Abuse, abusive relationships, Ambient Abuse, Covert Abuse, crazy-making behaviour, Domestic Violence, dysfunctional relationships, Emotional Abuse, mental cruelty, narcissistic abuse, Non-verbal abuse, Passive Aggression, Psychological Abuse, relationship advise, Relationship help, Relationships, Verbal Abuse
Therapist and author, Patricia Evans, claims she has spoken to thousands of victims of domestic violence and that ‘battered women have always told me that the verbal abuse was the worst.’ (From her website www.verbalabuse.com) She goes on to say that for those who have experienced “worse than battering,” it will take time to recover.’
I am now free from a relationship in which I was cruelly verbally abused while having the expression of my opinions, feelings, attitudes and values tightly controlled through various forms of manipulation, all involving fear. Consummate verbal abusers are invariably hell-bent on controlling their targets. They will also tell you that you, the target, are the abuser. Most of us engage in the occasional behaviour or speech that can be considered ugly, but it’s not abuse unless it’s a pattern that’s fairly well-entrenched. You may also be driven ‘crazy’ by the abuse itself and retaliate from your own pain. There’s a difference between that kind of reactive, defensive behaviour and true emotional and psychological abuse. While you’re deep inside those restrictive psychological walls, it will be hard to tell the difference, but rest assured your abuser will consistently maintain his innocence while pointing the finger of blame directly at you. This, in itself, is a clue to unravelling the puzzle.
It’s all about control. abusers engage in crazy-making behaviour to keep you in a state of confusion about your own reality. If you doubt yourself and your own sanity, you’ll look to him to define reality instead. That’s when he’s got you right where he wants you.
Abusers engage in what is known as ‘crazy-making’ behaviours, which they later deny to you, to family, to your counsellor and whoever else they can persuade to listen. The aim of ‘crazy-making’ is to leave you emotionally and psychologically confused about what just happened or is happening in your relationship. An abusive person will literally say or do one thing and in the next breath swear they didn’t say or do it at all. They’ll tell you you’re mistaken, wrong, lying or just plain crazy. They’re so convincing you’ll doubt your own reality. While a number of abusive behaviours may operate at an unconscious level, this one is wielded with full knowledge and intent. He wants to see you in mental pain. It makes it easier for him to get what he wants, and what he wants is to manipulate and control you. A confused person is so much easier to manipulate and control than one who is confident and sure of herself.
Abusers will say or do something one minute, then deny it the next.
Another crazy-making behaviour is to sincerely discuss an issue with you, come to an agreement, and simply not follow through. It goes beyond mere forgetfulness. In the words of my abuser, (which should have been a huge warning sign), ‘My first wife and I would discuss things and I’d agree to do something, then I’d just go off and do whatever I wanted anyway.’ Needless to say, I quickly found myself in his first wife’s shoes, and the most chilling aspect is that not only was he perfectly aware of what he was doing, but he showed no remorse.
An abuser will say one thing and do another, no matter what you agreed upon.
It was particularly insidious in my case because I have a neurological disorder that involves some cognitive deficits. It was all too easy for him to convince me I ‘couldn’t remember properly’, and that I’d ‘got it wrong’.
Crazy-making also happens when your partner continually raises the bar he’s set for you. For example, he’ll tell you what he wants from you and then when you deliver exactly that, and often more, he’ll raise his expectation and insist that his new expectation was what he wanted in the first place. His goal is to ensure you never measure up. You’ll never be good enough. You’ll never please him enough, help him enough, give him enough love, esteem, respect…and the list goes on. In the words written on a suicide note I once read, ‘I can never love you the way you need to be loved.’
In the eyes of your abuser you’ll never be good enough. his needs are insatiable.
There were always two sets of rules; one for him, and one for me. In my research on emotional and psychological abuse, I discovered that this too is a well-known ‘crazy-making’ behaviour. It seems to stem from an exaggerated sense of entitlement. If you live with an emotional abuser, his needs will always trump yours; he will always maintain his freedom to do what he wants without consulting you or considering its impact on your life; he assumes he has the right to make unilateral decisions that affect your life in a major way. If you challenge him, he’ll indicate he’s doing what’s best for you. The fact that you’re a grown adult with the right to exercise your own decisions about your life doesn’t enter his mind. You, on the other hand, are expected to check in with him about everything. You certainly don’t feel free to act in your own best interests, even in little things. You feel as though your every move is watched and vetted; and you’ll know if he decides to disapprove of your actions, you will suffer. He thinks of himself as a benevolent ‘provider’, believing you should be grateful for everything he does for you. In reality though, you’re living with a dictator who has usurped all power from you.
An Abuser will never treat you like an equally empowered adult, with a right to make your own decisions.
I lived in fear of my abuser and accuser. Like every target of emotional and verbal abuse, I had that fear used against me as ‘proof’ I was the crazy one. When you’re frightened, you startle easily; your anxiety levels are so high that you question everything that goes on around you. After all, you never know when you’ll be attacked out of the blue. Living in fear of your abuser is the cause of your heightened emotional state, yet that heightened emotional state will be used to justify the labels he’s attaching to you. I lived with constant accusations that I was ‘crazy’, ‘a nut-job’, ‘psycho’, ‘crazier than my first wife’, ‘sick’, ‘twisted’ and ‘crippled’, all peppered with disrespectful expletives.
Abusers fail to see how irrational their own thinking is. Instead, they convince you that you’re the crazy one.
Abuse always escalates over time. Verbal, psychological and emotional abuse does not always result in physical abuse but all physical abuse entails psychological and emotional abuse. Next week, in ‘Crazy-making behaviour – Part 2’, I explore and explain more of the manipulative tactics used by these over-controlling people in our lives.
ABUSE ALWAYS GETS WORSE!