Thinking about what to write this week, I started thinking about how everything in life seems to have a cycle attached to it. In the animal kingdom, certain species hunt another in order to survive and at the same time, prevent over population.
I then looked at human behaviour and found the following:
The cycle of abuse:
Abuse between two parties usually happens in a cycle of three stages. What do I mean by this?
1) The Incident i.e. a form of abuse occurs: either physical, sexual or emotional. The abuser will pick on you for not dressing properly or being disrespectful towards him. He will start to get angry and start shouting at you, swearing at you etc. You will do everything in your power to stop the abuser from being angry so you will apologise and promise not to do it again. This could go on for quite a while before the tension becomes too much for you or before the abuser starts physically abusing you by pushing, hitting or punching you.
2) Making-Up stage: Later the same day, maybe the next day, the abuser will apologize for the abuse, promise it will never happen again, he will probably blame you for causing the abuse “you made me do it” or “why do you make me so angry?” or the abuser may even deny that the abuse took place or say that it’s not as bad as you say it was
3) Calm stage: The abuser will act like the abuse never happened. At this stage, no physical abuse will take place. All the promises he made in stage two will be met. He will buy you flowers and chocolates, take you out for supper/date-night, take you on a holiday etc. You think everything is over and that it won’t happen again. This is called the “honeymoon” stage.
When you least expect it, stage 1 will start again and continue through to stage 3. This will continue as long as you allow it to continue. You have the power to stop this cycle of abuse from continuing.
Each stage lasts a different amount of time in a relationship. The entire cycle can take anywhere from a few hours to a year or more to complete.
Sometimes, as time goes on, the “making up” and “calm/honeymoon” stages disappear completely.
Five stages of grief:
According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, when a person is faced with the reality of impending death or other extreme, awful fate, he/she will experience a series of emotional stages, also known as the “five stages of grief”: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.
Kubler-Ross acknowledged that these stages are not meant to be a complete list of all possible emotions that could be felt, and that they could occur in any order. She also acknowledged that not everyone who experiences a life-threatening or life altering event feels all five of the responses, as reactions to personal loss. Each experience is unique to the person experiencing the event. Let’s look at the five stages.
1) Denial – “I feel fine”, “This can’t be happening to me”. Denial is usually only a temporary defence for the individual. Denial is usually heightened awareness of the event to come. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defence mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage.
2) Anger – “Why me?”, “It’s not fair”, “How can this happen to me?”, “Who is to blame?” The individual recognises that denial cannot continue. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them.
3) Bargaining – The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone the inevitable. Bargaining with a higher power: “If you stop this or save me from this, I will change my life”. Psychologically the individual is saying “I understand that this is going to happen, but if I could just do something to buy more time . . . “ People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. When facing a break-up, bargaining can rarely provide a sustainable solution.
4) Depression – “I am so sad, why bother with anything?”, “I miss my partner, I can’t go through with this”, “How am I going to survive on my own?” During this stage, the person begins to understand the certainty of the event. Because of this, the person may become silent, refuse visitors and spend a lot of time crying and feeling sorry for him/herself. This process allows the affected person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer the person up who is in this stage of grieving. It is an important part of grieving that must be processed. Depression could be referred to as the “dress rehearsal” for what is to come. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It is natural to feel sadness, regret, fear and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling these emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation.
5) Acceptance – “It’s going to be okay”, “I can fight it, I may as well prepare for it”. In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with the inevitable. This stage varies according to the person’s situation.
Although Elizabeth Kubler-Ross originally applied these stages to people suffering from terminal illness, she later expanded this theoretical model to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss (job, income, freedom) which could also include the end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, imprisonment etc.
How does this theory apply to other areas of our lives?
Grieving a break up
Denial – The person left behind is unable to admit that the relationship is really over. They may continue to call the former partner even though that person wants to be left alone.
Anger – The partner left behind may feel angry for the pain the leaving partner causes them.
Bargaining – After the anger stage, the one left behind may plead with their former partner by promising that whatever caused the breakup will never happen again. Example: “I can change. Please give me another chance.”
Depression – The person may feel discouraged that his/her bargaining plea did not convince the former partner to stay. This may send the person into depression causing disruption to life functions such as sleeping, eating and even daily bowel movements.
Acceptance – Moving on from the situation and the person is at the last stage. The partner left behind accepts that the relationship is over and begins to move forward with his/her life. He/she may not be completely over the situation but is weary of going back and forth, so much so that they can accept the separation as reality.
Where are you now?
Which cycle on you in and at what stage of the cycle are you right now?
Have you stagnated in a particular stage?
Are you struggling to move on from where you are?
What do you need in order to move on?
Who can help you to move on?
Do you have family/friends/colleagues/community/church/pastoral support?