Sunday, May 22, 2011

Clinically Speaking

Lenore Walker's Cycle of Abuse was, at one time, a popular description of the experience of battered women. While it is still largely in use, it's been modified and challenged a number of times.

What it does not address, however, is that, after a time, some victims of abuse will, during the quiet/honeymoon phase, begin to feel mounting free-floating anxiety and dread, understanding that an episode is coming, will come, is inevitable, and will begin to push (subconsciously? likely) at her perpetrator in an attempt to bring about the episode so as to reach the quiet/honeymoon phase faster and relieve some pressure from the pressure valve. It's a way to, somehow, have just a little bit of control over the situation.

Eventually, not even that relieves the anxiety. It's exhausting (hello, chronic fatigue).

It's a pattern that, if repeated enough, is committed to muscle memory and so, even once a person removes herself completely from the abusive situation, the cycle continues to repeat itself in all her relationships even when there is no abuse taking place. Rapid escalation of emotions, trying to accommodate, please, keep the peace, and then mounting anxiety creating the need to push push push until the hammer drops.

All largely subconsciously.

If the victim of abuse is self-aware, she can begin to identify the pattern and work toward breaking the cycle. It's a battle up a slippery slope but it can be done. First, she has to acknowledge herself, to her partner(s). Then it's a matter of time, trust, communication, patience, and continued demonstration that the abuse is not repeating itself.

Almost 5 years and counting.

And you wonder why I never wanted kids.

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