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But I Have Such A Great Catch! Treating Controlling Abusive Relationships
On the previous track we talked
about the three control tactics: Can't-You-Take-a-Joke; Betrayal-of-a-Confidence;
clients experiencing controlling abusive behavior suffer from symptoms of depression.
As you know, the DSM symptoms include: Problems with eating and sleeping, guilt
feelings, loss of energy, trouble concentrating, and thoughts about death.
A more subtle form of "killing the spirit" than that of the Cant-you-take-a-joke tactic is that of teasing. Here's how Shannon described the chipping away of self-esteem process.
Tactic #2: Teasing
As you know, depression is self-hate turned inward. Her spiraling self-hate and depression were facilitated by lack of support of her family.
Shannon's family told her that Aaron's teasing was nothing to worry about, and that she was being too sensitive. They would then reinforce the myth of what a "Great Catch" he was by telling her how lucky she was to get anybody to marry her. As you can see, neither Shannon nor her family realized that this affectionate teasing wasnt affectionate at all. It was slowly chipping away her self-esteem. After a few sessions together, Shannon and I realized that she was walking on egg shells around Aaron in an attempt to avoid his teasing.
Tactic #3: 3 Factors of Verbal Abuse
a. Recognizable verbal abuse: I will pause after reading each of these to give
you a chance to think of and apply them to a client you are treating or have treated:
belittling, smirking, mimicking, insulting, and ignoring.
b. In addition or instead of recognizable verbal abuse, the "Great Catch" may use eloquent-sounding words, or jargon, or academia, or trendy words to sound superior. I had a client whose significant other would yell things like, "Your profound ignorance is appalling!" "Your disgraceful neglect is not to be condoned." So think for a moment about this second form of verbal abuse of using words to sound superior; would it be appropriate to reframe a situation in your next session regarding the superior language form of verbal abuse.
c. Controlling behavior number three goes hand-in-hand with the superior language we have just discussed. Number three is treating a partner like he or she is a child, for example repeating statements as if the partner would not understand or over-explaining simple tasks. "This is how you correctly place the jelly lid on the jelly jar. You turn it until it is tight like this."
I feel the main problem here is validation of Shannons feelings. Shannon dismissed these as the small things that she should overlook because, after all, she was lucky to have snagged such a "Great Catch," like Aaron, who had a stable job. I found Shannon had to give herself permission to have negative feelings about her "Great Catch Aaron.
Cold Weather Analogy
The cold weather analogy helped Shannon to accept her feelings and give herself permission to have them. She began to feel she didnt have to have a doormat facade to keep Aaron.
In the next track... I will discuss what I say when a client asks How could I have known my Great Catch would be so cruel? Are there any warning signs or patterns that I missed?
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