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Use of Shame to Maintain Control
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The next step in increasing
awareness of verbal abuse, after exploring the two questions of instant
replay syndrome and guilt trips, is to increase Sandras
awareness of what I term "The 3 Tactics that Create a Power Imbalance"
in the relationship. At some level, males know their partners feel that they are
their abusive partner. The abusive partner uses
the resulting power imbalance for purposes of control.
if any of your clients have experienced any of these three tactics in which the
controling partner successfully maintains control over his partner in the
Gender Role Relationship Power
♦ Shame Strategy #1:
how this tactic works. Jason said hurtful things to Erin under the mask of being
a joke. Erin, age 22, stated in one session, When I start my menstrual cycle,
my face breaks out a lot. Jason knows I am very self-conscious about this. I try
to cover up my zits with a lot of make-up, but last Saturday we had two other
couples over to watch the football game. We were eating pizza. So, in the middle
of the game, Jason stood up with a piece of pizza in his hand and announced, 'Hey,
look everybody, this looks just like Erin's face!' When he saw my tears of embarrassment,
he yelled at me, Whats your problem, cant you take a joke?
this example, Jasons Can't-You-Take-a-Joke control tactic served two purposes. First, it minimized his abuse under the guise that it was just a joke. Second,
however, at the same time he efficiently discredited the validity of Erin's feelings.
Erin felt as if she was the one in the wrong and should feel
ashamed, the net effect . This feeling of shame is often the end result of the abusive partner
tactic #1, Can't-You-Take-a-Joke. Thus, Jason was once again placed in a "One
up" position in the relationship.
♦ Shame Strategy #2:
age 25 had been married to Ron for 3 years. They have two girls, ages 2 and 4.
Ron desperately wanted a son. In our first session, Marcy sobbed, I asked
Ron not to tell his family about my miscarriage. Then last Sunday, at his fathers
birthday party with all of the aunts, uncles, and kids gathered, and after he
had several beers and shots of whiskey, he blurted in a loud voice in a toast
at the dinner table, 'My wife isnt even woman enough to give me a son!
During my session with Marcy, she felt Ron betrayed her confidence. This tactic
served the purpose of allowing Ron to vent his hostility about the miscarriage
by embarrassing Marcy in front of his family. Thus, the purpose of this, Betrayal-of-a-Confidence
tactic, is to create a power imbalance and to provide the abusive partner
with a "One Up" status in the relationship.
♦ Shame Strategy #3:
to the Can't-You-Take-a-Joke and Betrayal-of-a-Confidence tactics, abusive partner control tactic #3, is Breaking-an-Agreement. Heres how it works.
Marcy stated, "Ron makes promises and then breaks them. Hell go on
and on about taking the girls to the park. When the day comes he has forgotten
all about it, and comes home from work late. Hell say, what else could
I do I had to work late? You are always whining that we dont have enough
money arent you?" Also, Marcy feels Ron never takes time to talk.
Even when he says well talk after diner. Then, when I ask him how
his day was or I tell him Ive had a bad day, he just rolls his eyes and
walks away. Even when he had promised we will talk. As you know being physically
and emotionally unavailable is an extremely powerful tool to create power of inequity
in a relationship. Thus, the tactic of Breaking-an-Agreement is a frequently used
tool that facilitates being physically, as well as emotionally, unavailable.
the abusive partner breaks his agreements wanting to be judged by his
intentions rather than by his actions. In other words, I intended to take the
girls to the park, but I had to work late. I intended to talk after dinner, but
I was too tired. Think of a client you are currently treating. Does her abusive partner use the: Can't-You-Take-a-Joke tactic, Betrayal-of-a-Confidence tactic,
Breaking-an-Agreement tactic, or a combination of these three as a means to create
a power imbalance and maintain a one-up status?
to the National Violence Against Women Survey, 10.8% of the women but only 4.1%
of the men used a knife on the victim. 21.6% of the male victims were threatened
with a knife, while only 12.7% of the women were so threatened. 43.2% of the male
victims were hit with a hard object capable of causing serious injury, while this
was true of only 22.6% of the female victims. When all serious forms of domestic
assault were added together, as many men as women were seriously assaulted.
the next section... we will talk about how these three tactics can lead to depression
and a killing of the spirit, so to speak.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Cascardi, M., Chesin, M., & Kammen, M. (Jul 2018). Personality Correlates of Intimate Partner Violence Subtypes: A Latent Class Analysis. Aggressive Behavior, 44(4), 348-361.
Eterović, Marija. (Apr 09, 2020). Recognizing the role of defensive processes in empirical assessment of shame. Psychoanalytic Psychology, No Pagination Specified.
Harrington, A. G., Overall, N. C., & Cross, E. J. (2020). Masculine gender role stress, low relationship power, and aggression toward intimate partners. Psychology of Men & Masculinities. Advance online publication.
Platt, Melissa G., Freyd, Jennifer J. (Jul 2015). Betray my trust, shame on me: Shame, dissociation, fear, and betrayal trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 7(4), 398-404.
What are ways shame can be used to maintain control in a relationship? To select and enter your answer
go to .