Many years ago, a client whom I was working with (in a community support role) was struggling so hard to make sense of the appalling emotional, psychological and financial abuse she had, and to some degree, still was experiencing. One day I arrived at her home to be met by a song playing on repeat, by a band who never made it ‘big’; but for her, it was life-changing.
For weeks I had been gently encouraging her to challenge her own defensive thinking and belief systems that this abusive, elusive, absent on/off partner was actually a ‘nice guy’ and that she was the problem. Listening to a song from this little known group, one line achieved where I had failed, becoming a catalyst for unraveling the massive web and knots of deceipt and trauma that she was drowning in.
”The reason you need me to change is so you can stay the same.”
I would like to be able to say that this client ultimately found all the answers and completed her recovery, walking into her future happy and restored but as we know, life is rarely like that. She battled periods of depression and suicidality but this one line gave her the belief that whilst she had to battle to recover from the impact of the abuse, she wasn’t responsible for it. We were finally able to talk honestly and openly about what had happened to her: Carefully, gently and safely we slowly named the abuse, we used the raw language, no more ‘he hurt me’ but actually exploring what was that hurt, how did it feel, how does it still feel, what was its impact? More important still, where to place the responsibility for this hurt. I couldn’t answer all the questions beginning with why ..... how..... could.... and in a community support role (not counselling) my remit and limited time boundaries didn’t allow me to explore these deeper, just ensure she was no longer at risk, that she had coping strategies that could sustain her through the darkest hours and people around her on whom she could call. I had to walk away feeling like I should have been able to do so much more.
I hadn’t thought about this client for some time but scrolling through some internet sites, the memory was prompted by this image and it struck a particular chord.
Working with literally hundreds of people who have experienced relationship abuse/dv&a (personal or familial relationships), I know each woman and man has their unique story: But there are often common questions, hurdles and milestones in understanding and recovery. An enduring theme is the pain and/or anger that simply through loving and caring for someone, they are now the ones left hurting and needing therapy to heal from its devastating impact whilst the majority of perpetrators walk away unhindered and unfettered to do it to someone else.