“If you don’t run your own life, somebody else will.”
~ John Atkinson
A word about assertiveness and domestic violence: Chicago is a great place to explore and meet people. The cultural diversity within the city limits and throughout its neighboring suburbs is vast and incredibly versatile, yet one thing I learned at an early age was that it takes talent to be a woman! Women take care of their children, their husbands or boyfriends, their job, their house, and even the family pets!! So what does this have to do with domestic violence? Abusive or controlling partners are often set in the male/female stereotype and this is found across cultures. They want to live the male role while she lives out the traditional female role; being assertive is hard to do when she is busy making everyone else happy.
In an unhealthy relationship, an assertive woman can get hurt either physically or emotionally. Sometimes when women first go through counseling and start to feel empowered, their new found confidence is met with hostility and rejection. This is actually a dangerous time for many victims as their partners desperately try to figure out why there is a change in her behavior. He will often start blaming people for her new found voice, anything to get her back under control. So how does she express herself in an abusive relationship? Very carefully and always keeping safety in mind.
Tip #1. Do something you’ve been putting off: Let’s say you want to complete your safety plan but have been procrastinating just a tad. Getting even one element done from your plan this week will do a world of good for your confidence. Why? Basically, it has to do with our need to feel competent. DV victims in particular tend to feel unrealistically inept at completing tasks. This is primarily because the abuser constantly tells them that they can’t do “anything right”. Over time this critical voice is internalized.
This tip works for all women so long at the to-do list doesn’t get too long and unattainable. So, just do one thing this week that you have been putting off. Next week, or next month, do something else that you have been putting off. How about asking a friend or relative, that you trust, if you can keep a small box at their home? Then get a box (cardboard is fine) and put one item in it that would help you if you had to leave your home in a hurry. One of my clients put $5.00 in an envelope and one coloring book for her child in the box. The next month she put $2.00 and a list of phone numbers and addresses she wanted to keep. The next month she had copies of her birth certificate and mortgage put in the box. Besides the confidence of accomplishing a task, she had the additional confidence of preparing to leave. No matter what you do, it is more than you did. Take time to feel good about your accomplishments.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
~ Lao Tzu
Tomorrow’s tip will be how to get his critical voice out of your head. It really doesn’t belong there!