the previous track we discussed Pains and Pluses Journaling.
On this track, we
will discuss how battered women often transfer their Expectations of Perfection
to those around them, and how to kill the dragon of their inner critic. As you
know, this transference of perfection can create yet another unrealistic expectation
for the battered woman that leads to more feelings of frustration and shame.
Standards of Perfection
As we discussed on a previous track, battered women hold high standards
of perfection for themselves. When the battered woman fails to meet these expectations
of perfection, she often has intense feelings of shame and failure. Have you found,
like I, that battered women often transfer this expectation of perfection to the
therapist, as well as to other people in her life?
As Melody Beattie would put
it, "The magic is in others, not within her. The less good stuff she finds
in herself, the more she seeks it in others." I have found that because the
battered woman feels the therapist should be perfect, this can make treatment
quite difficult and painstaking for both parties.
Meredith, age 25, had been dating Matthew for two years after they had met in a bar.
As you will see, Meredith's struggle with her Expectations of Perfection affected
our sessions together. Meredith stated, "After I was denied admission to
medical school, I had a harder and harder time making it through the day at work
without thinking about killing myself. I was always depressed and anxious about
Meredith told me, "My life seemed to go down the
drain because I didn't accomplish my dreams. I don't have a family, and I'm not
as successful as Matthew, my boyfriend. Look at your life; you have a great life.
You're successful in your career and you probably have great relationships with
your family and your husband. I'll never have that."
As you can
see, Meredith was transferring her expectations of self-perfection onto
other people in her life whom she saw as superior to her. Of course, Meredith
knew little about me or my home life, yet she still placed my life above hers.
As you know, this sort of transference only increases feelings of self-hate and
failure for battered women.
In response to Meredith's view that my
life was perfect, I decided to self-disclose. I stated, "Yes, I do have
a college degree, and a full-time job, but to assume all other aspects of my life
are perfect I don't feel is accurate. It sounds like you're feeling pretty low
about yourself. Is that right?" I realize self-disclosure is an individual
decision, and varies with each client. However, I felt the standard spiel of validations
needed to be pre-empted by self-disclosure.
6 Validation Statements
After self-disclosing, here
are some Validation Statements I use with battered clients. As you listen
to these Six Validation Statements, think of your last session with a battered
client. Are there other statements you use that aren't included in this list?
You're doing well.
2. You're handling so much.
3. You've made a lot of plans-that's
4. I admire your strength to deal with what you're dealing with.
Your family seems to really care about you.
6. Your children are really connected
Think for a moment about a battered client you are currently
treating who puts you on a pedestal. Before you jump in with a "You're doing
well", is there an area of your life you feel appropriate and beneficial
to disclose to your client?
Use of Self-Disclosure and Confrontation
I have also found in dealing with a battered
woman's expectations of perfection of others, in addition to self-disclosure,
confrontation is sometimes essential. Unless the client is at risk for safety,
I save confrontation of a client's expectations of perfection for others until
later in the process of therapy.
I find early confrontation can be overwhelming
and painful for the battered woman, while later confrontation creates and encompasses
trust and reassurance that other people may also suffer the same as the client
is suffering. Obviously if the battered woman can relate to the therapist, her
transference of illusions of perfectionism can be dispelled.
3 Steps in Killing the Dragon of her Inner Critic
As you know,
Meredith held a very critical view of herself, as with many battered women. In
our sessions together, Meredith followed three steps in killing the dragon
of her Inner Critic to talk back to her inner critic and begin to regain some
of her self-esteem.
1. First, Meredith recognized her self-critical
thoughts as they worked through her mind. After several sessions, Meredith
recognized her statement that "I'll never have a family life as good as the
other people in my life" was a self-critical statement.
Meredith discovered why these thoughts are distorted. In this second step,
Meredith saw how her statement was based on assumptions of others and not on truth.
Meredith stated, "I guess I can't be sure how other people's relationships
are all the time. I mean, no one knows the truth about my relationship with Matthew.
They think everything is fine."
3. In the third and final step of talking back to her inner critic, Meredith practiced rebutting her self-critical
statements in realistic ways to develop a more realistic self-evaluation system.
In this step, I often find it important to make certain the battered woman believes
her own rebuttals to her self-critical thoughts. Meredith stated, "I know
I can't say, 'My relationships are just as good as every one else's.' But, maybe
I just compare myself on bad days. I look at others when they are up and myself
when I'm down."
Are you currently seeing a battered client who transfers
her expectations of perfection onto you and the other people in her life? Do you
think the three-step Inner Critic Rebuttal would also allow her to regain some
of the self-esteem she has lost while in her battering relationship?
- Dasarband, B., Panaghi, L., & Mootabi, F. (Spring 2017). Relationship Between Spouse Abuse and Depressive Symptoms in Women: The Moderating Role of Personality Characteristics. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry & Clinical Psychology, 23(1), 38-49.
- Hellemans, S., Loeys, T., Dewitte, M., De Smet, O., & Buysse, A. (Aug 2015). Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence Victimization and Victims' Relational and Sexual Well-Being. Journal of Family Violence, 30(6), 685-698. DOI: 10.1007/s10896-015-9712-z.
- Morgan, M., & Coombes, L. (Aug 2013). Empowerment and Advocacy for Domestic Violence Victims. Social & Personality Psychology Compass, 7(8), 526-536. DOI: 10.1111/spc3.12049.
- Tsirigotis, K., & Łuczak, J. (Mar 2018). Resilience in Women who Experience Domestic Violence. Psychiatric Quarterly, 89(1), 201-211. DOI: 10.1007/s11126-017-9529-4.
- Ulloa, E., & Hammett, J. (Nov 2015). Temporal Changes in Intimate Partner Violence and Relationship Satisfaction. Journal of Family Violence, 30(8), 1093-1102.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What are the three steps in "Killing Her Dragon" a battered
woman may use to begin regaining her self-esteem? To select and enter your answer
go to ..