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There are some pretty ridiculous assumptions out there, such as the one that "relationships" are healthy most of the time. I'd argue relationships are likely to be healthy if the society is founded on healthy values, not oppressive ones. And if people in relationships have the necessary skills--to express themselves clearly, to set appropriate boundaries, to state needs and make expectations known, to support and validate others--then relationships stand a good chance of being more functional, healthy, and sustainable. Obviously what's functional for some will be seen as highly dysfunctional to others. Rigidly gendered expectations and valuing male supremacy in one's relationship will shape what it looks and feels like. If it is assumed women exist to satisfy men sexually, marital rape is likely. If men assume women exist to serve men and be available to men on an as-needed basis, emotional and physical abuse are likely.
That this sort of analysis is called "anti-sex" or "anti-family" means that those who criticise these understandings want to keep male supremacist abuse a normal and inevitable practice in intimate relationships. It means we assume sex = sexism and family = dysfunction. I'd call those views anti-sex and anti-family.
In heterosexual relationships, women as a class suffer disproportionate harm and injury from male supremacist relationships. This is partly due to the fact that our economic systems are male supremacist, benefit men, and keep women poor or poorer relative to men, generally and globally.
In lesbian and gay relationships founded on male supremacist values, anyone can suffer and be harmed. This isn't to say men aren't harmed in relationship. In relationships, abuse can happen in any number of ways. I've known women who hit men, but not women who beat the shit out of men. I have known relationships where men beat the shit out of women, terrrorise women, and are grossly sadistically abusive in ways I've never seen a woman be to an adult man. I see abusive men fight for custody of their children, so they can hurt their ex-wives and further abuse their children. I don't see women fight for the right to abuse their children. I wish when men are diagnoses as "inappropriately controlling and manipulative" that this would be seen in the context of patriarchal mandates and imperatives that need to be challenged on every level, not just on the interpersonal one.
When this doesn't happen, and when women are harmed by men in intimate relationships, the evidence of that harm is usually misogynistically "diagnosed" as a form of psychiatric illness, not a political problem that warrants radical social change. See below for more.
I'm not a huge fan of advice that tells women how to avoid abusive men and doesn't tell men how not to be abusive, or, that even just "assumes" men will naturally and inevitably be abusive. Men aren't naturally abusive: they learn how to be and are structurally positioned to be, and their ways of being abusive are socially and institutionally normalised and "what comes with the territory if you're going to be with men romantically and sexually". The following two articles by Sandra L. Brown touch on these themes.
When Your Symptoms Look Like Something Else
by Sandra L. Brown, M.A.
Women tell me other therapists have diagnosed them with a variety of diagnosis which has made the women not only confused, but often MAD! They have been diagnosed, for instance with disorders like Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder, Paranoia, and other not-so-fun labels.
We recognize that this happens a lot which is why we have instituted a therapist training program so that the therapists can understand what they are seeing in context to what you have experienced. (Therapist trainings are Nov 2010 in LA and January 2011 in FL).
To come to bat for the undertrained therapists, the reason you are being diagnosed with various disorders is because your symptoms are similar to various disorders--they are mimicking true mental health symptoms.
For instance, when your moods are swinging all over the place and you are depressed and anxious, you look Bipolar. When you are cranky, highly reactive and want vengeance you look Borderline. When you are scared about what he will do next, fear you're being followed, or afraid he is sneaking around to see you do something so he can accuse you, you look paranoid. When you think things are happening that you can't prove to other people, you look delusional.
The issue is, these are ALL normal reactions to what is called Coercion, Stockholm Syndrome, and your basic prisoners of war, or in other words Aftermath of Pathological Love Relationship. In THAT context, your symptoms make perfect sense! You were coerced, your mind was played with, and you felt stuck and held in a pathological relationship against your own spiritual will. You did fear that your emotional and/or physical existence was in jeopardy. And the pathological DOES do things he never gets caught for and that you can't prove.
In pathological relationships, women emerge with signs of PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome, and Coercion. Unfortunately, not all therapists understand the overlap between PTSD, Stockholm and Coercion--which is why you are often diagnosed 'other things.'
The symptoms of Stockholm are:
Perceived threat to one's physical or psychological survival and the belief that the captor would carry out the threat.
Perceived small kindnesses from the captor to the captive.
Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor.
Perceived inability to escape.
(My note: A lot of this was also discussed in the book 'Women Who Love Psychopaths' in which I talked about the Pathological World View and how you acquired HIS view of the world and how that entrapped you in the relationship).
In Coercion, these symptoms are:
* Isolation: Deprives individual of social support, effectively rendering her unable to resist.
Makes individual dependent upon interrogator/captor.
Victim then develops an intense concern with self.
(My note: This too is discussed in the 'Women Who Love Psychopaths' book during the Honeymoon and Luring Stages of the relationship).
Monopolization of Perception: The captor fixes their attention upon immediate predicament; fosters introspection in the victim; eliminates outside competing stimuli with the captor so the victim can only focus on him, he frustrates all actions not consistent with her compliance to him.
(My note: In the mid-relationship dynamics in the book, this is talked about. Your Super Traits are very high in what we call relationship investment and cooperation which means you are highly cooperative because you get so much enjoyment out of your relationships that you will 'bend over backwards' to make things work. The book discusses when the mid-relationships 'shift' and what happens to the woman's perspective).
Induced Debility and Exhaustion: People subjected to this type of abuse become worn out by tension, fear and continual rushing about in an effort to meet his standards. They must often avoid displays of fear, sorrow or rage, since these may result in ridicule or punishment. Rigid demands and requirements make the exhaustion and ability to resist even worse.
(My note: All the women who show up at the retreats show up in bodily exhaustion. This too is discussed in the book).
Occasional Indulgences: This provides motivation to her for compliance.
(My note: The TCI test we gave the women show that you test very high in compliance).
Devaluing the Individual: Creates in her a fear of freedom and dependence upon him; creates feelings of helplessness; develops lack of faith in her individual capabilities.
(My note: In the book, women who are doctors can't remember how to care for themselves, women who are attorneys can't remember how to file their own restraining order, women who are therapists can't remember why this is sick behavior....)
When you look at it through the eyes of a mixture of PTSD, Stockholm and Coercion your symptoms make perfect sense...at least to me! While that doesn't mean you 'can't' also have Bipolar or other disorders---it's too early to know. Very often much of the symptoms of other disorders fall by the wayside when effective and appropriate treatment is begun. Many of the women do, however, meet the criteria for PTSD. PTSD is most associated with war vets (and yes, you too lived through a war!) and trauma victims (yes, you were traumatized)! To that end, you probably do have a disorder but it is related to PTSD or other Acute Stress Disorders.
Our hope is that as we train more therapists we will help you most by making available effective and knowledgeable help for what you have lived through and stop the erroneous diagnosing so often associated with you and your symptoms.
For now though, if you cannot locate a therapist, we do offer phone sessions, tele-support groups, Retreats, and one last 1:1 Intensive Session with Sandra Oct 4-8th.
Be hopeful that what you live with today in symptoms may not always be as problematic as it is in your current life. There is hope and healing available!
* * *
Five Ways To Find LoveThe month of 'lluuuvvvv'--Valentines Day--the time where everyone thinks about their relationships. But at this time of year, we are thinking of it mostly in romantic terms. In our surveys, we have found that women spend far more time on learning how to 'attract' or 'keep' a relationship, then looking at the health of it, or leaving it.
If you look at most of the relationship books, it's all about how to find him, attract him, keep him, and get back together with him. But what if what you always seem to attract is unhealthy men? Then your Guy Magnet is not a good thing. Women who have been in dangerous relationships are often more 'attracted to' the bad boys then healthy men. In fact, most women say that if given the choose between the 'nice guy' and the 'edgey bad boy' they would pick the guy with 'the edge.' Women say they often don't even know what 'healthy is' in a relationship. Even knowing that they don't know what 'healthy is' does not slow them or stop them from dating until they figure out what healthy looks like. They keep doing the same thing and getting the same thing--dangerous relationships.
TIME OUT: GAME OFF! If your last 3 or 4 relationships have been unhealthy or even down right dangerous, STOP. Put yourself on a 'Do Not Date Program' until you get some help to find out 'how to spot' unhealthy and dangerous relationships. YOU CAN'T CHANGE WHAT YOU DON'T SEE.
What are some ways to find 'Safe' love?
1. Stop dating until you can learn to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy. If you can't name the 14 signs of a bad dating choice, you shouldn't be dating! If you want to know what those are--get the Dangerous Man book.
2. How are your break up skills? Women worry more about their dating skills then their break up skills. But if you keep picking the dangerous guys, you better know how to quickly and safely end it! These guys do not break up like normal men do. Additionally, women who have been in more than 1 dangeorus relationship tend to be women who wait to be 'released from the relationship'--that means, they wait for him to end it and stay far longer than they feel safe doing. However, since they don't know 'how' to end it, they don't. To find 'Safe' love, learn how to break up.
3. You steer the ship. Women often let the man decide the pace of the relationship--how often they see each other and how fast they get serious. Guess what? Predators have agendas. They want to see you 24/7, they want you to 'think' you have this fast and deep relationship when you've only been dating a few months. You are their 'soul mate' and it's 'never been like this with anyone else.' 24/7 does NOT mean he's 'that into you.' It is often a red flag for predatory agendas. Women should be in charge of the pacing. If you have been doing the 24/7 Tango, pull the plug. Tell him you need a breather for a few days and would like to get to a normal dating schedule (a few times a week). Normal men will accept it. Pathological and dangerous men will: guilt you, rage, blame you, accuse you of seeing other people, threaten to break up, call you/text you 40 times a day. That's NOT normal. But it's best you see that now rather than when he has moved in. Women should always PLAY with the pacing and see what reaction they get.
4. Learn his history. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. What is his past? If you feel like you can't take his word for it, then for $29.95 you can find out ALOT about what he has been up to in the past. Things I always look for as a therapist are, his criminal history, his relationship history, his mental health history.
And contrary to what he might be saying, all the other women weren't 'witches, psycho, or ignorant.' His relationship history is his alone and points to how successful he is at handling the challenges and hurdles of relationship life.
5. Listen to others. STOP 'dissing your girlfriends when they tell you the TRUTH about him. The people around you are your best opportunity to hear about him--to tell you if they are concerned about something, to tell you if you have changed for the worse during this relationship, or to point out patterns that notice in the men you choose. Take your fingers out of your ears and hear it.
Women who want healthier and safer relationships have to begin by acknowledging what they have been in up until now and take the steps to learn and change. If we can help, please let us know.
Here's to Safe Relationships in 2007,
Sandra L. Brown
Psychotherapist & Author
How to Spot a Dangerous Man
Counseling Victims of Violence
Sandra L. Brown, holds a Masters Degree in Counseling and is the Director of The Dangerous Relationship Institute: A Women’s Relational Harm Reduction and Public Psychopathy Education Project. She is the author of ‘How to Spot a Dangerous Man’ and is a psychotherapist and author. www.HowToSpotADangerousMan.com
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