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Using Biderman's Brainwashing to Evoke Feelings of Anger
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the last section, we talked about Repositioning of abuser, decreasing selective forgetting,
and exploring excuse-making or minimizing.
♦ Managing the 'Great Catch'
you agree that the term "childlike" seems to fit some clients' simplistic
view of the imagined power they hold over their Great Catch? Yes,
I said, "...they hold over their Great Catch." This distorted thinking
style of over-control gave both Marcy and Jenny, who were described on section 5,
a false feeling of omnipotence. Marcy and Jenny struggled for control of aspects
of situations that were actually out of their control.
Heres how it worked.
They held themselves responsible for the behavior of their "Great Catch."
When their significant other acted differently than what they would like, they
felt a loss of control and experienced resentment, anger, and a keen sense of
personal failure that eroded their self-esteem. Jenny would say, "I've got
to make Tom listen to me!" Marcy would say, "I have to make sure Ron
arrives on time."
The abused partner believes that by using these
coping mechanisms, they are managing. Most clients think they can
manage. Through Marcys denying, and Jenny's forgetting and minimizing,
these two clients were effective in reducing the controlling abusive behavior
in their minds to a manageable size.
how this managing worked for Jenny. See if this doesnt sound familiar. I
asked Jenny about the way that Tom made her feel through his words, his actions,
and about their relationship.
explained that she managed her husband, Tom, by keeping him calm. She sobbed,
I would try to remove anything that might be a cause for Tom to yell and
get red in the face. I try to think about him all the time and how to keep him
happy. I did everything a good wife should do. I refused Tom nothing. However,
no matter how much I did for Tom, it was never enough.
increasing Jennys awareness of her denying, forgetting, and minimizing as
described on the previous section, she came to realize that no matter how much she
tried to fix, manage, or control Toms mood, something will always be wrong.
Keeping her Great Catch calm becomes a full-time job.
Jenny's 2 Overpowering Feelings
In the end,
it left Jenny with the two overpowering feelings:
1. She can never do enough,
2. She can never do anything right.
♦ The Childlike
and Jenny both felt an immense obligation to their controller. They would placate,
calm, protect, and try to please their controller. All under the guise of wrapping
their identity around keeping their Great Catch, by "helping
their man" with his problems, soothing his cares, denouncing his enemies,
building up his ego, supporting his plans and encouraging his dreams. As you know,
these tasks take so much time and energy that it is no wonder both Marcy and Jenny
stopped doing the things they enjoy to do in favor of what their partner wants
them to do. Both adopted their controllers definition of perfection and
tried to live up to it.
So whats the result? Both Marcy and Jenny become childlike
in their relationships, certainly not on an equal footing. As mentioned earlier,
I refer to the recipient of the controlling behaviors as being childlike, being
treated as less of a person.
♦ Biderman's Chart of Coercion
Jenny was still in an abusive relationship, her emotional abuse was difficult
to recognize and to name. For her, the unacceptable forms of treatment by Tom
were hard to separate from the occasional and minor abuse present in most intimate
relationships. In a session I showed to Jenny, Russell's book, Rape in Marriage,
which contained Biderman's Chart of Coercion. It seemed to be helpful to Jenny
to see information that brainwashing consists of a pattern of specific behaviors.
And that what was effective in prisoner of war camps is also effective in maintaining
abusive relationships. Jenny could then see the immense obligation she felt to
Tom to placate, protect, and try to please him was a form of brainwashing.
case you are unfamiliar with Biderman's Chart of Coercion. Here is a summary.
On a large piece of newsprint in the session I wrote Biderman's ten categories
and left room under each heading to write examples of the coercive behavior Jenny
10 Categories of the Chart of Coercion
As I read these ten categories slowly, think about a client you are
currently treating who may benefit from a discussion of one or several of Bidermans
2. focus on the
batterer's potential anger
feelings of incompetence
7. occasional indulgences
demonstration of superiority or power
9. degradation and humiliation
enforcing trivial demands.
The manual that accompanies this course contains
a reproducible worksheet for you to utilize Bidermans list with a client.
have found, like you, that once a client realizes how she was trying to manage
her manager, or in this case her brainwasher, she often times gets angry. Here's
how Jenny's anger came through in a session, I thought Tom was taking care
of me and all along I was, taking care of him. Jenny was giving Tom what
he wanted. She was allowing Tom to exercise his power over her. Jenny stated I
feel like a garbage can. Whatever went wrong for Tom during the day got dumped
on me when he came home." This angry statement was like an epiphany for Jenny.
She realized exactly how Tom was abusing her, even though there was no physical
next section... will discuss three techniques to further connect the dots
What are ten patterns of specific behavior related to brainwashing? To select and enter your answer
go to .