Psychological Self-Help

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Spouse abuse dynamics
Why does wife abuse occur? Many writers believe the cause is male
chauvinism --a male belief that men are superior and should be the boss,
while women should obey ("to honor and obey "), do the housework, and
never refuse sex. Those are ridiculous ideas. A male abuser is also described
as filled with hate and suspicion, and feels pressured to be a "man." That
sounds feasible but new findings (Marano, 1993; Dutton, 1995) suggest that
the chauvinistic facade merely conceals much stronger fearful feelings in men
of powerlessness, vulnerability, and dependency. Other research has found
abusive men to be dependent and low in self-esteem (Murphy, Meyer &
O'Leary, 1994). Many of these violent men apparently feel a desperate need
for "their woman," who, in fact, is often more capable, smarter, and does
take care of their wants. These relationships are, at times, loving. The
husband is sometimes quite attentive and affectionate. Often, both have
found acceptance in the relationship that they have never known before.
Then, periodically, a small act of independence by the wife or her brief
interaction with another man (perceived as intended to hurt her partner) sets
off a violent fight. The abusive man becomes contemptuous, putting the
woman down in an effort to exercise physical-emotional control and build up
his weak self-esteem. Of course, the insecure aspects of many abusers are
well concealed within the arrogance. 
Likewise, battered women have been thought of as weak, passive, fearful,
cowering, self-depreciating partners. Of course, some are, but recent findings
(Cordova, Jacobson, Gottman, Rushe, & Cox, 1993) suggest that many
battered wives, during an argument, are outspoken, courageous, hot-
tempered, equally angry and even violent, but they are overwhelmed by the
husband's violence. They don't back down or de-escalate the argument; they
respond with verbally aggressive, offensive comments. Such women were
often "unmothered" as children. The male abuser often grew up in a violent
environment, where he was sometimes (30%) abused himself or (30%) saw
his mother abused. So, we often have a situation in which two insecure but
tough, angry, and impulsive people are emotionally compelled to go through
the battering ritual over and over (Dutton, 1995). 
Researchers are just now studying the complex details of battering by
males. There are many theories about male violence: hormonal or chemical
imbalance, brain damage, misreading each other's behavior, lacking skills to
de-escalate or self-control, childhood trauma, genetic and/or physiological
abnormality, etc. Also, beneath the abuser's brutality, therapists look for
insecurity, self-doubts, fears of being "unmanly," fears of abandonment,
anger at others, resentment of his lot in life, and perhaps a mental illness
(Gelb, 1983). Several TV movies, such as The Burning Bed, have depicted
this situation. There seems to be three stages: tension & anger, words &
battering, and contrition & promises. Yet, we don't know a lot about the
causes of wife abuse; it is a safe bet that they are complex. 
During the last 10 years, University of British Columbia psychology professor,
Donald Dutton has run the Assaultive Husbands Program in Vancouver and
written several in depth and scholarly books about understanding and treating
abusive men. The books include The Batterer: A Psychological Profile (1995),
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