COERCIVE CONTROL IS NOW A CRIME WITH UP TO 5 YEARS IN JAIL FOR PERPETRATORS

I have been in hospital for surgery and missed doing my last blog. so it is nice to be back in contact with you and I hope all my readers are keeping well.
As you are aware, my blog on abuse consists of extracts from my book on abuse. Abuse is the main issue that counsellors deal with. This week I am departing from my usual blog on childhood to look at a new law that has come into force in Ireland in the last month or so. It has been law in the UK since 2015, but I am not sure about other countries. It is a law making coercive control, which is EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL – INCLUDED VERBAL AND FINANCIAL ABUSE. illegal. It is a separate section under the Domestic violence act. I welcome this wholeheartedly. I find it very difficult to see good people, both men and women, suffering great distress at the hands of perpetrators whose aim is to torture their partners. They exert control over them at every opportunity, and are always critical. Remember that abuse is about power and control. The new Irish law allows prosecutions of people who create an ongoing threatening atmosphere within a relationship, even in the absence of violence or overt threats of violence. The awful atmosphere created by perpetrators devastates the person who is targetted. The new law is more complex that this and includes new measures on rape of partners and clarification of barring orders even when the person does not live with the abusive person. On a very important level children will be able to make their views known to the court where an order is sought on behalf of or partly relates to the child. I would advise readers to check this law in detail if you find yourself in the awful situation of suffering coercive control.
Anyone who suffers the lash of the tongue will tell you that emotional and verbal abuse leaves a mark on the soul, which, they feel is worse than the scar on the body. It would be helpful to you if you went back and read the blogs on emotional and verbal abuse in my previous blogs.
IF YOU ARE BEING PERSECUTED IN AN COERCIVE ABUSIVE SITUATION IT IS VITAL TO KEEP NOTES OF WHAT HAPPENED. NOTE THE DATE, THE TIME, WHAT HAPPENED (WHAT WAS SAID OR DONE BY THE PERPETRATOR) AND HOW IT AFFECTED YOU. KEEP A CONSTANT DIARY OF HIS OR HER BEHAVIOURS. MAKE SURE YOU HIDE YOUR NOTES BECAUSE ABUSERS ARE INCLINED TO SEARCH YOUR BELONGINGS IN THEIR CONTROLLING BEHAVIOUR.
Finally, remember how to deal with an abusive person on an ongoing basis –
1. Don’t get involved in an argument with them. Power is their driving force and you will never win.
2.Be assertive. Say no. Say you do not agree with their behaviour. KEEP THIS SHORT.
3. Don’t try to placate or please the abuser. It never works and will make him or her worse.

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Road Rage

Road Rage
Road rage is a common feature of today’s life, but can be relatively easily managed. Some writers argue that it is mislabelled as rage, and is anger. That is not always the case, because people are frequently assaulted by a driver in a fit of rage. Any driver can become angry, but if a person has core anger it can quickly and easily degenerate into rage. Research shows that controlling people are more likely to suffer from road rage than others, and that means there are many people subject to it. Narcissistic people think that they own the road. They find it difficult to soothe their rage, but like all others they can become aware and change. Alas! This seldom happens.
To prevent or ease road rage, learn how to stay in the moment, pause to think, and postpone judgement. Perhaps you are in a hurry and a car in front of you is moving slowly and you find your irritation and anger rising by the minute. If you can access your empathy for the driver it will soothe your anger. For example, the driver may be elderly and fearful or over-careful. Self-talk is always good in these situations. You could say to yourself that someday you, too, will be elderly and perhaps fearful, when you would appreciate sympathy and understanding for elderly drivers. Remind yourself that you are no better than others, that they have paid their road tax and are entitled to use the road. More thought and more understanding brings calm and prevents unwarranted anger.
Mike Fisher makes some practical suggestions for avoiding road rage, such as making the interior of your car comfortable and putting on soothing music. Another way of avoiding irritation is to leave early for your destination and drive at a leisurely pace. The AA route finder or Sat Nav. are useful in giving distance, which allows you to manage your time and avoid stress. Putting in the destination on the Sat Nav. the previous night reduces stress also. Practising courtesy on the roads and making allowances for others will give you a good feeling about yourself, and will makes you feel in control. The car is a very obedient companion. If you have cruise control use it. It might save you some penalty points at least, but it will help you avoid competitiveness and anger. Positive self-talk and mindfulness are as helpful in avoiding the stress of road rage as any other type of anger. Be content in the world you have created – a clean car interior, soothing music and adequate time to reach your destination.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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More Techniques for Managing Anger

Abdominal or Diaphragmatic Breathing
Abdominal breathing is one of the best ways to ease the stress of anger. Most people breathe through their chests (probably an evolutionary behaviour to take in more oxygen when the world was more dangerous millennia ago) so they have to learn abdominal breathing. It can take up to three months of daily practice to master this. Ten minutes practice per day is sufficient. This routine should be rigorously followed and it is equally good for anxiety and panic attacks. The usual way is to sit in a chair, put a book on your abdomen and attempt to lift the book with each breath. You breathe in through your nose and your abdomen expands and rises the book, then you breathe out and your abdomen falls. Initially when you are practising you will find that your chest expands and your abdomen stubbornly refuses to rise. Don’t be discouraged, because with constant practice you will master this way of breathing. Gradually only your abdomen will expand and your chest will not move. When you have mastered this, it will become your normal way of breathing and you can easily slip into deep breathing when the occasion demands. Abdominal breathing calms your body and brings your mind and body together. It is a technique that works whether you like it or not. It is a technique I learned over fifty years ago, and I know that you can master it, if you persevere.

The Four Steps and the Golden Rules of Mike Fisher
Mike Fisher outlines four steps and some ‘golden’ rules that are easy to implement, if you accept responsibility for how you vent your anger. The first step is an awareness of the primary source of your anger – perhaps unmet needs. This second step is about taking responsibility for yourself and acquiring key communications skills such as attentive listening, hearing and understanding rather than trying to win an argument. The third step is to become the external observer, seeing the big picture, and recognising what you are responsible for in a particular conflict. The final step is to expect a reaction from others who might wish to see you remain as you are, and to be aware of your own resistance to change. His ‘golden’ rules include having empathy for the other person, looking at the other’s point of view, respecting the opinions of others, having anger buddies and a support network, being aware of internalised shame and lowering your expectations of others. These are valuable suggestions and will certainly work with healthy anger. Only counselling and an exploration of the wounds of childhood will work with core or toxic anger.

Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Dealing with anger in a practical way

Relaxation Techniques
Since anger is an emotion charged with energy, relaxation techniques can help relieve the stress it causes you. Progressive muscle relaxation is particularly successful as an anger management tool. It is also one of the easiest to practise. It involves the tensing and relaxing of each of the 16 different muscles groups in your body. Tense each muscle hard enough for about ten seconds and then suddenly relax the muscle for fifteen seconds. The whole exercise could take up to half an hour. As you release each muscle imagine the anger or stress seeping away. Begin with your fists, then your biceps (muscles on the upper arm), then your triceps (muscles underneath the arm). Raise your eyebrows to tighten the forehead muscles and tense the muscles at the back of your head, close your eyelids tightly, open your mouth wide and stretch your jaw, then go to the back of your neck, tense your shoulders, push your shoulder blades back, breathe deeply to tighten the stomach muscles, arch your back, clench your buttocks, tighten your thigh muscles, pull up your toes, tighten your calf muscles, curl your toes and tense your feet. If this is done properly it will greatly relax your body and weaken your anger.

How to Vent Anger Successfully
There is a lot of debate about how to discharge anger safely. Some research suggests that venting anger explosively causes more harm than good, while some writers contend that suppressing it is equally harmful. Because anger is full of energy, therapists once believed that an energetic venting (e.g. using a punch bag) was the best, but research now shows that this is detrimental to our health and causes as much damage as an outburst of anger. Current theory also holds that explosively venting anger merely nurtures volatility. Finding gentle ways to process it is recommended, for example, listening to gentle music or water flowing in a stream. When you are taking a shower you can imagine the anger flowing away with the water. These gentle anger management techniques will help you to ease your stress and take better care of yourself. As the stress eases so does the chronic vigilance that keeps the fire of anger smouldering.
The Unsent Letter

The unsent letter, mentioned above, is one of the best ways to vent your anger. In this you can express exactly how you feel, using any type of language you like, while showing in detail the reasons for your anger. You can use the letter to deal with normal or with toxic anger. The letter is for your healing and to give you a voice. If the letter is to heal toxic anger, it is about reclaiming your power, and expressing your anger at being neglected in childhood. When your power is taken as a child you feel fearful as an adult, and a letter to those who sowed that fear can help to release you from its grip. It does not matter if the person, who caused you this distress, is alive or dead. The letter should be worded strongly, using the non-dominant hand to access the feelings of the inner child, and should express not only your anger but any other feeling you have suffered as a result of neglectful parenting. When you have finished you could read it aloud to a therapist or a close friend and then tear it up or burn it. This is a symbol of freedom because you are now having a voice and tearing down the power of the person who hurt you. If you burn the letter you will see their ancient power vanishing in smoke.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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It is always best to be assertive rather than aggressive

Understanding the Difference between Aggression and Assertiveness

Before you learn how to properly communicate anger, it is worthwhile exploring the difference between aggression and assertiveness. Managing anger is about replacing aggression with assertiveness. Assertiveness is very different from aggression, and is part of healthy, protective anger. People who are assertive are normally kind, responsible, good listeners, empathic, and non-violent, unlike aggressive individuals who take out their anger on others. Aggression rides roughshod over the rights of others, while assertiveness recognises the rights of both sides. Assertiveness underlies good self-esteem, while, more often than not, aggressive people have low self-esteem. To put it simply, if we feel worthwhile we will not allow anyone to walk on us and we will not inflict pain on others. It is a matter of respecting boundaries, those essential safeguards which are discussed in several sections of this book. But, apart from working on boundaries, you can also practise assertiveness. It is difficult to do it on your own and the assistance of a professional is advisable. In such cases you will give some examples of where you have been aggressive and the counsellor will help you to find assertive ways of responding. As with boundaries you will have to practise this until it becomes a normal way of responding. What happens in such cases is that the brain creates a new program to facilitate assertive responses.
Problem solving is also an effective way of converting aggression to assertiveness. In problem solving you come up with solutions, where you examine various situations of aggressive behaviour. You can analyse the consequences of this behaviour, and come up with other responses you might have made and the consequences of these. So, for example, if you shouted at your boss and threatened him, the consequences might be suspension or firing, but if you walked away you might be at most reprimanded. If you decided that it would be best to request a meeting at a later stage, the consequences might be a much better outcome because you will then have a voice – an assertive or a rational voice, rather than an aggressive and irrational voice. All of this is a learned behaviour and it can be done with time and patience and making mistakes.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Delay the onset of anger so that you can get control over it

An Anger Contract
Whenever you write stuff down it gives you a better opportunity to understand it, and an anger contract is a technique used by many counsellors to help those tormented by toxic anger. It is very compatible with keeping an anger journal. It gives clients a sense of control before the anger erupts and is a very simple and brief contract that they must sign. It might run like this –
I will take responsibility for my behaviour and promise that I will vent my anger appropriately. This includes non-violent and non-hurtful ways of expressing my anger. I will tell people that I am angry rather than berating them. I will take every opportunity of properly communicating with my partner or with others to prevent an outpouring of anger. I recognise that I may need help from those I trust to help me overcome the anger that binds me.

Communicating Anger
You have already seen how some children learn that anger is the only way to communicate, and bring this into adulthood with disastrous consequences for a calm relationship. If both parties can stand back, check their thinking, and are willing to sit down and look at their relationship, they can find a way to safely process the anger. Gary Chapman suggests six ways of processing anger. He suggests that the first step is to acknowledge the presence of anger and not to condemn yourself for experiencing it. The next step is a vital one, i.e. letting you partner know that you feel angry, rather than suppressing it, leading to passive aggressive, silent rage. There must also be some kind of acceptance by both that it is not right to vent anger on the other. Such venting will invite retaliation and ongoing conflict, so having a discussion on the source of the anger may help to alleviate it. Recognising the source is important and may call for an apology from one partner. When the anger has dissolved, try and return to loving ways. There is a caveat, however. If your partner has a high controlling impulse there is little you can do to remove the anger from the relationship, and you will have to deal with your own retaliatory anger.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Writing stuff down helps you make more sense of yourself

Anger Journal

An anger journal is one of the most important ways to understand your anger and is an excellent anger management technique, because it gives you time to examine your thoughts with greater accuracy and to see your stress triggers. You can work out your own headings for the journal or diary, but they should include the circumstances that aroused your anger, the physical, mental and emotional cues that accompanied the anger, its intensity level and duration, and any other feelings that accompanied it. An anger journal will show you how you express anger, for example, are you an exploder or an imploder, or do you use passive aggressive anger? When you examine your anger journal you have time to realise that the issue may not always be the external factor that is the problem, but how you define it. In other words, the problem may lie with yourself, how you think, your beliefs, expectations, and your judgement. When you can access whether the level of your anger is justified or whether it is due to your own thinking or beliefs, you are in a better position to manage it. The journal would help you to readjust your thinking and your beliefs. One of the positive things about anger is that it makes you examine your beliefs. You can hold them up to the light, consider where and when you formed them and if they are rational or irrational. You will see your own particular patterns and in this way come to understand your anger, and this will make it easier to control it in future. It might also be useful to see if some of the circumstances listed were similar to those that made you angry as a child.
By standing back from your anger using a journal, you become almost an external observer. Writing slows you down, while anger sweeps you away. You could extend the idea of including an unsent letter in your journal as a way of expanding it by writing in more detail about what happened and more importantly what happened to you. Marcia Cannon makes the useful suggestion that you could write a letter to yourself as if you were writing to a best friend and make sure you put every single detail into it. You can pour all your thoughts and feelings into the letter and feel empathy for yourself. This could be further enhanced by using inner childwork, when you use your non-dominant hand to write the letter, and where the extent of old losses and distresses becomes apparent.
If you keep doing your anger journal over a long period you will begin to notice how you are changing and you will be encouraged to continue to change. You will notice that circumstances and behaviours that made you angry previously may no longer do so.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Cognitive restructuring is an effective tool for anger management

Cognitive Restructuring
Cognitive restructuring is part of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and is helpful as an anger management tool. It is a technique where you learn to identify and dispute irrational or defective thoughts or distortions, such as all or nothing thinking and over-generalisations. It has long been understood that distorted thoughts fuel anger, and by understanding them and changing them you can soften the anger. According to Albert Ellis, one of the founders of cognitive theory, there are four irrational core beliefs or thoughts that lead to anger. Ellis obviously had a sense of humour, and the first type of thought he labelled ‘awfulising’ or ‘catastrophising’. So, for example, if someone crashes into your car you might say ‘this is awful, this is a catastrophe.’ The next thought that arises is what he calls ‘I can’t stand it itis’. That might sound something like this, ‘I can’t put up with this. This is simply intolerable.’ This is generally followed by a ‘should’ or an ‘ought’, which Ellis calls ‘musturbation’. The thought here might be ‘that driver should have been more careful, he ought to have concentrated more.’ The next thought is a labelling one. ‘That guy is a right idiot.’
So how do you restructure these anger provoking thoughts? You might say something like this. ‘This is very unfortunate, but it could be worse. I might have been hurt. I can get the car fixed on his insurance. It would have saved a lot of hassle if that driver had been paying attention, but I suppose we all make mistakes.’ If you manage to do this you will slow down your anger and replace it by mild irritation or annoyance. It is also compatible with the five steps for managing anger mentioned later on.
Cognitive restructuring also includes challenging what psychologists call overestimation and underestimation. What this means is that angry people tend to anticipate the worst outcomes and underestimate their own abilities to deal with problems. It is about standing back and making a more balanced, accurate and optimistic estimation of what is going on and what realistically might happen. It prevents personalised conclusions and reasoning, which stoke anger. It also helps you to communicate better and in a calmer manner.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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ANGER MANAMEMENT IS IMPORTANT BUT IT DOES NOT DEAL WITH THE ROOT CAUSES OF ANGER

Anger Management for Adults
You are now aware of the nature and types of anger, and the destructive impact it can have on your health. This can be avoided if you learn how to manage it properly. Anger management is not about healing, but management and healing work in tandem and are closely interlinked. Some techniques for anger management also lead to healing.
Anger management is what it says – a way of helping people to control the anger, process it safely and acquire communication skills. Those who have learned that aggression is the only way to communicate have to be re-educated on communication skills and how to handle the various crises they will meet during their life. Crucially, the person in an anger management programme or with a counsellor must be willing to change. It is my experience that people who are sent by the courts to do anger management only come because they are forced to, and it is more likely that this intervention will fail. There are two types of anger management. One is consistent and frequent management using a wide variety of techniques to soothe and soften the anger, the other is the immediate application of techniques in any situation where anger arises.
Anger management is an ongoing process that brings temporary relief, giving you space to work on your anger and ultimately to heal it. There are some problematic issues in the context of anger management. If the anger is toxic reflecting childhood trauma, it may be compounded by other complaints such as addiction, drug abuse, depression, anxiety, and a whole host of debilitating issues outlined in Appendix 1. Anger management, therefore, is a temporary technique until the sources of the anger have been dealt with and it is no longer needed.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Bitterness can take you over

In looking at anger and its ancillary feelings, you should distinguish between anger and bitterness. There are many differences between normal anger and bitterness. There are, however, many common characteristics between toxic anger and bitterness. They are both long lasting, although toxic anger lasts a lifetime, while you can let go of bitterness and resentment. Both also carry an element of vengeance, although it is stronger in bitterness. They are both harmful and constant silent companions. As you will see in the following section anger, even toxic anger can be managed, but bitterness can be all- consuming. Unlike toxic anger, bitterness is not bred in you as a child, but arises because of some real or imagined injustice done to you as an adult, where it is akin to resentment, a feeling that shares some of the characteristics of anger. Resentment can be the vehicle of anger, but has the core of bitterness. Those who have toxic anger are more vulnerable to bitterness, because they are sensitive and never forget a slight.
Unless you let go of the memory of the injustice, bitterness will persist and become like a second skin to you. If you are bitter you feel like a victim, whereas toxic anger makes you feel powerful, although it is bred from being a victim of childhood neglect. Both are bad for your health, so you should try and find empathy for yourself and let your bitterness go. Forgiveness is the best antidote for bitterness, but it is not easy to access, because, as shown above, it is a feeling that may or may not arrive, in which case you may have to rely on some type of cognitive forgiveness. In practice this would mean letting go of vengeance.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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