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    Emotional awareness is an important preventive measure against domestic abuse

    Reading Time: 3 minutes

    Emotional awareness is an important preventive measure against domestic abuse

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    “Really?” I hear you cry, something so soft, so unmeasurable and so nebulous can stop something so insidious and harmful?

    Oh yeah.

    Imagine being part of a relationship in which both parties don’t know exactly how or what they are feeling, or how to articulate or express the feeling, or how to get their needs met that relate to the feelings they are not actually acknowledging.

    Imagine these people colliding with each other, relating in the best way they can and that best way being uninformed emotionally.

    Imagine also knowing that each and every one of us has at least one emotion we are totally uncomfortable feeling, acknowledging or expressing and that we will do ANYTHING to avoid it, including, and most commonly, covering it with another which we over blow as a defence.

    Imagine, if you will, being able to do this better, in a way that honours and respects yourself as well as your partner, in a way that gets your needs well met, allows fluid and fluent communication and, in this, in ways which prevent or replace domestic abuse scenarios.

    Read on:

    We have four main, primary emotions: sadness, fear, anger and joy.

    (Which one are YOU most uncomfortable with, which one are you most comfortable with?)

    **N.B. You may not even have a sense of this, I didn’t used to and I had to do some pretty deep diving work on myself to get to the point where I did.

    These primary emotions can mix, just as primary colours can, forming others such as excitement (fear and joy), frustration (anger and sadness), nostalgia (sadness and joy) and so our emotional range can be pretty broad, or we can repeat into the same old ones over and over.

    We have choices around this which increase with our awareness.

    Also, when our emotions are left unresolved, with the needs they flag up unmet, they can keep showing up over and over.

    So, if when you were a small child, you were scared and didn’t get the safety you needed, you will get scared a LOT in an attempt to meet the original need. And if you are uncomfortable, or even disallowed, from feeling fear, you’ll cover it up with an emotion which feels safer for you.

    So, what are our emotions for?

    Well, this is how I see it, emotions are like the discomfort of a full bladder, or an itch, or a rumbly tummy, or a dry throat.

    They’re a physical indication that you need to go and do something to help yourself out.

    Fear prompts you to get safe.
    Anger prompts you to put right a wrong.
    Joy prompts you to share your good feelings with others.
    Sadness prompts you toward comfort.

    And just like full bladders and a rumbly tummies have causes, so do emotions.

    Fear is caused by the presence of a threat.
    Anger is caused by a wrong doing.
    Joy is caused by the presence of a pleasure.
    Sadness is caused by loss.

    If you are feeling an emotion and can’t find the above causes in the here and now, it is likely your emotion is old and as yet, un-resolved.

    And, so what? How can knowing this help to prevent or resolve a domestic abuse scenario?

    Well, knowing the cause of your emotional responses, and treating the presence of an emotion in a similar way as you would to a full bladder or an itch, taking action and getting the need met takes all the heat out of them.

    Also, recognising that some of your emotions are old, from a time gone by and not caused in the here and now can also help to take the heat out of a situation in the here and now.

    Here is what to do:

    ● Next time you feel fear, ask yourself what the threat is and how you can get safe.
    ● Next time you feel anger, ask yourself what went wrong and how you can fix it.
    ● Next time you feel joy, share it!
    ● Next time you feel sadness, ask yourself what you have lost and how you can get the comfort you need.

    And if you feel a mix, separate it out into its component parts and get your needs met.

    You deserve to get your needs met.

    Now, I am aware I have made something very complex seem as if it is simple and easy, and it may just turn out to be for you, and it may not.

    If you need help and support to decipher and untangle your feelings, counselling, psychotherapy and also reading can help.

    And, as you may know, if you are deep in it and need help to get out, NCDV and other support organisations are here for you.

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    I am an ex Social Worker, a qualified and professionally credentialed personal and business Coach and I am extensively trained and experienced in Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy. I am successful, happy, grounded and I choose my life with intention and autonomy.
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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”