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Fifty Shades : Romantic or Abusive ?


The Hype over Fifty Shades of Grey has been incredible, and the popularity seems to be through the roof, especially with women. It is seen as romantic. There are tales of peoples sex lives suddenly taking off with renewed vigour. A tale of bondage seems to have highlighted a new sexuality. Harmless. Nothing wrong with it. What's the harm?

The more I look into it, the more certain I am as a therapist, a man, a human being and a husband that Fifty Shades is not romantic, but is a very accurate account of emotional manipulation, one sided control and domestic abuse bordering on psychopathic. 

This is quite a long post, so I urge you to read it to the end, because it is not really about just Fifty Shades, it deals with emotional manipulation and abuse of which Fifty Shades is practically a 'how to' manual for potential or real abusers. Read it, learn, and stay away from the Christian Grey's, however they are packaged. And if you still think Christian is romantic by the end of the post I wish you a safe journey.

Christian Grey is rich, successful, charming (kind of), well dressed, confidant, assertive, and of course incredibly handsome. Anastasia Steele is an innocent, just approaching graduation, beautiful, romantic. She wants what many want, a romantic relationship with someone who meets their needs and has a certain level of respect for them as a person. 

In Chapter Two of the first book Christian turns up at her workplace, uninvited and unannounced, and is immediately possessive when he sees her talking with a male colleague. His mood changes instantly, leaving Anastasia believing that she had done something wrong. "Damn, have I offended him?" she asks herself. And its only Chapter Two. 

On their very first coffee date Christian quickly establishes who is actually in complete control of this relationship. He continues to call her Anastasia, but forbids her to call him by his first name. (Warning signs anyone?). He even tells her "you should find me intimidating."

Christian warns Anastasia to stay away from him. This is classic abuser stuff. By appearing vulnerable, or having their best interests at heart, the 'victim' feels sorry for them, convinces themselves that they can 'rescue' the poor soul, or that they will be the one to make a difference. And above all, when they become an actual victim the abuser can turn around and say 'it's your own fault. Remember, I warned you to stay away.' Also, having warned her to 'stay away' he send her some very expensive gifts. Some see romance. I see manipulation and very confusing messages.

In Chapter Four Anastasia goes drinking with friends and gets drunk. She calls Christian, and despite refusing to tell him where she is, and then hanging up, He turns up at the bar. That's right, after only one date, he has a tracking device in her phone. Christian Grey is a Stalker. Seriously, if someone you know puts a tracking device in Your mobile and tracks your every move and tries to tell you it's because they love you and want to protect you ... how soon after that are you going to go to the police? Romantic? Sexy? Caring? Protective?  Sorry, but No.


And then he takes her to His hotel (not to her home, and yes, He does know where she lives). He takes her, drunk, to his hotel room and she wakes up in Christians bed the following morning and worries about whether they have had sex or not. On this occasion, to be fair, he reassures her that they haven't had sex, but still, an incredibly dangerous position to be in. And its only chapter five. What a roller coaster.

Then we see the next glimpse of Christians true colours. And I quote "If you were mine, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday." Yes, that's right. He threatens to spank her so hard she wouldn't be able to sit down. For going out with friends and getting drunk. I have heard people saying that he is just being playful, that this is sexy, the stuff of fantasies. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. But would you tolerate someone threatening you like that after, let's remember, one date. And then he takes her home and she suddenly realises he knows where she lives and she knows she hasn't given him her address. (Remember the tracker in her phone). But it's ok, because he cares. I don't think so.

Now, I realise that some people reading this may think I am being too picky. It's just entertainment, stop taking it so seriously. But I urge you to remember that when you take away the rich lifestyle, charm, cool gadgets, expensive presents and good looks, you are left with the worst nightmare of many many victims of emotional abuse, control and manipulation. So, here's a question - does his lifestyle, money and looks make it ok or romantic to, so far, stalk her, track her mobile phone, control her and emotionally manipulate her? When does it become wrong?

And the next point is a killer. In Chapter Six they start discussing a sexual relationship, and Christian Grey tells her that before they can have any kind of sexual relationship, she has to sign a non disclosure contract agreeing not to speak to anyone, including her own family, about what happens between them. Danger signs anyone?

As the conversations go on, it becomes very clear that this relationship is all about meeting his needs and her needs are irrelevant, seriously irrelevant. She asks what she gets out of the relationship ( a good question) and he responds with 'Me'. He then bombards her with what he wants out of the relationship, and when she tells him she's a virgin he refers to taking her virginity as simply "a means to an end". 

And when he does take her virginity, he has no regard at all for her needs. He is not gentle or reassuring. Don't forget, this is all about him. "I'm going to fuck you now ... hard". He "rips through her virginity" and tells her "I want you to be sore". Yeah, he's a real gentleman who obviously cares about her. 




Still keeping up with the signs of an abusive partner :
  • Turns up at your workplace and is moody when you talk to other males
  • Tells you he is not safe, so it's your fault when he turns out to not be safe
  • Puts a tracker in your mobile phone so he knows where you are at all times
  • Tells you that you cant use his first name, but he can call you whatever he wants
  • Tells you to stay away and then buys you expensive presents
  • Takes you to his hotel room when you are drunk instead of taking you home
  • Puts you in his bed, leaving you uncertain about whether you have been raped
  • Wants you to agree to not tell anyone about what happens in your relationship
  • Takes your virginity hard and delights in making you sore, not meeting your needs

After having taken her virginity he reminds her (showing his true colours more and more as they go) "Every time you move tomorrow I want you to be reminded that I've been here. Only me. You are mine." Take note of those last words. YOU ARE MINE. Do I even have to comment on this point. Maybe just a simple question ... who do you belong to? Your partner? Someone else? To yourself? Abusers genuinely believe their partner belongs to them. They own them. And they make sure their partner knows it as well. That's why they don't like their partner talking to other men or women. In Chapter Ten he becomes very angry that she is actually speaking on the phone to a male friend (Jose) who has phoned her. Creepy yet? Just in case you're not sure, he adds "I don't like to share, Miss Steele. Remember that."  I doubt he is going to let her forget it.
Despite all of this Anastasia is thinking about whether to sign the contract. He has been pestering her to sign it "so that we can stop all this ... you defying me." And then he starts sending her presents and nice emails again. Now please do take note of this (especially if you are wondering whether you are a victim of emotional abuse). Abusers are not horrible all of the time. Just when you are thinking they are abusive or you should run, they do something nice and you think they have changed, or that it's your fault. In the midst of all her doubts she suddenly becomes excited again. Here is the romantic Christian back again. Please Please Please, do not be fooled. This is emotional manipulation at its best and worst. They get angry and frighten you, then they do something nice and you wonder why you ever thought there was anything wrong. This is known as the Cycle of Abuse. My own father was an expert at it, and we all walked on eggshells trying not to get on his bad side. There is an important sign right there.

And then we have the Rape. 

Oh, you probably didn't see it that when when you read the book. Surely you would have noticed Anastasia being raped. Anastasia writes Christian an e-mail saying she doesn't want to continue the relationship. She has too many doubts. So he turns up again at her house, quite the intimidating figure, and Anastasia tries to convince him it was a joke (even though it obviously wasn't), while looking around her own bedroom for a means of escape. (Later he admits to her that he didn't think it was a joke and had sex with her to try and change her mind ... yes, he is a class act). But back to the moment ... 

In Chapter Twelve, he turns up uninvited, and she clearly tells him, in her bedroom that she doesn't want sex, she just wants to talk. "No, I protest, kicking him off". His reply? Ironically some of the most famous words in this 'romantic book' ... "If you struggle, I'll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you. Keep quiet. Katherine (her mother I think) is probably outside listening right now." He then has sex with her. 

Does anyone not get how this works? Anastasia doesn't think it's rape, because once they have sex she enjoyed it. What about you? Another one of those pesky questions ... when is rape rape? Anastasia said no. He threatened to tie her feet and gag her. But it's ok because she enjoyed it afterwards? I don't know what else to say about this. I'm not happy.

Chapter 13. Unlucky for some. Anastasia has a dinner date with Christian in a private dining area. She clearly says she would prefer somewhere more public as she would feel safer. He says "Do you think that would stop me." He is actually telling her that she wouldn't be safe from him even in public. This is all about him. None of it is about her concerns, her safety, respect for what she is going through. And doesn't this sound even slightly threatening? "Do you think that would stop me?"

She tells him she needs space to think. No, that's just not going to work for Christian. Space to think is the last thing he wants her to have. So he turns up at her graduation ceremony (to be fair he is the invited speaker). But does he stay away from her. No. Of course he doesn't. He grabs her by the elbow, forces her into a locker room, actually locks the door, and demands to know why she hasn't been returning his emails. Still think Christian is romantic?

In Chapter 16 Christian starts to talk about his own abused childhood. Now this is tricky territory, because, like many readers and like Anastasia, I want to be sympathetic and understanding to someone who has been abused. But Christian is being manipulative here, as many abusers are. The absolutely crucial point here is this ... abused children are traumatised, damaged in ways that should not have happened, but they have choices as adults. If they go on to abuse (physically, emotionally and or sexually) their abused childhood is not and cannot be an excuse for their abusive behaviour. Bottom Line. No exceptions. 


As you may have guessed, this is a strong and emotional point for me. I was badly abused as a child (as was my whole family in one way or another by my father). I was twelve the first time I went to the train tracks and thought about jumping, thirteen years old when I decided to live. I made my choices, one of the main ones was to be nothing like my father. It wasn't easy. I was angry. Later, I was depressed. Now, many many years later, I work with disabled kids, I am happily married, a foster carer, a Christian, and a Therapist. Being abused does not and never can be an excuse to abuse others.

But then we get the BDSM scenes. Anastasia has been spanked, and she has mixed reactions to it. Part of her feels aroused, and part of her feels abused (yes, she uses those actual words). The BDSM community have a lot to say about this, mostly, that BDSM is not about one partner (the Dominant) gaining pleasure at the exclusion of or by abusing the other (The Submissive). BDSM relationships are seen by that community as mutually respectful and supportive, especially of the submissive. If a Sub was to have concerns about feeling abused, a good Dominant would take time to address those concerns, back off, establish new ground rules. This is not an area where I have any expertise, but that sounds about right to me. The BDSM community certainly seem to think so. 

Which is why they are outraged by Fifty Shades. Anastasia's feelings and needs are manipulated, ignored, oppressed (even though she doesn't always feel oppressed). What does Christian do? He tells her that it is her problem and she needs to find ways to deal with it. "That's what a good submissive would do" he says. And she believes Him and reassures Him. She tells him that if she wanted out she could have run away to Alaska (a place almost as cold as Mr Grey, my observation, not the book). Here is his rather chilling reply :

"For the record, you stood beside me, knowing what I was going to do.  You didn't at any time ask me to stop - you didn't use either safe word.  You are an adult - you have choices.  Quite frankly, I'm looking forward to the next time my palm is ringing with pain.  You're obviously not listening to the right part of your body.  Alaska is very cold and no place to run.  I would find you.  I can track your cell phone - remember?"  

Still think anything about this is romantic?
What about Chapter 18 :

"Yes, but it won't be to hurt you.  I don't want to punish you right now.  If you'd caught me yesterday evening, well that would have been a different story..."

Threatening much? Physical Abuse (or threats of)? Because she forgot to call him.

And then, as if this isn't enough, they go to have dinner with her parents. An ideal setting you might think. But Christian uses the occasion to try and get his own sexual needs met by humiliating her. Now before you try and think of this as romantic, try and imagine what you would think, say or do if a man tried to get you to do this at your parents meal : Christian tries to masturbate Anastasia under the table where her parents are eating. She stops him. He isn't at all happy about that. Remember, as far as he is concerned, her body belongs to him to do whatever he wants with. 

So he drags her off to a boathouse where they have sex. She actually pleads with him (yes, 'pleads' is in the book) not to hurt her. Because she wouldn't let him masturbate her while her parents were at the same table. She pleads with him not to hurt her. This is his response :

"It's for me, not you, do you understand?  Don't come or I'll spank you... Don't touch yourself.  I want you frustrated.  That's what you do to me by not talking to me; by denying me what's mine." 

Anyone still think this is not an abusive, manipulative and controlling relationship. Don't worry, there's more. Anastasia decides she needs to get away "to think clearly", over two thousand miles away in fact, to go and spend time with her mother. Does he give her the space she needs? What do you think? He turns up at the bar where Anastasia and her mother are having a drink (remember the tracker in the mobile phone, never stops being useful, does it?). Anastasia finds it sweet and passionate (as the reader is also supposed to think). I don't think so.

It goes on and on and on, but this post doesn't. If I haven't made my point by now (and it's not even the end of book one), well, you and I will have to agree to disagree.


But if this rings a lot of bells with you, if you are in an abusive relationship of any kind, and feel trapped, seriously, get help, find support. Do not ever believe it is your fault. And if you need counselling or therapy, well you know where I am.

Fifty Shades of Grey is Not Romantic, It is A Manual For Emotional, Physical and Sexual Abuse.
Instead of spending £10 going to see the film, why don't you donate £10 to the nearest Woman's Shelter or Refuge.

Regards
Garry Rollins








  




Alternatives to Self Harm

Tips on Alternatives to self-harm from Help Reduce Suicide, Depression and Stress Related Illnesses

WHAT ARE THE TIPS TO PREVENT OR ALTERNATIVES FOR SELF-HARM?

Minimise self-harm damage:

If you feel an even stronger urge to self-harm, try the following harm minimisation tips:

• Use a red felt tip pen to mark where you might usually cut;
• Hit pillows or cushions, or have a good scream into a pillow or cushion to vent anger and frustration;
• Rub ice across your skin where you might usually cut, or hold an ice-cube in the crook of your arm or leg;
• Put elastic bands on wrists, arms or legs and flick them instead of cutting or hitting;
• Have a cold bath or shower.

"One of the reasons that young people say they self-harm and may be cutting or injuring themselves, is that something has happened in their life that has made them feel contaminated or polluted by what's happened, whether it's physical or emotional," says Frances McCann, mental health practitioner. "It becomes a way of 'letting something out' and dealing with feelings of self-disgust or low self-esteem."


The Butterfly Project (One of My Personal Favourites)















The A-Z of distractions

Often the best thing is to find out what has worked for other people who understand where you're coming from. TheSite.org asked young people from young people's mental health service, 42nd Street in Manchester, to come up with some of the alternatives that help them:


• Alternative therapies: massage, reiki, meditation, acupuncture, aromatherapy.
• Bake or cook something tasty. (Also builds self esteem once you get good!)
• Craft-work: make things, draw or paint. Be Creative. Express yourself.
• Dance your socks off.
• Exercise for a release of endorphins and that feel-good factor. Start jogging.
• Forward planning - concentrate on something in the future, like a holiday.
• Go for a walk, with friends if possible.
• Hang out with friends and family. Play some games (hangman, charades, etc)
• Have a bubble bath with lots of bath bombs fizzing around you.
• Hug a soft toy or a real person. Also, cuddles and hugs lower depression, reduce anxiety, Fact!

• Invite friends round, chat, have pizza, a film marathon, 
games.
• Join a gym or a club.
• Knit (it's not just for old people you know). This is surprisingly therapeutic.
• Listen to music. (preferably music you can dance to in your bedroom)
• Music: singing, playing instruments, listening to (basically making as much noise as you can).
• Open up to a friend about how you are feeling. Ask them to listen without talking to start with.
• Pop bubble wrap. Keep popping until every single bubble is popped.
• Play with a stress ball or make one yourself (balloons, flour).
• Read a book.
• Rip up a phone directory or thick catalogue (Argos, if you're in the UK).
• Scream into an empty room. (Make sure its empty!). Or find an empty field, remote place.
• Spend time with babies (when they're in a good mood). Watch children playing.
• Tell or listen to stories
• Tai Chi, Mindfulness, Reflection, Prayer
• Visit a zoo or a farm that lets you hold the animals(animals do the best things).
• Volunteer for an organisation (will make you feel all warm inside).
• Write: diary, poems, a book. Keep a journal in which you can be brutally honest.
• Write all your negative feelings on paper, then rip them up or burn them (safely). Let them go.
• Yoga: meditation, deep breathing - this might help you relax and control your urges.
• Zzz - get a good night's sleep.

There are many self-help tips that may help you, otherwise known as 'alternatives to self-harm', or 'coping tips and distractions'. You might find some are more effective than others. Don't be disheartened if a technique isn't successful. Try a different one to see if it works better for you. 

Here are a few you might want to try:

The 15-minute rule - if you're feeling the urge to self-harm, give yourself 15 minutes before you do. Distract yourself by going for a run or writing down your feelings. When the time's up, see if you can extend it by another 15 minutes. Try to keep going until the urge subsides;

Meditation - try to visualise the urge as an emotional wave you can surf. Imagine it reaching a crescendo then breaking as you successfully resist its force;

Write a list of things you've achieved that make you feel proud, or fill a box with things that make you happy, such as pictures of friends and loved ones. Keep them handy and look at them when you're feeling bad;

Practice expressing your emotions and feelings through art or writing or talking to a friend.


And Finally, as always, if you need it, get counselling: you know where I am. x












What Is Depression

A Personal Reflection

"I get angry when I read drug manufacturer’s definitions of depression and see drab commercials that burst with color as soon as the meds are introduced. Feeling sad, overwhelmed, hopeless, sleeping a lot… 

as long as we hold onto the definitions that are fed to us as truth without exploring them we can never see anything more than that. If it were that simple, maybe popping pills would help. But it is their very definition that blinds us to the truth of discovering what depression is. 

We feel like they really know us, with their simple definitions. We read each symptom on the checklist and say “Yes! that is exactly how I feel!”. Upon further examination, you have to admit that this is only part of the picture. 

People are in so much pain, so desperate for immediate relief, needing someone to understand us in the worst way, that reading these simple sentences, seals the deal. We do not question if it is deeper than that, we believe that we can pop a pill and then all those symptoms will disappear. If it were that simple, why are more and more medications failing more and more people?  

According to the Abilify website, 2 out of 3 people taking an antidepressant still experienced unresolved symptoms of depression!

I have taken the typical definitions of depression and injected a little bit of deeper truth.
Depression is:

  • A suppressed level of functioning. At this level of functioning there is no hope that we will ever fulfill our dreams or become the people the voices in our heart tell us we are.

  • Inability to connect the dots between where you are to where you want to be. Mindlessly repeating patterns of thought and behavior that are not positive and do not get us to where we want to go.

  • Feeling “different” than others, and not in a good way. This comes from a skewed perspective on life and the world. This stems from our beliefs about ourselves and our perceived limitations. Our external environment is a direct reflection of our mental state of affairs.

  • Crying frequently/ feeling emotional pain- without clarity as to what that pain is all about. Because there is no clarity, there can be no outlet or resolution. Often unconsciously, we still see our experiences through the eyes of our childhood. When consciously we examine these things with our adult minds, we realize that they are much different than we have processed them. When we see truly reality, we can make sense of it, grieve and be angry if we need to, and then let it go.

  • Excessive fatigue and sleeping- to avoid the pain of life. This is our mind trying to protect itself from things it can’t handle. Sleeping because of depression is dying without the commitment. I didn’t kill myself, but I avoided life and all the things that are too painful for me in it (mentally or in circumstance), by sleeping. By examining the multitudes of reasons we find life’s situations so painful, we can shed light on them and begin to heal.

  • Feeling overwhelmed and hopeless- inability to effectively clear up emotional pain and dysfunction. Our minds combine all of our past experiences as if it were a blender. The thick murky soup that results is how we define ourselves, how we react, how we embrace the future. It is this murky soup and our inability to sort through it that causes hopelessness and the feeling of being completely overwhelmed.

  • Less interest in activities- because we are carrying too much emotional weight and in too much pain (it is quite possible to be in complete emotional agony without even realizing it). Dysfunction comes from destructive methods of reacting to situations. Things that at surface value should be enjoyable are painful because of how we are processing them under the surface. Often our means of processing is not entirely conscious and so we must dig deeply to figure out why we are having this reaction.

  • Thoughts or attempts at suicide. Depression is unbearable, and the life it creates is hell. Feeling suicidal is not really about wanting to die. It is about wanting to be free. Free from pain. Because most people do not receive the help and support that they need, they do not realize they can have this freedom in their life, and so they sadly conclude that they must die to achieve it.

All of these symptoms are the things circling under the surface of the depression. It is all a vicious cycle, all of these symptoms feed each other and create more depression until the point where we lose all hope. 

Medication promises to treat these symptoms, but will never heal anything. What we need to do is dig below the surface, find the roots and work to dissolve them. As a result, all of the surface symptoms disappear. 

The more I think about how much medication I was on, and how strong all of the symptoms still were, the more I realize how amazing my mind truly is. It never stopped telling me, no matter how medicated, that something is really wrong under the surface. It didn’t give up, until I listened to it. 

Feeling suicidal is not really about wanting to die. It is about wanting to be free."

Padhia Avocado.

The Blame Game

What is it, I wonder, about our need to blame?

I have been thinking alot about this recently. In the news at the moment is a tragic real life event about a young four year old child who lost her life being attacked by a rescue dog. The mother, as I understand it, entered the room, tried desperately to get the dog off of her little girl, and had to kill the dog to do so. Her child still died. 

Unfortunately the response from the public, from us, is one of two reactions. One is of huge compassion, feeling for the mother, horror at what the child has gone through, grief at the loss of such a beautiful, innocent life. Many also feel compassion for the rescue dog, who must have suffered horribly under previous owners, and reacted to an unknown trigger which ended so tragically.

The second reaction is, of course, blame. Somebody has to be at fault. Did the child do something unintentionally to scare the dog? Was the dog merely vicious and attacked without provocation (it was, I believe, a mastiff, which has a reputation that clouds this issue in many people's eyes). What about the mother? Should she have got a rescue dog, or been more aware of the issues? Should she have left the child alone? 

There is something inside us that has to find someone or something to blame. If we can do this, we can somehow find closure. It makes us feel better. 

But the truth is, blame doesn't matter as much as we think it does, and compassion matters far more than we often think. Compassion points us to the suffering of the child and the grief of the family and others. Compassion points us towards the rescue dog and what it must have endured at the hands of less loving people. 

Things happen. Good and bad. We, as always, have a choice. We can choose to blame, making ourselves feel better, somehow justified, right, without doing anything else. Or we can choose to show compassion, understanding, gentleness. 

This is true of tragic stories. It is true in our relationships with our parents, our partners, our children, even our friends and enemies. It is even true in our relationship with and view of ourselves. 

I choose compassion (even though I am not always good at it). It is a work in progress.
What will you choose?

Garry x



Stole, by Kelly Rowlands .... a must watch video

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Kelly Rowland - Stole
Music video by Kelly Rowland performing Stole. (C) 2002 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT




Pain Matters

Pain Matters

"So often we try to make other people feel better by minimizing their pain, by telling them that it will get better (which it will) or that there are worse things in the world (which there are). 

But that’s not what I actually needed. What I actually needed was for someone to tell me that  it hurt because it mattered. I have found this very useful to think about over the years, and I find that it is a lot easier and more bearable to be sad when you aren't constantly berating yourself for being sad."

John Green (via electric-wish)


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