One might question why individuals stay in abusive relationships when they had a life before their partner, free from abuse. Many wonder why anyone would continue to allow someone to treat them badly. People who abuse others know exactly what they are doing and groom potential victims from the dating phase to the early relationship stage. Tactics used by perpetrators of abuse are generally subtle in early days, and are designed to slowly desensitise natural reactions to abusive behaviours.
Grooming works by mixing elements of abuse with positive behaviours. Early in the relationship all behaviours may indeed be positive, but slowly abusive behaviours are added, which often sends the one living with abuse into a confused state. However, the one inflicting abuse will not allow their behaviours to set off alarm bells, and over time the abuse begins to feel normal.
The one inflicted with abuse never truly understands their abusers actual goal, and as a result often dismisses internal alarm bells. As the desensitisation continues, shame and secrecy trap the abused partner, and often instils the belief that it is too late for them to walk away from the relationship. Desensitisation goes together with the illusion of something special in the relationship, this illusion is created by a mix of false affection and positive behaviours.
As time goes on, the one inflicted with abuse may believe that there was some sort of agreement, or understanding in the relationship, until they see it was their abuser that was solely responsible, and they had indeed been living with abuse. By the time the person sees this reality, not only have they been groomed (or set up) for abuse, over time many more abusive behaviours have been inflicted on them, changing their lives, changing them.
Most people living in abusive relationships will be subject to stonewalling, discouragement, gaslighting, social abuse, financial abuse, coercive control, stalking, rage, pathological jealousy, and isolation. Many also endure sexual abuse, and many watch as their children are abused too. All resources are stripped from the abused person, and they cannot meet their needs except through their primary abuser, who has manipulated the relationship so their partner is totally dependent on them. Many want so desperately to leave, but with little or no resources, particularly financial, these women are faced with a very difficult and intense situation. These tactics wear even the strongest of people down, they feel drained, often helpless and alone. Every day is spent walking on eggshells not knowing when peace will turn to hell.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Don’t let the term discouragement mislead you, whilst it may seem a mild term, within abusive relationships discouragement can become deeply imbedded into the person living with abuse, resulting in learned helplessness. When a person is continuously discouraged from doing the things they love, they may begin asking themselves things to the effect of;
“What’s the use, nothing I do will ever change anything.”
“If I do it I’ll just end up feeling bad, so what’s the point.”
“If I do something that makes me happy, he will make me feel even worse, I just won’t do it.”
“If I do it there will be no peace in the house, the kids and I will suffer for it.”
Discouragement is used by perpetrators of abuse to ensure their partner never explores or pursues other options outside the relationship. Discouragement strips the one living with abuse of their self-esteem and self-worth. When a person is living with continuous discouragement, it can take on the appearance of apathy to the outsider, but rather than the person lacking feelings, discouragement imbeds deep quantities of bad feelings into the person. If one has lived with discouragement over a long period, they may eventually feel they should just give up and pursue nothing. This develops a discrepancy inside the person because at a soul level they know they deserve more and should pursue their loves regardless, but they are paralysed with fear of consequences and eventually learned helplessness takes over.
Discouragement in abusive relationships is just one of the many tactics used by perpetrators of abuse to control and dominate their partner, and does significant damage to the one being inflicted. Sadly, domestic abuse/violence is at the forefront of Australian social issues and we need to understand that many women live with abuse both physically and emotionally, every day of their lives. Whilst men can experience domestic abuse in the home, abuse inflicted on women by far outweighs the number of men abused. Women are inflicted with many kinds of abuse and not all of them choose to share this information with others, so when in the company of someone with whom seems a little on edge, please don’t make judgements, the control goes well beyond the walls of the home and these women are always on edge because they never know when their next wrong will be bought to their attention, a wrong they generally don’t even know they have committed, until inflicted with the damaging consequences of their abusive partner.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. Discouragement - Yet another Tactic. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
One in eight teenagers live with anxiety - Understanding our teens.
Understanding our teens has never been an easy task, in fact, if we take-a-look back on our own adolescence, understanding ourselves was no easy feat. With advances in technology, and by use of MRI imaging we can now take a closer look at what makes us tick through adolescence and how our brain contributes to it all.
Teenage brains act as sponges, they soak up as much or as little you want them to, therefore we must take special care of our teens and their wellbeing. During our teenage years, we develop habits that we take into adulthood with us, and it’s the parents responsibility to guide them through these challenging years. A teenage brain is still under construction, it develops to a certain extent, but not enough to act mature in all situations. This is not only a difficult time for parents, but for our teens also.
Teenage years are a crucial time in our development, there are changes in body, mind, and energy – they are at their peak, this in turn, can lead to a contradiction and confusion for both the teen and their parents. The reason that teenagers can display entirely different reactions and behaviour on any given occasion is because various sections of the brain still function as a child, and others more maturely – how confusing this must be for them. It’s any wonder then, that the most common mental health issue for teenagers is anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder can really upset a teens life. It can affect their peer relationships, home and school life, the way they view themselves, and lead to detachment from social activities.
Teens experiencing anxiety may;
Display unrealistic fears
Worry a lot
Experience sleep disturbances
Be easily distracted
Avoid situations by use of escape tactics
There are several factors that may contribute to anxiety disorders in our teens which include;
An overactive flight and fight response
Stressful life circumstances
Brain bio chemistry
One in eight teenagers are struggling with both the challenges of adolescence and anxiety, it’s any wonder at times they feel their whole world is crumbling around them. As parents, let’s try and be more understanding and supportive of our teens (as frustrating as it can be at times), learn what makes them tick and share with them that understanding. Through doing this, we just might find our teens feel safe confiding in us rather than the head-to-head clashes so often experienced by teens and their parents.
Last-but-not-least, never forget we were once teenagers and how hard it was for us, imagine for a moment in-today’s-society with so many more challenges to face, what it must be like to be them.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. One in eight teenagers live with anxiety-Understanding our teens. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Stonewalling - Emotional Neglect.
Stonewalling is a widely-used tactic used by perpetrators of abuse, and present in most unsatisfying relationships.
Stonewalling is an absolute refusal to communicate when confronted to resolve the millions of unresolved issues within the relationship, an absolute refusal to see things from your partner’s perspective, this is very different from needing time to calm down and collect your thoughts.
If you are listened to at all, it will be with dismissiveness and contempt. When an abusive partner is asked to talk about an issue, there is a good chance the one living with abuse will hear things to the effect of:
"Just leave me alone!"
"Do whatever you want!"
"End of conversation!"
"Get out of my face!"
"I’ve had it!"
"I’m so over this shit!"
"Here we go again!"
The intention of stonewalling is to keep the survivor ‘hanging on the hook,’ and not really allowed to pursue alternatives, because the issue is still unresolved to some level. It involves being given the cold shoulder, silent treatment, and emotional isolation from one’s partner, all of which deeply hurt a person.
In abusive relationships, isolation and threats are usually present and the one living under these conditions has no means by which they can pursue their needs, other than through their primary abuser. Stonewalling is humiliating and emotionally isolating, and does significant damage to those living under these conditions.
Through the course of an abusive relationship, stonewalling may very well become one of the fundamental tactics used, because it is a great way to apply pressure that can’t be confronted, the abuser would deny they are doing a thing wrong. Those inflicted with abusive partners may be accused of ‘nagging,’ in their attempt to overcome stonewalling from their partner, increasing their feelings of agitation and emotional isolation.
People that use stonewalling as a tactic are doing so to gain leverage or power over the other person, and over the relationship. The abusive partner is asserting their power and control over the one they perceive as the less powerful one. Like all other tactics used in abusive relationships, stonewalling is cruel and leaves the one living with abuse drained in every aspect, especially emotionally.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. Stonewalling. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Pathological Jealousy - Crushes Souls.
There are many cruel tactics used by perpetrators of abuse, one of the most damaging to those living under these conditions is pathological jealousy. While some level of jealousy within loving relationships is normal, and indeed an ancient instinct used to secure and protect a mate, it is very different from that of pathological jealousy. In healthy terms, jealousy refers to a fear of losing something we have with another person, whilst pathological jealousy means the person believes they own or possess the other person. This kind of jealousy destroys not just relationships, but the one living with its detrimental impact. Trust, intimacy, and connection are destroyed.
Pathological jealousy is one of the most dangerous aspects within abusive relationships, leaving those living under these conditions mentally, emotionally and physically drained, especially if they have remained in the abusive relationship for a long duration of time. One of the most frustrating parts of this abuse, is no matter how hard the person tries to reassure or appease her abuser, she won’t be believed, as these people simply do not trust no matter what is said or done.
In fact, these individuals look for reasons to be jealous, and inflict suffering on the devastated partner with whom was not inclined to be unfaithful in the first place. Most people that live with a pathologically jealous partner, are so tormented with isolation tactics, name-calling, interrogations and accusations, that the last thing on earth they want to pursue is sex with someone else – they would in most cases, prefer the opposite sex did not exist at all.
Pathological jealousy is truly a narcissistic trait, and any relationship with someone with narcissistic personality disorder will destroy you. People living with domestic abuse feel completely drained of energy and life-force, some days just doing their day-to-day activities near kills them because their soul is afraid and lifeless. It is a world of manipulation and control, where the one living with abuse is robbed of their power. Please be understanding of their situation, the last thing they need are judgements or people pressuring them to leave, it is not that simple.
Women living with abuse have very complicated lives, and those with children have more than themselves to protect. They are often robbed of every resource, and know that leaving could very well leave them standing with only the clothing on their back. Many ask why material possessions are so important, why don’t they just get out of there and then rebuild their lives. Imagine for a moment, working hard for the things you love, and having items left to you by beloved loved ones, and then leaving it all behind. Think of your children, all their treasured possessions and photographs, and just leaving it all behind.
Leaving an abusive relationship is no easy feat, not only are resources and support networks stripped, there is a good chance that the abuser will not leave their partner out of sight long enough to make the escape, and many do not want to inflict harm on others that may be willing to help, so they silently suffer alone in a world of torment. They need our love and support, never our judgements! Women living in this world need us to show them they are not alone, no matter how they chose to deal with their situation, so please, let’s offer that, and always be there when they reach out for our help.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. Pathological Jealousy – Crushes Souls. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
There are many tactics used by those that abuse others, today I would like to briefly discuss coercive control and the impact it has on those living with, or surviving from domestic abuse. Coercion refers to one giving in and complying with what their abusive partner wants, knowing that there will be no peace or stability unless he does get what he wants. This is particularly so for women with children, as they will take all measures to keep their home as ‘normal’ as possible.
Coercive control is used alongside many other tactics such as isolation, mind-games, degradation, and the regulation of the ones day-to-day life. There may be control over what one wears, social restrictions, monitoring of phone calls, and showing up unannounced to your place of employment, these are among the many tactics used. The perpetrator of abuse, creates a world by which one is constantly monitored and criticised. Everything the person does is checked on, and they are forced to live in an unpredictable, ever changing world, with an ever-changing rule book.
The one living with, or surviving domestic abuse, understands that any situation can escalate or remain tense until they give in. Sadly, this even applies to sex. Many women give their abuser rights to their body, again, to keep the peace and stability within the home. The affects however, are the same emotional responses as anyone experiencing rape. Abusers love to use unresolved conflict and disruption as a punishment, when one does not give him what he wants.
Part of coercive control is pressure-release tactic, this is used as a means of psychological control. For example, any person living with domestic abuse, lives with pressure and discomfort, if the discomfort or pressure is removed, suddenly there is a feeling of relief, and sometimes even feelings of gratitude toward their abuser. Perpetrators of domestic abuse, often act out mood swings, they may display intense coercive behaviour and then suddenly snap into civil behaviour, which can also give the person living with domestic abuse, yet more feelings of gratitude toward their abuser. But this pressure-release never lasts long.
Control is ever present in abusive relationships, they are traps that limit people’s options. Abusive people learn quickly that threats to leave the relationship can be used as power, because threats to leave shift the focus from the abusive behaviour, to the one living with abuse and their behaviour-this is a fundamental abuse tactic. Women naturally take a strong interest in their relationships working, and can therefore be negatively affected by threats to leave. Using threats also silence the one living with abuse. Those living with, or surviving domestic abuse, will relate to being discouraged from all that she is and does, so that she never explores options outside the relationship.
Emotional abuse is more than momentary cruelty, it is directed at lowering the person’s self-esteem and power to do things on her behalf, and on behalf of her children. Discouragement comes from a paralysing quantity of bad feelings, and those living with domestic abuse eventually forget to take care of their own wellbeing. I urge those that have not lived under these conditions, to show understanding toward survivors and those living with domestic abuse. There are a million tactics used by perpetrators of abuse, many of these tactics rob those living with it of everything, including means by which to leave. If someone you know is courageous enough to disclose they are being abused, please listen to them. Coercive control is just one tactic that is used and can be subtle, you may overlook it. Please remember, those that abuse others generally wear a deceitful mask, they don’t want you to know, often leaving the one living with abuse further damaged.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). Coercive Control. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Samsel, M. (2013). Warning Signs-Abuse and relationships. Https://www.abuseandrelationships.org/index.html
Stop the battle in my mind!
Anxiety is something that we all experience in our lives, and it can indeed be healthy. It can be helpful by keeping us alert and focused, and is a natural bodily response to stress or danger.
However, some people live with high levels of anxiety that cause irrational and excessive fear and worry, interfering with their day-to-day lives. Anxiety on these levels creates a constant and overwhelming sense of unease, and can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are serious medical conditions that are characterised by excessive and persistent worry, which are the primary sources of anxiety.
Anxiety disorders can make a person’s life hell and thus interfere with the person’s ability to carry out, or take pleasure in day-to-day life. Often anxiety disorders bring with them depression, increasing the challenges for people living with these conditions. People living with anxiety disorders are often misunderstood, people question their inability to overcome anxiety attacks and bouts of depression, assuming that all anxiety is the same as they have experienced. This is not the case!
Many people that have an anxiety disorder have a genetic vulnerability to developing the condition. Personality can also play a part in the way that a person responds to stressful life events, which may trigger the condition or increase its impact. For a person living with an anxiety disorder, distress is felt a lot of the time, even if there is no obvious reason. An anxiety attack for these individuals can be so severe it is immobilising.
A person living with an anxiety disorder may live with some or all the following:
Persistent, excessive or unrealistic worries
Compulsions and obsessions which they can’t control
Intense and excessive worry about social situations
An intense, irrational fear of everyday objects and situations
Other symptoms of anxiety include:
A pounding heart
Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders in Australia, with one in four people likely to experience some or all the above symptoms at some point in their lives.
So, the next time you are with a person experiencing anxiety, please don’t jump to the conclusion that they can move past their feelings and racing thoughts just because you can. Life for these individuals is a battle within their own mind each day of their lives, and the best they can do is learn to manage the condition the best that they can. Please be understanding of their condition and approach them with empathy and understanding, not assumptions and judgements.
Anxiety disorders are generally treated with a combination of medication and therapy. Therapies used must be tailored to suit each individual and their symptoms and concerns, because anxiety disorders differ greatly and should not be treated the same. Each person is unique and manages their condition differently, and should always be sure their therapist is working with their experience of anxiety on a personalised level.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. STOP the battle in my mind. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Sane Australia. (2017). https://www.sane.org/mental-health-and-illness/facts-and-guides/anxiety-disorder
Domestic abuse - Early warning signs.
People that abuse others are masters of manipulation, and generally do not want their abusive behaviours displayed for all to see. The mask worn by these people ‘sucks you in', they feel so right in the beginning!
Behind that mask lies ugliness that has no boundaries, and does not care about yours. Relationships don’t become abusive, they always have been abusive, but the tactics used are less severe in the beginning of the relationship. So, what are the early signs that a person may be setting you up for abuse? Strong signs of an abusive (controlling) disposition might be apparent even when the person is ‘being nice.’
Controlling disposition in early days might include:
- Flattering (but a little overboard).
- Planning fun outings or getaways where you feel a sense of obligation to look forward to, or enjoy their plans.
- You may be kept busy so that your usual activities can’t be pursued.
- He may assume levels of intimacy that you don’t feel.
- Gifts and other nice things are given but there is a strong pressure to accept and like his gifts.
- Needing constant contact (calls, texts, insisting on accompanying you to all appointments and interviews, visiting your place of employment etc.).
- Jealousy without reason (this is not love, this is angry attachment for all women expressing itself).
- Pressure for early commitment (desire to marry, move in together, buy property together, or have a child). The abuser may assume or insist commitment exists even when it does not. This is evidence of a desire for complete and total control.
- Blaming everything external for his feelings, life situation, disturbing actions toward other people, particularly previous partners as this is closely linked to abusive behaviours.
- Too good to be true and claims of grandiose can be a warning.
- Name calling (especially in fields of your interest).
- He shows a strong and manipulative interest in managing impressions on other people-if he is doing this to them, he is doing it to you.
- Isolating can be a gradual process, but can also show up at lightning speed when someone expresses doubts or a critical view of him.
- Suggestions of people being a bad influence on you.
- Frequent talks and argument about trust and betrayal. This indicates the abuser believes others are not doing what he wants them to, and this is a crime. This is the beginning of justification of abuse.
- Ingratiating manner when he wants something. Friendliness is common when requesting something, but ingratiating is not sincere and overdone by friendliness. This is a will to get what he wants at all costs.
- Claiming previous partners cheated on him. While this might be true, it is likely to be his imagination rising from pathological jealousy.
- Secretiveness. Next to brute forces, the second most effective building block of power is to know what someone else doesn’t. Secretiveness in relationships, is an attempt to create the feeling, or reality of power by compartmentalisation, a mild state of disassociation.
- Showing up unannounced or uninvited. This is to keep you off balance. It is also a sign of pathological jealousy and an act of stalking.
- He has few or no male friends.
- He has difficulty cooperating with others.
- Mood swings (Jekyll and Hyde behaviours).
- He has to be right.
This is an effort by the abuser to make what he wants into something more, he feels it is something others must give him. While some of these behaviours may be difficult to detect, if you do observe any potential warning signs, please take heed.
The abuse within unhealthy relationships increases over time. Being in an abusive relationship will eventually suck you dry, in every aspect. It will damage you until you are questioning your own sanity, yet you were never to blame for any of it, your abuser was.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. Domestic Abuse – Early Warning Signs. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Samsel, M. (2013). [article]. WARNING SIGNS: Abuse and Relationships. Retrieved 16.2.2017 from: https://www.abuseandrelationships.org/index.html
"A truth to be accepted."
At times accepting the truth of a situation is hard, we tend to procrastinate rather than accept something or someone, that we are uncomfortable with, but overtime the weight becomes too heavy to bare and acceptance is all that's left.
I feel it is one of the hardest hurdles to cross, but once done, it allows you to turn the page and see what the next one brings. With acceptance comes growth, and from growth we can learn to love ourselves once more.
We can stand back, smile and say, hey I did this! This sets the foundation for personal freedom, something each of us are more than entitled too and so often robbed of.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. "A truth to be accepted." www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Lets make a stand!
Let's make a stand against domestic abuse and the long-lasting impact on those faced with destructive relationships. Many people question why women don't leave their abusive partner, but those that live in, or have lived in this world, understand it's detrimental impact. There are millions of reasons women stay, and not generally because they want to.
Many victims of domestic abuse that leave, are faced with hardship because during the course of their relationship, they have been stripped of all resources. Immediate support for those wanting to leave is not always readily available, and many have children making the whole situation more complex.
So, while we stand against the abusers, let's support those struggling with domestic abuse and show them empathy and understanding, with no judgements. Many women are kept from family and friends and become isolated over time, making reaching out for help even more complicated. Just knowing we are there if needed, may be all the security these women need to help them regain personal strength. No questions asked, just be there.
Van Den Broek, L. (2017). Let's make a stand! www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
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