Verbal Abuse And Brainwashing

January 27, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

Verbal abuse and brainwashing seem to go together like puzzle pieces. It seems that once a person figures out how to verbally manipulate someone, they can become verbal abusers and brainwashers of the highest order. Some people doubt brainwashing exists. But then, some people don't think verbal abuse counts as abuse. I believe verbal abuse and brainwashing have a long history of working together to get victims to do exactly as we're told.

Verbal Abuse and Brainwashing Use Questions To Confuse

Together, verbal abuse and brainwashing cause victims to feel self-doubt and consider that maybe they are the horrid person the abuser accuses them of being.My ex-husband didn't ask me many questions that required a thoughtful response. He didn't want me thinking my thoughts, he wanted me thinking his thoughts. He wanted me so brainwashed that I could read his mind.

He used fast-fire questions to throw me off guard. "What are you doing? Where are the boys? Did you do the laundry?" Three questions at once leaving no time to answer.

There was a definite right answer, I just knew it, but the right answer wasn't necessarily the truth.

The right answer

  1. depended on what he thought I should be doing,
  2. explained why the boys were somehow not where they should be, and
  3. "I've done the laundry and your boxers are folded in quarters and put into your dresser," to which he would reply, annoyed, "I like my boxers folded in thirds."

And that simple contradiction added to the confusion and brainwashing of verbal abuse.

I would respond, "Oh, I'm sorry. Last time you said you liked them folded in quarters," and he would say, "No I didn't." I knew he was wrong.

But at this point, I didn't know what he expected me to do. Find the boys before he had to go get them? Refold his damn boxer shorts? I knew better than tell him what I was doing. First off, he didn't care. Secondly, his questions, demeanor and insistence he wanted something he said he didn't made me think that I must be losing my mind. So the answer to "What are you doing?" was "Going bat-crazy."

And that answer would not have worked at all because the last thing he would do is admit to going bat-crazy. And since he wanted me to be him, if I said the truth there would be a fight. It would end when I agreed that I could not possibly be going bat-crazy.

Ah, well. No use protesting, was there? Better to let it go and just do all the things he'd implied I should have been doing from the beginning. I thought I was being the better person by staying quiet about the insanity. And then I thought that maybe I was holier-than-thou, as he'd often derisively remarked, because I thought I was being a better person by a choice I made for myself.

The Tricky Outcome of Verbal Abuse and Brainwashing

"Geesh, Kellie! STOP THINKING!" I'd think to myself. And that is exactly what he wanted. He wanted me to stop thinking.

That's what the rapid-fire questions were about. That's what the denial of reality was for! He wanted me to stop thinking and simply react how he would react. The whole game was about throwing me off guard. Keeping me on my toes, alert to his desires.

If he were lucky, I'd feel the stress of a cornered animal and react in a seemingly irrational manner. That would give him another excuse to call me names and to tell me what I was doing, thinking, or being.

In this case, he subtly coerced me into not only not thinking, but considering that maybe I was being "holier than thou" which wasn't my thought to begin with!

Holy crap. He was GOOD.

See also:

You can find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Amazon Authors, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*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.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, January 27). Verbal Abuse And Brainwashing, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

February, 15 2013 at 7:57 am

To Howard and all with love:
I am so happy and sad to know that I am not the only one who lived with a person who had rules about dirt piles, hand washing, mine also had rules about lawn mowing, dish washing, opening doors,utensil placement and the list is too long and now too BORING to recount.
I suppose I am fortunate as my compulsive hell ended and is still ending after only 5 years. My ex husband (22 yrs)was such a slob and so indifferent and cold too me denying me sex for years and finally cheating on me multple times with his 'road job" I actually convinced myself that this new man who seemed to care so much about how I did everything, truly cared about me.
This Valentines day we had our last conversation (joke) it was really a monologue (his) about how I needed to get some professional help and shape up once and for all or he was leaving me. He told me that I made him so miserable that "if we were married I would put a gun in my mouth and blow my brains out rather than stay one more minute with you!" (multiple f bombs deleted)
The latest reason for his rage with me was that I tried to tell him that an insult about my appearance had hurt me. He told me that I(as usual) was causing a problem and creating chaos when everything had been going so well all day.That I had ruined another weekend.
This was his interpretation of his directing me in how to take air pressure readings as he stood over me in the driveway and made me "learn" how to do it the right way by practicing for at least 30 minutes complete with sound effects to illustrate how it should be done."Phfft"
Before this exercise in insantiy, he treated me to the fun filled date (this was supposed to be a date?) of "teaching me "the proper way to wash the car in geometric sections making sure the water flowed at exactly the correct angle. He proceeded to rip the rag from my hand and most of the time I was only trusted to rinse with the hose. After washing the cars in 35 degree weather and my tire pressure lesson, I tried to stay cheerful, (something everyone else I know says that I am except my now ex fiance) and then he made yet another comment about my stomach.
I am both sad and happy to say that this comment was the final nail in this relationship coffin. I realized with the familiar sting of this latest insult that my soul had bled enough, I had given enough of my precious life hours in compulsion hell's office and I had drank enough of the Koolaid of love mixed with self loathing.
I have had problems over the years with severe bloating due to IBS. I hve tried everything and nothing seems to work. I imagine from stress? Ya think? I have also gained 30 lbs in the course of the 5 years we have been together; additionally I recently injured my foot tendon teaching a musical dance number to children in my theater group last summer and have not been able to walk without pain for nearly a year. As a result my life style which was very active has gotten sedentary. I was also a fulltime student(dual degrees) which is also stressful and I will be 48 in two months, so hello hormones!( I graduated after nearly 7 years as a single parent, Cum laude. Not bad for an old broad?)
Before my ex fiance and I met I hiked weekly with my son at a nearby park and really enjoyed it. He never liked to do this so surprise! I stopped. This was a great joy in my life as was singing at Karaoke bars,(in which I did not feel the need to drink by the way,) and hanging out with actual people. I had joined a group to learn how to play foreign board games surprise! I no longer do those things either. Hmmm.. Isnt it amazing how blind we are in the forest with all of those trees staring right at us? My axe is sharp now by gum!
At any rate, without all of the "help" that I have had gaining weight over the years he also has gained at least 50 lbs since we started dating. His reasons were that he eats everything in the house and drinks a case of beer a week (most of the time)
I have never put him down about his weight and have tried to cook healthy meals he always complains about nearly everything that I cook. Needless to say, I reacted to his comment about my being a "porker" and a "fat ass" inappropriately by his standards and he left in a rage.
Four days later I stupidly and in my opinion now, pathetically, tried to call him to be together on Valentines day. I suppose I was sentimental while I was engaging in self loathing? At any rate he not only did not want to get together but he also thought that he would use the phone call to insult me even more,
"When I met you 5 years ago, you were a hot little piece of ass, now look at you. You've not only gained weight, but you are a porker. I've seen it when its naked, you're really in denial and need to lose weight now I told you I don't want a fat woman, from the begining. Maybe you need to find another old man, there are still plenty of guys out there you could find to bang your brains out, there are still lots of guys out there who like fat chics, you're still pretty even though your stomach sticks out more than your boobs"
Ignoring the fact that what he said about my appearance was unconscienable, he is the only other person in over 20 years that I have let "bang my brains out" and before that I had very little experience that was voluntary, so the idea that I would just run out and bed someone else really speaks to how little he knows me. The fact that I stood there and took it and even apologized for making him mad enough to say it speaks to how little I know myself.
Ironically, I still get lots of flirting when I am even in the grocery store, often by younger men as I am told that I do not look my age and have always been told so. The other day someone even asked me if I had lost weight, I have, but my ex fiance does not see my efforts I am on a strict diet and am trying to get back into exercise, but I refuse to do so in his presence as I am certain that I will have to endure another lecture perhaps this time I will not be breathing correctly.
I cannot endure the judgement without wanting to kick him in his aspirations, so I never exercise in front of him.
I am certain that I will continue to exercise and lose weight, I lost 150 lbs after I had a very difficult pregnancy with my son now 16. With my age and hormone issue it probably will be just as hard to lose 30 now, but I am determined to do so because I want to for me. I think that I shall be successful especially now that I wont have to hear "No fat chic" comments.
I really thought and still think that my now ex fiance suffers from severe anxiety and is extremely compulsive as I have seen him even at work engage in bizzare rituals, but now I no longer care. I am done being his "therapist."He did go to therapy and even went on medication for his anxiety and anger and rage issues. When that didn't work he blamed me for that too. I am done being his anything. I finally realize that some people cannot be saved and in the long run even though there is obviously something in me that hates me or I would never have put up with everything for so long (I've left out a lot of the abuse) I must learn to conquer that self loathing demon that I carry so that I can finally love me, and save me and be my own Valentine.
I am fortunate that my son whose natural father abandoned us in 2006 and who never was a father to him, has special needs and cannot and will not emotionally process what I have allowed to transpire in our home these last nearly 5 years. though he was never in any physical danger and did not witness the violence.
I, like Howard, thought that I should try to keep the family together if at all possible and do everything I could (endure it) to make that happen. I thought that since my ex fiance wanted to be a father to my son even with his disabilities,I should try to keep the relationship together for the kids sake (in my case only one child, now a teenager.)
In hindsight I truly thought that I had waited long enough (2yrs of total celebacy after my ex finally left) and lots and lots of therapy before I even stuck my toe in the dating water. I took my time and we did not jump into bed either I really thought that he was just a good man with a bad temper. Now I realize that he is a broken man, and my son doesn't need a broken man for a father.
I feel so responsible now for allowing all of this to happen. I really thought that accepting someone for who they were as I always do especially in the special needs community that I am a part of professionally and personally, meant that the opposite could be expected. His moods, his anger were all a part of him, so who was I to judge? I didn;t think that I was trying to change or fix or save him, because for the first 3 years I didn't see who he truly was. His rage started out subtley. I did think that he would accept me and my son in the same way, and that if we put up with his shortcomings and forgive his mistakes, he would do the same for us. I never thought that I would be judged for everything that I failed in and I never thought that I would be blamed for things I had no control over. I also thought that forgiveness was a two way street, and that if I forgave him for his rage and anger, he would forgive me for defending myself. I never thought that I would have to be perfect all the time...which of course I cannot be.
True to form he called me last night on Valentines day and while he started out the phone call by saying happy valentines day he then proceeded to ask me if he could sleep at my house so that he would'nt have to make the long ride home. He works shift work and it was around midnight when he woke me. He went on to say that this was not solving our problems and that I still had to make a lot of changes and get professional help etc before things would be better between us. He then said that he didn't want to fight and that he would really appreciate it ect.
I have to say honestly that even a week ago, in spite of the things he said, and he has said and done so much more than I will ever write down, that I would have filled up my glass with more Koolaid and forgiven him and welcomed him in again not only to my house but into my bed, but this time I did not.
This time I even started the conversation by asking him if the reason that he was calling was because he needed something.
This time I had the courage to lock the house (I stole back all of his keys and fortunately he hasn't made copies)
This time I did not fall back into his arms only to have them strangle the soul out of me again. This time I did not feel sorry for him and worry that he might fall asleep at the wheel.
This time I did not think that at least I could have a good orgasim out of the deal.
This time I resisted.
Even though I have lent him thousands of dollars and I will never see it, even though I am really strapped for cash right now and know that I could get him to "help" me for an unspoken price,
this time I didn't let him.
One "This time" at a time!"
Maybe porker and fat-ass and tire pressure lessons and lectures "I am only making you practice for your own good, so you'll not be so clueless and be able to take your own tire pressure" were my final ephiphany.
I'm not a moron or stupid in spite of what I have been hearing at home for the last 5 years, I know that my addiction to this "sicilian thing" between us is not going to magically go away. I also understand that it is probably going to take years before the blood will ever be cleaned up that has been dripping from my soul since childhood.
I further realize that in spite of all the planning not to be in another abusive relationship and waiting and celebacy and therapy, I truly have come out of the fire and into the molten lava. My marriage was a long cold sad sexless journey for 20+ years, but he never insulted me and made me feel the way that this man has.
I know with certainty that to ever engage in dating again I need to first find out what about me hates me so much that I would allow myself to go through this. I am so grateful to see the post about dirt pile and handwashing rules. I knew intellectually that I wasn't the only one who endured these compulsive behaviours,( I watch TV and the sopranos and recently sons of ananarchy Carmela and Gemma understand!) but reading your post and many others on this site and others has made me emotionally cognizant of this fact and I am relieved to no longer be subject to these rules of engagement in hell.
Thank you all for your courage to share. I wish that I had mustered the courage much earlier, years ago, to even visit sites like these. I am ready now. Please pray that I will continue to stay on this path from self loathing to self loving. Pray that all of us will!
Thank you all for your open candor, and for your allowing me to share my soul as well.
Hugs to all of you men and women everywhere who have escaped from "Compulsion Hell" and have found the exit from "Abuse Alley" we will vanquish these self-loathingdemons one day permanently!...

February, 23 2011 at 4:39 pm

Many men want to bully us and make us do what they want. I agree with Kelley my ex would always tell me I was selfish when we wanted to eat something I did not he would always say you only think of yourself never care about what I want. Anyways verbal abuse is the hardest way's of abuse anyone can overcome because its something we can only feel internally it's not something that can be seen like physical abuse. After being in an abusive relationship I created healingabusedwomen .com to help women prevent abuse in the future and also help heal those who have already been abused.

January, 31 2011 at 7:22 am

I have actually been told...."stop trying to think for yourself, just do what I say!" This is bad.

January, 30 2011 at 8:49 am

Betty was living my life. Howard went through what I went through- Kellie went through what I went through...what many of us have been through.
My husband came from a horrific family- mother sexually inappropriate- divorced father when he was 7. Father was an insane pedophile- whole family had alcoholic issues.
I came from a background with a severely bi-polar verbally abusive mother. I turned into my father and married another version of my mother.
Marriage counseling was a farce. He was handsome, slick and like a snake.
Youngest one went to a child therapist- what does she say first to therapist- that she hates her father and how he acts. What is therapist's response? "your father seems to be such a nice man."- Blindsided again.
Gaslit, humiliated, money insanity due to relentless dishonesty. I spent most of my marriage trying to keep us from going under from his money
Made a big move to many states away- again he loses his jobs constantly due to what I finally figured out later was his mental illness being part of the job cycle. We buy a house- the constant : "what can make him happy-if only over and over". We move into the house, he is bored and hostile within a short time with it. He never helps with anything with it. Just berates me for not ever doing enough. I was so so lost at this point- just shredded emotionally. Then a few years into the house , he has a psychotic episode- and I never called the police. One of my only regrets.
Youngest goes off to college- relieved to be going, scared to leave me with him. In 6 months, he runs out of the house and leaves a psychotic note about what a bitch I am. ( Through friends and others, I find out he has been running around with women with daughters- emotional incest repeating itself again. )
I am out of it 5 years. I am worn out, I am struggling with money due to the divorce and the economy. I am at this odd point of utter grief of not having a kind man in my life and feeling at 57 having lost the opportunity to make more money and to meet someone. My children hate him and what has transpired- two of them have changed their last name to mine.
I have no faith in therapists unless they are trained in mental disorders and if I were to advise anyone- go to therapy by YOURSELF, find an internet self-help group and get out as fast as you can. The wounds of this last a lifetime.

January, 29 2011 at 6:48 pm

I had a husband who rewrote history. I had learned to ignore him until my sister came to live with us. After he had recounted his version of what happened, my sister would look at me and say, "That's not what I saw." Because she pointed out what he was doing, I became aware again of what he had been doing for years. Finally divorced him because he had no interest in changing the way we interacted. He was happy. I was miserable - which made him happy. Never regretted the divorce.

Howard Chelin
January, 29 2011 at 6:28 pm

I was living with someone for 9 years and we have been separated for the past 2 and a half years. I am certain that she has borderline personality disorder ( BPD )with a narcissistic "sub set". It does not realy matter what the 'label' is--there are many pesronality disorders where verbal abuse is one of the main traits that manifests itself.
In my particular case, my wife questioned virtually every behaviour that I engaged in, ranging from work ( I am a commissioned sales person and can set my own hours --apparently it should have been 9:00AM to 5:00PM every day with no variation as far as she was concerned ) to the most mundane of housework tasks such as sweeping the floor ( I learned that "one" is supposed to have little piles of dirt along the way, not one big one ). Life was one big constant argument and unfortunately with two children , boys aged 5 and 7 at the time that we split up, I was forced to give in most of the time or risk exposing the children to emotionally damaging behaviour.
After two years of personal therapy with a psychiatrist, two main "things" have become crystal clear: 1/ The greater majority of verbal abusers are most likely never going to change, either in stopping the verbal abuse or taking any portion of responsibility for it. 2/ They are so insecure deep inside ( my therapist says that they are "struggling just to hold it together" ) that this artificial way of exerting control over the world affords them a false sense of security. That is why seemingly unimportant events such as particular routes to take while driving home, how long you need to take while washing your hands ( my wife says that it has to be long enough to sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" all of the way through ) etc. take on so much importance to them.
After much soul searching ( I forgot to mention that we have been in marital counselling for 8 years --and that she was the one who insisted on the separation after the arguments began to worsen in front of the children, because I refused to constanly cave in ) I have decided to split up permanently. She was not willing to live together again yet anyway but she claims that she still loves me and that we should remain in marital therapy.
I have come to the painful realization that my two boys are better off with me finding another mate , hopefully with whom I can demonstrate a loving, respectful and nurturing realtionship. I have the greatest of fears that they will subconsciously seek out women of a similar nature to that of their mother and I hope that I can help to avert this by doing so.
To all of the people out there in similar situations, I would suggest that if children are not involved, it is probably better to pull the plug much sooner than I did ( 11-12 years ). I waited so long because I was determined to try to hold our family together and that if I could not, at least I would never have to look back and think that I didn't give it my best shot. With hindsight, I have realized that almost all of my friends and all of my family members urged me to give up on the relationship about 6 months into the separation but I was determined to have a fairy tale ending for our family and stretched it out needlessly to this point ( two and a half years as mentioned previously ).
Well after much more pain both to myself and my two children, than I ever thought that any of us would be capable of enduring, I have finally arrived at that point. Sadly, my fairy tale ending does not appear to be in the cards but at least I know that I will save my two children much more pain, that they undoubtedly would have to endure in the future, if we stayed together.

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