He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

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multicoloured flower

A hundred shades of rage. Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Phisekit

Every abuse victim is intimately familiar with this phenomenon. One minute you’re on cloud nine, certain your relationship is on the mend, and swept off your feet (again) with words of adulation, undying love and devotion. He’ll buy you whatever you want, wine you, dine you, and soften you with gentle, sweet words of love and appreciation…but just when you think it’s safe to come out from under that protective shell of yours, the wining and dining turns to maligning. You are being abused yet again. The abuse cycle continues, ad infinitum.

And the switch will be shockingly sudden, brutal and devastating. This morning you were his ‘forever love’. This afternoon, you’re ‘a f…ing psycho’. And somewhere in the midst of this tirade your mind starts to bend. It’s bending to his will. It’s exactly where he wants this conversation to go.

But why? That’s the question on everyone’s lips. My first (and probably final) reaction is to say, ‘Who cares!’ No excuse is good enough, no delving into his past and uncovering his childhood issues will ever convince me he’s not doing this deliberately. It is utterly C-O-N-S-C-I-O-U-S. He is completely aware of what he is doing to you. That’s why he keeps doing it. It gives him a thrill to hurt you. Research shows that when the average person is angry…when they are arguing and yelling…their blood pressure and heart rate go up. That’s because it’s stressful for us average Joes and Joannas. Not so for your consummate abuser. For him or her, shouting at and intimidating another human being results in a blood-pressure and heart-rate drop. That’s right. It feels good. It calms them down. They’re in control again.

And control is what it’s all about.

That’s why he can peacefully put his head on the pillow beside you…and sleep so soundly…while you cannot. You toss…and turn…and agonize.

Don’t judge him by your own yardstick. The ‘raging’ is his elixir – the potion that feeds the Mr Hyde that ever lurks within him. A friend of mine described her abuser as ‘bipolar’. I understand why she feels this way – the sudden switch from one persona to another smacks of real mental illness. But her abuser has no such illness. His cognitive functioning is fine and dandy. He may be narcissistic in the extreme, or even a full-blown psychopath, but these are not true mental disorders. They are disorders of choice. They are diseases of the soul. The labels may appear in the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists worldwide), but those who’ve studied the history behind the DSM understand that its main author was likely a narcissist himself. There’s a whole separate post to be written on that topic. I won’t address it here.

Someone who is Bipolar or Schizophrenic wants to get well. They want treatment. Not so the flawed being with high narcissistic traits. He doesn’t perceive his flaws at all. He’s enjoying the experience; the power trip. Why would he want to change? He doesn’t want to get better because he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with him. He’s too perfect for that.

Not everyone who engages in abuse fits into this category, but the proportion seems to be disturbingly high. There are those who can be enlightened by education, and those who cannot. There are those caught in the web of their own ignorance, their difficult pasts, and their erroneous thinking. There is hope for such as these. They react from their own pain. They get angry and express their anger abusively over issues that seem real to them. There will be triggers, associated with their own painful pasts…but there will not be the random, cold-blooded ‘switch’ from love to hate.

We need to know the difference.

Why does it take so long to get over a pathological partner?

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I’ve been fairly quiet online for a few weeks as I’m in the middle of very stressful legal proceedings. Attempting to sort out property settlement issues with a narcissist is a nightmare beyond your wildest imagination. Lies, manipulation, character assassination – check! Trying to fleece you of your entitlement – check! Blame and false accusations – too easy! I hope we’re now on the home strait so I can devolve myself of this cloying and still destructive relationship. The need to put it behind me is strong; in fact, so strong that I almost caved under the pressure to accept a very unfair settlement figure, just to rid my life (and soul) of the stress and uncertainty. However, that would be playing into his hands one final time – my curtain call as a doormat – and is, most assuredly, exactly what he wants.

I’ll keep you posted. From those of you who pray, I humbly ask for your prayers at this time. I keep many of you in my own prayers also as I read your blogs and contemplate the heartbreaking experiences you’ve been through, or are still going through. So many of you inspire and sustain me.

However, that’s not really what I started out to say today. As the title of this post suggests, it’s about why it takes so long to get over a pathological relationship. For me, it’s been a year since separation and I’m still caught in the web of lies, the vortex of confusion and the revisiting of self-doubt. I came across this excellent article on another site called Psychopath Free and wanted to share it with you all. The writer, who identifies as ‘Peace’ on the site forum, expresses the dynamics at play with clarity and compassion, and I found myself relating far too easily. To know that one is not alone, to experience that validation, is such an intrinsic part of our healing.

The article by ‘Peace’ follows: Continue reading

Boundaries: A Litmus Test for Potential Abusers

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Abusers have no respect for boundaries. Even if you attempt to build an impenetrable fortress around you, an abuser will think nothing of blowing it up with the equivalent of emotional and psychological dynamite. You’ll find yourself crushed and flattened under the rubble, and while you’re crawling back out you’ll be blamed for the fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into.

Once you’ve extricated yourself from a toxic relationship, this tell-tale disrespect of personal boundaries can be a useful guide when it comes to avoiding the attentions of, and entanglements with other controlling people in the future. In fact, life seems to be handing me plenty of opportunities to hone this particular skill since I separated from my husband just over a year ago.

For example my hackles automatically go up when someone offers unsolicited advice. I don’t need to be told what to do; I need a listening ear and empathy. There are times when I need help. We all do, but it isn’t helpful if someone takes over my show. Both these instances – offering advice I haven’t asked for, and crossing the line between help and control – show that the other person has boundary issues; that they aren’t aware of where their personhood finishes and mine begins. Hence, they step into my space and act as if they are me. My emotional response is usually an internal feeling of anger at being ‘pushed around’. We need to listen to anger. In and of itself, it is not a negative emotion but a protective one. Anger tells us when our boundaries are being crossed, whether those boundaries are physical or psychic. Anger tells us we need to protect ourselves in some way.

Anger is your friend. Use it well and wisely.

Boundaries are also crossed whenever people label us as something we know to be untrue of ourselves. I recently pointed out to a relatively new male friend that I found an email joke he sent me inappropriate, outlining my reasons quite clearly. He turned nasty and told me (this person who barely knows me) that I have issues. I’d like a dollar for every controlling person who’s analysed my ‘issues’ for me without taking a jolly good look in the mirror first. It’s not that I believe I don’t have any issues. As far as I’m concerned the human condition is all about issues, and our efforts to overcome them, in our quest for personal and spiritual maturity. It’s just that I don’t believe an amateur psychologist has any right to take me apart and act as judge and jury regarding my emotional stability or lack thereof; nor do I believe I have the particular set of issues allocated to me by this almost-stranger.

I’m extremely grateful for these warning signs. By paying heed I have effectively sidestepped a couple of potential relationships that would likely have led to more control, abuse and grief. Perhaps I should have given them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps if I had given them another chance or two or three, I might have granted them the opportunity to choose to grow and change. But I’ve reached an age and stage where I no longer wish to wait around for someone to catch up with me. I no longer wish to teach and guide and support such people. It’s time for me to reach for the good and allow the rest to slide on by. I listen to the wisdom of the still, small voice…and feel the peace.

Try setting a boundary and observe what happens. A controlling person will always react negatively.

What abusers hope we never learn about trauma bonding

For the past week I’ve been mulling over writing a post about ‘Abuse and the Psychology of Addiction.’ Having studied some psychology at university years ago, and keeping up with a lot of the literature over the years, I could see clearly how the emotional attachment that forms between an abuser and his/her victim can be so intense and all-consuming. The same dynamics are at play when we are addicted to a substance – the cravings, not being able to live without our ‘hit’, the desperation and despair when we’re separated from our substance – it all feels the same way when you’re ‘in love with an abuser’ and the bond is actually established in the same manner. That is, through conditioning. It is maintained via a method that is well-known by psychologists, who agree that an emotional response formed by using this method, is incredibly hard to extinguish. The method is that of intermittent reinforcement. I will leave my ramblings there and allow my fellow blogger at ‘Avalanche of the soul’ to inform you in her own eloquent words.

Avalanche of the soul

Do you think you can’t leave your abusive partner? Do you feel hopeless when you return to a relationship filled with pain? Or, do you dwell on your toxic ex and struggle to stay away? Then you may be caught in a carefully crafted trauma bond – but you don’t need to be Houdini to escape.

Photo by Clearly Ambiguous Photo by Clearly Ambiguous

Traumatic bonding is a hit with abusers, because it helps him to maintain much-needed control. It helps him keep you where he wants you: tethered to him and his soul-destroying behaviour. But, the bond isn’t as iron-clad as he imagines. Here’s FIVE things he hopes you don’t know about traumatic-bonding, and how to shake off the shackles.

1. What is trauma bonding?

Traumatic-bonding is an intense attachment to your abuser. It happens when you feel emotionally and physically dependent upon a dominant partner – who dishes out abuse and rewards…

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Spiritual Rape

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Cruel words destroy the soulLife and death are in the power of the tongue…Proverbs 18:21

I had quite an epiphany last night while watching ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’. Generally, I avoid graphic television programs and movies that trigger my trauma reactions, as I clearly don’t handle them well. (Frankly, I’m not sure a society that ‘expects’ its members to handle images of violence, particularly sexual violence, is a healthy one, but that’s a topic for a whole new series of posts.)

The episode revolved around a college fraternity with a history of its privileged male students, who come from wealthy homes, raping inexperienced young female students, usually employing brutal gang rape strategies. As heinous as that crime is, what followed in its wake was almost worse – a complicated system of set-ups and cover-ups that effectively silenced the victims and neatly flipped each situation onto its back so that the young woman would be portrayed as the guilty party. In order to protect the ‘good’ name of their privileged white male population (whose families donated generously to college funds and sat on its board of directors), all members of campus staff were complicit in deflecting the finger of accusation from the perpetrators onto the victims. Hundreds of young male students embarked on a campaign of humiliation and degradation in order to destroy the reputations of the girls and protect their mates. Unsurprisingly, a number of these young women were driven out of their minds, and one particularly sensitive soul to suicide, by the blaming, shaming and disbelief of their truth. This is the facet of the story I can relate to so well. It enrages me more than the rape itself, as peculiar as that must seem. Continue reading

Why abusers choose their targets.

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Please note: I have referred to abusers as male and their targets as female, simply because it has been my subjective experience and I write from my phenomenological perspective. I would like to highlight the fact that abusers and their victims do not fit neatly into gender-based categories. Men are just as easily victims and women are just as easily perpetrators.

 

My ex-abuser asks himself the question of why he was attracted to two nutcases; two sick and twisted women. The first part of my answer is simple. I am, most assuredly, not a nutcase. That’s simply a facet of his delusion.

The second part of my answer is more complicated. Yes, I am a wounded spirit. I have yet to meet a human being, over the age of forty, who doesn’t fit this definition. Life batters us, we get up and keep moving forward; we make a fist of it, and succeed in varying degrees. But we are all wounded.

It’s true I was wounded in a particular way, which abusers seem to zoom in on. They detect victims of childhood abuse with a radar-sense a bent-wing bat would be proud of. But why? And here’s his answer. Because we’re easy targets for further abuse. Let’s read that again…’because we’re easy targets for further abuse.’ Continue reading

Tearing down the bricks and mortar

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Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Simon Howden

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Simon Howden

One of the greatest keys to my healing from abuse has been the search for knowledge and comprehension. The more I understand the dynamics of what happened, the more I am able to let go of the self-blame, the sense of loss and the accompanying chaos and confusion.

This morning I read an excellent post by Army of Angels, a blog I follow and have learned much from. The writer used ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ to outline the process via which the strong ‘self’ she’d developed over the years was systematically deconstructed by her abuser, leaving her at the bottom rung of the psychological ladder. Using her template, I’ve followed the events that led me personally to that same point.

Full credit must go to Army of Angels for bringing to my attention such an insightful healing tool and I encourage you all to follow her example. The original post can be found here: http://armyofangels2013.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/narcissistic-abuse/

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Maslow’s theory, it basically states that as part of our development, each human being must pass through a series of stages that reflect a set of needs that must be met before we are able to move onto the next stage. He suggests that if our needs for a particular stage cannot be met to an optimum degree, we will be unable to move forward with the process of psychological maturity. We will become stuck. To put it in layman’s terms, a person who is consumed by hunger and lack of adequate shelter cannot even think about his self-esteem needs (confidence, self-esteem, achievement, respect by and for others).

My abuser systematically destroyed me (temporarily) in the following, chilling manner. Continue reading

Breached Defenses

This post by Anna Waldherr spoke to me at a deep level, causing me significant discomfort as I recognized in myself, the process via which those of us who were abused as children, are laid bare and vulnerable, time and again, to further onslaughts from sexual, emotional and psychological predators. It’s an eloquent post and one I have learned from. I hope you will too.

ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse

Do a search on variations of the title to this piece, and you will be directed to instructions on how to breach the defenses of various video games, and a few posts on breach of contract. Those are not what concern abuse survivors.

Property

Oh, our defenses were most definitely breached. Whatever meager defenses we had as children – whatever protests we made or attempted to make or wanted to make but were too confused and frightened or too young to make – were ignored and overridden as if our bodies, our souls, were the property of someone else.

Silenced

That is, in fact, how our voices were silenced. Protest was so clearly useless, what would have been the point?

Ongoing Vulnerability

But breach is one of those wounds that keep on giving. Years later, we may tolerate the unexpected groping by an older boy at the beach, the fumblings…

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Why Couples’ Counseling Doesn’t Work

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Couple arguing

Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/
David Castillo Dominici

This is an important post. Reading it might just save you a lot of time, angst and frankly, money; money spent on well-meaning and often highly-qualified counselors and psychologists.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have managed to convince your abusive significant other to accompany you to couples’ counseling, though his reason for agreeing will invariably be to ‘help you overcome your issues’. He remains spotless, and by agreeing to ‘help’ you, puts himself once again in the saddle as the knight on white charger, all-round-good-guy, long-suffering, well-calibrated member of the spousal unit. And by now, you probably believe him.

So, off you go to your first counseling session, with high expectations of your partner finally understanding the depth of pain and anguish he’s been causing you, and with hopes of reconciling your relationship in a spirit of co-operation, collaboration and mutual love. That, after all, is what couples’ counseling is all about. Continue reading

Sociopaths are parasites in a world of hosts

An insightful and excellent post from Paula of Paula’s Pontifications. The list she presents of the process via which abusers slowly wear their targets down, until we don’t know who we are anymore, is chillingly accurate.

Love—Life—OM

Image source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/84020349270421025/ Image source: Pinterest

Sociopaths are parasites.

Sociopaths come in many shapes and sizes. They look like our neighbors, our bosses, our co-workers and even our best friends. They even come disguised as our soul mates. (The gall!)

But the one thing all of these sociopaths have in common is their ability to suck us clean of every ounce of talent and goodness we have inside and then toss us on the side of the road leaving us wondering what we ever did to deserve such punishment.

Yes. We see the abuse inflicted upon us by the sociopath as punishment for something we did wrong. We committed a crime against the sociopath, and we must handle the punishment because all the sociopath ever wanted was for us to need him as much as he needed us.

In the beginning:

  • We were adored by the sociopath when he first met us.
  • We…

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