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Why Thanksgiving is Important in a Battering Intervention Program

I’ve just thanked the men for not showing up with their scary faces for Halloween, and now it’s November. Besides our curriculum topics, we’ll talk about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, celebrating the day Americans shared a meal with undocumented aliens from Europe.
Thanksgiving follows “blackout Wednesday,” the day more alcohol is consumed than any other day of the year. It can be a dangerous weekend. So any talk of Thanksgiving starts with safety planning, including planning for the many ways enjoying Thanksgiving could be ruined by drinking. Alcohol does not cause domestic violence. However, it is clearly a complication that can exacerbate abuse in a relationship. World-wide studies by the World Health Organization indicate that alcohol use increases both the incidence of, and the damage caused by, domestic violence.

Remembering past Thanksgivings is where safety planning begins. Remembering all the times people were brash, dishes/windows/TVs were smashed, and hopes for a peaceful Thanksgiving were dashed. Remembering the specific events becomes the basis for planning how to not repeat those holidays.
However, while safety planning for specific circumstances may change this holiday, changing one’s thinking may make an even bigger difference for this holiday and every day. Thanksgiving is a time for “thanks” and “giving.

Being thankful is an important way to manage stress, and it’s a particularly good way to manage anger. Whether you’re perceiving “anger” and “grateful” as thoughts or emotions, the two concepts cannot exist in the same space in your body/mind.

In our group we have already discussed the benefit of periodically taking a few minutes each day to do a mindfulness exercise. Now I will suggest that they begin each day with a mindfulness exercise: think about five things you are grateful for. Not just, “I’m grateful to wake up today” – though that may certainly be the case sometimes. Consider the specific ideas, situations, relationships, and even possessions that you are grateful for.
Pay attention to how your body feels as you appreciate those thoughts. Write your list on your phone or paper that you can carry with you and consult when stressors accumulate.

Thanksgiving is a time for thanks and giving. Recognize that in this world we share, we have a responsibility to take care of each other, and an extra responsibility to take care of those who are vulnerable or unable to take care of themselves. Giving, without accolades or fanfare for doing so, reflects an understanding of that principle. Having a goal outside yourself mitigates egocentricism and selfishness. Giving is not just a financial transaction. Giving can also be a regular part of your budget for time or labor.

In conclusion then, Thanksgiving is a time for thanks and giving (and maybe staying sober).

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