The first step in learning to control your own abusive behaviour is to break denial by acknowledging to yourself and others that you are acting in an abusive way. Just by admitting that your behaviour is out of bounds is an important step in self control. Some people have difficulty in taking this first step because they see it as a sign of weakness. If the truth be known it is the strong person who admits his weaknesses.
The next step in learning self-control is to realize that you are responsible for your own behaviour. You will have to change, although your behaviour may be as a result of another family members problems, it is you who control your behaviour, therefore it is you who must change.
Some people have difficulty in coming to terms with this step because they feel as though their abuser should take the blame for their own behaviour. Remember that although your behaviour has been caused by the long term effects of the abuse, it is you, and only you who can change your ways. By tackling the abuse head on and dealing with all those locked up issues you are taking responsibility for your behaviour. Remember what happened to you isn’t your fault but what you are doing to others is your fault.
When you recognize that you are using inappropriate behavioural techniques in certain situations you need to regain control. One way of doing this is by taking time out.
The time out works by separating you and the potential victim so that you can cool off, calm down, and rationally decide how you can deal with your feelings. When you find yourself experiencing strong feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety (or any feeling for that matter), or if you find yourself acting abusively, say to your partner, ‘I’m beginning to feel _______ and I’m going to take a time out’.
Do something physical like taking a walk, going for a run, or taking a bike ride. The time out is not a time to socialize (i.e. up the pub!) it’s a time to be on your own, a time to reflect and be calm.
It is also important not to use any mind altering drugs such as alcohol or other drugs. You want to be more in control, not less. Remember it is all about taking responsibility for your own behaviour.
After the hour is up go back and try and start where you left of. explore your feelings with your partner and if need be take another time out. It may mean that you don’t completely solve all of your problems but it does mean you have stopped the big one, inappropriate behaviour.
You can use the time out in all kinds of abusive situations. Adults can separate, children can go to their rooms and animals can be placed in the garden. So you have no excuses to take responsibility!
The time out will help you learn how to cope with your feelings and you will begin to analyze why you felt the way you did, if there were any triggers or why you acted in a certain way.
The time out process will also help you to build up that all important level of trust. It works in three ways, honesty, openness, and willingness. Honesty because you are being honest with yourself and others about your feelings and that you have recognized you need to take a time out. Openness because you have shown your feelings and been prepared to take responsibility for them and willingness because you have shown you want to change. You will also learn to trust yourself during stressful or anxious times, because you know you can deal with your feelings and have the ability to take a time out.
Talking yourself down
Just removing yourself from a situation may not work entirely. To fully regain control you may have to talk yourself down. we have talked about thinking and feeling in our other pages. To be able to use a mixture of both in different situations is very important.
By acknowledging the feeling and then directing it will help you to reduce its intensity. By saying I am feeling angry helps to diminish the intensity of that feeling. Try it now, say out loud ‘I feel so angry….’ There I bet you feel better already. If you do this in a vulnerable situation you acknowledge the feeling and reduce its intensity to a degree where things won’t boil over out of control.
When you talk yourself down you are formulating a plan to cope with the feelings. You are teaching yourself that there is an alternative to abusive bahaviour.
Communicating your feelings is also very important. Learning to communicate your needs and wants to another person is fundamental in your recover process. The more skills you possess the less likely you will be to use abusive behaviour.