Moon River

There is something very soothing & calming about a reflection of the moon on a flowing river.

Some things remain constant; some things interact in their moment; some things move on.

Don’t let the clouds of life mask what you know is true or prevent you from enjoying the moment.

Advertisements
Posted in beauty of nature, nature, photographs | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recognising Manipulation & Emotional Abuse (5): Staying Free Of Abuse & Manipulation

(Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim)

Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim

Today I conclude my 5-Part series on recognising emotional abuse & breaking free by looking at how we can stay free of future emotional abuse (as much as possible) & start to rebuild our life.

Over many years I have witnessed & been on the receiving end of emotional abusers & manipulators. The problem is that at the time it is often very difficult to see or understand what is happening: we just assume that there is something wrong with us or it is something of our making. Unless we are able to recognise the situation, the abuser & their behaviours for what they are, we will become entrapped in a mesh of confusion & be constantly unhappy, stressed or even neurotic.

Catch-Up

In Part 1 of this series, we defined emotional abuse & manipulation. We also examined typical scenarios (situations) in which emotional abusers & manipulators operate & looked a bit at how they think.

In Part 2 we looked at specific characteristics & behaviours of abusers & manipulators. We saw how they have a well-sharpened quiver of ‘emotional arrows‘ that they shoot to produce chaos, disharmony, isolation & maintain control. We looked into the way they operate.

In Part 3 I used real-life examples to examine how emotional abusers & manipulators use their ‘weapons‘ in everyday settings to achieve their aims

In Part 4 we examined how it is possible to break-free of the cycle of emotional abuse & manipulation.

Before we look specifically at how to stay free of emotional abuse, it is important to recap the most important points from the previous posts. In so-doing we can see why it happens & how to break free.

  1. Abusers are to be pitied, but are dangerous, divisive & destructive characters. They are poison to friendships & any community in which they exist: family, friends, teams, clubs, churches, businesses.
  2. Abusers start with the premise that they are right/cannot be wrong. Even if they do wrong they will project that onto someone else, looking for a suitable scapegoat, especially their victim, so that they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions.
  3. Partial truth is the perfect lie. The abuser will recount selected edits of reality to ensure that they are seen as the good guy &/or the victim. They will leave out or lie outright about the real victim to fabricate their own reality with their friends.
  4. Abusers are socially awkward or inept, but when they need to put on a show or gain strategic friends & allies, they can become the life & soul of the group. They will court favours often by giving favours first, especially when it comes to finding a new victim: pouring out gifts & money is a lethal bait readily swallowed by the right people.
  5. Abusers love to create chaos & confusion: they hate order, accountability, written records & strong people.
  6. Abusers isolate their victim, stripping them of a voice & essential support, leaving them exposed, vulnerable & confused. Abusers are usually cowards, requiring ‘back-up‘ from the crowd or important people. However, once they have used these people they will often discard them without conscience as they move on to their next plan.
  7. The abuse is often hidden from those looking on & actively disguised or denied to people with whom the abuser chooses to make friends. Friendship is not based-on the usual mutual respect, trust & openness: it is based solely on what the abuser can extract to their needs & advantage & is based on smoke & mirrors, plus deceit, lies & an uncanny ability to discard friendships when they no longer serve a greater purpose.
  8. Abusers hate it when their victim finds a voice of their own & stands-up to them. Be ready for dirty tactics if this happens as the abuser will do things previously thought improbable or impossible in order to try to regain control.
  9. The best way to stop the abuse cycle is to take a stand, state clearly what behaviour you will no longer tolerate, take previously unexpected action to drive home the message & stand firm as the opposition comes. It may be effective quickly or it may take a while. Abuse involving more than one abuser e.g., a family member is much harder to break. If there is no success, breaking-off the relationship is often your only other option.
  10. Never forget that your views are equally important in the relationship: that you matter. Abusers will try to steal & destroy any sense of self-worth in order to keep control. Reclaiming & recognising our self-worth is a good foundation on which to build our break-free & stay-free plan. Once we matter to ourselves we are empowered to start the upward movement towards freedom, happiness & contentment.

Staying Free Of Abuse is about learning from our experiences & then applying what we have seen, experienced & learnt to stop it from happening again. Once a person has been abused it is very easy for them to become hyper-sensitised & find it very difficult to trust anyone. This is a horrible position to be in & very difficult if you are trying to befriend a victim of previous emotional abuse. Patience & wisdom are high priorities for a successful outcome.

Some strategies include:

  1. Stay clear of abusers: Abusers are not always easy to spot, but when we have experienced it once, we have keen eyes & ears to recognise potentially abusive & manipulative behaviour & people. Not everyone will be, but having your guard up helps early identification of when you need to take action (usually distancing yourself from the abuser or cutting contact with them).
  2. Recognise abusive behaviour: Abusers have patterns that they cannot & will not break. Once we have experienced them or seen them used they are easier to recognise again. If someone is too good to be true, the chances are that they will be. Once again we need to use our powers of observation to determine whether our instincts are correct. Even if we have previously been in an abusive relationship, the euphoria of starting a new relationship can cloud our judgement. This is where dilligence & having a trusted friend to help can be very important.
  3. Remember that we have a right & a voice: Never forget the power of your voice when dealing with an abuser. They hate it when you stand up for yourself & this may be a good method of uncovering a potential abuser as they will often react very strongly (almost be reflex rather than conscious decision) if you stand up to them.
  4. Take a stand when we need to: Remember that expressions like “No!” & “Stop that now!” are very powerful for gaining control & for stopping abuse before it gets established. Abusers are cowards & will look for the path of least resistance: if you stand up to them they usually lose interest & look for a new victim.
  5. Have a supportive friend or group of friends: We know our true friends by our experience & often discover that many we thought were friends, desert us or take sides when an abuser is on the scene. You will be amazed & surprised by those who stick with you. These people are like gold dust & can be very helpful for support & bouncing ideas off if we are uncertain.

Dealing with abusers can be traumatic enough, but rebuilding our life after the division & isolation of an abusive experience can be long & painful. We may be find that people who were taken-in by the abuser saw or learnt through what happened & are prepared to support you. This is a tough one because once our trust has been broken it is very difficult to rebuild & establish. Walking away & starting again can, in many cases be the best option for all concerned, at least initially.

Rebuilding will mean something different to each one of us & the options & routes are many. The main aim to re-establish a life where we can feel comfortable with our self & with those around us, we can recognise when things may be going awry & we have the determination &/or support to make it & help it happen.

I hope that you have found this series helpful. enlightening & useful. I am always very interested to read your comments about your experiences & who knows, by posting them here you may just save someone else from experiencing the trauma, pain & heartache you had to endure.

If you are concerned that you may be in an abusive relationship it is always good to confidentially talk to someone outside of that relationship such as your doctor. Being able to share your concerns is the first step towards breaking free. The UK has a great resource in Relate a relationship counselling service.

Thank you for reading & until next time …

Posted in abuse, emotional abuse, emotional control, manipulation, relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunset Or Sunrise?

[beautiful sunset photograph]

Sunset or Sunrise?

The sun may set & darkness invade, but soon new light WILL dawn & a new day will arrive.

Posted in photographs, sunrise, sunrise photographs, sunset, sunset photographs | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recognising Manipulation & Emotional Abuse (4): Breaking Free of Emotional Abuse & Manipulation

[Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim]

Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim

Today, in this Fourth Part of a series of 5 articles where I will examine how it is possible to break-free of the cycle of emotional abuse & manipulation.

Over many years I have witnessed & been on the receiving end of emotional abusers & manipulators.  The problem is that at the time it is often very difficult to see or understand what is happening: we just assume that there is something wrong with us or it is something of our making.  Unless we are able to recognise the situation, the abuser & their behaviours for what they are, we will become entrapped in a mesh of confusion & be constantly unhappy, stressed or even neurotic.

Catch-Up

In Part 1 of this series, we defined emotional abuse & manipulation.  We also examined typical scenarios (situations) in which emotional abusers & manipulators operate & looked a bit at how they think.

In Part 2 we looked at specific characteristics & behaviours of abusers & manipulators.  We saw how they have a well-sharpened quiver of ‘emotional arrows‘ that they shoot to produce chaos, disharmony, isolation & maintain control.  We looked into the way they operate.

In Part 3 I used real-life examples to examine how emotional abusers & manipulators use their ‘weapons‘  in everyday settings to achieve their aims

 

A Reminder Of What Emotional Abuse Is (& Isn’t)

It is important to sort out what is emotional abuse & what isn’t.

Emotional abuse is NOT having an argument with someone, raising our voice or shouting, standing up for ourselves, showing extreme emotions when we are hurt or leaving a room during an argument. These are all normal parts of a healthy relationship & can be part of working things through or bringing problems to the surface for resolution.  Even breaking-off a relationships happens in the natural course of life.

Emotional abuse IS when any of these (or the scenarios mentioned in Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3) are used for CONTROL: physical or mental.

Emotional abuse & the consequent manipulation involves a repeating cycle of behaviour which, if unbroken, leads to control, uncertainty, mental illness or even suicide in the victim.  Like many issues involving our emotions it has a ‘spectrum of manifestation:

  • It may be frequent, overt, continually overpowering, demeaning &/or intense
  • It may happen gradually, be less frequent, be less intense &/or more subtle

The end result is the same: isolation of the victim, leaving them feeling afraid & that they have no voice, lonely, doubting their memory & sanity, confused, lacking confidence & self-esteem, being resigned to being stuck in the situation because it is obviously their fault & ultimately being very unhappy, anxious & commonly depressed.

 

Some Encouragement To The Victims Of Emotional Abuse & Manipulation

Firstly, BE ENCOURAGED:  Remember that abusers are normally cowards who require back-up & support to execute their plans & maintain their abuse.  Their abuse is only as strong as the smoke-screens they create to keep it hidden &, more importantly, as long as the victim allows the cycle to continue. 

That may sound harsh, but the reason abuse cycles around & around is because the victim initially allowed the perpetrator to get away with it.  This can be hard to accept because we think that we would never let it happen, but we forget that many of the weapons in the abuser’s arsenal involve subtlety, persuasion & stealth.  We may have been totally unaware initially of what is happening, but to the abuser, when we accept their behaviour, we endorse it, so they repeat it as a means of gaining & maintaining control.  We only realise what has happened when someone else points it out to us or when we feel it is too late to do anything about it.

Breaking-free requires consistency, commitment & courage.  It also requires  energy, strength & self-belief which are often almost at zero in a victim.

So here are a few helpful tips on starting to claim back your life & making abusive behaviour a thing of the past.

  1. Don’t try it on your own.  Tell a trusted friend or health professional what is going on & enlist their emotional support.  You will need it!
  2. Realise that you have as much of a say about what goes on in the relationship as the other person.  You will already have been groomed & conditioned to doubt yourself & feel that you have little or no voice.  The reality is that YOU DO HAVE A VOICE & your abuser is scared of it.
  3. Make a conscious decision to commit to changing the situation.  It won’t be easy but without conviction & support, seeing it through to the end will be almost impossible.
  4. Don’t be afraid to challenge the abuser’s behaviour or reasoning.  There will be a lot of noise when you do this because you will catch them off-guard & there are few things more threatening than a victim who fights back.
  5. You know your story; so believe it.  Even though your abuser may try to confuse you, stick to what you know is true.  Write it down somewhere so that you have something concrete to refer back to should they try to use confusion to regain control.

It is a threatening & initially painful process but once the victim starts to take a stand the abuser usually begins to crumble.

 

Dealing with abuse can vary depending upon our relationship with the abuser.

If we are in a platonic relationship then breaking-off contact with the abusive option may be an easier option.  But don’t expect them to leave you alone.  You may be their one source of security & importance so they will continue to be in contact as much as possible.  They may use their emotions to make you feel bad, guilty, pity (as they probably have done before).  Below are some suggestions which will help you deal with this behaviour too.

If we are in a long-term, ‘stable‘ relationship with the abuser (e.g., married to them) then we may still love them & be committed to making the marriage work.  It may not be practical to simply break-off the marriage & leave (although that may, in some cases, be necessary). In those cases the following strategies can also be very effective.

The emotional abuse may be the result of ‘teamwork’ e.g., parent & child taking the same side against you.  This is a very different & difficult situation as there are two targets, two types of abusive behaviour & two different people against you.  In this case the following strategies may have to be used with the key-link e.g., the parent, or targeted at the primary cause e.g., the child.  Success will depend on the perpetrators seeing & admitting what they are doing & wanting to change.  However, it is likely that lies, deceit & denial will make success very difficult.

Remember that emotional abusers target our emotions for their control.  When they feel they are losing control they will almost certainly intensify their efforts to regain it by non-violent methods such as shouting, sarcasm, belittling or whatever methods they normally use.  However, if at any stage the victim fears for their physical safety they should remove them self from the situation immediately. 

 

So How Can We Break Free of Emotional Abuse?

The answer is fairly simple:  break the repeating cycle.

The practice is very difficult because even though the victim may feel worthless, powerless or the wrong person to make a change, they still need to be strong & consistent & not give up if their plans don’t go smoothly.

It all starts with a commitment to change the situation.

Once you accept that you

  • Are no longer going to put up with it
  • Are worth changing it for
  • Have a voice
  • Are going to challenge their behaviour & not let them get away with it any more
  • DO have the power to change it
  • Can find your voice & use it to become your abuser’s greatest fear & worst nightmare

you will be in a position to make permanent changes.  You will begin to live again, rather than simply existing.

 

Decide Enough Is Enough

Progress starts with deciding that you have had enough & it must stop.  Without this decision you have no foundation for progress & no conviction to see it through.

Once you see that you have as much of a right to how the relationship works as the other person, realise that your opinion matters & that you are worth it, you can begin to believe in yourself & see a reason for changing the way things are.

I quite often work with a young people’s organisation (National Citizen Service; NCS) whose aims are to empower young people to change & grasp the opportunities in front of them by believing in themselves.  They have the slogan, ‘IT ALL STARTS WITH YES!’  All progress starts with our decision to move forward; to saying “Yes” to the need for change.

 

Find Help & Emotional Support

Sorting out life issues can be draining & confusing for the most energised & focused person.  Victims of abuse are often running on a low emotion tank, just the remaining fumes or on empty.  Very few can go it alone emotionally, but having someone alongside to whom you can speak also helps you to see things as they are.  People outside of the situation looking in at the full story can often be far more objective & less influenced by emotions in their decision-making.  They can help you see things that may otherwise go unnoticed.  They can also encourage you along the way, give you a constant reference point for where you are (order & consistency are the abuser’s enemies) & highlight the progress being made.

If you have a trusted friend or family member (your choice will depend on where the abuse is happening) they are like gold dust.  If you don’t have somebody close enough to trust then consider using a health care professional such as your doctor for support.  They can also monitor how you are doing as a person & help with treatment etc that may be necessary or helpful.

 

Think About How You Want It To Change

Be clear on the boundaries you wish to set.

What is the specific behaviour(s) of the abuser that you will no longer accept or tolerate?  Write it down (don’t skip this) e.g., “I will no longer tolerate demeaning or belittling speech”.  Think about how you will feel when that goal is achieved & let that motivate you & give you a goal to aim for.

What is the new behaviour that you want the abuser to exhibit & what is the reward for exhibiting that desired behaviour? e.g., It may be resuming the discussion in an environment of mutual respect & working on resolving the underlying issue that they were   angry about.

 

Commit To Making It Happen

Nothing can happen until we start the process & put our thoughts & decisions into actions.

Equally, a plan rarely goes completely without changes & surprises:  there will be obstacles like come-backs, attempts by the abuser to regain control through what they say & do.

Your situation may resolve quickly or it may be more of a long-haul.  Commitment to seeing it through, especially with support from another person, will make progress possible & bearable.

 

Learn Your Scripts

In order to regain control of the situation, communication will be necessary.

It is always a good idea to think about the exact words you’ll use when confronting the abuser’s unacceptable behaviour e.g., “You have a right to feel frustrated or angry but you don’t have a right to demean or belittle me

Write them down, then practice, practice, practice your lines until you’ve memorised them & can say them without getting flustered in the heat of the moment.

 

Decide The Negative Consequence If The Abuser Continues Their Behaviour

Think of an action you can take immediately that will clearly show that you no longer tolerate their old behaviour e.g., you may choose to end the discussion immediately & leave the room.

Then think about the exact words you’ll use to communicate the negative consequence e.g., “Stop now or I’m ending this discussion and leaving the room”.

Write them down & practice until you can say them easily, with a firm voice & not be too flustered when saying them.  As we practice something more often, it moves from being something we have to work at, to something we do naturally, to becoming a habit.

 

Stand Up To Your Abuser

Using the scripts you have practiced, start to implement your plan.  Then, if/when the abuser starts their normal behaviour, challenge them e.g., “Stop! I will no longer tolerate demeaning or belittling speech.

If they continue, you can either repeat the same phrase or use one of the other scripts to let them know that you are serious e.g., “Stop now or I’m ending this discussion and leaving the room”.  If they don’t stop, carry out your threat & leave the room.  When things have cooled a bit or the abuser comes after you, state your terms for continuing the discussion e.g., “I’ll be glad to resume the discussion in a mutually respectful manner and work to resolve what you’re angry about.

 

Be Prepared For The Reaction

Anticipate how your abuser will react, because they WILL!

What are the ‘go to‘ strategies that they have used in the past when you’ve tried to stand up & confront her?

Perhaps they:

  • Deny that their behaviour is abusive
  • Try to justify or rationalise her behaviour “I do x only because you do y. If you stopped doing y, I wouldn’t have to do x” or “This is the only way I can get you to listen to me”.
  • Deflect your comments & play victim “I do x but you do y which is so much worse. In fact, you’re the one who should apologise to me

STAND FIRM.

You may see an escalation in abusive behaviour but ignore completely whatever they say in their attempt to derail you & restore the status quo.  Responding to their specific derailment attempt takes the spotlight off their bad behaviour … and they win.

Firmly repeat what you said & start implementing the negative consequences.

 

Stay Committed & Don’t Be Discouraged

Progress may be rapid, with a positive response being seen in the abuser quickly.  However, in many cases it can be slow & painful.  Even though you may see no apparent change, keep at it, without deviating.  The message will get through eventually.  Firmly repeating what you said & implementing the negative consequences will begin to take effect.

Use your support to help you see change & encourage you on your journey as you execute your plan.  Don’t expect the habits of a lifetime to change overnight.  But if they do change & this type of strategy is maintained when any future situations arise there is evidence that the relationship can stay abuse-free permanently.

 

Breaking-free from the cycle of emotional abuse & manipulation is not easy, but it is worth the effort in the long haul.  It can set both the victim & the abuser free to enjoy life more fully.

However, reconciliation is not always possible.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting yourself & your needs first.  If your attempts at resolution & reconciliation have failed, even after specific counselling (where the abuser may use their skills to persuade the counsellor/therapist of their side of the story), then finishing the abusive relationship may be the only option & what is best for you.  It is not something to be taken lightly & will almost certainly affect you emotionally.  But with the right support & encouragement, you will be able to rebuild your life & be a much stronger & wiser person for it.

Although we love stories with happy endings, this is not always possible where an abuser is involved.

If you are concerned that you may be in an abusive relationship it is always good to confidentially talk to someone outside of that relationship such as your doctor.  Being able to share your concerns is the first step towards breaking free.  The UK has a great resource in Relate a relationship counselling service.

I would like to thank the following for their help with consolidating my thoughts for this article:

In the final part of this series I will look at how to remain abuse-free.

Until then, take care …

 

Posted in abuse, anxiety, barriers to relationship, being real, depression, despair, emotional abuse, emotional control, freedom, hope, manipulation, relationships, vulnerable | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recognising Manipulation & Emotional Abuse (3): Tricks & Tactics Used By Emotional Manipulators & Abusers

(Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim)

Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim

Today, in this Third Part of a 5-Part series I use real-life examples to examine how emotional abusers & manipulators use their ‘weapons‘  in everyday settings to achieve their aims.

Over many years I have witnessed & been on the receiving end of emotional abusers & manipulators.  The problem is that at the time it is often very difficult to see or understand what is happening: we just assume that there is something wrong with us or it is something of our making.  Unless we are able to recognise the situation, the abuser & their behaviours for what they are, we will become entrapped in a mesh of confusion & be constantly unhappy, stressed or even neurotic.

Catch-Up

In Part 1 of this series, we defined emotional abuse & manipulation.  We also examined typical scenarios (situations) in which emotional abusers & manipulators operate & looked a bit at how they think.

In Part 2 we looked at specific characteristics & behaviours of abusers & manipulators.  We saw how they have a well-sharpened quiver of ‘emotional arrows‘ that they shoot to produce chaos, disharmony, isolation & maintain control.  We looked into the way they operate.

 

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Work In All Areas Of Our Life

Although the actual emotional abuse or manipulative behaviour may focus on a specific incident or subject, in reality the abuser cannot distinguish between that area of your life & the rest.  Abuse creeps into every interaction they have with you.

  • Living

Daily living can become a real test of our will as the abuser will use many of their weapons in normal interaction throughout the day & night.  You can expect sarcasm, criticism, lies, deceit, denial, secrecy & the rest.  Abusers are skilled at revenge & making maximum impact (see below) so expect things to happen ‘out of the blue‘ when you are off-guard or least expect it.

Example:  A friend’s husband used to avoid discussions about anything they disagreed on or that he didn’t want to face. He would use silence & stonewalling when asked to sit down & talk.  On one occasion he was very concerned that his daughter (17) may become jealous if he showed affection to his wife.  His wife was unhappy & tried to talk about it.  He flatly refused & went to bed.  She was sufficiently distraught that she went around to see a friend to get away from the situation & calm down.  When she returned home her stepdaughter was lying in bed with her husband with a victorious smile on her face.  Interestingly, her abusive husband now denies that this ever happened.

 

  • Loving & Intimacy

Intimacy & our love-life are key parts of our relationship with our partner.  They are the oil in the cogs of a happy couple.  So it isn’t surprising that they can be a really effective targets for the abuser.  Depriving a spouse or partner of love & affection undermines their sense of importance, self-worth & self-esteem.  Once these have been eroded abuse becomes so much more low-maintenance.  The victim is confused, empty, sad & often goes through a grieving process when these attacks happen.

Example: A friend was struggling in his relationship with his wife due to past events that had not been fully resolved.  Over time his wife pushed him further away, denying any intimacy or even close affection.  Initially hurt by these actions the husband tried to rekindle the closeness but after continued rejection he gave up trying.  Their marriage deteriorated to a status-quo of tolerating each other.  The wife’s use of her body to teach her husband a lesson eventually killed any closeness & led to the breakdown of their marriage.

 

  • Socialising

As discussed in Part 2 many abusers are awkward socialisers.  They may be withdrawn in group settings & appear to be so inconspicuous that they are not noticed.  HOWEVER, they can become vociferous socialisers when they want to further their cause.  This may be to discredit or defame their victim or it may be to isolate their victim, thereby making them less supported & the abuse less visible.  We will examine this a bit further below, under Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Love Your Friends.

Example:  A friend decided that after years of unresolved & unacknowledged emotional abuse she was at her wits’ end & wanted a divorce.  Her husband was not impressed & eventually started spreading rumours that his wife was engaged in an affair & leaving him for another man.  He spread this story amongst mutual friends & also amongst their church leaders.  She was asked to step down from her responsibilities & also asked not to attend the group she had been leading ‘as they had decided that they needed to support her husband.’ Very quickly her ‘friend-base’ dwindled from over 400 to just a handful.   The abuser had successfully isolated his victim, leaving him free to continue with no comeback.  When she did write to the church leader the whole story about what had happened she was told that she was lying.  She was left with no option but to leave the fellowship.

 

  • Financial

Financial issues can become a real hotbed for debate where abusers are concerned.  Their need for control will push them to extraordinary lengths to hold on to their finances.  What seems a fairly simple & easy resolution becomes a long-term battle, draining both resources & those involved.

Financial control may simply be letting the other party have limited finances (determined by the abuser) to spend.  There may be other restrictions, such as, how & where the money can be spent.  However, abusers are great at the bigger game so may employ ‘smoke-screens‘ to divert the attention of the victim from the fact that manipulation is occurring.

Ultimate control is achieved when the abuser has all money (or the major income) paid into account(s) in their sole name, thereby retaining full control over what is spent & when.  This level of secrecy may be augmented by the account holder not telling the victim how much is coming in, thereby giving them unrevealed resources to spend or save.

If the victim has been financially isolated, they may not have the basic resources to get out & socialise, either because they cannot afford the transport to see friends or because they are embarrassed at having no money to buy refreshments or meals.  And all this time, the abuser will continue to play the victim, tell sorry stories of how badly they are being treated, whilst having the money to do what they want, when they want, how they want … & with whom they want.

One rider here: Abusers can also be very generous with their money; overly so.  It seems that what they lack in social or relational skills they make up for by trying to buy the victim’s affection or allegiance.  Yes; they can be very generous, but generosity in the absence of affection is sterile.  Even so, some victims have so many gifts poured upon them for their birthday or Christmas that they feel obliged to stay with or stay loyal to their abuser.

Example:  A friend who was in an emotionally abusive marriage for a long time was totally unaware of what was happening.  Her husband had, in her words, been very generous by allowing her to keep her State Pension.  However, because of this, his own monthly income remained ‘his’ so he was able to do what he wanted with it, without challenge from his wife.  By ensuring that all bank accounts were in his name he also made it very difficult for her to know what was happening, allowing him to keep from her how much he received (which turned out to be nearly 4 times his wife’s monthly income) until she eventually chose to divorce him.  

 

  • Personal

It is easy to look at the material effects of emotional abuse & manipulation & miss the true cost: our health; confidence; self-esteem; mental function.  Long-term emotional abuse is now a legal statute in UK Law carrying a criminal sentence.  It is painful; it is costly; it is debilitating.  Many victims feel isolated, unable to reach out to friends, either because those friends have ‘deserted‘ them or they feel too embarrassed to try.  Lack of contact produces extreme anxiety & depression.  Punishment by previous friends who have taken in the abuser’s tales causes a lot of self-doubt in the victim.

Recovery, if possible, is slow & painful.  Confidence may be totally gone & self-esteem hit an all-time low.  These are the real costs of abuse, which affect not only the ‘now‘ but also the victim’s ability to recover & move forward into the future.  Support for the victims of emotional abuse is often none-existent because the abuser has done such a comprehensive job of isolating & shaming them, whilst receiving undeserved support them self.

Example: A good friend of mine discovered after 18 years of marriage, that his wife had been seeing another man for many months.  When he eventually challenged her on it she was quite blasé & didn’t deny anything.  His wife came & went as she wished, taunted him about her new life, often sporting new jewellery.  They remained together for a short time but eventually he had to leave because his mental state had deteriorated so quickly that being in the house had become an intolerable stress.  Recovery took well over a year & although he is now in another relationship he is still affected by what happened: trust is very difficult, even amongst long-term friends.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Are Secretive Beings

If one is stood in a cellar with the light off, there are so many things that could happen undetected, providing their wasn’t a noise associated with them.  If there is a boiler or pump in the cellar, it may be noisy, so many things could happen that we may not be able to see or hear. When we switch a light on we are, after allowing our eyes to adjust, able to see what is happening where.

Secrecy is like the dark.  It allows things to remain hidden & unseen.  Abusers do not broadcast their activities to the world; they either keep them secret or tell part of the truth to perpetuate their own version of the story.

An emotional abuser will use secrecy in order to wear-down or control their victim.  This could be coming & going unannounced, staying away for several days & then reappearing, refusing to tell their victim what they are doing or hiding evidence of their activities, such as receipts, tickets etc.  They will however, often demand to know what the victim has been, is doing & even is going to do.  Information flow works only in one direction.  Some go to great lengths to cover their tracks, as if being discovered will totally blow their cover & expose them.  The adage, ‘if it looks as if they are hiding something they probably are‘ is never more true.

Abusers also create diversions, use scapegoats & send out rumours that all create ‘noise.‘  It is hard to determine exactly what is happening with all of that noise, enabling the abuser to hide & continue their activities unchallenged.

Example:  A friend going through divorce was advised by her solicitor to stay in the marital home until the divorce was settled.  This rattled her abusive husband who stopped all form of communication (except if he needed to know something or to be sarcastic or to make fun of her). He started staying out overnight, returning home erratically, hiding his receipts & removing all personal records of his activities from the house.  As we have said, abusers can become deluded by their own success & he was no different.  He became careless, leaving receipts where they could be seen.  It became apparent that he was having a spending spree on a new girlfriend including clothes, shoes & overnight stays in hotel rooms.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Create Chaos & Confusion

I am never sure whether abusers intentionally or consciously cause chaos or whether it is just a product of who they have become & of them just being around.  When stories & baselines & memories & events are ever shifting sands, changing almost every time they are recounted, it is very difficult to keep up & to not doubt one’s sanity.

Chaos & confusion are dangerous weapons used by emotional abusers.  If there is no consistency it is easy for the abuser to persuade their victim that they ‘have got it wrong‘ or ‘it isn’t like that.‘  Abusers often need to change their story in order to stay ahead or in control.  Changing the baseline or starting point allows them to create a new story in which they are right & the victim is wrong.  They even try this in meetings where minutes are written down, denying that they ever said something.

Order, accountability & written records are all threats to an abuser.  Where there is chaos & confusion, doubt & uncertainty, fear & control there is opportunity for the abuser & the abuse to remain hidden or to be discounted as someone’s ‘misinterpretation of the situation.‘  This is the emotional abusers dream which adds to their delusion & convinces them that they are in control.

Example:  A friend was attending mediation with her husband in an attempt to amicably sort out the financial & material issues of their divorce.   She was divorcing him on the grounds of emotional abuse over their 16 year marriage.  Over the few weeks they attended he changed his story on, amongst other things, what he was prepared to let her have, the value of their house (more than once) & he actually stopped providing things & support he had previously agreed to.  The result was no forward movement in negotiations & a distinct lack of clarity of what, if anything had actually been agreed. 

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Are Compulsive Liars

Their over-riding driver of needing to be in control make it difficult for abusers to maintain the same story.  Lies are necessary in order to maintain control.  This is part of the chaos & confusion discussed above but it is also part of maintaining their story, keeping their activities hidden, making themselves look good/generous/thoughtful or isolating & continuing abuse of their victim.  Abusers have selective memories, especially where past events or agreements are involved.  It is not unusual for them to completely (& convincingly) deny something you know that they have said previously.  However, you, the victim will be the one who doubts your memory, doubts what was said & even doubts your sanity.  Abusers use multiple weapons to wear-down their prey: lying is a potent one in skilled hands!  Through continued lying & changing of their story, emotional abusers & manipulators lose their own reference point of what truth is.  They become like Billy Liar: unable to be tell a straight story; unable to remember their own story; unable to be trusted or believed.

Example: A couple who were separating agreed between themselves that there would be no ‘bad mouthing’ of the other party amongst their friends.  They wanted the separation to be as amicable as possible.  After a few weeks, the wife started being asked by friends who she was having an affair with.  When she asked them to explain their question, they said that her husband had told them that they were separating because she was having an affair.  This was a shock to the wife & news to her.  She challenged her husband on the comments & he explained that he had no idea how they had such information as he had said nothing.  Those stories continued to get back to the wife over the next few weeks, each time, the perpetrator was cited as her husband.  Unfortunately by this time he had used his other manipulative skills to engage the support of many ‘mutual’ friends. What started off as an amicable agreement ended with animosity through the lies her husband.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Love Your Friends

As we have already mentioned, emotional abusers & manipulators often have dual personalities: one for the home situation & one for friends.

Unfortunately, as mentioned in the example above, they can use their skills & personality to divide & conquer: turning former friends against you through sowing the seeds of suspicion & discontent. It is much easier to execute their plan once they have deprived you of friends, especially those you trusted.  Although often socially awkward or inept, abusers & manipulators are skilled at division, scheming, deceit & playing the victim when they need to be, especially if that is to gain support for their own cause, prove you wrong or that you are to blame (allowing them to stay in control).  I have come across many cases of such actions, even to the extent that people who were formerly more friends with the victim than the abuser, completely side with the abuser.

It is a cruel ploy, very effective & very destructive: we should keep our eyes open so that we don’t inadvertently become an instrument in the hand of an abuser.

Example: This has been covered above under the examples for Socialising & Compulsive Liars.  In short, undiscerning friends can become enemies very quickly in the hands of a skilled manipulator or abuser.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Are Never Wrong

In their striving for control, abusers cannot admit mistakes: to themselves or publicly.  To do so undermines their cause, introduces doubt & weakness & threatens their reason for being in a relationship (control & feeling important).

All human beings are wrong at some time in their life; most of us many times.  It is part of who we are & what makes us human.  It is also the admission of being wrong that can strengthen our relationships & open opportunities for openness & growth.  But NOT to the abuser.  Wrong  is a dirty word that only applies to others, so they will do all in their power to show how they are right & convince you that the problems have been caused by other people.

Always being right is another powerful weapon for destroying confidence & sense of worth in their victim.  Even if the victim knows that the abuser is wrong, they feel unable to express it & if they do they are shut-down & made to feel unimportant & insignificant.

Occasionally, the abuser does know that they are wrong but cannot admit it to anyone else than them self.  When such thoughts come to mind they fill their life with activities & people that show they are in fact, innocent or crowd out such negative thoughts.

If you listen to someone who goes through friends like water out of a tap, or has few friends, or has friends who are always wrong, or cannot maintain steady friendships, look deeper at the reasons.  You may just find that they are skilled manipulators looking for their next victim.

Example: A friend’s step-daughter had, for many years, come between her & her husband.  The husband left his daughter’s behaviour largely unchallenged & whenever a discussion or argument would arise he would shut it down with phrases like, “My daughter can do whatever she likes,” or “I don’t want my daughter to see us or she may be upset.”  They were seeing a marriage counsellor more recently where he eventually admitted that the problem was his relationship with his daughter, but when his wife decided that the marriage was over he quickly found a scapegoat & now would deny ever admitting that it was his ‘fault.’

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Are Strong On ‘Teamwork’

Although many abusers are loners, they know how to use a team to their advantage if the need to arises.  Just like priming friends with untrue or partially true statements to draw them away from their victim, abusers know the power of ‘the team.‘  They can manipulate it to support them; they can hide behind it if decisions are made which affect the victim in a negative way; they can slip away to a new place leaving the team & victim separated & out of relationship.

Emotional abusers are poison to communities like businesses, social clubs, churches, sports teams etc.  They kill often well-established relationships, they divide, they isolate, they bring disquiet & discontent … & then they move on to their next project.  No one wins, except the abuser.

Example: The same wife I have mentioned above was called before her church leadership on the grounds of rumours spread by her husband.  She explained that she did not love him any more & also explained something of the abuse that had been taking place.  She was told by the leaders that it was her duty to stay with her husband & learn to love him (these same leaders had previously advised a woman in a non-abusive relationship to leave her husband).  When my friend said that she could not continue in her marriage she was removed from all positions of responsibility in the church she had served (& been a put on a pedestal by) & told not to attend the house group she had been running for a number of years because they wanted to support her husband.  When she wrote to the leaders about what was & had been happening at home she was called a liar & told there was no further conversation on the subject.  Staying at the fellowship became uncomfortable & untenable; so she left.  A combination of abuse by her husband & church leadership team had effectively isolated her & ostracised her.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Hate It When You Stand Up To Them

In the next part we will look more at breaking free from an abusive relationship, but what can you do to challenge & break the cycle of abuse?

Firstly, don’t try it on your own.  Tell a trusted friend or health professional what is going on & enlist their emotional support.  You will need it!

Secondly, realise that you have as much of a say in what goes on in the relationship as the other person.  You will already have been groomed & conditioned to doubt yourself & feel that you have little or no voice.  The reality is that YOU DO HAVE A VOICE & your abuser is scared of it.

Thirdly, don’t be afraid to challenge the abuser’s behaviour or reasoning.  There will be a lot of noise when you do because you will catch them off-guard & there are few things more threatening than a victim who fights back.

Fourthly, you know your story; so believe it.  Even though your abuser may try to confuse you, stick to what you know is true.  Write it down somewhere so that you have something concrete to refer back to should they try to use confusion to regain control.

It is a threatening & initially painful process but in all cases of emotional abuse that I have known, once the victim starts to take a stand the abuser begins to crumble.  Remember that basically they are cowards so once you pierce their outer armour they will start to squeal.

Example: My friend who had been in a long-term abusive relationship didn’t even know it had been so until she saw a video by Jay Shetty & spoke to her solicitor about what had been happening.  “Oh yes dear! That is abuse” was the immediate response.  This brought slow, small changes where my friend began to challenge her husband when he continued to try to laud it over her.  Heaven forbid: she actually used words like, “No,” & “I am not doing that.”  Life became very turbulent for a while as he struggled to take in this new reaction.  As she began to realise how scheming he had been & still was, it helped her to maintain resolve that she would not give in. To date she still has not & he is clearly rattled as his position of power has been eroded & he still desperately fights to regain & maintain control.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Are Strong On Revenge & Pettiness

Remember that many abusers have had a turbulent or traumatic upbringing.  Perhaps they have been ruled with an iron road, deprived of love, affirmation & affection, made to feel insignificant etc.  This is not an excuse for their behaviour but will probably have significantly contributed to it.  Because it has been part of their childhood, they are almost locked in a child’s mentality.  Inside, they feel like a needy child.  Whenever something happens that reminds them of their upbringing they revert to that child-like state, often displaying many of the characteristics of that child:  they may argue; may throw a tantrum; may retreat into the crowd; turn people against others; may try to get people on their side; may be petty; may be defensive.

One thing for sure, they will have their mind set on revenge!  They may fight back immediately or, more likely, they leave it until their victim expects it least & then unleash a surprise attack. The confusing thing is that when they are exacting revenge, they may imitate children in their attitude & things they do, but they usually deliver it in the style of an angry or disciplining parent; the thing that affected them most whilst growing up.  They once again try to transfer their feelings onto their victim.

They will seek revenge through any means possible: materially; financially; emotionally.  They will also use friends or loved-ones to exact that revenge.  This also allows them to deny involvement if anything ugly happens, thereby protecting them self.  They will also pick you up on many things that seem irrelevant or petty, almost as if they need to find fault to keep going.  This is part of their reaction to feeling threatened & having their tower of power slowly dismantled by your bravery.

Example:  My friend’s husband had taken to rifling through her papers & personal belongings when she wasn’t there, looking for evidence of wrong-doing or for important documents.  She became aware of this, so wrote a series of notes telling him to stop being nosey (though in rather stronger language) & placed them in drawers & amongst documents so that if he went on one of his searches, he would find them.  He did!  He was so upset by them that he submitted them to his solicitor, citing that she was being rude & abusive.

 

I hope you have found this article helpful.  It has not been easy to write as it brings to the surface many emotions as I remember what my friends have been through.  I also remember the times that I was on the receiving end of abusive behaviour & how excellent counselling helped me shelf it & move forward.

In Part 4 we will examine how victims can successfully start to break the abusive cycle & escape the spider’s web of deceit, lies & destruction created by the abuser.  As we will see, escape is not easy, but it is worth the effort in the long haul.

If you are concerned that you may be in an abusive relationship it is always good to confidentially talk to someone outside of that relationship such as your doctor.  Being able to share your concerns is the first step towards breaking free.  The UK has a great resource in Relate a relationship counselling service.

Until next time, take care …

Posted in abuse, bringing hope, building confidence, building relationships, face your fears, hope, manipulation, mental illness, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recognising Manipulation & Emotional Abuse (2): Characteristics & Behaviour of The Manipulator/Abuser

[Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim]

Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim

In this Second Part of a series of 5 articles, I examine the personal characteristics & behaviours of the abuser/manipulator.  There may be some overlap with the next part (issued tomorrow).

Over many years I have witnessed & been on the receiving end of emotional abusers & manipulators.  The problem is that at the time it is often very difficult to see or understand what is happening: we just assume that there is something wrong with us or it is something of our making.  Unless we are able to recognise the situation, the abuser & their behaviours for what they are, we will become entrapped in a mesh of confusion & be constantly unhappy, stressed or even neurotic.

If you haven’t seen Part 1 about Typical Scenarios Within Which Abuse & Manipulation Happen use the link to read it.

 

It is important to remember that the driving force of abusers is the need to be in control, often at any cost. Below is a list of behaviours often used for successful emotional manipulation & abuse.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Use Secrecy

Abuse & manipulation are most effective when they are hidden.

It allows the perpetrator to work unchallenged & also makes it easier for them to gain support for their cause.

Secrecy is a powerful tool.

We sometimes use the expression ‘being kept in the dark‘ for secrecy & this is a great description of emotional abuse.  It works on two main levels:

  1. Preventing onlookers from seeing what is actually happening so that it can remain unchallenged
  2. Preventing the victim from realising what is happening.

If those around cannot see what is happening they won’t think to ask questions.  It is also a powerful way of being able to persuade those same onlookers to back you up if necessary.

It may be hard to believe  but those who are being manipulated &/or abused often do not recognise it.  They only see part of the story (the side that the abuser wants them to see) & may even be convinced that they are being overly sensitive or seeing problems where there aren’t any.

But secrecy is a risky game & once the veneer begins to be peeled-off & the abuse is exposed, we can expect all sorts of ducking, weaving & denial by the abuser, including some or all of those described below.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Use Stonewalling & Silence To Punish

Failing to answer or give away any information is another powerful weapon in the manipulator’s arsenal.

If they are challenged about their behaviour (which can be threatening) rather than sitting down, discussing it & resolving issues they resort to silence & stonewalling.  This gives them a sense of maintaining control where it could so easily be lost if they say the wrong thing: so they say nothing.  Silence is also a great way to put pressure on the victim & make them feel guilty, even if they don’t know what for: they simply assume that they have caused upset by doing or saying something wrong.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Are Erratic & Inconsistent

Anyone who has been around an abuser will know that chaos & uncertainty rule.

Whether it is intentional or simply the way their mind works, abusers rarely stick to the same story.  They change their mind: often!  This may be manifest by giving different versions of the same story with total conviction, so much so that the abuser assumes they must have misheard.  Changing their mind often enough can result in Gaslighting (see below) where the victim doubts their memory & even their sanity.

Another trick of the abuser, especially when it comes to negotiation is that they have no constant baseline.  They consistently change their baseline e.g., value of a house, depending upon what offer they wish to make (or receive).  It is not unusual for them to quote a lower value when they are giving something away & then use a higher value when they want something back.

Whatever they do, it will be done with such conviction & lack of moral conscience that the abused person is either highly confused or once again, assumes they have got it wrong.  This weapon works very well in combination with lying & deceit.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Use Lying & Deceit

Abusers lie without apparent conscience & in some cases are compulsive liars.

They will argue that black is black, then black is white, then black doesn’t exist if it means that they can exert control or authority.  Unfortunately, the result is once again doubt, lack of clarity & chaos.  Be prepared for abusers to give selective (or alternative) truth; those parts of the story that support their case, whilst either omitting totally or modifying the rest to create the picture they want.  Thus it is possible for people outside to receive a totally biased & untrue picture of reality & if the abuser has been skilled at their other weapons, they will have the outsiders backing them up & the abused person isolated very quickly & with little effort.

Once again, lies & deceit need a good memory & although victims of abuse & manipulation may be thoroughly confused of what is certain & what isn’t, the cracks do start to appear to those outside of the situation BUT only if they are looked for.  Very often the abuser is also highly skilled in smoke & mirrors so that the cracks are missed, even when in front of our eyes.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Have Pendulum Swing Emotions

Emotional abuse & manipulation are aimed at … our emotions.

There are few things that can affect our emotions as much as extremes.  One minute an abuser may be totally kicking-off & then they are sweet, tender & loving.  This is a cruel weapon which, once again, lowers resistance in their victim.

It is also quite common for abusers to throw  tantrums, in private & in public to humiliate the victim, play on their sense of guilt & wear them down so that eventually they simply stop challenging or asking.

One of the awful things about prolonged emotional abuse is that it erodes resistance so that control can be maintained with less effort & often in less overt ways.  Once a victim is hurt, the one thing they crave most is comfort & consolation.  Abusers are always ready to console once they have destroyed, but their consolation does not restore anything; it simply reinforces negative emotions like guilt & shame in the victim.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Use Sarcastic & Cutting Comments

Sarcasm (lit. tearing of flesh) is a devastating weapon in the hand of the abuser.

There is no better way of keeping someone under control than either undermining & draining their self-esteem in front of others or by criticising them at their level of personal core beliefs.  Manipulation is about maintaining control & there are few ways as effective as stripping away the self-confidence & reinforcing self-doubt in their target; the abused person.

Once our self-esteem & self-confidence have been consistently undermined & destroyed, we have little to fight back with & our brain seems to default by taking the path of least resistance (agreeing with the abuser).

Remember that control can be established either through domination of the other person or by reducing them to the level of the abuser; or lower.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Often Have A Dual Personality

Abusers often have two personas or personalities: the one they show in private to the victim & the one they show in public.

These are poles apart.

The side shown to the victim is about lauding it over them whereas the side shown publicly is one of being caring, understanding; even concerned.

The side shown to victim is about control; the side shown publicly is about gaining support & affirmation for themselves & consequently, their actions.

How often do we hear people say, “I had no idea they were like that,” or “That is completely different to what I have seen & been told: I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t heard both sides of the story.

What you see is NOT what you get!

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Seem To Make Strong Decisions

The root of many abusive behaviours is the upbringing of the abuser & what they have, or have not, experienced during that time.

Most are extremely insecure, particularly about their own value & worth, so they seek it from outside.  They may come across as confident, even arrogant people, or they may be the shy wallflowers that seem to hide away in crowds.  In whatever guise they choose to show themselves, they often lack the conviction to make good, mutually beneficial, rational decisions & relationships.  They are driven by insecurity. So, they may compensate for this deficit in their self-esteem or self-confidence by being overly strong or definitive when making decisions, especially where the abused person is concerned.  It is not unusual for the abuser to use absolutes: you ARE or WILL do this; you are NOT doing this.

If we look carefully in amongst all of the noise & the abuser’s behaviour, we can often see just how indecisive they are. They will use terms like, “Can do,” “Could do,” “If you like,” etc.  This puts them in a powerful position because if anything goes wrong they are then able to use one of their dominant weapons: it is never their fault but someone else’s

 

It Is Never The Fault Of The Emotional Abuser Or Manipulator

One of the biggest risks to an abuser or a manipulator is that they have to take responsibility for their behaviour & actions.  For many, the very thought of being accused or being seen to do wrong makes them turn ice-cold.

Denying responsibility is an important flaw in an emotional abuser.  They will go to great, even unbelievable lengths to prove their innocence (usually by either deflecting blame or finding a suitable scapegoat (which may be another person or situation) on which to hang ‘blame.’  Abusers see things in terms of blame: whose fault is it?  If it can’t be their fault then they will pull out all of their tricks to hang the blame on something or more often, someone else.  That ‘other person’ nearly always includes the person who is being abused.

Abusers are highly skilled in the transference of blame.  It is often highly honed to the point of being a reflex action.  It simply cannot be their fault so the blame must lie elsewhere & they will pile it on whoever is in the way or the right position for them at the time. Of course, the abuser also wants to establish themself as being justified or right in the eyes of those around, so they will pour guilt on an already broken victim whilst using their other manipulative skills to isolate that victim, thereby removing their voice for defence.  One cannot argue a defence if there is no-one to hear.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Are Loners

Despite efforts to be sociable, real, open, honest relationships are a real threat to an abuser or manipulator.  Therefore, they may mix with the crowd but that is often on a superficial level or tactical way when they need to get people on their side.

It is not unusual for a somewhat historically reclusive, perhaps even antisocial abuser to suddenly become highly chatty & sociable, the life & soul of the party, when they have dirt to dish & others to defame.

Sadly, this sociability is transient & flawed: others see through it, get bored with hearing the same story, don’t want to get involved or just lose interest.  Abusers can rapidly become detached & then cave-in because they lose the safety shield & support of those around them.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Are Cowards

If you want to control someone, what are the best methods of doing so?

  1. You can laud it over them, dominating them with aggression
  2. You can keep it secret & hidden from public view
  3. You can take away their voice through undermining them with criticism
  4. You can take away their voice by turning people against them so that they are isolated

It is so much easier to do numbers 1-3 above if you also achieve number 4: Isolation.

Abusers & manipulators are cowards.  They don’t like to fight their own battles & will often enlist the help of others.  So, they may get in quickly to a group of mutual friends, spread rumours about the person they are victimising, which leads to those friends ‘taking sides‘ & turning against the victim.  Ultimately, the victim is isolated, stripped of any chance of defending themselves & pretty much left to the mercy of the abuser to do what they want, when they want & how they want because one can be assured that the abuser will use smoke & mirrors, lies, deceit & the rest to maintain their advantage.

Emotional abusers & manipulators are also very shrewd when it comes to identifying the most strategically important people to fight their case:

  • In business it could be managers
  • At home it could be parents or siblings
  • In churches it could be the leadership.

Whichever they choose, the abuser will be sure to hide behind the decisions of others to evade blame: ‘The victim obviously brought this on themselves.‘  It will also give them an escape route if the truth begins to unfold, because these others will have ‘Taken sides rather than thinking for themselves or asking more‘ which, of course, the abuser has already made didn’t happen.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Are Deluded

Because abusers & manipulators hide behind others, it is very easy for them to become deluded: they must be right because ‘everybody agrees with them.’

When you are on a roll, backed by a mass of people, be they friends or people in authority & you hide your real actions from them, there is very little to prick your conscience, challenge you morally or ethically & tell you that you are wrong.

For these reasons, emotional abusers often walk a very thin line between maintaining control & being exposed.

Deluded people who cannot make mistakes often become more arrogant in their attitudes & more daring in their adventures. But delusion also lowers their guard & they become less careful.

Delusion can even be of a magnitude where the abuser feels they are above the law & have licence to do what they like, when they like, how they like.  This delusion may lead them to become stubborn, unable to accept the views of others, even those who know more or understand the situation better.

However, many abusers & manipulators are already stubborn before they reach the delusional stage.  Their life is based around control, so they see that accepting help & guidance from others is risky because it means that they have to trust others, which can be very hard for them to do.

 

Emotional Abusers & Manipulators Use Gaslighting

This is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.

Confusion reigns but in abundance & to such an extent that the mental health of the victim is affected.  Many victims of emotional abuse & manipulation suffer from extreme anxiety &/or depressive episodes: in some cases leading to suicide.

Emotional abuse is so serious that it was incorporated as a criminal offence into UK Law in 2015.  The consequences are dire for all concerned.

 

It is important to stress that emotionally abusive & manipulative behaviour may have become so much part of the fabric & life of the perpetrator that they are a habit, rather than a conscious  decision.  This doesn’t excuse them for bad behaviour but it may explain why they can seem startled or surprised if it is pointed out to them.  If that is by a friend their response may be friendly denial or surprise: if it is their target who mentions it, then the abuser may be provoked into a powerful, defensive, even aggressive response.

Abusers & manipulators are to be pitied BUT they should never be encouraged or given sympathy for their actions.  As we have already mentioned, one of their aims is to divide & conquer. Achieving isolation of their victim is key to successful control (abuse) without  interference from friends.  Therefore, any perceived support for their actions will only strengthen their case in their own mind & encourage them to continue down a path which they are convinced is both right & justifiable.

In Part 3 we will be looking at how these characteristics & traits are used by the abuser to gain advantage, maintain cover & feel in control.  I will use real life examples to show how each can be applied by the abuser to achieve their effect.

If you are concerned that you may be in an abusive relationship it is always good to confidentially talk to someone outside of that relationship such as your doctor.  Being able to share your concerns is the first step towards breaking free.  The UK has a great resource in Relate a relationship counselling service.

 

Until next time, take care  …

 

Posted in abuse, emotional control, manipulation, relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recognising Manipulation & Emotional Abuse (1): Typical Scenarios Within Which It Happens

(Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim)

Emotional Abuse Is Harder To See From The Outside But Equally Devastating To The Victim

Over many years I have witnessed & been on the receiving end of emotional abusers & manipulators.  The problem is that at the time it is often very difficult to see or understand what is happening: we just assume that there is something wrong with us or it is something of our making.  Unless we are able to recognise the situation, the abuser & their behaviours for what they are, we will become entrapped in a mesh of confusion & be constantly unhappy, stressed or even neurotic.

In this Part 1 of a series of 5 articles I examine some of the scenarios in which emotional abuse & manipulation occur.

Firstly, we need to understand what manipulation & abuse are & also understand how they are developed.

Definition of Abuse (Oxford English Dictionary)

  • Use or treat in such a way as to cause damage or harm
  • Speak to (someone) in an insulting and offensive way.

Definition of Manipulation (Oxford English Dictionary)

  • The action of manipulating someone in a clever or unscrupulous way.

Relate lists emotional abuse under several categories:

  • Intimidation and threats: e.g., shouting, acting aggressively or just generally making you feel scared. This is often done as a way of making a person feel small and stopping them from standing up for themselves.
  • Criticism: e.g., name-calling or making lots of unpleasant or sarcastic comments. This can really lower a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Undermining: e.g., dismissing your opinion. It can also involve making you doubt your own opinion by acting as if you’re being oversensitive if you do complain, disputing your version of events or by suddenly being really nice to you after being cruel.
  • Being made to feel guilty: This can range from outright emotional blackmail (threats to kill oneself or lots of emotional outbursts) to sulking all the time or giving you the silent treatment as a way of manipulating you.
  • Economic abuse: e.g., withholding money, not involving you in finances or even preventing you from getting a job. This could be done as a way of stopping you from feeling independent and that you’re able to make your own choices.
  • Telling you what you can and can’t do: As the examples above make clear, emotional abuse is generally about control. Sometimes this is explicit. Does your partner tell you when and where you can go out, or even stop you from seeing certain people? Do they try to control how you dress or how you style your hair?

The reasons for someone becoming abusive or manipulative can be many & varied, but the end-result is someone who has low self-esteem, may feel out of control & needs to feel significant.  In order to rectify these deficits the person needs to be in control, needs to be seen, appreciated & praised, or who needs to reduce others to their own level in order to feel equal.  The result is that they become unhealthily sensitive about being on top or in control: anything which challenges this is threatening & can bring out intense, sometimes aggressive responses.

Many such people that I have known also react like children.  Perhaps they have ben overly criticised or repeatedly let down whilst they were growing up; perhaps they have been the victim of over-bearing parent(s) or grown up with no behaviour boundaries.  Whatever the reason(s) they are trapped in a child-like (school playground) mentality, meaning that making people take sides (good & bad), turning people against others, taking revenge, petty discussions & arguments, even throwing tantrums, sulks or guilt trips & isolating their target are common behaviours.

These people inhabit the same spaces as the rest of us & therefore, wherever they are found their insecurities & problems go with them.  This means that unless you are very lucky & exist somewhere that these controlling & childish behaviours are monitored & checked, you may encounter abuse at home, at work, at play, at church; in fact in any walk of life.  If left unchecked, their behaviour can lead to disharmony, disruption, mental health issues & even in extreme cases, suicide.

Manipulation & emotional abuse may leave no physical scars but they can destroy lives equally well, if not better than physical abuse particularly because they are often invisible & kept in secret.

When I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, it was common knowledge that in order to gain promotion some staff were ‘expected’ to do favours for their bosses, including sleeping with them.  Some employees used their personalities & looks to manipulate their bosses & gain promotion.  In other cases some managers had a large turnover of staff because they abused their staff through setting unrealistic expectations, micro-managing & behind-the-scenes harassment,

Because the manipulator/abuser needs recognition & to be in control then positions of high visibility or importance are a target for their aspirations.  Their fastidious nature & pedantic approach can make them great process managers but awful people managers.  Unless spotted early-on, these people can assume positions of significant responsibility in business, commerce, government & church; ultimately to the detriment of the organisation & its staff.

In many organisations there is upwards (& in some, downwards) accountability which can help to identify & control the destructive effects.  However, abusive & manipulative behaviour seems to be highly prevalent in situations where there is no upwards accountability.  Independent churches often fall foul of this, where the leadership almost equate with God himself in terms of authority & wisdom.  If they make decisions that are off-beam, the congregation either doesn’t notice because they are made ‘behind closed doors’ or those who dare to challenge are ostracised & eased-out of the fellowship.  This is even more disastrous when a manipulator/abuser uses an abusive leadership team to isolate or expel their target or opposition. We will examine further the tactics & characteristics of manipulators & abusers in Part 2 & Part 3 of this 5-Part series.

Emotional abuse & manipulation is a serious issue for the health of our Nations & is recognised as such in the UK by being incorporated into UK Law where it is a criminal offence.  The most common recipients are children & women, but there is increasing incidence of men being emotionally abused by women.  One tragic case I heard of recently ended in a husband taking his own life because of what he was put through.

Not every case reaches that extreme stage but it is important that we are diligent & aware of potential situations, not only in our own life but also in the lives of those around us.  Just like a broken leg, physical abuse leaves signs that can be seen.  Unfortunately, emotional abuse is like mental illness & is rarely visible at first sight, unless we take the time to look a little closer.

If you are concerned that you may be in an abusive relationship it is always good to confidentially talk to someone outside of that relationship such as your doctor.  Being able to share your concerns is the first step towards breaking free.  The UK has a great resource in Relate a relationship counselling service.

Wherever you are I hope that these 5 articles will not only help you to understand & identify emotional abuse & manipulation but also empower you to be able to break free & stay free.

Take care until next time …

Posted in abuse, emotional abuse, manipulation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment