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How Abusers Gain Control By Appearing to Lose It

You can minimize the effects of verbal abuse by understanding how abusers gain control by playing with emotions - yours and theirs.

You, the target of verbal abuse, have one mission in your efforts to end verbal abuse: keep your emotions in checkYour verbal abuser subscribes to the opposite mission. Your abuser wants you to lose emotional control because when that happens, you’ve lost control of you. When you lose control of you, your abuser snatches control of the conversation and you.

Think of a few times you’ve lost control of you. Did you ever match your abuser’s extreme emotional level only to see them step back, shut up, and smirk? Or maybe they upped the ante and banged on things with their fist to make a bigger noise and drive your emotions to higher limits. You’ve got to know that although you may feel out of control, your abuser is very much in control of what they’re doing.

Your Abuser’s Out-of-Control Emotions Are For Show

That spit at the corner of his mouth, foaming in anger? Yep. He knows it’s there. In the back of his mind, he’s thinking, “This will show her!” He’s not really mad. He’s only pretending to be angry.

Or what about those tears rolling down her cheek as she turns the tables on you, blaming you for making her feel so rotten? Yep. She’s pretending to be hurt; she wants you to think you’re the monster. She’s thinking, “Okay, he’s almost to the breaking point…a few more sobs, reach for the Kleenex, bow my head so the tears fall dramatically to my lap…”

And if they’re so out of control that they must break stuff, why do they break only your stuff? They could grab their own stuff to break, but why would someone who knows exactly what they’re doing break their own stuff? They wouldn’t. They’ll break their own stuff only if its relatively unimportant to them and they can get mileage out of blaming you for “making” them upset.

The difference between your abuser’s emotional reactions and yours is that yours are real. Your abuser’s emotions look real, but to gain control of you, they must be in control of themselves. Because they’re in control of themselves, they can put on any emotional performance they think will bring you under their control, too.

Your Out-of-Control — But Very Real Emotions

You’ve probably experienced verbal abuse and reacted in a way that doesn’t make you proud. Perhaps you switched into a screaming meme, flopped down like a sobbing doormat, or placated and agreed with everything your abuser said about you. There are as many responses to verbal abuse as there are emotions (Domestic Abuse Victims Think They Are The Abuser).

The key that we’re looking for here is extreme emotion that makes you feel shame or guilt in hindsight. When you exhibit extreme emotion, then you’ve lost control. Unfortunately, losing control like this makes us want to apologize for our behavior. Being empathetic and responsible people, we victims go to our abuser and apologize for our reaction to their abuse.

And bing. The abuser gains control because they see you subjugating yourself, and they will take advantage of your shame. If they don’t manipulate you immediately, you can bet they’ll call up this apology at some time in the future. They’ll act like you “owe them one” and ignore the fact that they were the catalyst to begin with.

Feel Angry Yet?

The emotional roller-coaster of life with an abuser takes its toll. It makes sense that over time, your apologies, emotional outbreaks, and outrageous, stupid arguments lead to you feeling bottled up. Confined. Frustrated! You’re ashamed of behaving the way you do, but your partner never truly apologizes and always lets you take the blame.

All of that (and more) creates a deep-rooted anger. You push your anger down further. You feel your anger, but you may not be sure what causes the inner hostility. Maybe you can’t put into words why you’re so mad, and perhaps you believe you have no right to be angry.

Let’s put all that aside for a minute. If you’re angry, so be it. You don’t need a reason why right now, all you need to do is address the feeling. Fortunately for you, your anger is real and justified. That means that anger management techniques will work for you. Your abuser doesn’t have an anger management problem – they’re putting on a show.

Healthy Emotions Help You Stay in Control of You

There is no unhealthy emotion, only unhealthy reactions to emotions. Anger serves a purpose just as happiness does! Your emotions are signals to what is happening in the world around you, and we could live better if we paid attention to every emotion instead of trying to exorcise the “bad” ones.

We’ll discuss keeping our emotions in check in the next post. There are ways to bring yourself down to earth and respect your emotions without losing respect for yourself. Living with abuse emotionally challenges you, but it doesn’t have to overcome you.

Next: How to Keep Control of Your Emotions

You can find Kellie Jo Holly at Verbal Abuse Journals, or social media on Google+, FacebookTwitter and Amazon Authors.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

13 thoughts on “How Abusers Gain Control By Appearing to Lose It”

  1. Sorry, I’m not trying to be everyone’s advise. I think the best lesson I learned from being around him, is that it tough me to avoid divorced men, who are still bitter about their ex ‘s. It does no good to the person having to put up with their angry talk. You’re better off finding a man who has a positive attitude. So am I. I can’t fix broken men. After lots of years of living, I’m not just suddenly going to accept being hurt or being shouted at by ANY man. It’s his own responsibility to show a woman some appreciation. Sure he was Mr Nice Guy every morning, but I always knew that he’d start his angry abuse towards me, when it got to 5pm.

  2. The brain-washing is very cleverly done. They will slip their “opinion” into the conversation, and say something after it, like “Aren’t they?” or “They aren’t very nice are they?”, because the person wants you to agree with them. God help you if you have a different opinion on the same subject. If you’re not a racist like him, or if you’re not into bully in others, he is now going to spend awful lies about you, and is going to use ignoring you, as his latest weapon. You didn’t once give him ENOUGH attention. He still wants more. So he’s now going to speak to everyone else on the room, apart from you. He SAID you are very special to him, but it’s a smoke – screen, to cover up what’s going on inside his brain. Don’t believe your special to any man, unless he actually goes out of his way to check whether you’re alright. Also, if a man wants you to stick around, he will make sure he never makes you feel less of a person, because he will dread losing you to another man. If he regrets losing you, and you never want to see him ever again, he should have thought about his behaviour sooner. Unless he’s prepared to beg you to come back into his life, he shouldn’t think he deserves such attention. A tough guy, will never show a woman his true emotions. A more sensitive soul will. Oh and he apparently “felt sorry for me” when he first met me. Well sorry to burst his fantasy bubble because I never believed he did. He was too dramatic for his own good. He is on his own from now on. We were never a team. A true genuine team – mate would treat me with compassion. What a laugh.

  3. Thank you. I met a wonderful man 6 months ago. I saved all our texts THANKFULLY as they have shown me he is a verbally abusive controller. I have loved him beautifully but it did no good. I feel so stupid. Yet it has become the hardest thing in the world for me to get away/leave him. I was alone for 14 years and he showed me such sweet love. WRONG!!

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