Last Chance

By Aidan

M.O.V.E. <(M)en (Overcoming (V)iolent (E)motions>, is a self help pro­gramme originally set up in Bolton, Lancashire to help with the problem of domestic violence.

M.O.V.E. started in Bolton (Lancashire) in 1988. The police in Bolton attended on average 200 “Domestic” disturbances per month. The local Women’s Refuge could not cope. In the light of this distress and the need for help, some kind of programme that would assist men to recognise their viol­ence was essential.

In 1989 M.O.V.E., a self help Group was started by Pat Synnott, a counsellor, in the Family Centre in Darndale,(North Dublin City). The group consisted of six men. This was to be a once off meeting. During the meeting one of the men admitted he had beaten his partner the previous night. Another had heard Jim Wilson talk about M.O.V.E on the Gerry Ryan show. The men agreed to start a programme based on the Bolton model.

It is men who abuse their power. Their violence is their responsibility. In a democratic society this violence is unacceptable. After a time, the M.O.V.E group realised that those who had battered and who had found ways of overcoming their own violence were the best people to understand and to help others who wished to change their ways.

M.O.V.E has always held the view that men who are violent toward their partners fall into two main stereotypes; men who believe they have absolute authority over women and men who believe they are entitled to services, (sex, food, housekeeping), from women. Helping men change such beliefs is one objective of the programme. This includes helping men to understand and accept their partners’ rights and to treat them as real and equal human beings.

Violent men frequently use denial and minimise their acts of violence: “I forget what happened”, or “She was not really hurt”. They blame others for their behaviour and have great resistance to acknowledging their actions.

It can be difficult for men to remain with the programme but those who do gradually see light at the end of the tunnel. Some men find the means to change. They learn they are capable of happier relationships.

Initially, some men will agree to join M.O.V.E. in order to win back their partners. Joining the programme can be part of an offender’s “hearts and flowers” attempt to get back home. If it works he is simply in control again. Inevitably this motivation is not strong enough to hold a man in the pro­gramme. In any case the woman needs time and space to work out whether she wants him back.

M.O.V.E asks men to do the programme for themselves. When this happens men can come to a new understanding of themselves and can recognise what is going on for the other person. As this new balance is established the world appears less threatening and violence becomes less of an issue.

I joined M.O.V.E. in 1991 after my partner had left, I was devastated. For two weeks I walked the streets in a state of shock, looking for my partner. I wondered what was wrong with my relationship? Could it be myself that was the problem? or was it the World? In my efforts to find my partner I phoned a Women’s’ refuge. I was asked if I wanted help. I said yes and was given M.O.V.E.’s phone number.

I phoned and after a long talk with Pat, he asked me to come to the next meeting. I went and at the end all I could say was: “It was like coming home”. I realised M.O.V.E could offer the help I had actually been seeking for years. I had had counselling but I’ll admit I was not open to it. I found some counsellors did not want to address the issues around my violence. I was on a journey that ended the day I walked into the M.O.V.E meeting.

From that first day I was asked to make a commitment with myself not to be violent. I still hold to that commitment. I recognised M.O.V.E had a new path for me to follow. I was determined to go through the programme. I did not want to fall back to my past behaviour.

The real work started because I did not know and could not name my feelings. I could not relax because I was intensely angry. What I wanted was my partner back, to make it all right for myself. I wanted the pain and suffering within, to stop.

I discussed my pain with Pat and he suggested the best way was to go through it, to look at the suffering, from where was it coming? After a time I realised this pain was coming from my insecurity. The feelings of fear were overwhelming at times.

I had to learn about and recognise my feelings. I began to see the pressure in my head and the knot in my stomach were anxiety. I found that if an argument went too far and my need to be right, the pressure would create a headache. I started to observe what was happening. I learned to stop and walk away from quarrels when these symptoms started. I would talk to my sponsor in the programme to tease out the problem.

The programme has many different techniques. The first of these is WASP:

W.            Wait            Stop, what’s happening?, don’t react.

A.            Assess            What’s important here?

S.            Slowly            Calmly work on the problem

P.            Proceed            Take time out? Be Assertive?

My anger was like a monster. All my awareness was of being threatened.

I was determined to get WASP to be a part of me. At about this time my partner made contact. We were about 4 months apart. I explained I knew I was responsible for my previous behaviour. I promised not to be violent in the future.

Both of us wanted our relationship to continue and she decided to give me one more chance.

I found it hard to take time out when there was a quarrel. I couldn’t get the argument out of my head. I decided to take time when there were no quarrels. I got used to it and it became easier to take time when there was a row.

Later we can come back to the issues and most often they are resolved.

I have been able to set up new boundaries and I am more skillful in avoid­ing situations where I could be hurt. Fear used to dominate me. My thought was that if I share myself my partner would get to know too much about me and would be alienated from me. I used to be afraid that if I shared myself I would lose my friends and would become a loner with nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help.

These beliefs and others had me trapped and at times led me to behaviour that was self and life defeating. The way out of the trap was to begin to accept my problem. I made a lot of mistakes going through the programme but I learned from them.

One morning I came into the kitchen. My partner said I didn’t look in good form. For the first time in my life I acknowledged I was not feeling well and that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. We talked about it and afterwards I thought: “why didn’t I share myself like this in the past?.”

I started to experience a recognition that there was a real freedom in sharing myself without fear. It motivated me to discover I had an identity, an inner self. I needed to explore this self. I bought books and had long discussions and contemplation. I began to realise a sense of being and an inner strength. It started to break down the many barriers I had built around me.

At times it was agonising. Sometimes I set my goals too high and had to painfully revise them. Two years on I say it was worth it. Now I value myself and my partner and life. I am more aware of my assets and limita­tions. I am happy with my own image and the independence I have, just to be myself.

I would like to thank all the members and professionals at M.O.V.E for their help and understanding.