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5 Urban Legends for Abusive Relationships
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the last section, we discussed methods for you to help your client, who feels he
or she has gotten their "Great Catch," to connect some therapeutic "dots"
of abuse, so to speak.
Now let's look at 5 "Urban Legends." What is
an Urban Legend? An urban legend is a societal myth created to explain the unexplainable.
case you are not too familiar with this colloquialism, I will use this term as
meaning your client's explanations for their partner's abuse that do not produce
growth and change. As
I explain these five urban legends or myths, think of a client you are treating
whom you may have overlooked providing this form of a reality check.
5 Urban Legends for the Partner's Abuse
Legend or Myth #1 - Drugs and Alcohol
As you know, a common assumption
among those that are abused is that drugs and alcohol caused the abusive behavior.
While undoubtedly drugs and alcohol make abuse worse, it cannot actually cause
the abuse to happen. As you will see with Denise, this is a subtle but crucial
first Denise had accepted alcohol as an excuse for Roberts name calling, put-downs,
criticisms, and sarcasms, but in one session she stated, "Robert would call
me dumb-ass and other names even without a couple of beers with his shot chasers."
To dispel urban legend #1 with Denise, I explained to her that when Robert is
drunk, he is and acts out of control. But, for all of his claims of being out
of control, or that he could not help himself
Robert is making choices. I
stated to Denise, "Consequently your hope that a rehab program is the total
answer for producing change and creating the relationship of your dreams may not
provided Denise with a printout of the following fact sheet. The sheet stated,
"According to National studies, although there is a high correlation between
alcohol, or other substance abuse, and battering, it is not a casual relationship.
Batterers use drinking as one of many excuses for their violence and as a way
to place the responsibility for their violence elsewhere. Stopping the abusers'
drinking will not stop the violence. Both battering and substance abuse need to
be addressed separately, as overlapping yet independent problems." A reprint
of this statement appears in the Manual that accompanies this home study course
under the name of Facts versus Myths.
you have a client who could benefit from a review of the Fact versus Myth fact
sheet found in you manual regarding urban legend #1, alcohol and substance abuse
Legend or Myth #2 - Unhealthy Childhood
I find a second common explanation
for verbal as well as physical abuse is that an unhealthy childhood caused my
"great catch" to act in an abusive manner. As you know, it is correct
that childhood trauma can create adult problems. Like many other women, Denise
heard stories from Bob about his abusive childhood. She stated "Nobody should
have to live through that. I knew his spirit was gone, and I wanted to save him
and give it back to him."
is your "Denise" that you are currently treating or have treated? Would
a review of the following statistics be or have been helpful?
is important to keep in mind, that while some men and women were abused as children
and they may suffer from depression or other aftereffects, childhood abuse does
not turn them into abusers. The National Institute of Health has indicated that
approximately 65-85% of adults who were abused as children do not grow up to abuse
their children. While someone may have had an unhealthy childhood, they still
have the ability to make different choices.
provided Denise with the fact that many families in which violence occurs do not
produce verbally and physically violent abusive men. The power Robert had with
Denise is a network that reflects legal, social, and economic inequities in society
as a whole. In short, trying to "fix" his childhood and "fix"
him was unrealistic by trying to provide a simple one-stop-shopping-type of solution
to his name calling, put-downs, criticisms, and sarcasms.
Legend or Myth #3 - Stress
Denise worked hard to alleviate Robert's stress.
She spent countless hours cleaning the house, trying to cook "perfect"
meals, taking care that their three- and five-year-old children did not "bug
him" as Robert put it, and screening unwanted phone calls from bill collectors.
Denise tried to create as much of a stress-free environment for Robert as she
could. But you know the punch line, no matter how much stress she alleviated,
there was always something that she couldn't foresee, or some new criteria for
what was stressful for Robert on a particular day and what wasn't.
of your Denise whom you are treating. Have you overlooked reviewing the following?
Think, as I stated the obvious to Denise, "Life is full of stress, but stress
is never the sole 'cause' of abuse. We all have stress, and most are able to find
ways of coping with it without abusing others." After several sessions Denise
stated, "I would have never thought about taking stress and turning it into
screams or put-downs for Robert or my children. If I can make this choice, Robert
has the same choice. Doesn't he?" This dispelled Urban Legend or myth #3
that stress caused Robert's constant name calling, put-downs, criticisms, and
Legend or Myth#4 - Insecurity
I am sure you have found, like I, that many
women see insecurity as an excuse for justifying their partners' behavior. Robert
was so uncertain of himself that reassuring him became a full time job for Denise.
And, despite her efforts to compliment, soothe, comfort, and strengthen Robert's
fragile ego, Denise reported, "I am a failure."
about Urban Legend or Myth #4, insecurity, if you will. To stand tall the Great
Catch, Robert, has to keep his heal in Denise's neck. Do you see the visualization
here of a man standing over "his woman" who is on the floor with his heal in her neck? This is the visualization Alice, another client created during
a session. Her Great Catch was Rico. Ask yourself: Do you need to clarify the
one-up status the "great catch" is creating? Do you need to provide
the following insight via general global statements from Patricia Evans, Verbal
Abuse: Survivors Speak Out, "I have found that many men depend almost
entirely on a woman to make life comfortable and secure. If she fails to do it
perfectly or if she resists, then his security is threatened, and he strikes back.
The basis of his insecurity is his need to have subservience and dependence on
what do you think? Do you need to review the insecurity urban legend or myth with
one of your clients in their next session?
Legend or Myth #5 - Inner Feelings: Popular psychology teaches that people
should express their inner feelings. And, of course, there is a certain amount
of truth in this basic therapy premise. However, where do you draw the line in
this legendary version of the truth? How, when, and how much do you encourage
the venting of anger, in the name of once it is out in the open your client will
feel better. As you know this treatment strategy can be dangerous when given to
a violent, controlling partner. Alice's boyfriend, Rico, already believed that
he had the right to impose his moods on Alice.
you surprised to know that National Institute of Health studies have illustrated
that people who vent their anger become even angrier. Sometimes these sessions
lead to the encouragement of abusive people to "vent their emotions."
The result is that they feel they have gained authoritative support for their explosive tirades. As you know, what Rico needed to do was to stop thinking so
much about himself and his injured feelings. He needed to find more appropriate
ways to express himself, but more importantly, he needed to stop his verbal assaults
rule of thumb is: Communication skills can only be taught once physical and verbal
abuse has ceased.
♦ 5-Point Urban Legend or Myth Checklist
summary, in your next session with your "Denise" or your "Alice"
use the following five point urban
legend or myth checklist to see if it will
1. Is your client looking to the stopping of their
partner's substance abuse as the answer?
2. Is your client trying
to repair their "Great Catch's" unhealthy childhood as the solution
to their abuse?
3. Is your client trying to create a perfect stress-free
world for their partner to avoid abuse?
4. Does your client make
a full time job of constructing a facade of inferiority to build up their Great
Catch's sagging self image and insecurities?
5. Does your client
read a lot of pop psychology and excuse their partner's abusive outbursts as a
healthy venting of feelings?
you assess the appropriateness of these 5 urban legends or myths for inclusion
in a future therapy session, this will bring us to the next section. We will discuss
reconstructing the reality of self-blame experienced by your client. The use of
B-A-D questions will be presented.
What are five urban legends or myths regarding solutions to abuse by the "Great Catch?" To select and enter your answer go to .