.
Jenny, age 33 stated, "It took me years to
see who Mitch really was. He's a bottomless pit that I keep trying to fill. He
acts insecure in order to get attention. All the while I was soothing his ego,
he was beating me down with his constant yelling and slapping. Eventually I started
to feel dependent on Mitch, and that was what made him feel important and secure."
As you know, this is the beginning of the classic codependent bond. Jenny's subservience
to Mitch and growing insecurity became the mainstay of his security and ego.
Think for a minute. What battered client are you currently treating who uses
the "If only" rationalization of alcoholism, dysfunctional family, or
insecurity as a reason for staying in the relationship? If none of these seem
to fit a client you are currently treating, perhaps the fourth "If only"
rationalization of pent up anger fits a client you are currently treating.
4. Unexpressed Anger
The fourth "If only" rationalization
is pent up or unexpressed anger. As you know, pop psychology teaches people to
express their inner feelings. However, contrary to the popular notion that venting
makes people feel better, studies have shown that batterers who vent can become
This therapy technique can be dangerous, if not applied correctly,
when used with a violent and controlling man. The batterer already believes that
he has the right to impose his moods on others. The result is that he feels he
has gained authoritative support for his explosive tirades. I have found some
batterers lack the level of empathy it takes to make the prescription of
venting of feelings a viable option. Do you agree or disagree with this idea?
In one of our sessions, Laura, a 35-year-old woman, stated she was tired
of her husband Louis' angry tirades. "Louis used to come home and just blow
up at any little thing, like once he bashed me good in the jaw because he saw
a dust ball in the corner of the living room behind the couch."
Technique: 4 Basics of "If Only" Destruction
With Raven, Lauren, Jenny, and Laura, I used the four basics of "If
only" Destruction. As I describe these "If only" Destruction Techniques,
think of a Raven, Lauren, Jenny, or Laura you are currently treating. Would any
of these four techniques be beneficial in your next session with her to assist
her in viewing her situation more realistically?
1. To dispel Raven's
"If only" rationalizations, that if only Ted wouldn't drink, Raven
seemed to benefit from realizing when she was reacting and allowing Ted to control
her mood. What do you think? When Raven was saying to herself, "Ted made
me feel outraged" or "Ted made me feel sorry for myself", I pointed
out to her that she was reacting. Raven stated, "It helped me learn that
I needed to control my own feelings, that I could decide how long to experience
a certain feeling, and what I was going to do about it."
2. To dispel
Lauren's "If only" rationalizations of Chad's dysfunctional family
background, Lauren wanted to gain some distance from Chad. This is an easy step
I often overlook. But have you considered suggesting your battered client make
themselves comfortable after the blowup has occurred to gain some perspective
on their "If only" rationalizations? Easy to overlook, right? Lauren
stated, "Now I've learned that I need to 'take a break' and get some perspective
after something happens with Chad. I usually take a few deep breaths, go for a
walk, read a few pages from the Bible, or hang up some clothes in my bedroom.
Once I step back a little I can see how his abusive childhood really isn't what
is causing him to slap me."
3. To dispel Jenny's "If only"
rationalizations regarding Mitch's insecurity, I suggested she consider examining
what happened by getting feedback from friends. Jenny stated, "After talking
to friends, they helped me to see that Mitch was intentionally insulting me and
trying to push my buttons. And that I wasn't overreacting."
dispel Laura's "If only" rationalization, regarding Louis' anger,
I suggested she might consider what she needed to do to take care of her emotional
needs. After several sessions, Laura stated, "There really isn't any reason
why I should have to make Louis see the light or set him straight, or that I should
have to explain his anger. I only need to do that for myself."
the four basic "If Only" Destruction Techniques that
Raven, Lauren, Jenny, and Laura used to get past their rationalizing thoughts
1. Being responsible for her feelings
2. Gaining distance and perspective
3. Getting feedback from supportive friends
4. Taking care of her own emotional needs
In the next track we will discuss specific
interventions to assist your battered client in unraveling her feelings of guilt.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Hardesty, J. L., Ogolsky, B. G., Raffaelli, M., Whittaker, A., Crossman, K. A., Haselschwerdt, M. L., Mitchell, E. T., & Khaw, L. (2017). Coparenting relationship trajectories: Marital violence linked to change and variability after separation. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(7), 844–854.
Metz, C., Calmet, J., & Thevenot, A. (2019). Women subjected to domestic violence: The impossibility of separation. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(1), 36–43.
Sullivan, C. M., & Virden, T. (2017). Interrelationships among length of stay in a domestic violence shelter, help received, and outcomes achieved.American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(4), 434–442.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What are four "If only" rationalizations commonly used by
battered women? To select and enter your answer go to .