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Domestic Violence…When saying sorry is not enough.
 

Anger can be intoxicating! Have you ever had a few too many and regretted some of the things you did the night before? The more intense the argument, the more we shift into blame, and the more we blame, the more we lose sight of our own actions. Anger and drinking have similar effects! And don't get me started about what happens when anger and drinking happen together!

However, as we calm down enough to get perspective on what has happened, we can see the toll our actions have had on others - especially when we have been hostile and/or violent! If an angry outburst is like a car backfiring, hostility and violence toward others is akin to the detonation of an atom bomb! The devastation is severe and the fallout is long lasting!

Under these conditions, even the sincerest apology has little to no effect on the ones we scare/hurt. Many spouses say to me, if she/he could only see what is in my heart and could only feel how sorry I am for what I have done. Yet, despite these sincere attempts, sorry is often never enough!

Still, other men and women are so ashamed of what they have done that they cannot even face up to their violence. Instead they try to minimize it, outright deny it, rationalize it, and even put the blame on their partner! Expressions such as these are ways of side-stepping responsibility. Unfortunately, it often does not stop there. When under the influence of shame about their violence, people often try to persuade others that their actions are justified.

When under the influence of shame about their violence, people often try to persuade others that their actions are justified. By trying to protect themselves from feeling the full impact of shame, those who have used violence unfortunately disconnect from the harm they have caused the ones they love.

 
What I have discovered...
 

Since 2002, I have worked with: anger in at-risk youth, men and women in highly conflictual relationships, and I have authored a reputable co-ed anger management program. This was both a personal and professional endeavour, having had difficulty managing my own anger throughout my life. Many clients have expressed to me their appreciation of how my understanding of anger and how to manage it is not merely academic, but lived experience.

When it comes to domestic violence, I am convinced that the most imperative question to answer as a counsellor is, how can I make it more possible for men and women to be responsible for their violent and abusive actions .....Responsibility promotes empathy and thus promotes change.

Many practitioners in the field focus on asking why - why do men /women use violence in their intimate relationships... Asking why, not only does not lead to creating needed change, it can make one feel more ashamed and further disconnect them from the effects of their actions on others.

Safety and responsibility go hand in hand. The one who has offended needs to take responsibility for their actions to minimize the risk of using violence in the future. Yet, in order to become responsible, men need a safe and non-threatening place to face up to their offending behaviour.

 
The Program...
 
Men and women who use violence in their relationships tend to fall into one of two patterns of behaviour: pre-contemplative and contemplative (please excuse the fancy technical language).
  • The Pre-C pattern of behaviour reflects an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for violent actions through justification, denial, minimization, etc. and convincing others to excuse them for it.
  • The C pattern of behaviour may include an acknowledgement of remorse for what has happened, a feeling of powerlessness to control violent/abusive behaviour, and an inability/ignorance on how to repair the effects of such actions.
The common ground between both patterns of behaviour is that both are expressions of shame. There is good shame and bad shame. The Pre-C and C pattern is an expression of bad shame and as long as this destructive emotion is present the risk to re-offend remains high.

Good shame is rooted in the foundational belief that most men and women who have used violence in intimate relationships actually prefer respect over disrespect, love over control/violence, etc.

From this perspective, the presence and intensity of shame can be seen to indicate how the offending party has violated their values about how to act in an intimate relationship. This is the process of transforming shame to empathy and violence to respectful ways of being.

 

The Details...

We provide a comprehensive approach which is readily tailor made for any situation. It will likely be between 6 and 12 sessions, depending on the criteria of your particular circumstance. During the intake process, the extent of the program will be determined together with your therapist.

Written reports are available where the judicial system is involved. Our Director is recognized in the courts of Manitoba as an expert witness. All reports will be co-written and co-signed by him, and if court appearance is required he will likely be the one to attend.

 
 
RIVERBEND COUNSELLING & WELLNESS
Phone: 204-334-4801 Fax: 204-338-9180 Email: contact@riverbendcounselling.ca
9 - 1110 Henderson Hwy Winnipeg, MB.  R2G 1L1
webmaster Beth Neufeld