sharks hoovering

So you’ve tried to leave your abusive ex, have finally made your narrow escape and regained some threads of your sanity. Whew!


You find yourself inundated with emails and text messages telling you how much they miss you and will always love you. And then they’ll begin to reminisce about the good times and about all the wonderful things you’ve achieved together. They paint such a nostalgic picture of the perfect family unit, the beautiful home, your amazing children, the plans you talked about for your shared future and everything you both stand to lose if you stay separated.

Ouch! The pangs of nostalgia can be excruciating…and inviting. Your tormentor wasn’t abusive in the beginning, after all. It may have been many years before her true colours began to show…perhaps under the usual stresses and strains of marriage and childbirth; perhaps when the financial pressures began to mount up. But don’t forget that the monster inside her did finally emerge and once she was ensconced, she (or he, of course) is there for the term of your natural life. Mr Hyde, once released from inside Dr Jekyll, was forever fused with whatever good had previously existed inside him. Hyde soon overpowered Jekyll until the good doctor no longer existed. That’s the way it works.

Hopefully, you manage to withstand the lure of such sweet descriptions of the idyllic aspects of your shared past. And believe me, it is a lure, bright and shining, dangling enticingly before your eyes. Once you allow yourself to be drawn in closer though, the bait will be ready and waiting for you.

She knows you’re hungry…emotionally…because by this stage she’s skillfully isolated you from so many things in life that are essential to your well-being. She has spent years stripping you bare of everything, other than herself (and her sphere of influence), that sustains you. She controls your friends, your extended family and most of all, your children; perhaps even your grandchildren. She still has a tight rein on your finances and assets. Controlling people are sure to set things up in such a way as to make it near impossible for you to leave. Well…you may be able to leave…but when you do, you may not be able to survive. That’s all part of their master-plan.

bait-catch-coho-salmon-1058295She knows that, at some point, if she’s persistent enough (and controlling people are persistent to the point of madness), you’ll find yourself so frenzied that you’ll gulp that bait right down. Once that hook is embedded in your soul, you’ll be reeled in, hook, line and sinker. The more you thrash, the more it hurts; and the only option is for you to return to her loving embrace so she can remove that hook and ease your pain.

Clever, isn’t it? In a sick, carnal, primitive and conniving way, that is.

What you don’t know, at this point, is that the ocean in which you’d begun to swim freely, as scary as it was (your first taste of freedom always is) is nowhere near as terrifying as the shark tank into which she’s about to toss you.

You’ll find yourself once again belting at the four walls that metaphorically enclose you. No one but she can hear you. It’s just you in that tank…you and the sharks. And now…they are hungry for you. Recognize those sharks? You should. They are her ‘flying monkeys’…trained to do her bidding. Read more about flying monkeys here.

baby monkey on mothers back

Is it possible to resist the bait, no matter how hungry you think you are? First, you have to recognize what that bait is and understand that it’s pure poison. That’s the hard part. Why? Because the bait will look good and smell good. It will be incredibly tempting…a little like your favourite drink laced with arsenic.

You need to know your own triggers…your weak points…your vulnerabilities. We all have them and they’re not, in and of themselves, a negative thing. Unless we allow them to be used against us.

What might those vulnerabilities be? Your responsibilities to your children? Your parents approval? Your co-workers esteem or your fears for your financial future? Perhaps they’re less tangible…your need for affection, recognition, or kudos for doing the ‘right’ thing? Your need to see your marriage as a success and not a failure? The need to make your father proud? The possibilities are as numerous as the personalities of abuse victims themselves. You can guarantee though, that guilt trips will be used left, right and crooked, until you feel like you’re the abuser when the truth is the polar opposite.

When your self-esteem is so low that you believe everything she says about you, internalizing it until you feel utterly worthless without her approval, you’re in deep trouble…and she knows it. She knows it’s not going to be too difficult to hook you back into her web of control.

Even if you don’t recognize your vulnerabilities yourself, you can be certain your abuser does. And she uses those vulnerabilities as bait, disguising her weapon, that agonizing hook, with whatever is bound to tempt you most. Once you take the bait, you’re in for another tortuous round. The abuse cycle begins again. Come in Spinner.

You’ve been sucked back in to the vortex. In the words of popular treatises on abuse, you’ve been ‘hoovered.’ A la the emotional vacuum cleaner.

Some of the sharks who will be circling you in that claustrophobic tank I referred to, waiting for the kill, will be the very people your abuser has deliberately enlisted to her cause and has turned against you. They will be people you care about very much – your children, your family of origin, your friends and co-workers. The temptation to let them do her bidding will be overwhelming, given the fragility of your identity and self-esteem, which she has skillfully and relentlessly eroded over time.

I hope and pray the time will come when you can say ‘enough is enough’. A time when you can recognize that you are worthy of so much more. A time when you also realize that the people who have been poisoned against you, need you to help them back to emotional health.

You can best achieve this by employing the tough love principle and not allowing yourself to be bullied, brow-beaten and emotionally blackmailed into submission. Show the world, especially your loved ones, who you really are. Put up the boundaries that will ensure you are respected, not used. Claim your destiny, which is never meant to include subjugation and control, and watch your loved ones…eventually…over time…claim theirs. If you can’t think of yourself at this time…please understand there are others who need you to show your strength – for the benefit of their soul’s growth.

This post is intensely personal, as I’m standing by helplessly, watching someone I love very much, being sucked back into a horrendously abusive situation. I see all the traps, all the manipulation, all the guilt trips and cruelty…and I stand by, and can do nothing. I can only hope and pray that he will soon understand his true worth; that he deserves the highest kind of love, not the abased version he currently submits to.

Never forget what your abuser does to you. Forgive…by all means. But never forget. Watch for my next post…’The Art of Not Forgetting.’

Love and light.