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Identifying Fear in Violent Relationships
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The last section, introduced Haddie a 45-year old mother of
three who left her husband Clint and the three emotional get aways she used as
protection from more abuse, protection of her image, and denying the abuse. After
leaving Clint, I found it beneficial for Haddie to explore her hidden fears regarding
being on her own.
♦ Five Hidden Fear Questions
The Five Hidden Fear Questions revealed
Haddie's fear of inadequacy, of not being able to survive alone. As you listen
to these five questions, think of your Haddie and how these questions may also
reveal her hidden fears. Now that you are on you own
1. What are
the feelings you dislike experiencing the most?
2. What kinds of situations
usually cause you to feel that way?
3. What about that situation
makes you feel that way?
4. What's the worst thing that could happen
in this situation?
5. What's the best thing that could happen to you
in this situation?
Haddie's answers to these five Hidden Fear
questions revealed that she was afraid of not measuring up, but wouldn't allow
herself to express these fears. Her problem purchasing trash cans is described
later in this section.
By making excuses for why she shouldn't be
afraid, Haddie was hiding her true fears from herself. She realized that denial
of her fears was causing her to postpone different tasks that needed to get done.
♦ Understanding the Paradoxical Theory of Change
At a certain level, Haddie still believed herself to be the
vibrant, confident woman she had been before her relationship with Clint. She
didn't want to accept that the abuse had left her emotionally crippled.
In Arnold Beisser's book Gestalt Therapy Now he describes the Paradoxical
Theory of Change. This theory states that change occurs when a person becomes
what she is, rather than trying to become what she is not. When Haddie realized
she was no longer as confident as she was before her relationship with Clint,
she was able to grow by accepting that she was afraid of certain situations in
her life. Thus as Beisser states, "becoming what she is."
accepting her fear, Haddie reworded her daily tasks in terms of 4 simple goals
that only stated what she could do. As I read these four goals to you, think of
how they may relate to your Haddie in your next session. Would playing this section
in the session be appropriate and beneficial?
4 Simple Goals
1. Allow room
for failure, no one is perfect.
2. Be responsible only for your
part in an interaction; you cannot control the behavior of others.
with small, non-threatening tasks. Haddie had a problem picking out trashcans
for the kitchen and bath. She made several trips to the discount store, undecided
about the color, size, and type.
4. Begin by thinking about the first
time you succeeded and then slowly build up. Once Haddie was satisfied with her
trashcan purchase, other decisions like dishtowels and bathroom curtains came
a little easier to her.
In the last section, we have discussed
Emotional Getaways, how battered women often ignore their emotions, particularly
feelings of fear. We also discussed how this denial can protected Haddie from
physical harm, but also prevented her from seeking sources of support, and leaving.
In this section, we outlined 5 Hidden Fear questions to facilitate your clients identifying
Even after she had left Clint, Haddie refused
to admit her fears, saying, "It doesn't make any sense that all of a sudden
I would be incapable of grocery shopping, doing laundry, all the simple things
I used to do without even thinking. When I moved into my own apartment I was thrilled.
But I am also terrified to be on my own. I the first time my car broke down. I
had a complete panic attack and was convinced I would never survive the experience.
Now that I am on my own, if I do mess up something simple, I'm afraid Clint was
right all along and I really am stupid. But each hour or minute I get through
on my on I prove to me maybe Clint was wrong."
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
DePrince, A. P., Labus, J., Belknap, J., Buckingham, S., & Gover, A. (2012). The impact of community-based outreach on psychological distress and victim safety in women exposed to intimate partner abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(2), 211–221.
Ross, J. M. (2012). Self-reported fear in partner violent relationships: Findings on gender differences from two samples. Psychology of Violence, 2(1), 58–74.
Salcioglu, E., Urhan, S., Pirinccioglu, T., & Aydin, S. (2017). Anticipatory fear and helplessness predict PTSD and depression in domestic violence survivors.Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 9(1), 117–125.
What are four elements of a goal a Battered Woman who has left might
use for herself? To select and enter your answer go to .