Advice By Kim


Kim Answers Questions About Life, Love, People and Problems.

Kim is a qualified, registered, practising psychologist who gives people answers to questions about their problems free of charge on Words By Kim.

Below are requests for help Kim has received from, and the answers she has given to, people who agreed to have their requests published on this site. Kim has had many other requests for help from people who did not want their issues to be made public and Kim has honoured those wishes.

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Rae Rae wrote on August 20, 2013 at 2:15 pm
I am a traumatically brain injured adult and have suffered more social abuse and personal relationship abuse then I care to go into. I definitely have been challenged but keep running the race to win. I think I am one of the top 10 in the world who have survived the type of injury I had with Gods grace and prayers and a lot of help at different times but still I have had some emotional problems and not enough control in my enviroment.

My boyfriend has been diagnosed with bipolar and his history is booze and weed ... he is ok sometimes but the smallest movement can set him off and I get the shit from his temper. I used to get in the way but he is pretty rough so I try to bow out graciously.

I have run at the mouth in order to stick up for myself because I was mute for a while in my youth after my first husband left me ... I think it was a breakdown of sorts. I could not find my feeling base and things overwhelmed me. Now I am a bit more cognitive and really seek God in my emotional recovery that's why I think I got led to your site.

I need help dealing with my partner. I am not trying to put the blame on him as there are some awesome things he does for me but he transferring his past onto me ... sometimes things are good and then a fight.

There is one thing he has done since the beginning and that is compare me in a bad way to his ex wife.

I am a performing artist and this woman is a Holistic type that studied herbs, witch craft and crossover Jesus to healing homopathic remedies.

I want to travel study and reach people with the gospel through my songs. I am a songwriter and becoming a signature artist. She wanted to settle on Tasmanian Is. with a community and live hippie dom.

I think their scope of reality is a lot of hocus pocus ... when they talk they fight. I can understand some of this but not at everyone elses expense.

I have a 15 year old son and get to see him on weekends because the father of my boy thought I could not offer him much. He also is abusive and I worry about my son.

My partner thinks I am like his ex. It is not true even if there are characteristics in us that are similar. I am offended by both people. Neither one will come to terms with what is up right now and others suffer because of their neglect and lack of communication.

I really do not like this woman cause I feel her attitude and past abuse issues are being dumped all over me or any other person he has been involved with ... she is hiding and not giving a damn about her abuse and neglect and feeling sorry for herself cause she got hit by him.

Also my partner is not well. He had a vascular haemmorage last Nov and nearly died on me. I desperatly wanted to tell his kids but the letter I wrote got thrown out after he came home from the hospital.

I often wonder if others are trying to break us up??? I esp. wonder if it is her because her trip may be I do not want him but you cannot have him ... I wonder why I feel in the middle?

I thought maybe his ex. got jealous and thought maybe she was in love still but could not handle another woman in his life ... its such an appeasment to her all the time it makes me feel like a mistress. I am so hurt by him putting this anger for her on me.

Thanks for reading this Kim. Do you think my partner is transferring too much onto me?
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi Rae. Let me see if I can sum all that up!

You have suffered a traumatic brain injury that you think has led to you tending to hook up with people who abuse you but you have a focus and goals of your own. You want to travel, study and serve the Lord with your singing and songwriting and you believe God has equipped you to do that.

Your previous partner, with whom you have a 15 year old son, was abusive and now you are with a man who suffers from bi-polar, uses drugs and alcohol, and abuses you for being like his ex-wife. He fights with his ex-wife but also makes you feel second best by trying to please her. You feel he takes his anger with her out on you and you are wondering what to do about that.

Here is the way it looks to me Rae.

Your partner fights with his ex-wife and he has hit her. He tells you she is a bad person and deserves to be abused. You believe that. Now he is fighting with you and abusing you. He is telling you that, because you are like his ex-wife, you are also a bad person and deserve to be abused. You think he will stop abusing you if you can make him see you are really not like his ex-wife.

You are wrong. He is the problem and, until he is ready to do something about that, nothing will improve.
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Yolanda Yolanda wrote on March 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Bullying in the workplace, hence feeling lack of self worth.. getting over a difficult childhood.
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi Yolanda. You haven't given me much detail to go on so I will have to be pretty vague and general with my answer. If you need more you will need to supply me with more detail.

You say you have had a difficult childhood and such a thing tends to leave people with self-esteem problems. Bullies have a radar that lets them home in on people with poor self-esteem. They instinctively know such people will take the blame for what happens or will be too afraid to make a fuss about being treated badly.

People who were treated badly as children tend to have learned to tolerate abuse in silence. They often question and doubt their own instincts and tend to be afraid to demand better treatment. Children who grow up without rights become adults who surrender their rights without even realising they had them in the first place.

Bullying in the workplace is a lot more common than people think and ranges from sly and subtle to outright abuse. It is, in most workplaces, illegal but that does not provide much protection for victims.

The causes of workplace bullying range from thoughtlessness to serious personality disorders or mental illness in the person doing the bullying.

There are a range of strategies you can use with bullies but what stops one bully will only make another type of bully even worse.

One thing, however, is consistent - the bully behaves the way they do because they can and it is not costing them anything.

Here are some options for dealing with a workplace bully.

  1. Sometimes it is as simple as using the formula for good communication and just telling the bully their behaviour is upsetting you. This will work on someone who is not intending to behave badly and, no matter how sure you are that they do know and do intend to upset you, you can't be 100 percent certain unless you tell them.
  2. If this does not work you need to tell them again but, this time, make sure you have a witness.
  3. Speak to whoever is responsible for ensuring a safe workplace - the boss, your union rep, your supervisor.
  4. Put your complaint in writing. The written word can be used as evidence in a court of law so it is always taken more seriously than verbal complaints. Keep a copy of it and send it to the bully and his or her superiors.
  5. Make it clear to the bully that you are collecting evidence and will be using it if the behaviour does not stop. Simply writing down what they say or do in full view of them every time they bully can be intimidating enough to put a stop to it. It can be even more intimidating to them if they see you making notes and you do not tell them what you are doing.

Get an exercise book and jot down the time, date, place, witnesses and what was said or done. One "joke" can be shrugged off but a list of "jokes", sneers, put-downs etc grows more and more weighty with every addition when the date, time, words, gestures and witnesses are included. Such a log-book would be accepted as evidence in court.

People do not like to have their behaviour monitored and recorded - the bully will get nervous and will want you to stop. If the only way they can stop you is to stay away from you they will. It may take some time for them to realise that is the only way to stop you so ignore threats and keep writing. If the bully is your boss, however, they may sack you so be careful.

6. Another, less confronting, way to deal with a bully is to get to know them and get to know what matters to them. Sometimes bullying will stop simply because they are flattered that you have taken an interest in them and seem to want to know how they feel and what they think about things!

Bullies don't tend to have a lot of friends so, if you become one, they may treat you better.

For more information, and help, on workplace bullying you can have a look at the Bully Online website.
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doons doons wrote on July 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm
I have been seeing a psychologist for my depression and anxiety, and have had three sessions with him. We have developed a good rapport and understanding and I feel very positive about this therapy, but the problem is that I am starting to find him quite attractive, although initially this wasn't the case.

I am obsessing about him day and night and cannot wait for my next therapy session.

I am well aware of transference and countertransference, but am finding it difficult to remain objective and concentrate on my therapy. I feel that my major aim now is to please and impress him!

How ridiculous is this?

Currently I am in a relationship of 5 years duration, and am perplexed about these feelings towards my therapist, which I initially felt towards my fiancee. I also feel guilty and confused that I should even feel this way over another man.

Should I talk to my therapist about how I feel and risk losing his services, or keep it to myself? I don't want to embarrass myself with my confession...I don't know what to do.

Any advice on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi doons,

It sounds like you have heard the technical talk but now you are finding out what the terms really mean and how easily it happens.

You may find it comforting to know it is extremely common for clients to develop romantic feelings for their therapist. A good therapeutic relationship makes the client feel listened to, understood, and unconditionally accepted.

Everyone finds people who listen, understand and accept them to be emotionally satisfying companions and this can turn into romance as anyone who has ever become attracted to their partners best friend can testify.

These positive feelings are heightened in the therapeutic setting because the client is in distress. Their therapist is there for them in a way even their partner may be unable to offer and they are hugely vulnerable to mistaking their positive feelings for their therapist for love.

It is so common for clients to feel this way that therapists are under ethical obligations to avoid getting into a relationship with their clients for at least one year after therapy has ceased.

This gives the client time to recover perspective and realise it was not love after all.

If your therapist is an ethical one it should be safe to disclose your feelings to him and get his assistance in dealing with those too. It is, however, an unfortunate fact that some therapists do take advantage of clients under such conditions.

As long as you are harbouring undisclosed romantic feelings for him your therapy will suffer as you will be distracted by fantasies and the subsequent guilt.

Tell your therapist what is happening for you. He should not be at all shocked and should, in fact, take it as evidence he is doing his job well.

A word of caution - if he does anything to encourage your feelings or tries to take advantage of them in any way he will be PROVING he does NOT care about you AT ALL!!

I cannot stress that enough!

He will have had it drummed into him that allowing a personal relationship to develop during therapy is the MOST harmful thing a therapist can do to their client. If he is prepared to take advantage of your vulnerability he is thinking about himself not you!

If he actually loved you his only choice would be to stop seeing you for one year and THEN start a relationship with you! Only then could he be certain your feelings were real and not the result of a good therapeutic relationship. Only then could he be certain he was not doing the wrong thing by you!

So don't be embarrassed. Your feelings for him are simply proof that he is doing a really good job with you. Once they are out in the open you can work together to stop them from getting in the way of your progress.

Hope that helps and all the best.

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pb pb wrote on April 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm
I am having trouble locating a program that will help me deal with my anger issues.

I love my wife and do not want to push her away, but she will leave if I do not get help. We recently had a domestic issue and I do not want this to ever happen again.

I want to become a better person for me and my family.
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi pb, congratulations on having the strength to admit you have a problem and the intelligence to ask for help with it!

This is an issue that has come up over and over again on this site and I wish a programme such as you are looking for existed. You are not the only one wanting it.

The problem with coming up with a programme or something people can use without professional help is the nature of anger.

Anger management may sound like a simple thing and, in one way, it is. The simple part is that nobody and nothing can MAKE you angry!

Anger is an internal response to internal processes that, of course, can be set in motion by external things.

There is nothing wrong with the internal response itself since anger does have a legitimate role to play in our lives. Anger is often the motivation that drives people to stand up to tyrants, fight injustices, DO something about what has angered them.

There may, or may not, be something you can do about these external things. You can run from, or fight, a tyrant but what if it is your boss? You can leave a bad situation but what if it is your family home? You can avoid nasty people or places but if you can't do that, or the problem is inside you, then you have to find other ways to deal with your anger.

The focus of anger management, therefore, is on what is happening inside you. The internal processes that move a person from calm to angry are what anger management tries to intervene with.

In people with anger problems the middle guy is very often hypervigilant and quick to take offence. It decides a threat is present when most people would not see a threat. It interprets situations in ways people without an anger problem would not interpret them and this triggers anger other people would not experience.

The complex aspect of it is that these ways of seeing the world and interpreting things are difficult to shift.

It's not as simple as telling yourself not to be so touchy or trying to convince yourself what you think or suspect is not true or, as a last resort, working out how to control the anger.

You need to find out what pushes your anger buttons and then you need to disconnect those buttons or get rid of them entirely.

Our anger buttons are as individual as we are so I can't help you find them let alone advise you on how to disconnect or get rid of them. For that you need professional help.

The best I can do is offer you a band-aid solution.

Think back to every time you have ever gotten angry and try to work out what the very first sign you are getting angry is.

Maybe you start breathing heavily, maybe you start feeling hot, maybe you feel the muscles in your neck or hands start tightening.

I don't know what it will be for you but the release of adreneline is the starting point of anger and it causes physical symptoms.

Once you have identified the very first sign of anger in you learn to notice it happening as soon as it happens. If you feel it happening remove yourself from the situation immediately.

Tell your wife, if that is who you are getting angry with, you are getting angry and need to stop. Don't delay or talk any further just take a walk, do some deep breathing or something and return when you are calm.

You may be surprised at the results of this. You may discover that, contrary to your current beliefs, your anger begins somewhere totally different from where it erupts!

You may even find your anger is always there. There may be no warning signals because it is your constant companion. If you find there is no starting point, no place at which you can interrupt your anger and take the pot off the flame, you need to seek help from a professional!

Anger is treatable. If you can find the starting point you can stop it from boiling over but, if your anger is a serious problem, this band-aid solution may be fairly useless.

It may result in you having to walk away from everyone the minute they open their mouths and that's no way to live.

If this solution works then that's great but don't hesitate to seek professional help if it doesn't work. All you stand to lose is your problematic anger.

Treatment will not make you get rid of appropriate anger. Quite the contrary. Treatment will teach you how to use appropriate anger to get good results.

I wish you all the best and hope this band-aid helps.
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tre tre wrote on November 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm
well here goes

I want to stop being abusive to my girlfriend. I've tried to stop but there is something stopping me. I've been with her for 3 years now and it only started just before the beginning of our 2nd year together but it's just gotten worse.

I had been on the road to recovery and I went 5-6 months (recently) without a single thought of doing anything but I felt it creep back up in my mind one day unexpectedly and then it came out again.

Now I've been trying to stop, my girlfriend wants me to stop but a lot of the time her actions contradict that, that must be a very common line but I need to explain.

She has a habit of always raising her voice in simple conversations to an angry defensive tone when others are speaking calmly and that's how something simple usually turns into a argument and then escalates or sometimes she feels a need to keep important things in (ex: how she feels, what might of happened to her that might be on a need to know basis so on so forth) which eventually leads into a long line of lies that all end up foldin on her and seeming like it was all done on purpose then she replies with "I thought you would get mad so I didnt tell you" when in actuality it was something so simple made into something bigger.

She also lacks the ability to express her feelings and emotions in ways other than yelling and she keeps them bottled up and when she pops it always seems to be because I can't figure out what she's thinking and I get agitated that she expects me to know each and every last thing that's on her mind. Then it goes from calm covo to hectic argument in a matter of seconds.

I'm not trying to justify my actions and I can admit when I'm wrong and that I do need some serious help but she has to understand that I'm really trying/wanting to stop permanently and she needs to compromise a bit with me and try not to argue unneccessarily or purposely push buttons.

You wouldn't give a recovering alcholic liquor so why would any one put someone in the position to relapse if they are trying to get better?

With that said I have 2 different counsellors lined up next week 1 for myself and a relationship counsellor for the two of us. Is that a good idea?

I just want to be able to express to her that I'm willing and able to change but if she can't at least try to improve a little on her side then its doomed to be a cycle and I dont wanna be this person, thats not who I am.

If we both fail to realize any error in our ways and it stays one sided going back and forth then it won't work but I don't want her to feel I'm saying "hey its all her fault and she's the one that needs to change" I just wanna make it work but I can't ignore the obvious.

We both have to help each other stay in track with our goals.
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi Tre and kudos to you for reaching out to get help. It takes a lot of strength to do that so well done. I think your decision to see two counsellors, one for yourself and one as a couple, is an excellent choice and I hope you stick with that choice and follow through.

You say you are not trying to justify your actions or put the blame for your behaviour on your girl and liken it to giving an alcoholic liquor so let's go with that example.

What alcoholic is going to ever stay sober if he can't say no when people offer him alcohol? Everywhere he goes he is going to run into temptation. Weddings, parties, dinner out with friends, going to a game, funerals, business lunches, BBQ's, Christmas office parties, and so on.

Alcohol is everywhere and so common people, even work bosses, give it as gifts. A huge part of recovering from alcoholism is learning how to manage such temptations and avoid lapsing.

I think I know what you mean though - why would someone who loves you and knows you are trying to quit drinking be offering you alcohol - right? Well, sad to say, some people do offer alcoholics a drink to see if they really have recovered and can be trusted again. Other people offer alcoholics a drink because they think the problem is theirs and it is up to them to solve it not depend on others to make it easy for them.

The thing is, you can't make changing yourself dependent on someone else changing too, it doesn't work.

To stay with your example - it's like saying you and your girl are both alcoholics and you can only give up alcohol if your girl gives it up too. The problem with that is people are only able to change if they have strong motivations of their own. If she doesn't want to stop drinking for her own reasons she won't be able to stop just to please you no matter how hard she tries.

If changing just to please others worked you would not still have a problem - right? You have already tried to change to please your girl and it isn't working.

The thing is, Tre, if you are like a recovering alcoholic with your anger management problem then your girlfriend is not like someone offering you alcohol - she is the equivalent of a bottle of liquor!

Asking her to stop tempting you into getting angry is like asking a bottle of alcohol to stop tempting you to drink!

As long as your focus is on what others can do to help you stop you will not be able to really control this behaviour. Even if your girl stopped doing all the things you say are triggering your anger she is only human. She will get upset now and then and lapse back into her own ways and then you will be at risk of lapsing back into yours.

You need to focus on overcoming the temptation so well nobody can push your buttons any more and counselling can help you do that.

The first step to becoming master of yourself is disconnecting the buttons people can push that make you behave in ways you don't want to.

Some people LIKE pushing other people's buttons!

Many a vicious ex-wife has been able to get her husband thrown in jail and cut off from his kids simply by pushing his anger buttons and letting the law punish him for his reactions. There are people out there who will push anger buttons in the hope the other person will take a swing at them so they can beat them to a pulp and claim the other person started it.

Some people in this world actually feel like a winner if they are able to force others to get angry. I work on a help line and we have regular callers whose only reason for calling is to make the counsellor who answers the call get angry! If they succeed they gleefully accuse the counsellor of being lousy at their job and hang up. You can hear them thinking "I win" as soon as you react with anything even remotely resembling anger!

I don't let them get to me because I know nobody can MAKE me angry without my permission. It is not what other people do or say that causes anger it is what you think about what they have done or said that triggers it. That is where the counselling can help.

Why do you get upset when people yell? What stops you from saying you don't want to talk to them when they are doing that and walking away? What makes you feel you have to argue about it and yell back or get angry yourself?

When you find the answers to those questions, and a counsellor can help you find those answers, you will find the key to disconnecting those buttons. If you work at it you may even find yourself not the slightest bit bothered by her yelling and laughing at her for expecting you to be able to read her mind.

The above mentioned callers tend to be the ones who end up angry when they get me on the line. Nothing they say gets to me and it makes them feel like a failure which is not what they want. I have to answer these callers in order to collect my pay and I can't make them change. All I can do is focus on controlling the things I think about what they say so it doesn't get to me. Instead of thinking "How dare you say that to me" I think "nice try but you are not going to force me to do anything I don't want to do and that includes get angry".

Don't focus on what your girl has to do to help you give up being abusive. You can't change her! Focus on what you have to do to become master of your own actions. Do you really want to be a puppet dancing on the strings of your own uncontrollable anger all your life? Don't fight your anger demons for your girlfriend - do it for yourself!

I wish you all the best.
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Corey Corey wrote on May 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm
I am an abusive person I would like your help to try and change that.
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi Corey, You haven't given me much information to work with but I am glad you decided to reach out for help as that is the first step towards reaching your goal of changing.

You have already taken some of the hardest steps. Admitting you are an abusive person and deciding to change is not easy. It must have been even harder for you to ask for help if you are not used to turning to other people for advice so well done.

The problem is, I can't be sure if you are serious or if you are just messing with me as your email address "suk_my_jiggles" is the kind of offensive address used by people who are not serious about seeking help.

It is also hard to know what kind of help you need when you have given so little information about yourself. I don't know if you are verbally abusive, physically abusive, emotionally abusive or all three.

Another possibility is you are not abusive at all but are lacking in the type of social skills that would prevent you from seeming abusive to other people.

If you really are serious about changing the best thing you can do is seek help closer to hand such as a face to face counsellor or a telephone counselling service where you won't have to write down all the information about yourself that would be needed to work out what could help you.

If your main concern is your relationship, and you don't want to try asking anyone else for advice, try asking your partner what you are doing that is harming your relationship and start by working on changing those behaviours.

I do hope you decide to follow through on this and get the help you need to make any necessary changes and I wish you all the best.
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S S wrote on March 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm
I grew up in a nuclear family; Father was an alcoholic turned into a workaholic after he quit drinking. I dont think i have ever seen him drunk. I was Sexually abused by a elder at the church we attended. My parents are still together. My wife was abused physically by her Father. He was the type to hold a gun to her Mother's head in front of the kids and say "do you want this bitch to die"? After growing up the way she did, it is no wonder that she has the ability to 'go numb'.

Anyways, about 1.5 months ago; we were coming back from a sales trip that i had had to Germany. The trip went well without many hitches, minor disagreements and insecurities but nothing major. On the drive back from the airport we start arguing. After talking with my wife after the incident; I realize that i took out my anger on others on her. I didn't want to talk. She did.

I lost my temper, started screaming repeatedly, "leave me alone" over and over again. This quickly escalated to "shut the fuck up" over and over again. My wife, not one to ever back down, continued.
I took myself out of the situation by pulling over and walking, trying to calm down. Didn't work. Came back still madder then hell and everything got worse. I don't remember everything but i know i must have slapped her or was physical with her in some way. Then it was her turn to get out of the vehicle. After a while, she got back in. She then tells me that it is over, and that she threw her wedding ring and we will never find it. Turns out later that she wasn't telling the truth; she actually put it in her pocket.

After she told me this; i lost it. I tried to get her out of the car by pulling on her, kicking, biting, slapping, everything. I just wanted her out. In the process; i bruised her up, left two bite marks, and broke her finger.

We get home; things obviously aren't the same. We had been physical before, never like this. I recommend counseling; she agrees. The next week; my sister gets married. Next week my wife has to take an emergency trip to Costa Rica. During this time, i make the call but don't schedule anything as i want to wait for her. She gets back from her trip. Within an hour of her getting back she tells me that she dreaded the trip up to the house; roughly four hours from the airport. she tells me that she wants to move back to Dallas, which is where her family and support network are.

Long story short. She moved out about two weeks ago. We aren't an abusive couple. She and i agree that we get along 99% percent of the time perfectly fine. Her children and mine get along well. She loves my children like her own as i love her children like my own.

I have started attending batterers intervention meeting. Twice a week for four hours total. I want to change; i want back what i had. I realize that it was my anger that ruined everything. She has told me over and over again that she cant be with me again; she can't trust me when i tell her it will never happen again.

I disagree. I know i want to change; i know i have it in me. After the first couple of meetings; i realize that this may help put me on the right path. But what next? what else can I do?

Ideally, an internet based group would be ideal as the drive to and from these meetings equals up to about 5.5 hours of driving each week... I guess any advice you could give I would be willing to listen to. Thank you.
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi S. Thank you for the background information as it helps me to see the situation more accurately. I apologise for taking so long to reply to you but I have been hesitant to say what I feel needs to be said.

It is very common for survivors of childhood abuse to have problems with anger and it sounds like this is true of you. Attending anger management will equip you to control your anger but it sounds like you already do have some coping strategies. Removing yourself from the conflict should have helped defuse the situation but it sounds like you have not done the cognitive work (learning to alter the thoughts that keep anger brewing) so they would have been fueling the fire as you walked making the exercise pointless or, possibly, worsening things. These thoughts are the key things you need to work on in therapy.

Sadly, it sounds like your partner behaves in ways that are going to expose what is within you no matter how much you try to control it. You say she came from a violent home and this means she will be struggling with trust. She will find it difficult to believe your promises and is likely to subconsciously test your resolve to control yourself as she did in the above mentioned case.

She tested you when she continued the argument, tested you when she claimed to have thrown away her wedding ring, tested what I am sure she has heard many times - your promise not to hurt her again.

You failed the test. You will always fail the test as long as you have the anger within you and the anger will remain until you find out where it is hiding inside you and clean it out.

Your wife will not be able to stop testing you until she has done her own internal clean-up.

You say you are not an abusive couple because you get along 99% of the time but you also say you have been physical before.

Refusing to leave someone alone when they ask you to is abusive so your wife has absorbed abusive behaviours from her upbringing as have you because refusing to discuss things calmly and shouting at someone is also abusive.

Physical violence is not the only form of abuse it is just the most extreme form of it!

I have to be honest with you - I do NOT believe you will not harm your wife again!

You display typical traits of an unreformed abuser. There is a lot of denial ("I don't remember everything but i know i must have slapped her or was physical with her in some way") and blame shifting ("My wife, not one to ever back down") even in the little you have told me.

If you can't remember what you did you can't really regret it and why should anyone "back down" when having an argument with someone if there is no risk of violence? If your wife is really safe with you there should NEVER be any need to "back down". Compromise or negotiate or concede points yes but NEVER to "back down"!

If I am right, and you are still a serious danger to your wife, the thing that stands out for you in this reply is that I have said your wife is abusive too because she doesn't respect a request to be left alone.

Abusers always want to shift the blame and, if you are a serious and unreformed abuser, you will try to take this letter to mean your wife "asked for it" or is equally to blame for what happened.

Nobody "asks for" abuse. Nobody "deserves" abuse and nobody is to blame for abuse except the abuser! As a victim of sexual abuse your abuser will likely have taught you different.

As long as you are looking to share the blame for the violence in your relationship, as long as you are thinking you can control your anger, as long as you are in denial about how bad things really are your wife is right to stay out of your reach!

You say this is the worst episode yet but that's the nature of domestic violence. It seldom starts with broken bones or murder but it does progress to that. If your wife does come back to you, it will get worse not better unless both of you have addressed the problem head on and conquered it.

Before you say "I would NEVER murder her!" ask yourself something.

When you first got together, if someone had told you the day would come when you would break a bone and leave bite marks on your wife would you have said "I would NEVER break her bones or bite her!"?

You asked my advice so here it is.

Make that long drive until you have changed your beliefs that a little bit of violence is not a big deal, that you are NOT an abusive couple, that all you need to do is control the anger rather than get rid of it, that the real problem is your wife will not give you one more chance.

Therapy can help by giving you strategies and educating you but you need to attack the roots of your anger and change abusive beliefs.

Your last sentence is spot on. You are correct in saying you can change but you need to work on it and it may be too late for this relationship.

I wish you all the best and hope you will be able to see past the sentence that says your wife needs to make changes too.

If you make the changes YOU need to make nothing she does or says would ever result in you hitting her again.
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Cayla Cayla wrote on September 19, 2007 at 1:50 pm
Hi. My daughter is 7.5 years old. She recently has started touching her private parts a lot! I tell her not to and she continues to do this!

We were at my friends house for dinner last week and my daughter was playing with my friends 2 year old son. All went quiet so I went into the bedroom to check on them and I found my daughter trying to get my friends 2 year old son to touch and watch her touch her private parts!!! I told her this is wrong and I was disgusted but she didn't seem like there was anything wrong with what she was doing still. She is a very anxious child who is scared/phobic of almost everything and she is never happy!

Her first meeting with a counsellor is next week. Do you have any advice for me in the mean time?
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi Cayla,

It is important you understand that human beings NEVER become sexual until one of two things happens:

  1. Hormones are released in the body that trigger sexuality
  2. or
  3. Someone teaches them about sex and triggers sexuality

At seven and a half it is unlikely your daughter is experiencing the release of hormones since that happens at puberty and you did not mention she is growing breasts or pubic hair.

This means someone is either showing her these things or someone is doing them to her and she is acting out what she is seeing or what they are doing or getting her to do.

Before you go ballistic and say there is nobody who would do such things keep in mind that one in three girls and one in five boys are molested and those figures are based on CONVICTIONS! They do not include cases where nobody is found guilty by the courts!

Not all child molesters are adults either.

Sometimes children act out what they see in pornographic movies which is why it is illegal to show them to children and it is also why molesters like to show them to children. I doubt this is what is happening in your daughters case, however, since the behaviour is ongoing and it would not be if it was a simple case of acting out what she saw one time in one movie.

It could be another child teaching her the behaviour in which case someone is messing with that child and they are acting out with your daughter. Or someone is messing with a child who is acting out with another child who is acting out with your daughter if you get the picture.

It could be an adolescent who is feeling hormonal urges and is taking advantage of time alone with your daughter to use her to experiment with their own sexuality.

It could also be an adult. Any adult. A neighbour, a relative, a babysitter, your brother, your fiancee or your grandfather. It could be a woman but most of the time molesters are male and either way SOMEONE has taught your daughter this behaviour and you need to find out who and get her away from them NOW!

The first place to look is at any male who is spending time alone with your daughter because it sounds like the behaviour is going on behind your back.

If the person who is spending time alone with her is someone you do not think would do such a thing then test the theory out. Stop leaving her alone with that person for several months and see what happens. If s/he starts getting desperate to get your child alone and begins fighting you on the issue it's a clear sign all is not well!

Keep her away from the molester for long enough and she will start to lose interest in the behaviour and go back to normal.

You said you are taking her to see a counsellor. I would expect, I would HOPE, the counsellor has already said all these things to you but not all counsellors are trained to recognise child abuse.

Not all counsellors are willing to face child abuse and there are even some counsellors who would use a child for their own pleasure so I don't want to rely on another counsellor to tell you these things.

I suspect you may need counselling yourself to help you cope with the discovery you will make if you follow my advice and act to keep your daughter safe. Whoever is molesting her it will be someone you trust so you are going to feel every bit as violated as your daughter when you learn who it is. Maybe more.

Be strong and do what only you can do - protect your baby!

My heart goes out to you.

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mjw mjw wrote on June 27, 2007 at 1:35 pm
How do you get people to believe u when different people are blaming you for things you didn't do?
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi mjw,

I see you are just ten years old and trying to find a way to get people to listen to you and believe you when you say you didn't do something.

One of three things is happening here.

1. You have been caught lying in the past and people don't trust you.

The problem here is that everyone tries lying when they are little. It is a natural part of the gradual climb from child to adult so people expect kids to try lying and all kids do get caught out lying at least once sooner or later.

If you have already been caught in a lie it makes it hard for people to take your word over someone elses. Catching you in a lie, even a little lie, leaves the adults around you with doubts about how honest you are until you show, over time, that you have grown out of that stage of development.

The fastest way to convince adults you have grown out of that stage of development is to be honest even when you know you will be punished. The more you own up to things you have done wrong the more the adults around you will come to believe you are an honest person. The more lies they catch you telling the less they will believe you even when you are telling the truth.

(For any adults reading this the best way to discourage lying is to reward honesty!)

2. You have not been caught lying but the people who are accusing you have not been caught lying either and they are older than you or there is more than one of them so they are considered more likely to be telling the truth.

If a child says they didn't do something and adults, or several other people, say they did do it people are inclined to believe the child is lying because everyone knows it is part of growing up for children to try lying. Until a child has proven honest over time people will tend to favour the word of adults, or several other kids, over theirs.

You will notice people are more inclined to believe you than someone who is younger than you too so hang in there. The older you get, provided you don't get caught lying, the more you will be believed.

3. You are being abused and the abuser is looking for an excuse, or is making up excuses, to justify hurting you.

Sometimes people don't really care if you are telling the truth or not. They just want someone to yell at or hit. Everyone knows yelling and hitting kids for no reason is wrong so these people grab hold of anything they can find to use as an excuse and they don't care if it is true or not. In some cases they will invent reasons if there are no real ones available.

If you are being hurt you need to tell someone you can trust so they can help you. A school counsellor, a doctor, a teacher, or any trustworthy adult can decide if you are being abused. If you are being abused they can tell someone who can do something to stop it from happening.

I hope things change for the better soon!

I'm sorry I don't have any way to fix things straight away so people will believe you now but trust is hard to get and easy to lose and, if it is abuse, making them believe you won't stop them anyway.

I hope this helps. Take care - Kim
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MP MP wrote on May 7, 2007 at 1:32 pm
I hate my life. I have wanted to leave my husband for the last 30 years but have never done so. He is verbally and emotionally abusive. I have recently found out from my children what affects our tumultuous marriage and family life have done to them and I have been a miserable failure of a mother. I should have never married him and now I feel like I can never leave him....I am so low in my self-esteem and I have this weight from my upbringing that you never get divorced no matter what. You married for better or worse. I have totally screwed up my life....when I look back all I have are regrets. And when I look for the future all I see are regrets. If I kill myself then that affects others negatively and if I stay alive I affect everyone negatively. I am totally at a loss...I want to just disappear.
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi MP. It sounds like you feel your life is over and it has been wasted yet you have done what you believed was right even though that was at great cost to yourself. All any of us can do is what we think is right and none of us know if that will turn out to be for the best in the long run. None of us CAN know what the future will bring!

Your children appear to have expressed the opinion that they would have been better off if you had left your husband but they are merely assuming that. Abusive people often make life a whole lot more tumultuous and nasty for their partner and children if the partner does leave them. It is very common for abusive people to use the children to try and control their partner if separation occurs and children are often very badly hurt when that happens. Your kids are only assuming life would have been better if you had left. They can't know what might have happened to them if you had broken up the family!

I'm guessing you considered leaving him many times but decided against it because of your belief the children would be better off with two parents. Your upbringing most likely made you feel it would be selfish to end the marriage just because you were not happy so you did what you thought was right.

My grandmother left her abusive husband and my mother once told me she felt her mother was extremely selfish for doing that. Your children might have felt the same way if you HAD left him!

It is very common for children to blame their parents for whatever goes wrong in their own lives. It is human nature for people in general to blame others whenever they can as I am sure you must have noticed and parents make a particularly good target.

The chances are your kids would have been just as unhappy with you if you HAD left your partner as they are because you didn't leave him. I'm assuming you love your kids and would not want to change them? Your partner was the only way to bring those unique individuals into this world so you had to be with him to get them!

You say you should never have married him but did you know that way back then?

You can't change the past but you can change the future if you choose to. You say you look into the future and see only more regrets but that is a future based solely on the present. If you change the present then you can change the future. You say you feel you can't change because you are weighed down with your upbringing and poor self-esteem and that is probably true but it doesn't have to stay that way.

You mentioned you have nobody to turn to and that is the first thing that needs to change!

One of the ways abusive people keep their partners from leaving them is to isolate them. Everyone needs support from others to be strong and courageous in their choices and decisions. Abusive people make sure their partner has nobody to turn to but them so they come between their partner and anyone they have who can provide support. Sometimes they move them so far away contact is all but impossible and sometimes they just behave so badly they drive everyone away or they force the partner to turn away from family and friends by making a scene whenever they try to see or contact them.

You can't expect to be able to change if all you have is your partner since he will do his level best to sabotage any attempt you make to grow stronger or happier but a therapist can provide you with the support you need to change in a positive direction.

Maybe those changes will lead to you leaving your husband but they don't have to. It is also possible to change your perception of yourself so you can be happier even in the midst of a lousy marriage. You say you went for marriage counselling and I take it that didn't work. Marriage counselling can only help couples when BOTH partners are willing to change. Abusive people often see no need to change and will only go to counselling to prevent their partner from leaving.

Try individual counselling. Tell the therapist you need help dealing with abuse but are not willing to end your marriage because of your beliefs. Work on your self-esteem and learning ways to manage the abuse so it doesn't continue to drag you down and see if life doesn't seem a whole lot better once you stop feeling so bad about yourself.

You never know. You might even reach a point where you start to believe you really do deserve better than what you have and you may gain the courage to reach out for it and get it!

I wish you all the best and I strongly urge you to get support somehow. If you don't, won't or can't get a therapist then try to make some friends, reconnect with family or old friends if you can but, failing that, seek out new sources of support as soon as you possibly can!

Cheers - Kim
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shim shim wrote on February 2, 2007 at 4:09 pm
My boyfriend is abusive and I know I should leave him, but it's hard because I do love him. He's constantly threatening me when things don't go his way and I think the best thing to do would be leave, but I can't because I have no life without him. I gave up everything for him. It feels like life's not even worth living if I don't have him because in reality I have nothing.
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi Shim, sounds to me like you have been pretty thoroughly brainwashed!

I''m guessing you had low self-esteem and problems with your family when you met this guy and he made you feel loved and appreciated so you "gave up everything for him" and then he changed.

Suddenly, and for reasons you don't understand, you can't seem to do anything right and things he used to like about you have become things that irritate him.

He used to tell you how beautiful he thought you were, for example, and now he's telling you to lose weight or change the way you dress or maybe he used to love the way you laugh and now he tells you it irritates him and everyone else too.

He used to build you up and support you and now all he ever seems to do is tear you down and undermine you - right?

Whatever support you used to have is gone and you feel like you have nothing if you don't have him - right?

You can't see that, at 16, you have everything you need to make a very good life for yourself - you have TIME.

Read the other letter I am posting here today. That could be you someday if you do not shake off the belief this man is the best you can get!

You say people do not understand your situation and that is probably true because they can see you deserve better!

They never saw the man you fell in love with because that man never really existed and you are wasting your youth waiting for him to reappear. He was never a real person! He was a part your boyfriend invented, a role he played, the honey he baited the trap with. Now he has caught you he has discarded that fantasy person and will only ever play that role again if he needs to stop you from dumping him!

It sounds like he won't replay the role even then as you say he threatens you to get his own way now.

Let me repeat this because it is important for you to believe it - THE MAN YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH DOES NOT EXIST! The man who abuses and threatens you is the person he really is and who he will always be if he does not get counselling to change himself.

Stop waiting for that wonderful person you think he can be to come back. He was an act and it is over. You kissed a prince and he turned into a toad - let him go or you will not be available for the real prince when he comes into your life!

Go for counselling and work on your self-esteem. We tend to get what we think we deserve in a partner. If you think you are no good the men who want to treat you badly will be attracted to you because they can tell you will put up with their abuse. If you believe you deserve a good man you will be able to attract one!

I'm not telling you to leave your boyfriend as I understand you probably don't have the courage or faith in yourself to do that yet. I'm telling you to go back to counselling and work on getting the courage and faith in yourself to go after someone who will treat you right and help you have a wonderful life. It might even help change your boyfriend although I must caution you the odds are very much against that happening.

Sometimes an increase in a partners self-esteem can result in a changed attitude that convinces an abuser they need to change too. It doesn't happen very often. Abusers usually just work very hard to force their partner to quit counselling but it can happen if he really does love you and you don't give in to his demands to go back to the way you were.

Either way - what have you got to lose apart from the misery you are enduring right now?

I hope you will go for counselling and get the support you need to break out of this trap your boyfriend has caught you in because I know you can have a happy life if you set your mind to it and get the help you need.

Cheers - Kim
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LC LC wrote on August 17, 2006 at 4:01 pm
Struggling to be a good parent. Want to find someone to teach me how to stop periodic emotional or verbal abuse, when the stress of single parenting gets too much.
Admin Reply by: Kim

You gave additional information about the stressors you are suffering from in your answers to the questions contained in the form you sent asking for my help which make it clear you are carrying very heavy burdens. You have asked that I respond to you here rather than by email so I am honouring that request and hoping it was not a mistake as most people prefer an email.

It is natural to have outbursts when stress overwhelms our coping skills which is why coping skills are hugely important.

Coping skills can be as complicated as anger management training or as simple as doing something nice for yourself to ease the stress and strain you are under.

I am currently working on a project for this site that will include anger management training. It is far too complex and lengthy to be used here but I will try to give some useful tips from it.

The most important thing to do is learn to recognise when you are running out of patience and reaching a point where you are likely to become abusive and try to disrupt the cycle.

Most people feel physical warning signs when stress is building. Headaches, clenching their teeth or fists, neck or shoulder pain are just some of the ways the body responds to building tension before anger erupts and the first step in managing anger is knowing when it is coming to a head.

Once you know your anger is reaching a critical level it is important to try and defuse it but that can be hard if you are in a situation that doesn't allow many options.

Deep breathing, time out, substitute targets and cognitive self-talk are all ways to defuse or redirect anger that can help.

You don't say how old your child is so I don't know whether to suggest putting him or her in their room while you try to calm yourself or if you could tell them you are too angry to continue and need to take a walk or soak in the bath to calm yourself down.

You say you are a single parent but are there sources of support you could use such as friends, family, or even a help line you could call and blow off steam to? One of the most critical life skills is one called "Help seeking". Psychologically healthy and well balanced people are aware it is foolish to refuse to ask for help if help is needed and they don't hesitate to call in whatever supports are available to them any time they feel the need. You may not have individuals in your life who are willing to provide you with support but there may be professionals, agencies, help lines, baby sitters, parents of your child's friends, support groups, churches and other sources of support that you could use.

Does your child have a best friend? Can you arrange for your child to stay overnight at the friends place in return for the friend staying overnight with you so you can have some "me time" regularly for example?

You are not alone in finding parenthood a challenge. Most people do but people who have no support, or who think they must not ask for support, are at a disadvantage.

You mention physical issues but are you healthy enough to be able to do some form of exercise to reduce anger? The tension anger produces is due, at least in part, to the release of adrenaline into the system. The purpose of adrenaline is to make the body capable of fighting or running from threats and people often find a quick run around the block or some other form of physical exertion such as punching a punching bag, chopping firewood, scrubbing the bathroom and so on will use up adrenaline and allow them to regain their balance.

Sometimes anger is a response to feeling used, abused, unfairly treated or overworked and doing something that makes you feel cared for and appreciated, even if only by yourself, can sometimes help. A long soak in a soothing bath, hugging a teddy, a chat with a sympathetic person, writing your feelings down, or simply some alone time can help.

Sometimes anger is a reaction to unrealistic demands being made by others or, often, ourselves. Trying to be a perfect Mom will often backfire because perfection is not possible. Take a look at what you are asking of yourself and see if there are any ways to reduce your stress level.

If you have tried all this without success you may have to look at what is called "Harm minimization" strategies which means looking at ways to minimize the harm your abusive outbursts are likely to do to your child.

That would involve looking at what you say and trying to change the words. Instead of saying "I hate you" or "You are such a worthless/useless/stupid/clumsy/other negative personal judgement" you could try substituting "I am angry" or "That was a bad thing to do".

It would also involve trying to repair any damage that has been done to their self-esteem and that can be countered by apologies and efforts to build good self-esteem. Children are resilient and you can undo any damage you may do on impulse if you are sincere and work at it the rest of the time.

I hope this has been helpful and I wish you all the best.

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