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Strategies for Battered Women
Battered Women continuing education addiction counselor CEUs

Section 10
Effects of Domestic Violence on Mental Health

CEU Question 10 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker Ces, Counselor CEs, MFT CEs

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On the last track we discussed Illusions.

Now let's look at the demand for competition and how Pains and Pluses Journaling was helpful to Molly.

Molly, a 21-year-old college student, struggled with her own expectations of perfection in her relationship with Shawn. Molly and Shawn started dating in High School when she was 15 and have been dating ever since. When Molly first came into my office, she would say things to me like, "My relationship is the greatest! Shawn is the best! Everything about this is absolutely right, nothing could possibly be any better."

As you can see, Molly was using superlatives to polarize issues and create a perfect reality. The five years of abuse made her crave an ideal world with an ideal relationship. In her ideal world, Shawn would make her feel special and safe. All this polarization contributed to the creation of Molly's Perfect Self, which, as you know, is contradictory to the self-esteem of a battered woman.

3-Step Exercise: Pluses and Pains Journal
Have you tried a "Pluses and Pains Journal" with your perfectionist client who has been battered? Here is how it worked with Molly.

1. One column is labeled "The Pluses of Perfectionism;" the other column was labeled,"The Pains of Perfectionism." After putting items on both sides, Molly told me which side was better for her and why.

2. Under the "Pluses" side, Molly listed "preserving the way people thought of her" and "to feel good about what she does."

3. Under the "Pains" side, Molly listed "not being able to live up to the ideals she set for herself" and "having people see through the facade she was maintaining."

After analyzing the list, Molly was able to see how the Perfect Self she created was destroying her self-confidence and self-esteem. Have you found, like I, that many battered women destroy their real selves by placing such perfectionist standards on themselves? Molly's own demands of a Perfect Self also created the second demand many battered women often face, which is Competition.

Competition with Self
Regarding Molly's competition with herself, Molly's Perfect Self was someone whom she was in constant competition with and would never be able to live up to. Because she wanted to have, as she put it, "The greatest relationship with Shawn", Molly was constantly in competition with her own personal idealized standards. She even burst out in sobs in one session, stating, "It's like a race that I have to win, but couldn't. Not being able to be absolutely right all the time makes me feel absolutely wrong most of the time!" Thus, Molly's Perfect Self largely contributed to her feelings of failure, as with many battered women.

Competition with Others
However, as you know, in addition to being in competition with themselves and their own idealized standards, battered women may feel in constant competition with others. For example, Becky, aged 26, felt in competition with her neighbors, her husband David's business associates' wives, David's family members, and many other women that came across her path. Have you found, like I, that this competition with others oftentimes makes friendships very difficult for the battered woman. Their feelings of competition even make friendship with oneself impossible.

Becky had been married to David for 3 years and had a two-year-old daughter, Mariah. David had been abusing Becky in small ways for years. Becky stated, "The worst was when he threw a cup of steaming hot coffee at me because I hadn't put enough sugar in it." When she first came into my office, Becky suffered from constantly comparing herself to her friends and competing. She stated, "I visited my neighbor one afternoon and saw that her laundry was scattered all over the couch, not folded. I smiled inside and thought to myself, My house never looks that way. I always fold the laundry as soon as it's dry. David never has to see it."

However, this level of competition was harmful for Becky. Her standards and expectations of always being better were nearly impossible to maintain with a normally active two-year-old in the house. She stated, "I will always make sure I look just right whenever I leave the house, even if I'm just going to the grocery. I want to make sure I look as good as all the other mothers and I don't ever want David to feel ashamed of me."

Goal Setting Exercise
With Becky, I found a Goal Setting Exercise helped to make her demands of competition and perfection more realistic. At the end of the session, Becky would write down a realistic goal that she would like to achieve for herself. For example, Becky's goal the first week was not to worry how she looked every second of every day.

The following week, Becky returned to my office, stating, "It felt like a thousand-pound weight had just been lifted off my shoulders. After applying my makeup in the morning and styling my hair, I didn't stop at a mirror again until I washed my face before bed each night." If she was unable to meet a goal, Becky and I would discuss possible events that had kept her from achieving the goal, as well as what she could do differently to make that goal more attainable in the future.

Since David had been court-ordered into anger management, his physical abuse became less of an issue. Thus, the building up of Becky's self-esteem through the tearing down of her competitive self-made super structure became a treatment focus.

In this track we have discussed the excessively unrealistic demands of perfectionism discussed on the previous track and competition that battered women often place on themselves and receive from others. In addition, we discussed "Pains and Pluses Journaling." This journaling assisted the battered client by providing insights into how the imposition of a Perfect Self can destroy her self-confidence as well as self-esteem.

In the next track, we will discuss how a battered woman can Kill Her Dragon, so to speak, of self-criticism.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Dichter, M. E., Thomas, K. A., CritsChristoph, P., Ogden, S. N., & Rhodes, K. V. (2018). Coercive control in intimate partner violence: Relationship with women’s experience of violence, use of violence, and danger. Psychology of Violence, 8(5), 596–604.

Frey, L. L., Beesley, D., Abbott, D., & Kendrick, E. (2017). Vicarious resilience in sexual assault and domestic violence advocates. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 9(1), 44–51.

Howell, K. H., Thurston, I. B., Schwartz, L. E., Jamison, L. E., & Hasselle, A. J. (2018). Protective factors associated with resilience in women exposed to intimate partner violence. Psychology of Violence, 8(4), 438–447.

López-Fuentes, I., & Calvete, E. (2015). Building resilience: A qualitative study of Spanish women who have suffered intimate partner violence. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 85(4), 339–351.

Nnawulezi, N., & Murphy, C. (Jul 2019). Understanding formal helpseeking among women whose partners are in abuser intervention programs. Psychology of Violence, 9(4), 383391.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 10
How is a Pains and Pluses Journal beneficial to a battered woman? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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