Beverly Engel, Connie Fourré and Lundy Bancroft outline steps that will help you confront your abusiveness, and I will use my own experience to supplement these. I believe that the first step is to learn about the abusive or controlling personality, the characteristics of abusers, and the importance of attachment to the primary caregiver, as outlined in the early chapters of this blog. Then you can move to explore childhood with your therapist, and as you progress through therapy, I hope that you will ‘touch’ your inner abandoned child. I believe that this is the most important work you have to do. If you succeed, you begin to feel sadness for that tiny, wounded child, who needed love, and, for whatever reason, did not get it. It began to feel unloved and unlovable, and created the adult enveloped in shame and rage. For people with abusive tendencies it is very difficult to ‘touch’ that child hidden beneath their frozen feelings. It normally takes a long time, and part of this journey is acknowledging that you have been abused or neglected by your parents, and have learned abusive behaviours from one or both of them. This is difficult to do. You may not want to blame them, or you may not wish to confront the buried feelings of anger towards them that you are now directing at your partner, your children, or other people in your life. But, whatever the cause of your abusiveness, you must accept that you are responsible for your abusive actions.
In the safety of your counsellor’s room, you will be able to confront your abusive parent(s) through talking, child work, artwork, the unsent letter perhaps, or whatever techniques the therapist uses. Part of this will be exploring your anger and rage that has tormented you all your life, and fuelled your abusive behaviour. One of the best ways to explore anger is to keep an anger diary, and perhaps bring it to counselling for each session. This will help you identify the triggers that spark the anger. Your counsellor will help you manage the anger, and divert it away from your partner. Abusive people are unable to self-sooth, so I sometimes suggest vigorous techniques such as running, swimming, or using a punch bag. These vigorous exercises, however, can sometimes increase the rage, so gentle exercises may be more beneficial for you. These include breathing exercises, stretching, and walking, and doing meditations. Your counsellor may direct you to centres that teach techniques on how to manage anxiety and tension, which are part of the abusive personality.

Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press


Posted in abuse, abusive personality, changing your abusive behaviour