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The Economy and Domestic Violence: What if You Are the One …


Across the United States and around the world, the effects of the financial crisis continue to spread – foreclosures are widespread, banks are being taken over, stock markets are erratic, credit is frozen and bankruptcies are increasing. No one can predict with certainty the long-term effects on the economy, but most pundits agree that this collapse will not right itself in the near future.

How is all this affecting you? Are you anxious and angry – on the verge of taking out your frustration over the financial news on those around you? Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this is a good time for you to look inward and reflect on your actions within the family. Only by becoming aware of the potential for abuse can you honestly assess your own behavior.

While a number of factors have been recognized as causes of domestic violence – mental illness, substance abuse, certain innate personality traits, low self-esteem, poor impulse control and a history of being battered – social stressors have been identified as having a particularly strong impact on abusers. Poverty, lack of control and feelings of powerlessness can lead to the perpetrator’s perceived need to dominate family members. And this is linked to increased levels of mistreatment. During the current plummet of world markets, those who abuse are more likely to express their feelings of frustration in more belligerent ways.

Many people who are normally calm are stressed by the financial meltdown and concerned that they are spiraling out of control. If this sounds familiar, you could be emotionally at risk for harming your spouse, children, or elders under your care. If you are worried about your hostile attitude and aggressive behavior, begin to address your own fragility by following these suggestions:

1. Work with a therapist to develop anger management skills and techniques for dealing with disappointment. Within the protective environment of a professional’s office, you can share your hostile feelings, express your anger and then learn how to keep your aggression in check. As you improve communication, using words instead of physicality, you will feel more competent and in control. Psychological treatment will also lead you to insight, and the opportunity to understand the underlying roots of your negative emotions and behavior.

2. Learn stress reduction strategies by attending a seminar, group or yoga class. Contact your local psychological association to find out what other resources are available in your community. Gather information from the Internet or self help books about how to minimize the impact of the financial pressures you are now experiencing.

3. Keep communication open with your spouse, children and aging parents. Talk out disagreements before they become heated arguments that get out of control. Don’t put a lid on your emotions, just on expressing them in an aggressive manner. When conflicts arise, agree to be flexible and cooperative – and work toward reaching a compromise.

4. Ask for help and get support from those around you in order to reduce the stress in your life. See a financial planner to set some goals and make a concrete plan about how to achieve them. Where you can, take action to relieve your worries. When you are not feeling so overwhelmed by your responsibilities and commitments, your negative feelings are not as likely to boil over.

5. Practice relaxation techniques on a daily basis to help manage the tensions you are feeling. Make time to go for a walk, exercise at the gym, listen to soothing music or just put your feet up. Learn deep breathing or guided imagery to help you unwind and settle down.

These times of economic freefall are stressful for everyone. Investors are feeling insecure, not knowing what to expect next. Without a financial safety net, you may feel out of control as credit dries up, your 401K declines and your retirement benefits disappear. It’s not easy to keep your emotions in check but you have a responsibility to learn to control your behavior so that it is not abusive. You owe that to your family – and yourself.

(c) 2008, Her Mentor Center

rosemary lichtman, ph.d. is co-founder of http://www.hermentorcenter.com, a website for midlife women and http://www.nourishingrelationships.blogspot.com, a blog for the sandwich generation. she is co-author of a forthcoming book about baby boomers and family relationships. she offers a free newsletter, stepping stones, through the website.

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Listed: October 17, 2008 4:08 pm