Dealing with Shame and Regret After Domestic Violence

domestic-violence-charges-200x300You never intended for it to happen. You had a disagreement with a member of your family (perhaps a spouse or someone else you love). Emotions escalated, and you lost your temper. Now, you’re facing possible charges of domestic violence. Perhaps you’ve alienated your loved one, and they’re now seeking a protective order against you. The idea fills you with regret—and with shame. What do you do?

Let’s be honest: it is natural to experience feelings of shame and regret after a domestic violence incident—and they can be very difficult to process. But these emotions can also be used as a force for positive change in your life. Let’s explore how to take those negative feelings of shame and regret and use them to create healthier relationships with the people close to you.  

Understanding the Gravity of Domestic Violence 

It’s important to acknowledge the serious nature of domestic violence charges before exploring the shame that comes along with them. These are serious charges that can have a lasting impact on your life and the lives of your loved ones. As difficult as it may be to face this reality, don’t shy away from it. You need to recognize the gravity of the situation you find yourself in. Once acknowledged, you can start to explore the underlying emotions you’re feeling.

Feel the Feelings

We all feel a wide range of emotions—it’s part of being human. Some emotions we think of as positive (e.g., happiness, compassion, contentment). Others we see as negative (e.g., anger, guilt, fear, shame). Because they make us feel uncomfortable, we have a tendency to try and avoid the negative emotions in favor of the positive ones.

But in reality, all feelings are just that: feelings. Feelings come and go, but they exist for a reason. They inform us about what we’re experiencing. Emotions teach us: both the positive and the negative ones.

So the point is this: if you’ve lost your temper with someone you love and it turned violent, don’t be afraid to feel these feelings of guilt and regret. These are natural emotions that tell us what happened was bad so we can try to avoid doing those things in the future. You don’t have to wallow in these emotions forever, but embracing them in the moment is the first step toward healing–just as grieving is important when processing the death of a loved one. Don’t skip this step.

Getting to the Root of the Issue

The next step in the process is to explore why you lost your temper and why you responded in the manner you did. This is about more than just giving easy answers with no accountability (e.g., “I lost my temper because she made me mad”). Rather, it’s about understanding that most reactions like these have a deeper, underlying cause.

Perhaps you have a history of violence in your family, and the behavior was passed down to you. Maybe you were bullied when you were younger, and now, when someone wrongs you, it brings back those childhood memories and triggers an aggressive response. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

Once you understand the source of your reaction, you can start moving past the feelings of regret and shame about what happened and begin to work on addressing those underlying causes. You can learn how to manage your emotions better, how to communicate in a respectful manner, and how to avoid escalation into violence. This isn’t easy work–but it is possible with the right support system in place.

NOTE: To fully process this area may require external help such as a support group, professional counseling, therapy, etc. If you are convicted of domestic violence, the state may require you to attend some sort of anger management course. This is a rehabilitative step, not a punishment, and the fact is, you don’t need to wait to get help until a judge tells you that you must. In fact, getting help voluntarily can be a powerful way to demonstrate your remorse before appearing before the judge—not to mention it accelerates your journey toward emotional health.

Taking Responsibility and Moving Forward

Finally, the last part of this process is to take responsibility for your actions. This isn’t about beating yourself up or taking on more guilt than necessary–it’s about owning your mistakes so that you can learn from them and make sure they never happen again. If you’ve sought out help in the form of therapy or anger management classes, you’ve already begun the process of taking responsibility. But the other part of this is to make amends with the people you hurt in the process. Acknowledge what happened, apologize, follow through with any therapy or anger management classes you’re doing, and take actionable steps to become more accountable. If your significant other is willing to do the work with you, you may consider going to counseling together so you can better communicate and learn techniques to diffuse tensions before they escalate into violence in the future.

The feelings of shame and regret after domestic violence can be incredibly powerful emotions that often get suppressed due to fear or guilt over what has happened in the past. However, by using these feelings as an impetus for positive change—by taking responsibility for your actions—you can learn from these mistakes and develop healthier relationships with those close to you. By allowing the regret to move you toward change, you can eventually leave those negative feelings behind and get on with a happier, healthier life.

If you have been charged with domestic violence in California, the penalties for a conviction can be significant. For compassionate legal representation to help you navigate the process, call our offices to schedule a consultation.

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