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"But I have such a Great Catch!" Treating Abusive Controlling Relationships
But I have such a Great Catch! Treating Abusive Controlling Relationships

Section 15
Filters Influence Meanings
Reproducible Client Worksheet

Question 15 |
Test | Table of Contents | Couples

Now let’s look beneath the surface to some of the inner processes that influence your outer expressions. As you’ll notice in the diagram on the next page, we filter meanings through a set of inner expectations, rules, and underlying values. Today’s filters emerge out of things we’ve learned in the past and act like rules for deciding - guides, rules of thumb, even conscious censorship - that we use, more or less consciously, in our day to day communication. They form a way of seeing what is going on as well as a way of responding to it. Each person’s total set is unique and is subtly changing as today’s experiences are added to yesterday’s. Some of the sources of filters from yesterday are:

•Family customs and practices, styles of parenting
•Sex and expected social roles
•Race and ethnic background and expected social roles
•When you were born and the social meaning of your age today
•Socioeconomic class in geographic area where you grew up
•Education: amount, subjects, degrees, status and quality of schools
•Military experience, exposures to hierarchy, authority, violence
•Being single and dating; marital and parenting experiences of your own
•Religious, spiritual, moral, and ethical learnings
•Work experience, habits, values, kind of jobs held
•Cultural exposures to music, art, dance, reading, television
•Unknown repressed material

Expectations situation system abusive relationships CEUS

Out of these and other past life experiences - and what you learned from them - come today’s inner expectations, perceptions, inner rules, and underlying values that generally guide your decisions, consiously or not, such as:

•Honesty: when it’s best to lie a little, to use tact, to be brutally honest, to say nothing, handling moral dilemmas
•Valuing yourself: how you see your value in relation to others, how you compare yourself now with where you were earlier, how much you listen to yourself, your body, your hunches
•Perception of others and their value: whether you look for their strengths or their vulnerabilities, and whether you tend to evaluate others or accept them as they are
•Assumptions and stereotypes: assumptions about the right ways to do things or that there is one best solution, stereotypes about people with different educational backgrounds than your own
•Attitudes about work: work habits, what motivates you to work, how you feel about unions, your values of physical labor compared to head work, whether work can be pleasurable or if it should hurt
•Relating to Authority: if and when authority can be questioned, how your behavior may change from when you’re with peers or subordinates
•Manners, courtesy, what’s appropriate, right, in good taste: whether you use these for personal graciousness or as standards against which you measure other people
•How the world works: truisms, adages, pearls of wisdom garnered as conventional wisdom that you don’t question
These are only a few of the many kinds of subjective feelings, beliefs, attitudes, and convictions we each hold. Some might be very pervasive in your thinking. For example, if your were raised on the religious dictum, “An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth,” you may now believe in retributive justice, in capital punishment for murderers, and you may see yourself as a dispenser of justified punishments when others need it. If you were the child who was told, “And stay in your room, young man,” you might feel justified in getting back at others with the same measure of punishment you recieved. You might even occasionally play God.

Other learnings may not be so pervasive, but we can make insistent demands through expectations we call reasonable. Consider the potency and frequency of this expectation, “If you loved me, you would...” This common manipulation says, “Prove you love me by doing what I want.” It comes in many versions: “If you think I’m doing good work, you’ll give me a promotion”; “If you like the food I fixed, you’ll have seconds”; “Since I won the sales contest, I should be able to pick my territory.” These conditional expectations are designed to define, control, and limit other people’s choices so they give you what you want, often at their expense.

Consider this one: “I helped you out, so you should help me when I need it.” This seems so eminently reasonable that it’s hard to refute, but it imposes a unilateral bargain to which you didn’t consent. They helped you at their convenience but don’t consider your time demands nor your willingness to help them.

Consider also some of the differences in perceptions when engineers and artists try to communicate. Many engineers (as well as other professionals) have been trained to think in logical sequences, sorting, culling, narrowing, until they find casual links and corrective solutions. They use analytical, diagnostic and prescriptive modes of thinking to arrive at regularity and predictability.

Some artists might do the same, depending on the style of art they produce. However, artists are more likely to learn to break through patterns, to see new shapes, textures, abstracts, unusual linkages, to create simplicity out of complex, or to allow distortions and misalignments to speak. They value the ability to see things in new ways of approaching their work. These people aren’t likely to see things the same way - personality conflicts, some might say.

Wells, T. (1980).Keeping Your Cool Under Fire: Communicating Non-Defensively. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bornstein, R. F. (2019). Synergistic dependencies in partner and elder abuse. American Psychologist, 74(6), 713–724.

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.

MilesMcLean, H. A., LaMotte, A. D., Semiatin, J. N., FarzanKashani, J., Torres, S., Poole, G. M., & Murphy, C. M. (2019). PTSD as a predictor of treatment engagement and recidivism in partner abusive men. Psychology of Violence, 9(1), 39–47.

How do we filter meanings? To select and enter your answer go to

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