Although the focus of the study was the emotional abuse of women in close relationship, I argue that the patterns and processes in the abusive relationship, the positioning of both players show a close resemblance to abuse and violence on a macro-political scale. When I as a psychotherapist was continuously confronted with an increasing number of female clients relating stories of emotional abuse in close personal relationships, I started questioning the historical context, culture, societal beliefs and time-frame that constructed women to be in such a position. World wide voices are heard questioning the constant abuse of the other, the weaker, the different, and the marginalized, and much has been written about physical abuse, but the question was as to how this macro-phenomenon informs upon the emotional life of the individual woman. When it comes to abuse in close relationships, the victim usually is the female and not the male partner, which makes abuse a woman’s problem. As a result, I was interested in the truths of the woman in the abusive relationship and approached this research from the position of the other and not the oppressor. Feminist standpoint theory formed the basis of my epistemological and methodological thinking. This I practically implemented in my choice of method and my approach to interpretation of the research information. I undertook a qualitative study, utilizing descriptive methods to represent the stories of women from emotionally abusive relationships. The research was historical and location-specific, and led to the description of what I termed the Traditional Afrikaans Family and a legitimizing ecology for emotional abuse against women in close relationships. The experiences collected tell about emotional abuse as relayed by more than forty women in therapy. The data formed the background for the reconstruction and representation of four case studies and a thematic analysis pertaining to the positioning of both partners in an emotionally abusive relationship. A critical deconstruction of the mechanisms of power, domination, and control are explained. In doing so, emerging patterns in the abusive relationship were noted and described. Of particular interest to psychotherapists will be the description and analysis of the process of emotional abuse as played out in close relationships. In conclusion, I argued that emotional abuse in close interpersonal relationships is constructed in the interactions between the partners and within a legitimising context that warrants the male to dominate. The abusive behaviour emerges as a result of the patriarchal male wanting to establish or re-establish his dominant position while the female partner attempts to position him as someone that respects her as a person in her own right.
Thesis (DPhil (Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.