Mental /Emotional abuse in relationships:
Domestic abuse happens and it need not be only physical abuse.
In my career as a dance educator and teacher spanning two decades now, I have come across many situations of mental abuse that some of my female students experienced and shared with me in the course of time. Believe me, it is a lot more rampant than we choose to accept. Some time ago I had written an article extensively on the Dignity of the being
Back then I had brought forward a true story of my own poor house help and how she stood strong in spite of continued physical torture in the hands of an abusive alcoholic husband.
Consider this a continuation of the exercise to bring up another much undercover and consciously veiled topic… of the shades and degrees of mental and emotional harassment in the name of relationships.
Age, education, class or culture does not seem to matter. It could happen to just about anyone. In fact, some very educated women, students who were affected by such partners cut a very sorry and disheartening figure, privately after the class.
Hoping however best I could use abilities in my capacity would help, I used to hold some space and time free for them to share and express what is going on in their lives. And to make them realise the power of positive expression, in helping them know that they are not alone and helpless.
We as dance educators can be if need be and when required, a great source of support to our learners in our understanding of movement. For the body never lies, we can probably be tuned in to see which of our students needs our gentle guidance and support as well from time to time.
It hurts to see a seemingly brilliant and confident woman breakdown under the weight of abuse and harassment at home. Often they would break down to share their issues with me for want of support. In the course of listening and understanding of their frustration my abilities to counsel strengthened as I started offering supported listening for their unique predicament.
I ended up realising how no two situations are the same. And besides a dominating and subjugating nature of an individual, how alcohol or substance abuse ( even chewing tobacco)are often factors that cause aggressive behaviour other than work stress and financial worries.
Often the woman finds herself in a predicament when the aggressor’s behaviour differs like chalk and cheese between day and night. There may be mental torture inflicted under the influence of a few drinks. The reasons no matter but when words and tempers spew, unfiltered and uncontrolled especially at the fag end of the day, the victim often is clueless as to how to deal with the situation.
Often drained by sporadic and incessant attacks they end up weakened by sleeping less, tossing and turning through the night wondering what they did to hear so much insinuating words. Health issues crop up in time as the body cannot cope with the confusion. And probably without any physical evidence to show, mental torture is difficult to prove. There are not many readily accessible support groups she could go here in India as yet and for the fear of judgements she prefers to suppress her hurt.
A dominating husband has a bad day at work. He gathers up all the rage and is seething inside.
His vent becomes his wife and family and often he comes home late night in a foul mood and spews venomous hate over his loved ones. Often it may be a time when all at home are asleep at night.
The reasons or the trigger to get angry could be just about anything.
It could be about a deal that did not come through at office… which he may carry forth on the home front… it first converts to deep-rooted rage and lack of patience and tolerance in general. It could be about anything …like, not picking up the phone when he calls, it could be about the lunch sent from home, which he found had less salt, it could be about not opening the door on time, it could be about a credit card swipe at a supermarket which irks him.
After such attacks especially at night most often there is regret in the morning for the words said, but it cannot be taken back.. And pride and ego stops him from feeling or saying sorry and taking help for amending his ways. The patterns continue. Cold silence ensues on both ends for want of peace. Until things settle in the course of time only to rise again another day.
The victim is often clueless about how to help in such a situation as she is continually bombarded with her weaknesses and told that all problems arise because of her. She often takes recourse to silence as there may be extended family members staying with them or for the fear that the children would hear and get hurt further.
Dealing with anger and rage and temper tantrums.
If you are ever at the receiving end of unforeseen anger you need to brace yourself from getting hurt and affected due to sensitivity.
Especially when you are confronted with a situation where you are taken aback by someone spewing anger all over you, showering you with mean and unnecessary words and raining abuses over you for something you did not do, as well as creating a ruckus about silly things… remember your best weapon is non-retaliation.
Try as they might to get you to say something by provoking with crude words … do not engage.
There is nothing like nonengagement for handling mental and emotionally abusive relationships.
It does not mean that you accept the pain and hurt rather you are aware of what works and how it is a more sensible way to tackle such a circumstance.
Also, it helps to understand that the aggressor is perhaps suffering and doesn’t know to channel and deal with the issues at hand and perhaps takes the path of bullying, manipulating, attacking by verbally insinuating and insulting to counter the situation. Know and accept they need help too. If they have any sense left they ought to get it for their own self. Remember the saying, you can only take the horse to the water but it has to drink on its own. So accept that you are doing your best and let go of worries.
Yes, it amounts to a great degree of emotional maturity to be silent and not succumb to such provocation.
A few tips…
If you find yourself identifying with any such predicament, allow yourself to express yourself.
Take help, speak to an emotionally mature member of your immediate family
Do not suppress in the morning for you know deep inside that this can and will happen again. It is just a matter of time.
Let them know there is so much that you are going through and that you need help.
Sleep as much as you can for you might often be sleep deprived.
Take interest in what you are feeding your body, avoid junk for you might just be nutritionally deficient with all the mental tensions and conflicts.
The body needs a vent to release the contracted pain, exercise well as much as you can.
Breathing consciously deeper with awareness can calm the agitated mind.
If you can write, regularly try to maintain a journal of gratitude for all the good things that are happening with you.
Look around and notice your blessings. They will be in the form of children, friends, pets, your skills, your faith, your inner resilience or your never say die attitude.
Realise you are meant to live not just exist.
Remember there is always a way!
Remember you are full of inner strength that you can harness even in your vulnerability.
Trust that this faith in yourself will take you through!
Because you are enough for you!
Dynamics of Power