What is abuse?

Abuse is about a power imbalance. One of the main characteristics of an abusive relationship is control, which can be exercised in a forceful or manipulative manner, for example, through verbal aggression, or dominant behaviour. Abuse often surfaces slowly and is usually progressive; initially even being welcomed as jealousy or insecurity, which leads a partner to feel needed and wanted. These characteristics often arise from an intense need for love and affection, and as the needs of one partner escalate, those of the other disappear along with their self-esteem. The resulting worthlessness felt by the abused may see them unable to break free, or so lacking in confidence that they become totally dependent on the abuser. People who are abused often have symptoms such as anxiety, chronic depression and loss of self-worth. Abusers, on the other hand, are usually needy and controlling and often act out deep-seated feelings of shame and inadequacy. They often see themselves as the powerless victims of others’ behaviour and find it difficult to take responsibility for their actions.

How can Clear Counselling help?

Counselling may help the abused person to first understand how the abuse began and recognise trigger points. When a pattern emerges it is easier to change situations simply through awareness. Counselling can then help you to detach yourself in a safe way from a partner’s behaviour. Once self-esteem begins to be restored, you can look at healthy ways of relating. Exploring the issues around ending an abusive relationship must be done in a safe way because of possible uncontrolled anger, jealousy and the need for power and inability to respect other people’s boundaries, therefore it is different to ending any other relationship. In some cases, couples counselling can be useful to both parties to help understand possible feelings of deep-seated shame and inadequacy that cause abusers to pull a partner down to the level they themselves feel controlled by. Counselling can help them to take responsibility for their actions so they can begin to change.

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