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« Buhari and Kalu: Do not be Deceived; OBJ is in Free-fall to Illegal Third Term | Main | No Single Ethnic Group can and will Carry Nigeria »

March 05, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #12 of 52: Nigerians and Domestic Violence

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- I will begin this essay by making the following assertion: there is absolutely no difference between men and women except the obvious anatomical ones. Men and women are the same and are equal. In fact, in standardized tests, such as IQ tests, on the average, women tend to do better than men. Any college professor knows that, on the average, women tend to do better than men in his course works.

I found it necessary to begin this essay with the above obvious assertions because I am addressing this essay to Nigerians, a group of people whose cultural heritage somehow gave the false impression that men are better than women. If any one of them has that baggage he must drop it and drop it now.

Culture is organic; it is always growing and changing. Any culture that does not change with the times, like any people that refuse to change with changing times, dies out. Culture must be dynamic and not static.

The times we live in accept equality of men and women, black and white, adults and children and if you have any problem with that reality, you had better go heal your problem. That is all there is to it. One must deal with reality and not take refuge in the past, as scoundrels do.

In some parts of the third world, Nigeria included, it was not unusual for men to beat their wives and children.

Some Nigerian men in the USA do beat their wives and children. They do so physically and or verbally or emotionally or sexually. Physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse is a criminal activity and is punishable by American law.

In the part of the USA that I am fairly knowledgeable about, California to Alaska, the law is that if the police is called to a scene where a spouse had abused a spouse (physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually) the police is required to arrest him and take him to jail and book him and jail him. He must, at least, spend a night in jail before he is bailed out. He then goes before a judge to defend himself. The least punishment he can get is one year of domestic violence treatment, also called barterers treatment. This entails that he would be required to go to group therapy, once a week, usually for about ninety minutes. He pays for the treatment out of pocket, usually about fifty dollars a week.

The therapist submits quarterly reports to the court on how the individual is doing. If, in his opinion, the individual has not learned how to cope with anger, he may ask the judge to extend the period he is in treatment. Some brothers have been in such treatments for years on end. Since many of the therapists providing these treatments are white women, they may see hostility in the brother’s relationship with them and judge them as still not respecting women hence keep them in treatment.

Anger management is the least punishment a guy can receive for beating his wife and or children. Not long ago, I went to Los Angeles, California to plead with a judge to release a man who had beaten his wife in the public and was arrested by the police. The judge refused to do so and sentenced him to two years in prison, to, of all places, San Quinton prison, and the worst prison in the State of California. (Since he is a naive country rustic, he is probably being raped by the hardened criminals in that prison.)

The relevant point is that folks do get sentenced to prison for abusing their spouses. No one has a right to abuse another human being, be it physically, verbally, emotionally or sexually. You may not know this fact: every time you touch someone against his or her will you have actually committed a crime. Many high school kids are sent to juvenile detention centers for merely touching a girl’s buttocks against her wishes. Do not touch any one unless they gave you permission to do so. Do not even come close to someone unless they ask you to; three feet or a yard is considered personal space in the American culture, and if you invade people’s personal space they can sue you.

Do not verbally abuse any one unless they are masochists and see you as a sadist and ask you to abuse them.


Some men say that they were given the right to beat their wives by their cultures. As far as I know, this is a crock. No culture on earth gives men the right to beat their spouses. Every culture actually seeks extra ways to protect women and children for they are usually the most valued members of society. Without women the species would not reproduce.


Those who abuse women do so not for cultural reasons but for personal reasons. The currently accepted view is that abusers do so for power and control reasons. Such persons, apparently, want to exercise power and control over those they abuse. As it were, some men have a need to be powerful and exercise total power over their wives and children. They want to dominate their spouses and children.

Apparently, such men see their wives and children as their personal properties and want to control them. Well, no human being is another human being’s personal property. A husband and wife are two friends, two partners who voluntarily agreed to go through the journey of life on earth together, sharing their lives. One does not own the other and if the man somehow sees the wife as his property he is deluded, period. He does not own his wife and children. His children are placed in his temporary stewardship until they grow up and leave him and if for any reason he thinks that he owns them he is smoking something and needs to be disabused of that drug. No human being owns another human being, be it his wife or children.


Men do not abuse women and children because they are reasonable; no, they abuse them because they are unreasonable, because they are delusional.

Delusional disorder is belief in what is not true as true and acting on the basis of that false belief. There are five types of delusional disorder: grandiose, persecutory, jealous, erotomanic, and somatic.

Briefly, the grandiose type means that the individual believes his self to be too important when, in fact, he is like you and I, ordinary. Believing himself godlike, he may expect his wife to collude with this insanity and beat her up if he thinks that she did not respect his deluded self concept. Thus, he beats his wife and children because they did not respect him.

In persecutory delusion, the individual believes that other people are out to get him, even kill him, when they had no such intentions. Deluded husbands often believe that their wives are planning to do bad things to them and abuse them on that account. Some would believe that the wife is out to poison them and take their money and stop eating her food (and or go marry another wife, only to repeat the same delusional pattern).

Erotomania does not seem to apply to domestic violence. (Here some one, usually a woman, believes that a very important person is in love with her or is her husband.)

Somatic delusional disorder also does not seem to apply to domestic violence. (Here the individual believes that he has a physical sickness and goes from doctor to another seeking treatment when he does not have a sickness, or exaggerates a minor sickness.)

The aspect of delusional disorder that applies most to domestic violence is jealousy. Just about all abusive men have delusional jealousy. These people feel that their wives or girl friends are always cheating on them. The jealous man watches his woman closely to see if she is cheating on him. He would examine her clothing to see if she had sex with other men. Some follow their women around trying to catch them in the act of cheating on him.

The Los Angeles case that I mentioned above had to do with a young Owerri man who believed that his wife was cheating on him. She was not. He would drive around spying on her. One day, he saw her talking to a fellow class mate, both attended Los Angeles City College, and jumped to the false conclusion that they were having an affair and started hitting her, right there in the public. He beat her so badly that she was hospitalized. Since the beating took place in the public domain, apparently a passers by called the police and he was arrested and jailed.

I was called upon to do what I could to help him. The district attorney, a female, did not buy our argument for him to be released to the kindred group for help. He was sentenced to two years at San Quentin.

Many abusers have delusional disorder, jealous type. These people are insane, period. In delusional disorder, the individual has an area of his thinking where he has systematized belief in what is not true as true and otherwise the rest of his intellectual functioning seem rational. Thus, he may believe that his wife is cheating on him, which is not true, and beat her up; while still working as an engineer, that is, being rational in other areas of his life.


If you are living with an abuser, a physically, verbally, emotionally, sexually abusive person, you are living with an insane man. You must get out, and get out now. Deluded people can kill, for they do believe their delusions, even though to you what they believe in is not true. Do not minimize the danger you are exposed to, for the insane man can hurt and or kill you, leave him now.

You should leave him and then insist that he go obtain treatment before he sees you and your children. He should not be near the children unless he is obtaining treatment for his mental disorder.

Psychosis is characterized by the presence of delusions and hallucinations. In schizophrenia there is both hallucinations (hearing voices, seeing what is not there as there etc) but in delusional disorder there is no hallucinations. Because the deluded person does not hear voices or see what he is not there, his mind seems intact and he can go to school and be a professional etc. But he is insane, nevertheless. He is insane because he believes in what is not true as true. He does act on the basis of his insane beliefs and could harm or even kill on their account. Therefore, you are risking your life and your children’s lives if you keep staying with a deluded person.

In major US cities, there are safe houses where abused persons can run to. These houses are usually not publicized to prevent the abusive husband from following the spouse to them. If you call a mental health Crisis line they would direct you to such safe houses.

Usually deluded persons do not see themselves as sick. In fact, they have no respect for therapists.

Deluded persons tend to seem rational and engage in facile rationalism. When forced into therapy by the law, they do their best to convince the therapist that he is the sick one, not them.

They are usually very argumentative and will argue forever about how they are right and other people are wrong. They never accept defeat and will never see themselves as wrong.

They do not voluntarily go to therapy; indeed, they consider themselves smarter than therapists and do not believe that they should do what therapists ask them to do.

Most therapists tend to give up on the paranoid character, for on the surface he seems normal but when you get close you see a sick human being who nevertheless does not know that he is sick.


Paranoid persons are usually very prone to anger. Their anger is generally rooted in their grandiosity. They constructed grandiose, that is, big but false, self concepts. They fancy themselves very important persons. They pretend to be very important persons. They present their imaginary very important persons to other people to relate to. If you allow them to fool you and see them as important they feel okay, but if you treat them as if they are not important they feel angry at you.

Their anger is mostly from injured vanity. It is called narcissistic rage, when their pride is affronted they become angry and can kill in that moment of anger. Merely joking around with the paranoid personality, saying something that he feels demeaned him, belittled him, degraded him, humiliated him, insulted him etc could arouse his anger and he acts out violently towards you.

When they feel belittled, and depowered they act out to try to make them selves seem powerful, grandiose power, that is, not real power. These brothers are sick; do not fool around with them.

Please remember that we are not talking about reality here but delusion. What you did may be perfectly rational but the paranoid person misinterprets what you did and feels demeaned by you when you had no intention of insulting him and he acts out against you.


As noted, the least treatment required by the law for domestic violence perpetrators is anger management/barterers treatment. Let me briefly review this treatment modality. First, let me try to explicate the nature of anger.

Anger is a natural phenomenon. All human beings are prone to anger. In fact, anger has survival aspect to it. Anger and fear are useful for human survival.

When an animal organism feels that his life is threatened, his body unleashes certain neurochemicals that forces his bodily processes to work faster so as to enable him to either run or fight whatever is threatening him.

The flight aspect of this response is called fear; the fight aspect of it is called anger. Fear and anger (the same physiological responses are involved in the two) are used to remove the threat to ones life. These responses are engaged involuntarily.

In fear and anger, the thinking part of the brain, the cortex, shuts down and the individual behaves strictly from the part of the brain we share with other animals. He pours out adrenalin which excites his heart, lungs, nerves etc. His entire body works faster enabling him to fight or run from the danger he perceives to his life. (I will not bother you with the intricacies of this physiological aspect of fear and anger response.)

The individual in fear and anger response is fighting for his life. If, in fact, his life is threatened his fight is realistic. But since his life may not be threatened and only his psychological self is threatened he may not be fighting a realistic fight.

If an individual has a grandiose self concept, that is, sees himself as very important, which he is not, in fact, and that false grandiose self feels that you did not respect it, it feels threatened and reacts with anger. It does not matter that you did not aim not to respect him, what is at work is his misperception of your intention, motive and behavior. The paranoid angry person almost always misinterprets other people’s intentions.

It is the false grandiose self that feels angry in the paranoid character. Thus, he feels that his wife or children did not respect his imaginary important self and feels angry at them and hits them. In effect, he is insane; his anger is a product of his insane thinking processes. His anger is not realistic. But realistic or not, he can still hurt or kill you, the object of his anger.


When the individual feels his life threatened, real or imaginary, he goes into anger mode. He is now a pure animal and is acting from the hypothalamus, not from his reasoning faculty, cortex part of the brain. You, therefore, cannot reason with him. In fact, if you tried to reason with him, you would only succeed in enraging him more.

Paranoids always blame other people, particularly when things go wrong in their lives; nothing is ever their fault, it is always other people’s fault; it is always their wives fault, their children’s fault, their coworkers fault, any body but themselves is at fault. They must see you as faulty and themselves as the perfect ones.

Paranoids want to seem perfect, to be godlike and therefore cannot afford to seem blameworthy so they must project blame to other people even if there is no one to be blamed. They want to be perfect and you imperfect; they want to win and you to lose. So when they are angry and you try to reason with them they see you as trying to make them lose and that redoubles their desire to win hence they would not listen to you.

Therefore, never argue with an angry man. If your husband gets angry, just walk away from him. That is the best thing that you can do.

When you leave the immediate vicinity of the angry person, you remove the stimulus (you) making him angry. He is then able to calm down…his body reverses the hormones it poured out or destroys them via complex enzyme activity.

As long as you are in front of the angry person, he would continue to be angry. So leave. Do not say one word; just leave him.

Even if you are right, which probably is the case, let him believe that he is right, gratify his delusion of always being correct and others wrong. Humor him please. It is necessary that you do so, for your safety may depend on your not saying anything.

If the angry person blocks your way, as irate husbands often do, stay calm and say nothing. If you are calm and do not show fear and weakness, he would not feel that you are about to attack him. If you are flustered and angry, he may believe that you are about to attack him and attack you some more, this time, with the delusional belief that he is protecting himself. Moreover, the angry person acts like a terrorist and uses intimidation to arouse fear in you and in doing so control you. Ultimately, do whatever you can to get out of his sight.


In case you are the one with anger reaction, and want to manage your anger, anger management consists in understanding the PHYSIOLOGY OF ANGER RESPONSE. Watch when your body starts to become excited.

Let us say that you are talking to some one and he called you a nasty name. You feel insulted and start feeling angry. You notice physiological changes in your body. Your heart pounds faster, your lungs bit faster, your body releases sugar and your blood carries it to the muscles preparing them to fight the person who put you down. When you try to talk you TALK RAPIDLY, for your nervous system is working faster, sending and retrieving information from your brain. Your FIST CLINCHES, preparing you to hit that person. Your face turns RED (FACE) as blood is rushed to it and to your muscles and they TENSE UP, PREPARING YOU TO FIGHT.

The first thing to do in anger management is to notice physiological changes in your body. If you notice them, do one thing and one thing only: WALK AWAY FROM THE STIMULUS.

Leave the presence of the person that makes you angry. Just leave him, for if you stay you might hit him and both of you might get into a fight. Leave the stimulus. When you leave him your body calms down.

If you cannot leave, say your boss is saying what makes you feel angry and you can not just get up and leave, then COUNT TO TWENTY. Do so quietly. Preferably, count backwards: twenty, nineteen, eighteen etc. The idea is to give your brain an abstract mathematical function to perform and that way trick it to ignore the threat in front of you. Try counting, it works.

Try to BREATHE SLOWLY. Inhale slowly and hold your breathe for a while, and then let it out slowly. When you breathe in oxygen it helps to calm your over excited cells and neutralize the carbon dioxide that builds in your body as it becomes heated during anger response.

When angry your skin feels hot, for through the pores on your skin your overheated body is trying to reduce the heat in your body. The air you exhale from your nose is also hot, for you are getting rid of heated energy from inside your body. The various chemical reactions taking place inside your body when you are angry or fearful produce heat that your body must get rid of.

If slow breathing does not work for you try VISUALIZING BEAUTIFUL SCENES. Imagine yourself walking on a beach, walking in a rose garden, or doing anything thing that you find relaxing.

Ultimately, the best way to manage your anger is to get away from the situation that is making you angry. Take a walk. A thirty to sixty minutes walk is the best thing that you can do when you are angry. (If you have a gym go work out for that amount of time; or go run, swim, ride your bicycle, or engage in any VIGOROUS EXERCISE that would help you burn off the excitatory neurochemicals your body poured out during anger response.


When you have taken your time out and calmed down and feel that you are now rational, again, you can then process the anger. Talk about it as calm as is possibly. But as longer as you are still angry, please do not talk about it. If it takes you a month, even a year to calm down take that amount of time before you talk about it to the person who made you angry.

In anger your brain has shut down the rational part of it and is now in the irrational animal attack mode. Take your time and feel calm before you talk to the person who made you angry.
In the meantime, you can process your anger on paper. Write in your journal. Type your feelings but do not show it to the person who made you angry, remember he thinks that he is right and you are wrong, particularly if he is the paranoid type.

If you have a mature friend that you trust go and talk to him about the incident that made you angry, this helps to get it off your chest, to vent.


In barterers groups, the first goal is to convince the barterer who beats up on his spouse and children that he is not right, as he generally believes that he is. The Owerri man who beat his wife senseless and was sent to jail still believes that he is right and her wrong. As he sees it, why was she talking to that man? Never mind that the man was a fellow class mate and that both of them had assignments to do together. It never even crossed her mind to cheat on him. We are not talking reason here, we are talking insanity. The brother is insane and in his insanity believes himself right and his wife wrong. That is where he is at. The goal of therapy is to show him that he is not always right.

Epictetus, a Roman philosopher, says that though you do not have control over environmental stimuli you have control over how you interpret and respond to it. You do not have control over another person calling you a bad name but you can choose to see the event differently.

So he called you a nigger, eh? That makes you angry? If another person makes you angry you have given your power to him. You can keep your power and not feel angry and instead see him as an idiot, for if he were reasonable he would not be trying to put you or any one down.

A healthy human being appreciates the human condition, understands that living on earth is already a depressing business, and tries his best to make all the people to feel happy; he does not depress folks.

You can choose to respond with anger, fear, sadness, shame, anger etc to others behavior; it is all up to you. How you respond to others behaviors is up to you.

The only power we have is the power of choice. We choose how we respond to environmental events. We have the free will to choose, to decide how we respond to others behaviors. (As I pointed out lest week, we can choose to see others attack on us as a call for us to forgive and love them.)


Most anger management therapists, in some form or other, employ Albert Ellis Rational Emotive Therapy, the ABC method. I have essentially reviewed it in the above statements. It entails your choosing how you respond to others behaviors. You do not have to simply respond with fear or anger; you can reorient yourself to respond differently to the same situation.

Cognitive reorientation and reconstruction is the goal of cognitive behavior therapy. You can see the same world differently and behave differently. The choice is yours to make.


Over the years, I observed how Nigerians behave towards their wives and children. Whereas some of them tend to respect their wives and children, many of them tend to abuse them. They are very disrespectful of their spouses.

Many of them rationalize this uncivilized behavior. They look you straight in the face and tell you that their culture permits them to insult their family members. It never occurs to them that if they disrespect their wives and children that they are giving them low self esteem and that those with low self esteem tend not to do well in the outer world. If you make your wife to feel bad about herself she will raise children who do not feel good about themselves. That way you produce progeny who are not going to do well in the world of work. Common sense tells one to respect ones wife and children, to make them feel like the best persons in life, and they are, actually.

Children go to school and if their teachers see them as unhappy and ask them what happened and they tell the teachers that their fathers yelled at them, there is trouble for the fathers. The teacher tells the school counselor who reports it to the State’s Children’s Protective Services. A social worker visits the child’s home and before you know it, he or she is removed from the home and placed in a foster home. The father is deemed abusive and told to go seek anger management before he can see his child again.


If you have an anger problem the chances are that you have a self concept, self image problem.

Each of us constructs a self concept, who you think that you are, during his childhood. The self concept is then translated into a pictorial form, a self image. Thus, each of us has a self concept and self image.

The self concept is constructed with building blocks like our inherited genes and our social experiences. Building on those and the information available to us, each of us constructs a self concept for himself.

By and large, the majority of the people tend to have realistic self concepts. That is, they see themselves as the same and equal to other people.

Unfortunately, some persons construct unrealistic self concepts and self images. Somehow they see themselves as superior to other people or want to seem superior to other people.

Those who want to seem better than other people generally have personality disorders, including narcissistic and paranoid personality disorders. Those who actually believe that they are better than other people are deluded, that is psychotic, they are no longer operating in the world of reality since in reality we are all the same and equal.

We are the children of one family; we are members of God’s one family. Whether you like it or not, all human beings, black and white, man and woman, adult and child, are the same and are equal.

God created us equal and it is not up to you to decide who is better than other persons. You are not the creator of human beings and have no business imagining yourself as better than other people.

Those who desire to be better than other people tend to be the ones who engage in unnecessary anger tantrums. When they feel that other people did not recognize their imaginary big selves they act out. They may act out verbally or physically. Their narcissistic rage is designed to make them seem powerful; to rehabilitate their felt diminished self worth.

These people need to deconstruct their false self constructs. They have to deconstruct the self they made during their childhood. Now, as adults, they have to accept reality, as it is, and construct a realistic self construct, one that sees them as the same and coequal with all people, men and women, adult and children.

If you have an anger problem, you have a self concept problem. Therefore, deconstruct your self construct and reconstruct it on a rational footing. Give up the wish to be superior. It is will of the wisp. You cannot be superior to any human being, no matter how much you try. Indeed, if you believe that you are better than others you have left neurosis and are now psychotic.

The anger prone person has a faulty self concept and self image and needs to work on it, to change it so that he comes to see himself as the same and equal with all persons. In as much as he tended to see himself as superior to his wife and children he must now come to see them as his equals. You must see yourself as equal with your wife and children.

A sense of sameness and equality is the indicator of sanity. At any moment you wish to be better than other people you are neurotic and if you believe that wish you are psychotic.


Some observers point out that it is the wish for superiority that led to the formation of our empirical world. In their view, in eternity, in God, in spirit, in heaven we are perfectly the same and are equal and know that God created us. But we resented that God created us and want to create ourselves and create each other. That is, we wanted to seem better than God and each other. That desire for specialness led to the formation of this world, the dream of the opposite of God, opposite of love, opposite of sameness, opposite of equality, opposite of union, a world of separation and differences.

Each of us must reverse the wish that led to the invention of this world, the desire for personal superiority. Each of us must reconstruct his self concept to one of perfect equality and oneness with all people.

When this is accomplished, one is now only capable of loving all people. One no longer resorts anger in a foolish effort to solve interpersonal conflicts through violence. One practices forgiveness and love, for they make for peace on earth.

In the here and now, if you have anger management issues, please go seek professional help for it. You do not have a right to hit your wife and children; you do not have a right to verbally abuse any one. You should love members of your family and all people. Read as many books as is possible on the subject of anger.

My goal in this essay is to call the attention of my fellow Nigerians to the problem of anger and domestic violence that is apparently rampant in our community. We must stop sweeping this problem under the rug. We must bring it out of the closet and into the open and deal with it.
If you have ever hit your spouse or child and or have anger issues, do not deny that you have anger issues; please go seek professional help for your anger problem.

Posted by Administrator at March 5, 2006 08:20 AM


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