Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why Does He DO That? Introduction (Part 3)

We are reading, and, I hope, entering into a healthy discussion of the book Why Does He DO That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.

Please, do buy your own copy - both because I won't be excerpting all of it, and because this author deserves our $upport.

From the Introduction - My Experience Working with Angry and Controlling Men:
For roughly the next five years I worked almost exclusively with clients were coming to the program voluntarily. They generally attended under heavy pressure from their female partners, who were either talking about leaving the relationship or had already done so. <snip> The men’s main motivation for seeking counseling was the hope of saving their relationships. It was common for them to feel some guilt or discomfort about their abusive behavior, but they simultaneously believed strongly in the validity of their excuses and justifications, so their feelings of remorse would not of been enough in themselves to have kept them in my program. In those early years, the clients I worked with were men who used far more verbal and emotional abuse and physical violence, although most of them had been physically intimidating or assaultive on at least a few occasions.

<snip>...with the result that court-mandated clients started at first to trickle and then to pour in the doors of our program. These men often had a much greater propensity for physical violence than our earlier clients, sometimes involving the use of weapons or vicious beatings resulting in hospitalization of their partners. Yet we observed that in other ways these men were generally not significantly different from our verbally abusive clients: their attitudes and excuses tended to be the same, and they used mental cruelty side by side with their physical assaults. Equally important was that the female partners of these battering men were largely describing the same distresses in their lives that we were hearing about from women who would been psychologically abused, showing us that different forms of abuse have similar destructive impacts on women.

<snip> my colleagues and I have been strict about always speaking to the woman whom our client has mistreated, whether or not the couple is still together. (And if he has started a new relationship, we talk with his current partner as well, which is part of how we became aware of the ways in which abusive men continue their patterns from one relationship to the next.) It is through these interviews with women that we’ve received our greatest education about power and control in relationships. The women’s accounts also have taught us that abusive men present their own stores with tremendous denial, minimization, and distortion of the history of their behaviors and that is therefore otherwise impossible for us to get an accurate picture of what is going on in an abusive relationship without listening carefully to the abused woman.

Their Attitudes and Excuses Tended to be the Same

I've heard many people argue that verbal abuse isn't real abuse. I've even made the same argument, myself. But if the abuser who hits "only" with words, dirty looks, and contemptuous body language, has the same attitude, and same goal - to cow and intimidate his/her victim, to make him/her "behave," as the abuser who hits with a closed fist, then it really isn't so different.


Different Forms of Abuse Have Similar Destructive Impacts

Sticks and stones... words will never hurt you, right? Unlike the well-meant childhood fibs about Santa and the Tooth Fairy (sorry if I'm blowing it for you), the LIE about words not hurting us could not be more untrue. I bet everyone reading this, everyone I know, can remember a stinging insult, a painful accusation or comment from our childhood and teen years.

Loser, weakling, incompetent, stupid, untrustworthy, clumsy, selfish... The terrible thing is, even as an adult, if someone we love and trust says something negative about our character or personality, and it hits us in an emotionally vulnerable spot, we'll keep "playing the tape" over and over again in our minds.

If someone tells me, "You're extremely short," I can easily laugh that off. If a stranger who is angry at me tells me, "That's awfully selfish of you," I can usually laugh that off as well - maybe she is trying to hurt me because I didn't go along with her selfish agenda, maybe I was behaving selfishly in that one particular instance.

But I don't want to think of myself as a selfish person. So if my partner says to me, "I can't believe how selfish you are. You're always thinking about yourself, never about other people," I will obsess endlessly over it - especially if he said such a thing more than once. This person knows and loves me. He wouldn't say something like that simply to hurt me. Maybe I am selfish. Hoping to win his approval/praise, I would jump through any number of hoops to prove to him that no, I'm not really selfish. No matter how much it cost me to do so.

And of course, there were always more hoops.

Disclaimer: The information posted here, and any comment responses, are not to be considered professional advice and are not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical or mental health professional. If you are involved in a relationship that includes physical, financial, and/or emotional violence, please contact a professional for help and assistance.

In the US:

National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)  TTY- 1-800-787-3224 
RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network)
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (includes downloadable guides for helping women in abusive relationships)
National Alliance on Mental Illness, aka NAMI

International Resources linked here.

Your thoughts?