This is a question you can ask about any interaction between people…
“Does this interaction build or lessen respect, safety and trust for this person, or does it demean them in some way?”
Abusive behaviour is clearly at the expense of others, whereas respectful behaviour enhances all concerned. Healthy relationships are those where people feel free to disagree. This does not mean that people don’t like or are judging you… it simply means that, from their experiences and understanding, they have a different view. You can agree to disagree over an issue and still remain friends.
Tony Porter makes a call to men everywhere: Don't "act like a man!"
Telling powerful stories from his own life, Tony Porter shows how the 'male mentality', drummed into so many men and boys, can lead men to disrespect, mistreat and abuse women and each other.
After viewing the media segment consider the reflection questions below.
Very early on men learn not to express the strong basic emotions of fear, sadness, or shame, because of many experiences of being ridiculed if they did.
How many times have you been told ‘Don’t be a girl’ or something similar if you acted in a ‘non-male’ way or showed any of your gentler emotions? How many times did you hear ‘Big boys don’t cry,’ robbing you of your ability to fully grieve over the sad times in life… the death of close friends or family, relationship break-ups, the loss of a job, and so on?
The old rule book way to deal with these powerful feelings is to switch into power-taking behaviour rather than risk fronting up to feelings of vulnerability. The rule that says ‘men don’t have emotions,’ combined with the strong urge to feel okay, invites men to move into the mode of self-righteous anger (which is not one of the basic emotions - but a secondary emotion - see the diagram below). This might make you feel good in the short term but will have a disastrous impact on those around you. While self-righteous anger may feel good in the short term, very soon you are back with your old feelings and the pattern starts again.
Men are not by nature bad communicators.
Men will make decisions about how, when and how much energy they put into conversing with others. I have met a number of men who are incredibly well spoken in the public world, but struggle to clearly sort things out in their private lives.
As Harold said…
“This was my second marriage. I wasn’t a good communicator. I could talk at work and speak in public but one-to-one I was hopeless.”
In Harold’s case it is not a matter of having a lack of skills to communicate… The problem was his beliefs about putting the same energy into talking at a personal level. So what stops these same men effectively communicating with their partners and others?
Understanding why men use abuse and violence can be tough!
All of us know that behaviour is often learnt from what we see, hear and experience as children, however people often have judgemental views and attitudes about men who are abusive.
To truly make a difference in our own lives and the lives of our families we must get away from the idea of being punitive.
In the above clip you will hear from several men who have all gone through family violence programmes. In the clip they discuss their experience of perpetrating violence and abuse within their families and offer some insight into some of the factors that may have contributed to the abuse.
After viewing the media clip consider the reflection questions below...
Violence and abuse do not just happen!
They are always, every time, choices we make. To test this, try the following True/False questionnaire…
If you are here you are either struggling or know someone who is struggling with abusive practices. Over the past 30 years I've worked with literally hundreds of men who have struggled to overcome the lesson they learnt in their families which is...
“Abusive practices are okay and work to get you what you want.”
I want to say that despite the messages we get as men that 'using abusive practices is okay', abusive practices are bad news for everyone and impact on everyone involved in negative ways. The good news is that these are learned behaviours and with persistence and effort it is possible to overcome these and have a good life. A good life has huge benefits for us as men and for all of the other people in our lives.
Ken McMaster (MSW Hons, CQSW, MANZASW) has a thirty year history working at the cutting edge of intervention work with men who are violent and who sexually abuse.
Suzi Hall (M.A. Psych) has a background of working in child protection and forensic interviewing of children with Child Youth and Family Services.
Matt Williams (BTcLn, NCALNE) has a 15 year history working within the social service and criminal justice sectors as a trainer and program developer.