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The circle of violence and control-Dynamics of use and control relations

by Tamir Ashman

"The worst of animals is the human animal,

To herself and to others she is the cruelest of enemies"

(From Christian Morals - Richard Baxter - 17th century)



We often use the concept - 'the circle of violence' as an everyday concept, people enter the circle of violence, people come out of the circle of violence. In this article I invite us to enter and visit it. experience the movement within it. And above all to dare to examine where the circle is going in our own interpersonal life.

 The cycle of violence was first published by a researcher of violence from the United States in 1970 named Leonor Welker. It greatly influenced the perception of violence and treatment in violence prevention centers in Israel and throughout the world. In many ways, I use this cycle of relationships, _cc781905-5cde -3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_to understand within it and tell  the  the knowledge I have gathered over the years as a group and personal therapist in the field of domestic violence. This knowledge is useful and practical For every person who lives in an intimate relationship with the other , no matter what his gender, religion, race. It has universal components and unites all of humanity in its unfortunate way.  

The cycle consists of several stages or stations: the tension build-up stage, the spark stage, the eruption stage, the relaxation stage, the guilt/remorse stage, and the compensation stage (the honeymoon)


First step - the accumulation of tension


"We are anxious for each other, and that is what makes us a family"Ang Lee


We   are constantly in the process of accumulating stress, at the physiological level and at the mental level. Mental tension is created as a response to internal sensations (thoughts and physical sensations).

For example, a man tells the group about   the process of accumulating mental stress and describes how he came home from work -   "When I get home I get upset. I'm sorry I went in. The bags from the supermarket are at the entrance , _Cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3B-136Bad5c58D_ Then I enter the living room, the girl sees television, barely moving its gaze in my direction, the tools surfing from the gas on the gas no _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3B-136Bad5c5c58c. Fat after the nine In her usual way, I run away to lock myself in the bedroom, the whole mattress is full of mountains of laundry, won't you go crazy?!".

This man enters his home with a very cohesive set of beliefs and expectations about how the home should welcome him. He   also has an expectation that life will adapt itself to his set of expectations, without him having to communicate his expectations and negotiate them with those around him.

Often our set of expectations is built from a whole set of beliefs and perceptions that we internalized in the family where we grew up as children and we don't question them.

One man told the group how he was awake to the fact that at a certain moment during his work a memory came to his mind of a party held at his wife's place of work, and at the party he noticed that another man, who works with his wife, was looking at his wife with a look that he interpreted as sexual curiosity towards her. From the moment the mental seed was planted, images and situations appeared in which he sees his wife cheating on him with the imaginary man. The man began   the process of losing control. The loss of control always starts at the thought level, and then moves to the body and its physical reactions.

The toxic thoughts produce difficult and unpleasant physical sensations at an increasing rate: stress/anxiety/fear/anger and rage   His body temperature, heart rate and breathing begin to increase. The body enters a state of distress from which it wants to be freed. The body and the mind will look for relief reactions in the internal sensations and initiate external reactions.

 His wife obviously cannot hear or see the hard thoughts attacking  the man with whom she shares her life. The hours passed, the man returns home, obviously very affected by the internal poison he created and nurtured for several hours. While his wife is taking a shower, in search of control, he reacts first, he takes his wife's cell phone, and began to check the outgoing and incoming calls. This reaction of course only intensifies the anxiety. He chooses another response, the man chooses to check his wife's incoming and outgoing mail on the computer. Of course, in these moments the man reacts to those around him with restlessness and impatience.

This mental system consisting of beliefs and expectations   meets the actual reality of our lives, creates within us in the present the mental tension, it produces within us   in spirals of thoughts the feeling of contempt for us, the the helplessness , the anxiety, jealousy and rage and more.


Second stage - the spark

The mental/physical tension which is embodied in difficult thoughts and lack of satisfaction, is compressed and internalized and accumulates in the body and soul of the person. Mental stress that accumulates in the body is a state of suffering and distress that manifests itself in a gloomy and alienated mood.

As a result of ineffective communication mechanisms and difficulty in trusting the relationship, often the party that has accumulated tension, chooses withdrawal, attacking the relationship through silence.  

The thoughts of the attacking party   lose control. They produce a one-sided perception of reality in which the other is seen as an attacker (usually on a mental level) with malicious intent. For example - "Words won't help here, she only understands with force.."; "She's trying to look for me, I'll show her what it's like to look for me.." ; "She knows how important it is to me and she deliberately ignores it."; "She actually does it to me.."

And as soon as the inner helplessness becomes unbearable, the 'spark' occurs. It can be a very small moment at home, out of all proportion to the explosive reaction that will follow. It can be a misplaced facial expression, being several minutes late,   an unpalatable meal, turning your back, a   conversation on the phone and more.


Third stage - attack 

It takes a lot of courage on the part of women and men to look at themselves in the mirror of their self-awareness, and to say honestly that I attack and hurt the person close to me.

 Most people are not in a hurry to define and label themselves with identities that do not flatter them. Therefore, a woman can often be exposed to severe violence and she will not be aware of it, she will treat it as a routine of life. Also, men will often define "violent behavior" as much more extreme behavior than their characteristic repertoire. It is very important to understand - a violent outburst has many different types and shades.

Mental/internal attack - this outbreak occurs inside the attacking party, apparently, without an element of external action. The thoughts of the attacking party produce images, and violent images. The thoughts become hostile, the fear of the inner world creates a desire to suppress and expel the difficult thoughts. The desire to control and stop the disturbing thoughts only causes them to increase, a process of seclusion and compression of the mental tension is created, and towards the outside  reactions of distance,   and the aggressive energy is directed A mouthful as a side effect The relationship itself. Alienation and distance are created.

 Emotional/ mental/ verbal attack - this outburst is the most common. Behavior  aimed at harming the self-worth and self-image of the other. This type of violence is the worst and most destructive of all. Use of offensive words, profanity, insults, uncontrollable bouts of criticism, humiliation, revealing of shared secrets, lack of respect and prolonged silences, alienation and distance in relationships.

Physical attack - any unwanted entry into the other's physical space with the intention of attacking, harming. , shaking and more).

Attack on property - damage to property (throwing objects, breaking or tearing objects,  slamming doors, pushing objects, blows thrown on the table or the walls of the house, damage to property).


At the beginning of my career as a social worker, I started working in a shelter for battered women at the Glickman Center in Tel Aviv. I was surprised by the fact that the women in the shelter attributed a deeper meaning to the severe damage of mental violence than to physical violence. I've almost forgotten the physical violence, but the humiliation, the fact that he turned me into a woman at grass height, I can't recover from that."



Fourth step - relaxation

"I still remember, how tired my eyes are from seeing a gloomy day,

 Come come like before, if you are not by my side then I am nothing"(Viniceos de Moraes)


One of the main factors that cause addiction to the cycle of violence is that it simply works effectively and immediately. Similar to the use of drugs,   the attack immediately provides the release of the repressed mental tension, the release creates an immediate feeling of relief from the physical and mental suffering caused by the accumulated mental tension.

Our physical and mental structure, the animal parts are activated in the conscious and unconscious layer,  to reduce  pain, to reduce the intensity of the unpleasant sensations accumulated in the body. We move unconsciously when sitting on the chair becomes uncomfortable, we change positions during the night's sleep to create comfort in the body. A body governed by the control of conscious and unconscious thoughts, reacts with a desire to move from discomfort to comfort.

The violent attack towards the other works on a similar principle - the suffering that is hidden in the tension accumulation stage - as it creates strong and uncomfortable feelings that bring about the outburst of rage.  Then for a moment the attacking party feels relief and comfort from the release of mental tension.

At the beginning of the addiction to violence, the phase of the feeling of relaxation   can last for hours and days with the aggressor, but over the years and with the outbreaks that will follow, the duration of the relaxation becomes shorter and shorter.

A patient taught me when he said: "After I hit my wife, I felt such peace inside, my thoughts stopped, I was in a very pleasant place, I really had a feeling of sotol as if I had injected a drug into my vein"

 In the long run - after every outbreak,  the soul of  the attacking side and the attacked side, pass A kind of physical and mental numbness. The attacking party will go through a process of hardening the emotional and sensory system and a growing weakening of the moral system.  Life will go on and become a life devoid of feelings, existential indifference, a kind of hidden depression. The numbing of the mind and body creates a need for stronger "painkillers", and next time the person will choose a more powerful outburst. This process can be stopped by setting a clear and impatient limit to violence that will wake up the attacking party from his addiction  .

The attacked party will suffer from withdrawal, the behavior of a wounded and painful person, lack of security and anxiety, the attacked party experiences chronic helplessness, with each cycle of eruption he loses faith that he has the strength to break through this cycle, a feeling of despair and defeat surrounds him.



Fifth stage - Repentance


"The dominant emotions, such as anger, rage and hatred, must first come out, only after they are released, you will be able to feel more subtle emotions, such as love, longing and even sadness"

(Dr. Baker)


A short time passes after the violent outburst. The relief for the attacking party creates physical and mental relaxation. The silence enters for a short visit.  And the silence is pleasant, almost a cradle, there is a feeling of fogginess and fatigue, deeper and more subtle feelings than the emotion of anger and rage begin to float from within. The attacking party seems to wake up from sleep, and his senses pick up his wife lying, perhaps folded in pain on the armchair in the living room. Often after the relaxation phase a feeling of guilt will appear. The guilt will gnaw away at the attacking party and turn into a new type of stress accumulation process. The attacker's thoughts will become aggressive, venomous, desperate   and a burst of self-criticism   will attack the attacker from within. Thoughts like "What a zero I am, what a zero, how could I do this, how, I'm a monster, I don't deserve to live, what kind of life is this, I'm destroying it"

A man sought treatment after a fit of rage towards his wife, after he humiliated his partner. After the grave injustice he committed against her, the man took the kitchen knife and cut his own stomach. In more common and less dramatic cases, after the outbreak and calm down, there is simply grief and self-pity.

In the moments after the outburst and calm, the attacker feels that he has lost the object he attacked and he pains the loss of the 'object' in an outburst of feelings of grief and sadness. 

This emotional flooding rewards and addicts the attacking party, and dazzles the attacked party. The attacker feels that his heart has been opened, the heart that before the eruption felt indifferent and alienated comes to life, to the point of falling in love with the attacked person. The attacker tries to recover the lost "object" in ways that I will detail in the final stage of the circuit. 

My experience has taught me that a problem of violence cannot be cured with violence. The violence with which the attacking party attacks himself during the guilt/remorse phase only increases his addiction to the vicious cycle.


Sixth stage -  compensation (honeymoon stage)

The feeling of guilt and anxiety over the loss of the attacked partner leads the attacker to act to satisfy and soothe him. The attacker will express deep sorrow   and remorse to the attacked party. Often the attacker will make promises to change his behavior, to go to therapy or buy valuable gifts. In the days and weeks after the outbreak, the behavior of the attacking party will be considerate and attentive to others.

In a group I facilitated at the Glickman Center, a woman who suffered from twenty years of severe violence from a partner, revealed the jewelry she was wearing, pointed to the ring on her left hand and said, 'This is from the 1996 outbreak,' she presented a larger ring than her previous one, 'This is from the 1998 kick,' she pointed to the gold chain With the diamond heart on her neck 'this is from the first time he beat me'. A chronicle of predictable violence.

Often, in the first years of the relationship, the mental pain of the attacking party from being attacked, blinds the eyes of the attacked party. The attacked party shows patience and forgiveness towards the aggressive behavior, and together with the attacking party wishes and hopes that this will be the last time. Both parties are inside the circle and both are unaware of its spiral cycle.  Each turn of the circle, the eruption will be stronger, and the regret will be shorter. After years of a life of violence, the regret and guilt will disappear completely, as will the compensation energy that follows them.

In conclusion,

When men in a group of men learn the cycle of violence it is a significant moment in the room and in the life of the group. They are excited, the circle speaks to them, and describing their behavior they feel identification. They feel that for the first time they are getting recognition of their problem.  They are not alone, they are understood and there is a sense of hope in the room that if there is such a clear circle, it is also possible to get out and wean yourself from it. So that the learning in the group is not theoretical, I always ask them to bring examples from their lives for each stage of the circle. The group room is filled with shares and sad and painful human stories, entire stories of men who are powerless in their ability to create an intimate relationship based on respect, equality and the full acceptance of the other.

Format for bibliographic citation (APA):

Ashman, T. (2010).'The circle of violence' - dynamics of relations of use and control.   [electronic version]. Nadela on 24/10/2010, from the website  articles -


Ashley Montague: On Human Aggression. You spent with an employee. Tel Aviv.

Donald W. Winnicott: True Self, False Self. You spent with an employee. Tel Aviv. 2009.

Steven A. Mitchell: Hope and fear in psychoanalysis. book Worm. Tel Aviv. 2003

Jessica Benjamin: The bonds of love. Dvir. 2005.

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