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"But I have such a Great Catch!" Treating Abusive Controlling Relationships
Abusive Relationships continuing education psychologist CEUs

Section 10
Intimate Partner Verbal Aggression

CEU Question 10 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Couples
Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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In the previous track we discussed how the "Great Catch's" reconstruction of reality created a tool of blame to erode his partner's self-esteem.

In this and the next three tracks... we will discuss nine rationalized responses the abused uses to stay with their Great Catch.

A way to increase your client's awareness of their partner's reconstruction of reality is to assist them in exploring the Rationalizations they use for the verbal abuse. In a minute I will discuss Kay's use of rationalizations as a defense mechanism with which she explained and justified Roger's actions as a means to make them acceptable to her. However, as you know, the abusers actions are unacceptable at a deeper psychological level.

Nine Rationalized Responses we will explore are:
1. Communication Magic
2. Hiding Pain
3. He Doesn't Mean It
4. I Am Too Sensitive
5. The Good Outweighs the Bad
6. Fighting Fire with Fire
7. The Yo-Yo Syndrome
8. The Money Trap and
9. Breaking of Family Values

Rationalizations 1-2

Rationalization #1: Communication Magic
Communication Magic is the rationalization that getting the "Great Catch" to see her side of the situation will make him approve of her. Kay, a 29-year-old secretary, stated, "I've tried for a long time to get Roger to understand my good intentions." Kay believed Roger would stop controlling and verbally abusing her if she could only explain her motivations well enough.

The concept of this magical communication is illustrated through Kay's belief that, as Kay stated it, "Roger will magically stop saying those hurtful things once he knows my good intentions." Kay believed that through intense study and observation of Roger, she would discover how to express herself in exactly the right way so Roger would truly and at last fully understand her.

Kay said, "I have given up everything: my friends, visits with relatives, my quilting…all the things I love, just to stop Roger's anger and please him. I want him to be happy so badly. For weeks, I would do everything to please him and agree with him. I worked so hard in hopes that he would cheer up and one day say, 'I don't know what came over me. You're so wonderful!'"

I stated my observation to Kay and said, "It sounds like you feel one person can make another person happy. It sort of sounds like to you happiness is like a little seed you can take from within yourself and put it in someone else."

Technique for Social Work CEUs, Psychology CEUs, Psychologist CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Addiction Counselor CEUs, and MFT CEUs

Technique: Garden Visualization
I found the following visualization to be helpful. I asked Kay, "But what if Roger doesn't want your seed of happiness, or what if his garden is constantly washed over with rain or in a constant drought?" Over the course of several sessions Kay's rationalizations for excusing Roger's behavior began to fall apart. As she began to view her search for a magical form of communication on her part that would bring the understanding from Roger that she needed.

Rationalization #2: Hiding Pain
The second rationalization for staying in an abusive relationship; in addition to magical communication is Hiding Pain. Jeannie, a 52-year-old retired school teacher said, "If I show my pain, Ralph knows that he is really getting to me. Then he increases his criticism of my cooking, housekeeping, and everything else. I don't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me hurt." In a later session Jeannie stated, "I was so proud of myself for being such a strong woman. I'd tell myself that I wasn't like those poor victimized women who'd whine and cry to their husbands all the time."

What would be your next step if Jeannie was your client? Here's what I did. As you can see clearly Jeannie was rationalizing her behavior by stating the virtues of hiding her pain. I asked Jeannie, "Do you honestly believe that he doesn't already know that you are hurt by what he says. By not responding, you let him know that he is free to continue to criticize you, since there is no negative consequence for his actions. In short, in his mind, his criticism works."

Technique: Reframing Rationalizations
Over the course of several sessions, I reframed Jeannie's rationalization by exploring the following that…"By pretending the controlling abusive behavior is harmless, you give Ralph no motivation to change." Have you found, like I have, that the more your client numbs herself from the pain, the more she loses her incentive to take action?

It's sort of like putting on several layers of clothes and a big fur coat to face the blizzard of their "Great Catch's" criticism. The greater the blizzard the more layers of clothes they put on to hide their pain. Somewhere buried under all those layer s of rationalizations is a person in a great deal of pain. Through a series of sessions can you see your client's layers of hidden pain peel away?

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Allard, C. B., Norman, S. B., Thorp, S. R., Browne, K. C., & Stein, M. B. (2018). Mid-treatment reduction in trauma-related guilt predicts PTSD and functioning following cognitive trauma therapy for survivors of intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 33(23), 3610–3629.

Bornstein, R. F. (2019). Synergistic dependencies in partner and elder abuse. American Psychologist, 74(6), 713–724.

Derrick, J. L., Testa, M., & Leonard, K. E. (2014). Daily reports of intimate partner verbal aggression by self and partner: Short-term consequences and implications for measurement. Psychology of Violence, 4(4), 416–431. 

Edwards, K. M., Dixon, K. J., Gidycz, C. A., & Desai, A. D. (2014). Family-of-origin violence and college men’s reports of intimate partner violence perpetration in adolescence and young adulthood: The role of maladaptive interpersonal patterns. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 15(2), 234–240.

Figueredo, A. J., Jacobs, W. J., Gladden, P. R., Bianchi, J., Patch, E. A., Kavanagh, P. S., Beck, C. J. A., SotomayorPeterson, M., Jiang, Y., & Li, N. P. (2018). Intimate partner violence, interpersonal aggression, and life history strategy. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 12(1), 1–31.

Iverson, K. M., Gradus, J. L., Resick, P. A., Suvak, M. K., Smith, K. F., & Monson, C. M. (2011). Cognitive–behavioral therapy for PTSD and depression symptoms reduces risk for future intimate partner violence among interpersonal trauma survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(2), 193–202. 

Marshall, A. D., Jones, D. E., & Feinberg, M. E. (2011). Enduring vulnerabilities, relationship attributions, and couple conflict: An integrative model of the occurrence and frequency of intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(5), 709–718. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 10
In "Communication Magic" the victim of the abuse rationalizes that her "Great Catch" will magically stop saying hurtful things once he understands what about her? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.
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