by Dr Gonzo
Looks at relationship issues, denial, domestic violence & its causes. An opinion piece.
|Most people, at some point in their lives, have lived in denial. Other's issues and problems are obvious yet, we are hesitant to acknowledge our own. |
Denial is the subconscious mind protecting us from possible emotional pain, yet the irony is, avoidance is likely to cause more pain than if we initially faced the truth.
Each person has their own truth when dealing with the causes of emotional pain, especially to do with relationships. We were there, and so, we know what happened. Yet, we make subconscious adjustments to the truth, so that it fits better into what we are comfortable admitting to others, and in turn, to ourselves. This strategy also gains empathy and support within the family or support network, which serves to limit any responsibility for where we find ourselves.
In order to better understand ourselves and grow, there needs to be both truth and ownership. Otherwise, we learn little which could be of any future benefit from our previous mistakes. The risk being we then go on to repeat those mistakes time and time again, using blame, combined with denial, to justify why we find ourselves back in similar situations or circumstances (abusive relationships).
In any relationship breakdown, no matter what the situation or outcome, both parties need to do an honest self-appraisal (after the pain of loss has subsided), self-analysis, serious soul searching and of most importance, spend some time alone by not jumping straight back into another relationship, before we have, at the very least, tried to come to grips with our own issues. By using more 'I' or 'me' statements and less 'you' or 'they' statements, we can then get a clearer picture of the relationship, and the reasons for its failure.
There is a virtue that often gets pushed aside by ill-feeling and resentment...forgiveness. Many think forgiveness applies only to the perpetrator, even if they do not deserve it. But, if honesty and accountability come to the fore, then everyone involved (children excluded) must accept some degree of blame for what has transpired. And, in my opinion, this is the truth in many cases of domestic violence.
Is it good enough to hold only one person responsible, and so, accountable? And then label that person a monster.
Does this mentality bring any kind of progress or change? Or is it self-serving in its approach? By helping us all deal with the horror of these often tragic events. Using blame as a crutch, and by doing so, never having to face the realities of life, where no one except the children, is innocent (as difficult as this is to swallow).
Then, of course, the very point of forgiveness...to relieve the burden of having to carry such heavy feelings, when in actuality, these feelings only hurt ourselves, and those closest to us.
Women and children are subjected to abuse and domestic violence far too often, but unfortunately, many think with a singular viewpoint, by saying there is only a victim, and a perpetrator. Because of the violent and tragic crimes that mostly men commit, society desires a simplistic and straightforward solution. But, in my opinion, it is a mistake to simply use blame without any thought about why these men commit such despicable acts.
I believe that one way domestic violence becomes normalized, is when young boys see the way their fathers and role models act, and how society in general sees and treats women. In general, women earn less and are disrespected in so many ways. And, as young boys grow into young men, the behaviours they have grown up seeing and hearing become the norm, and are often even encouraged.
So, of course, they come to believe that women are not equal, and when things don't go the way they want or expect, are not equipped to deal with it and often become violent and controlling. And when the threat of losing their children is thrown into the equation, this can and does become a recipe for disaster.
There are, of course, men who haven't been subjected to any known influence, and perhaps have had a good upbringing yet, they too can become abusers. I've heard talk, saying they are evil, and there is no hope they can or will change. This may be true for some, but I myself have been guilty of subjecting my former wife to domestic violence, and as much as it pains me to say, my children were at times witness to my angry outbursts towards her.
When I realized my life was falling apart, to try to save my marriage, I enrolled in a domestic violence course, which opened my eyes to what domestic and family violence actually is...and how much damage it causes. Sixteen weeks...that changed my life forever.
I never thought of myself as a perpetrator, after all, I had never hit my wife, but when I became educated, I realized there was no excuse for what I did. No amount of provocation, bad behaviour from my partner, or simply myself having a bad day, was reason to become abusive. And so, after completing the course, life in general became much easier.
Being passive/aggressive, I was bottling up my emotions of anger and frustration, until something benign would see me explode, damaging furniture and even going to the point where I attempted suicide. All of this is now, thank God, a thing of my past.
I now have a better understanding of what triggers me and the warning signs leading up to those feelings. I learned how good it felt to not lose my cool. By remaining in control of my temper, even when I felt I was being provoked, was empowering indeed. In fact, it was this tactic I had fallen for too many times in the past, that gave me the confidence and determination to take these newfound skills as far as I could. From work situations or anywhere a fair outcome was required. I had learned to become assertive and was now making my way through life, instead of by bulldozing and demanding. The 'me me me' man of before was gone, replaced by a much calmer and safer person for all to be around.
Unfortunately, the pain we have caused can be catastrophic to those who are subjected to our abuse, and for some, they never really get over it. Although my marriage couldn't be saved, I was thankful not to be in the higher spectrum of abusers. My now ex-wife seems ok, and the children, although estranged from me now for four years, are doing well at school, and from what I can gather, are happy and seem to have recovered.
I very much regret the things I did, and even though there is this mentality of one victim and one perpetrator, there are never any winners, and only losers from domestic and family violence. Writing this was something I hoped might make a difference to someone in the future because we cannot change the past, we can only learn from it.
I lost so much because I was insecure and feared things that in the end, as ironic as it is, only happened BECAUSE of the way I behaved, thought, and treated my family.
It has been brought to my attention that some of what I have said is victim bashing, and if true, I sincerely apologize, as this was not my intention. The problem, they said, is that I believe in most cases of domestic and family violence, there are things both people need to take responsibility for, but not that anyone deserved the abuse or asked for it.
Abuse comes in many forms and is not an easy thing for anyone to deal with. Obviously, the victim should be the priority in care and safety, and there should be time allowed for them to build themselves up again, and as much as this stance I have taken (responsibility taken by both the victim and perpetrator) has infuriated some, it is actually important, in my opinion, for all concerned to accept responsibility for anything which could be seen in hindsight, as regrettable, or that they wished they could have done differently during the relationship in its entirety. This is so there is some form of remorse attached to the experience, and not just blaming someone else, without any responsibility taken by the 'victim'.
From my experience, and what happened in our family, I would never say my ex-wife deserved what I did because she certainly did not. But, I can say she contributed to our problems, and I say that with absolute honesty.
Can a victim contribute towards the issues of domestic and family violence as a whole? Or are all women, no matter the circumstances, wholly innocent of any responsibility when domestic and family violence rears its ugly head, and relationships end.
Can I say that without victims coming at me with the hate they have for the one who abused them, now directed at me or any man who would dare to suggest that nobody is innocent when relationships are torn apart by domestic and family violence, and the feelings that come when love is lost forever?
There is another factor to do with the issue as a whole...co-dependence. And so, I would ask, is co-dependence a choice, or is it a condition?
And whichever it is, how many victims and their abusers are this way? I would put forth that it is this way for almost all situations where there is domestic violence
I was asked a question by someone who is a victim of domestic violence. She asked why abusers always pick them (the victims)?
And it seemed obvious to me the wrong question was being asked, and the real question is, why do victims always pick abusers?
If this is a reality, even for some, it suggests choices are being made, and raises questions in the validity for the one monster, and one innocent victim claim.
Another theory may be possible...that remaining a victim is easier than becoming a survivor. Holding onto the hurt and damage because that is who they are, and to have to change everything...no longer having the abuser to pore hatred on for everything they did. Allowing the abuser to continue to control, no matter if they live far away, or even from the grave. Holding onto the person they have become is not totally out of the question...the abuser gone, but the abuse and the damage they caused being the only thing that remains certain.
I am convinced there are choices going on throughout the relationship, from beginning to end, and I don't believe it is victim bashing to put forth that all adults involved should look inwards at some point, taking an honest assessment for the part they played. Because unless that role was perfect in every way from beginning to end, it could very well be a matter of you can't change what you refuse to acknowledge.
Any new person coming into a relationship with a victim of domestic and family violence will be on notice for what her previous partner perpetrated against her. In essence, the abuser is still controlling the victim, and unless she takes the necessary steps in order to be truly free from those feelings of mistrust and suspicion, it will be a more difficult relationship to sustain. He should accept that she has been hurt in the past, and love her enough to try to show he is worthy of her trust, although the negative feelings she has could be ongoing if no real work is done by her to regain the things which were taken away because if she can't, a relationship without trust is not a relationship worth having, or one that will last.
Obviously, she should be wary of any new person, and be on the lookout for potential red flags, but so should anyone, no matter their past, when dealing with an unknown. If she is determined and has the love and support of all who care, then it is up to her if she just accepts the damage and lives accordingly, or does what most victims find the hardest, yet I feel is the most important thing to do...forgive him (the perpetrator).
If we, as a society, want change, we need to tackle this problem before young boys have these tendencies ingrained upon their psyche. One way to do this is to encourage all boys ( parents have to be on board for it to have any chance) of a certain age, perhaps around thirteen to fourteen, to do a domestic violence course. Where they can see for themselves the effects and instead of glorifying and mimicking bad behaviour, may gain the tools required and learn to be assertive, instead of the problematic aggressive and passive/aggressive behaviours which are so often the catalyst for acts of violence.
We must all take responsibility...every man and every woman. Men, in particular, need to stand up and voice their concerns, instead of a murmur that now seems to be all that happens when violence infringes upon relationships. Parents should be actively encouraging their young sons to become better men. To do whatever they can to prevent these boys from growing up and destroying their partner's, the kids involved, and their own lives. Society in general needs to change it's attitudes towards women and this issue, which is the root cause of domestic and family violence...instead of the knee jerk reactions, which do little to prevent the next tragedy from occurring.
Court orders don't stop men who are determined to act violently. Most of the men who commit these despicable acts have not received enough support and aren't equipped with the tools on how best to deal with issues of separation and divorce. These men often have alcohol and drug issues and need to be shown by example, and in the form of prevention from a young age, that there are better ways to deal with relationship problems than to act aggressively and commit acts of domestic and family violence.
And finally, I understand this is a simplistic approach to a very complex issue. I do not have all the answers to the many questions that need to be raised before we have any hope of ending this epidemic of domestic and family violence.
Awareness is better than complacency, and...we have to begin somewhere.