Over the last few months, public space has been filled with the recurring discussions on the topic “Spousal Abuse”. One of the factors that have made this to be more obvious had been the ease with which graphic details of such incidents can be easily disseminated, at times within seconds of such occurrences. The internet, with its lax control of content and form of information has been a useful tool for creating the awareness about this menacing behaviour within our society and the world at large. Several attempts have been made to describe the consequences of these behaviours on the couple and their children. The truth is that spousal abuse can have intense adverse effects on the health of the couple, their children and the entire family which includes the significant others in their lives. When I say health, it is with the understanding that health includes physical, psychological and social well-being of the individual.
Recently, we have heard of various celebrities that have being involved in spousal abuse. The only reason why their stories have been brought into the spotlight is simply because of their statuses as public figures. Theirs is certainly a reflection of what transpires in so many families and in so many relationships: legal or illegal, valid or invalid, revealed or concealed. Their stories have also shown us that spousal abuse is a two way thing. Men abuse their women while women also abuse their men. It is imperative that I also note that men are more likely to be the abuser while women are more likely to be the victims. Surveys have also shown that the negative effect of spousal abuse or its impact is more pronounced in women.
The overall reaction of people towards spousal abuse falls into two extremes. The first school of thought is that the couple has to separate themselves either temporarily or permanently. They tell the victim “Get out of this relationship”. The other extreme is to tell the victim to stay and obey laws of nature, culture, tradition or religion which frowns at separation or divorce. Very few persons have explored the not so black, not so white; the so called grey areas of relationships in spousal abuse which is almost always puzzling to third parties. Some partners still want to stay in the relationship. Even after near death experiences, some victims still remain and choose to continue to be in the abusive relationships with their perpetrators. Surveys have shown that most cases of marital intimate partner violence tend to begin during courtship. Some partners who have been abused before marriage simply choose to walk into such abusive marriages with their hearts open and their eyes closed as the saying goes “Love is blind”. And when the abuse persists, they continue to endure and watch the abuse continuously transform from one level to another. This leaves us with some pertinent questions, “Why does a person choose to remain in a persistently abusive relationship?” also, “How do we help someone in an abusive relationship to remain Safe and Sane?”. Lastly, what do we do to possibly end the abuse?
Why does a person choose to remain in a persistently abusive relationship?
Behavioural analysts have over the years developed several approaches towards exploring human behaviour and have come to the conclusion that every human behaviour or action has a purpose and there is always a motivational factor for the persistence of an enduring pattern of behaviour. Summarily, a victim of abuse will continue to remain in the abusive relationship as long as there are significant factors in the relationship that seem to compensate for the negative effects of the abuse or, if the benefits of the relationship reasonably outweigh the risk. This is certainly a major factor in relationships where one of the partners is dependent on the other for support which include (but not limited to) financial/economic, psychological, social (including protection) etc. Disregarding the severity or frequencies of such abuse, the victim adamantly remains in the relationship. They even engage in reverse rationalization of the action(s) of the perpetrator. It is not enough to simply condemn them for their naivety without appreciating the complexity of the relationship. Helping such individuals to remain safe and sane in this type of relationship is the work of Behavioural scientists. Perpetrators of partner or spousal abuse will continue the abuse if his or her abusive behaviour continues to bring about results which seem to be “gains” or “rewards” for the unacceptable behaviour.
Functional basis for aggression or abuse in human relationships
One of the ways of understanding the role of types of human behaviour is to explore similar behaviour in animals. The biology of humans and the role of its influences in the determination of human behaviour are fundamentally similar to that of animals. Humans do yawn and a wide range of animals also yawn. Humans have sex while animals also have sex. The only difference is that humans have a higher order of functioning which simply means that humans have the innate ability to influence their behaviour and suppress their innate drives. For instance, a cat or dog will yawn loudly anywhere and anytime as long as the instinct to yawn comes. However, a young man who is in the presence of a lovely lady he intends to date with that urge to yawn will definitely suppress or control the urge in order not to embarrass himself. This typically summarizes a very wide difference between humans (higher order animals) and other animals (lower order animals). Humans (when mentally stable) are able to control their behaviour and suppress unfavorable desires or urges. Beyond desires, a normal human being should also be able to control his or her emotions or his or her reaction to stimuli that provoke negative emotions in them. For instance, a sane man will not run after a lion who takes off with one of his goats with bare hands, no matter how enraged he is. But if he sees a short boy in his street, running off with the same goat, he will definitely be insane not to chase after the boy.
The field of bio-psychology has enlightened us exceedingly about the influence of bodily functions specifically, the brain cells and the neurotransmitters acting on these cells on human behaviour. Different parts of the brain respond accordingly to the effect of increase or decrease in neurotransmitters (chemicals produced by the body to influence activities of brain cells) to bring about specific feelings or behaviours in response to external or sometimes internal stimuli. Emotions of fear, anger and sadness all have parts of the brain that mediate them through specific neurotransmitters.
In lower animals, the cue for their aggressive behaviour is predetermined as instinctive responses towards individual survival and specie preservation. Anything or any other species that will threaten their feeding, mating, maintenance of a territory etc. will be resisted irrespective of who or what the offender is. Lower animals cannot control their instincts when their individual survival or specie preservation is challenged. Some animals will rather fight to death, while others will fight till they overcome or they are overwhelmed and can fight no more.
Sane humans are not like animals. We can control our drives or impulses. We have the power of deciding the ways of achieving our purpose without resorting to violence or abusive behaviour. We also have the power to control our behaviour when we understand that such behaviour will have negative effects on our own well-being or that of others who are close to us. We might not have control over what people do to us but definitely, we should have control over what our reaction towards people will be. Basically, perpetrators of abuse need to understand that their abusive behaviour is by choice “If they are SANE”.
Next week, I will be doing an in-depth analysis of the different types of abusers that I have come across in my practice which include; peri-psychotic abuser, insecure aggressor, bigoted bruiser, psychopathic pugilist etc.
Before then, kindly share this to save a life and/or a relationship. Stay safe and sane; help someone do the same.
Please share your comments or experiences anonymously on the comment post below (FACEBOOK OR DISQUS). THE FIRST 10 COMMENTS GET A RECHARGE CARD FREE.. CONTACT +2348033857245 ON WHATSAPP TO CLAIM YOUR FREE RECHARGE.
Dr Ola Ibigbami is a Specialist Mental Health Physician who currently practices in Osun State.
Kindly send your comments, questions or remarks to email@example.com whatsapp +2348030652116
To Receive Free News Updates, Add To Your WhatsApp: 08033857245; For Adverts Enquiries, Call 08083609209, To Publish Your Articles Or News Stories, Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
READ ALSO! Mercy Aigbe Visits UK Hospital For Treatment