Friday, February 17, 2006

Power and Control Cycle

One of the first steps to change is identifying that there is a problem. If we can admit that we have a problem then we can open the door that leads to change. If a doctor tells a patient that he has an illness and the patient ignores the doctor he will inevitably get worse. If he agrees with the doctor and they come up with a treatment plan he can possibly be cured. When it comes to domestic violence it is critical to understand the power and control cycle and how we are caught up in it. When we can admit that we are in the DV cycle then we can begin to find the way out.


When we first initially enter into a relationship everything appears great. We may be deeply attracted to this particular person and feel the warm fuzzies inside when they acknowledge us or say something nice. After getting to know this person over a period of time, often brief, we may even engage in a sexual relationship with this other person. When this occurs we may begin to have stronger feelings and may "fall in love" with this person. This is what we call the honeymoon stage.

But something happens. It is inevitable. Tension arrives and begins to affect the relationship. Tension can arise from many things. Maybe one person loses their job, someone is annoyed because they are tired of doing all the housework, or maybe jealousy creeps in. Regardless of the reason, there is tension and every relationship will encounter it at some point. This is the tension stage.

What occurs in the domestic violence cycle is that one of the individuals (or both) begin to deal with this tension in an unhealthy and controlling manner. When tension is present the aggressor may begin to yell, criticize, mock, swear and/or level harsh insults at their partner. For some couples the yelling and harsh insults become the norm, or the language of the relationship. When the yelling and insults don't appear to work the aggressor may then resort to other power plays. He may use sarcasm, offensive language, and threats may be verbalized. And of course, if that doesn't work then the aggressor may begin to throw objects, destroy property, slam doors, and eventually use violence. All of these actions and behaviors are a part of the explosion stage.

After the explosion or explosions the aggressor may be remorseful. He may offer an apology or a peace offering (flowers, candy, a gift, etc.). This is where the couple makes up and reconciles and then the honeymoon stage begins again. But it is only a matter of time until tension arrives and the cycle begins all over again.

Power and Control Cycle

Honeymoon stage -------> Tension --------> Explosion --------> Honeymoon stage (starts again)