The PSYCHOLOGY ABUSE of
CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST LEONARD CARR HAS CALLED OSCAR’S RELATIONSHIP WITH REEVA‘HIGHLY CONTROLLING’. ANALYSING THEIR WHATSAPPS, HE BREAKS DOWN THE WARNING SIGNS
people fall in love when someone appears to offer the long-awaited answer to their deep unconscious frustrations, needs and longings.You find someone with whom you feel, within a moment, a deep sense of familiarity and mutual understanding. This is ironically often actually a recognition of a familiar relationship pattern that goes back to early childhood. For example, a child who is taught that if she forgoes her own needs to take care of her mother’s responsibilities – either by being Daddy’s little girl or looking after the other children, or both – she will be valued. This might be coupled with an implicit message that expressing her own needs makes her ‘demanding’ or ‘high maintenance’.
In an adult relationship, this dynamic can replay itself. Although the question whether the relationship between Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp was loving or abusive is best established by considering all the facts emerging at the 2014 murder trial, a limited interpretation of their Whatsapp messages in 2013 highlights certain themes that recur in abusive relationships.
Throughout the messages, there is no doubt who is doing all the emotional work in the relationship – taking responsibility for keeping it on track – as well as who was doing the suffering. Reeva’s work takes the form of explaining,apologising,appeasing, justifying, reassuring and almost begging over innocuous everyday events like a friendly conversation. She explains why her other relationships are important to her, fearing isolation from them, either because Oscar did not approve of them or because in time she would be too humiliated by his behaviour to expose those people to them as a couple. Such isolation gives a perpetrator more power over the victim’s sense of self.
An initial powerful connection can make people want to compulsively hold onto the relationship and make it work in order to have the dream fulfilled.‘You make me happy 90% of the time and I think we are amazing together but I am not some other b***h you may know trying to kill your vibe,’ Reeva writes. Notice how she refers to the dream of a good relationship and then both reveals his mistreatment and defends her request to be treated with honour and respect. ‘I’m sorry if you truly felt I was hitting on my friend Sams husband and I’m sorry that u think that little of me.’
The memory of that initial attraction and the wish to have your needs fulfilled can lead you to ignore all the signs that the relationship is the opposite of what you want. Relationships never start out abusive and in fact appear to be the opposite. The dynamics shift insidiously and the very attributes that may have been the reason for attraction become the tools of abuse. Attentiveness and charm can turn into criticism and judgment. Protectiveness and concern can become control and domination. Tension and drama can substitute for loving engagement and healthy passion. ‘I’m the girl who fell in love with u and wanted to tell u. But I’m also the girl that gets sidestepped when you are in a s**t mood. When I feel you think u have me so why try anymore.’
Tension and drama can substitute for deep loving engagement and healthy passion
Oscar Pistorius on trial in 2014 for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Opposite Reeva and Oscar – ‘celebrity magic’.