After the Webinar: Working with Survivors’ Need for Control. Q&A with Duane Bowers

Webinar presenter Duane Bowers answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Working with Survivors’ Need for Control. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: Can clients use control over themselves too obsessively and cause isolation?

Duane Bowers: I would imagine that they could, absolutely. And you know, that’s as we think of any intervention. We always approach it with moderation. But I think yes, you’re right. They could probably use it to excess. But I’m going to say when we’re dealing with a person who has a traumatic response, has been through a trauma, particularly right after the trauma. I don’t think we have to worry about that too much because they’re too far from the other way of believing that they don’t have control, that this big event has more control over their life and over them than they have. And so I think, early the earlier on that we intervene with these clients. The more we can be a little more insistent in working with their ability for control. And again, it’s to help them feel that they are in control in some way, and then as we move further and further away, as they get more and more successful at this, then helping to redirect them into other skills and other areas that they may need to develop as a result of the trauma. Once we see that they’re gaining some sense of control. Then we can start working with other things like the meaning and value they’re giving the event or you know, some other ways of other focuses of recovery from trauma. So good. Good point, yeah.


Audience Question: Is locus of control possible if there is more than likely brain PTSI that has been fueled by years of alcoholism? 

Duane Bowers: Oh, well, if you have years of alcoholism, of course, it depends on the individual. And I say this as a recovering addict and alcoholic. I’ve been in recovery for about 36 years. The idea of addiction in itself, of alcoholism in itself is that I need an exterior locus of control, in other words, that my control comes from something outside of myself. Alcohol. That I find peace, I find comfort, I find whatever in the use of this alcohol. So, I’m going to suggest. Just off the top, that’s just addiction. In general, there is an exterior locus of control.

Because I turn to something outside of myself. If there’s a brain injury, I would say, don’t even think about any of this stuff because of the brain injury. We don’t know the implications of brain injury. We don’t know what part of the brain may be injured. We don’t know how they are perceiving things. And so, while we might work with some of this, it may be helpful. I it, there’s no certainly no guarantee there, because we don’t understand the extent of the brain injury and how it’s going to impact their ability to understand control even. But I really like the fact that you brought up the idea of addiction or alcoholism. And while I think that I am in control because I’ve had a drink, or whatever it really is, all about an external locus of control. So a good point, yeah, go ahead, Aaron.


Audience Question: I love your idea of letting the clients sit with their guilt immediately following a traumatic event. Does this same strategy also help with sexual abuse survivors?

Duane Bowers: No. There’s a difference. You want to be careful with sexual abuse because they have been convinced, perhaps by their predator, if they’ve been groomed well that this is all their fault and that they are the reason I’m doing this to them. That they are in control of this situation. A good groomer, a perpetrator who is good at grooming is good at convincing the victim that they are the reason for this victimization. And so that’s a much different situation. And no, we would not with the guilt aspect. In fact, often I would focus on the body, and that’s what I’ve done actually with folks who have been trafficked, and whatever focus on those body interventions, because they truly believe that they have no control over their body, the perpetrator did. And so, they were violated, they were in whatever way that this person exhibited the sexual abuse. The more we can teach them that they have control over their body internally and externally. I think that’s where I would start with the sex abuse survivor, if you have, you are in control of your body. You are the one that it needs to regain your control over your body, this sense of control. And again, I would work with that locus of control. Where is it? Do you believe it’s internal or external? And help them to kind of internalize that locus of control because it was taken from them as a victim. So good point. That’s one. I would definitely not let them sit in the guilt. Because it is not. It was a vehicle by which they actually were victimized, told they were guilty. They’re the reason why you’re the reason why I’m doing this to you, kind of thing. Hope that makes sense.


Audience Question: What would you focus on intervention-wise with domestic violence victims when they are conditioned to believe that they’re responsible for the abuse? 

Duane Bowers: That’s very good. That’s kind of what I was talking about here with the last question. And I think again, it would be starting with that idea of where the locus of control for you. Is the locus of control external? Well helping them to start to identify where they do have some internal locus of control. And a very good way to start with that is what about you can I always count on you? What is consistent? What is your character is always consistent? Well, and like, I said in my example, “Well, I’m always honest.” “Okay, all right. So I can count on you being honest.” Well, just by my saying I am always honest, I’ve taken a little bit of control here. I’ve internalized a little bit of control. This is what I am. I control this. I have a choice. I could lie, but I don’t. I am always honest, and by building on that, and helping them to recognize where internally, where the locus of control is internally, then start moving that external and saying, “Okay, yeah, let’s look at your physical body. Where do you have control? How do you have control?” And those kinds of things. So, with domestic violence, survivors, I always start with, “Where is your locus of control?” And, “Let’s look inside and find what you do have control over?” Because again, I have been so conditioned to believe that I have no worth, I have no value whatever. And that I’m the reason why you are abusing me. That helping them find what they do have control of internally is a good place to start, I think.


Audience Question: Could you explain where the intersection of trauma effects and personal responsibility occurs? Especially related to substance, abuse, harmful relationships, etc. 

Duane Bowers: I’m having just a little bit of trouble defining trauma effects. I think what they’re saying is, if a person’s having symptoms, you know of trauma traumatic response, at what point are they responsible for it? I hope this is where the what they’re thinking and I’m going to use anger as an example of that. Because of the trauma, and because the amygdala is the anger center because it’s functioning at full speed. Anger is one of the emotions that we will see from a trauma survivor because the amygdala is driving it. The anger is the fight is the source of a fight. And so we will see anger, often with a survivor of trauma. I think what they’re doing is asking the question, so where does anger as a reaction to trauma and anger being used to manipulate people and to get what I want begin? I kind of think that’s what they’re asking. And I think you can do that for several different emotions or several different characteristics of a traumatic response. I think the way you can define it is by motive. What is your motive for being angry? What is it you wish to accomplish by being angry here? Are you pushing people away? Are you trying to get people to do what you want? What is the purpose of being angry? When does anger become fun? And it does at some point. People learn how to use their anger to manipulate others. And so, what is the motivation? Why at that moment did you have an angry reaction? What did you hope to accomplish with the anger when you allowed it to, when you exhibited it in that moment and working with them in that way? What did you hope would happen when you got angry? What was the purpose of the anger? And again, using that for other symptoms as well. I hope that’s what they were asking. And with addiction, certainly a lot of manipulation, a lot of trying to get people to do what we want them to do. So, we will use our anger, we will use different. We will use illness, we will use I’m poor, poor little me, I’m a victim, if it will help us to manipulate people to get what we want. So, I hope that’s what they were asking… —– about motivation.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Working with Survivors’ Need for Control.



Additional Resources
3 months ago
Feedback about Our Speaker, Duane Bowers
Duane Bowers always has such incredible insights to share with the audiences... but today's webinar, […]
3 years ago
Long-Term Coping Skills
The pandemic affected people all over the world. Physically – with their mobility reduced due to h […]
4 years ago
Assessing Childhood Trauma: A Guide for Justice Professionals
This is the second installment of this Justice Clearinghouse series on childhood trauma. While the f […]
4 years ago
Causes and Conditions of Childhood Trauma: A Practical Approach for Justice Professionals
Traumatic events can have lasting effects on people – more so if it is children who have limited u […]
5 years ago
Self-Care for Justice Professionals
In 2012, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–V) rewrote the definition […]