How Did You Brainwash Me?
When people ask, "Why do women stay in abusive relationships?" the answers are often too simple. There could be financial reasons, but if the abusive spouse died, would the victim wonder if they could support themselves to the point of doing nothing to advance their employability? (No.) There are the children to consider, but if the abusive spouse died, would the victim insist on finding a replacement right away? (No.)
Although finances and children are reasons victims cite for staying, one true reason they stay is a deeply implanted fear that they cannot make it in the world alone. My abuser implanted this fear so deeply in my mind that instead of recognizing the abuse in my relationship, I instead prayed that he would die. I consciously acknowledged the fact that he made my life hell, but the thought that I could divorce him remained outside my realm of consciousness. Abuse causes illness of the mind and body, and brainwashing sets both illnesses in motion.
What is Brainwashing?
Merriam-Webster's concise encyclopedia states that brainwashing is a
"Systematic effort to destroy an individual's former loyalties and beliefs and to substitute loyalty to a new ideology or power... The techniques of brainwashing usually involve isolation from former associates and sources of information; an exacting regimen calling for absolute obedience and humility; strong social pressures and rewards for cooperation; physical and psychological punishments for noncooperation, including social ostracism and criticism, deprivation of food, sleep, and social contacts, bondage, and torture; and constant reinforcement...."
I could have asked, "What is Domestic Abuse" and posted the same definition.
Brainwashing Works Best On A Special Type of Victim
Sandra L. Brown, M.A. says in her book Women Who Love Psychopaths that the best victims for brainwashing are women who are:
- perfectionists, and/or
- hold themselves to high standards, and/or
- persistent, and/or
- resourceful, and/or
- goal-directed, and/or
- self-sacrificing, and/or
- previous victims of abuse or neglect, and/or
- experience dependence, vulnerability, or incompetency issues.
If you are in an abusive relationship and do not recognize yourself in the first five or six bullet points, think back to the beginning of your relationship. Do you recognize aspects of who you were?
How Abusers Use Brainwashing Techniques Naturally
According to Ms. Brown's book, abusers do not feel the way we normally think of what it means to feel. Due to childhood abuse or perhaps mental disorder, many if not most abusers detach from their feelings at an early age. Instead of feeling, they observe how other people behave, and then mimic those behaviors appropriately. In this way, abusers become expert behaviorists without taking a step inside a classroom.
They know what works and what doesn't work to manipulate you to do what they want. And because they've detached from their feelings, abusers do not feel guilt for their manipulative actions. This is probably why abusers cannot take responsibility for what they've done to you or admit they abuse you (with lasting regret). They do not comprehend that any wrong took place and may think that your fear and tears are merely a show designed to manipulate them, and baby, they ain't fallin' for it.
In short, abuser's use brainwashing techniques naturally because "the set-up" is all they know.
Lifton's Brainwashing Technique
Robert J. Lifton was an early psychologist who studied mind-control and brainwashing. He broke the brainwashing technique down into the following categories. I'm going to change the descriptions to align with domestic abuse. (See the original list at ChangingMinds.org.)
Assault on identity
The abuser attacks the victim's self-identity by making statements that define the victim, eventually causing the victim to break down and doubt their own perceptions of who they are. ( i.e. "You're not good with money" "You are a slut!")
Arguments in which the abuser expresses hurt or discontent leads the victim to feel guilty (these complaints may be completely fabricated or loosely based on fact). Eventually, these arguments cause the victim to break down and feel guilt and shame for almost everything they do and come to feel they deserve punishment.
"When the person is forced to denounce friends and family, it both destroys their sense of identity and reinforces feelings of guilt. This helps to separates them from their past, building the ground for a new personality to be built" (quoted straight from Changing Minds because I couldn't say it any better - a.k.a. isolation)
The breaking point is best defined by it's symptoms: Depression, crying jags, a nervous breakdown or panic attacks, vague overwhelming fear or explicit fears of dying or loved ones dying. Unconsciously, victims begin losing their sense of "who they are" and experience the fear of "total annihilation of the self".
Just when the victim can't take it anymore, the abuser offers a small kindness. The victim feels a deep sense of gratitude (more gratitude than is justified by the abuser's act). Does it feel like a honeymoon? Yep.
The compulsion to confess
The victim may feel a compulsion to offer up an act of kindness to the abuser, as if the pain the victim caused the abuser is anywhere near the pain the abuser caused the victim. The victim, knowing that nothing would make the abuser happier than to agree with the negative statements made early on, may "confess" to being exactly as the abuser said they were ("You're right, I did act like a slut by wearing that dress" "Please take over all the bank accounts - I don't understand money")
The channeling of guilt
The victim's overwhelming sense of guilt and shame combined with the assaults on their identity and unsubstantiated accusations cause major confusion. In time, the victim feels that everything they do is "wrong" and "I can't do anything right!" After the victim enters this state of confusion, the abuser can redirect the victim's guilt toward anything the victim thinks, feels, or does. This causes the victim to wonder if everything they were taught or learned previously was "bad" and that maybe the abuser's take on life in general is "good".
Reeducation: logical dishonoring
The victim thinks, "Hey - if I am such a mess because of what I was taught, then it's not my fault that I'm so messed up!" The victim finds relief for their guilt by thinking such thoughts, so they "confess" to their abuser more of the "stupid" beliefs they hold but now want to rid themselves of. In this way, the victim begins to deny their own identity and willingly take on portions of the identity the abuser wants them to have.
Progress and harmony
As the victim empties herself of previous beliefs, the hole left inside of her acts like a vacuum, sucking in the abuser's ideas of good/bad and right/wrong. The abuse eases because the abuser sees less of "her" in her and more of "him" in her. The victim receives a pleasurable response in his lack of abuse. There's not more love, just less abuse.
Final confession and rebirth
Typically, the above steps will recur repetitively in the abusive relationship. "Final confession and rebirth" cannot be reached until the victim is completely and totally brainwashed to be exactly who the abuser wished. This is the point of no return.
You are reading this. You are not at the point of no return.
*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.
Holly, K. (2012, June 21). How Did You Brainwash Me?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/06/brainwashing-abusive-relationships
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
You can start with the NDVH (http://thehotline.org) and build out from there. Don't enlist his family or friends in your support network because what you're doing or saying will get back to him. Attend groups, call hotlines, speak to your family doctor and get a therapist. If one of your friends takes his side right now, that person is ignorant of domestic abuse and should not be in this support network. Be choosy.
You fear of "sounding crazy" or "like the bad one" is partially based on the fact that abuse makes you feel as if you can no longer communicate rationally with others. The problem is that you CAN communicate with the right people - people who understand and can help. For example, you do not sound crazy to me at all. In fact, I know there are a hundred other little things that happen to you that you didn't include in your comment. It's a big ball of lies made up by your abuser to make you feel weak. But you are not weak. You are capable, responsible, level-headed and completely sane.
Visit the NDVH and start putting together a support system of domestic violence survivors, domestic violence support organizations, a DV support group or two, trusted (and educated about abuse) friends and family, perhaps an attorney if legal issues concern you, your family doctor, a therapist, ... whoever you can think of to support you, validate you, and help you get back on track.
Every time, I said anythings about his relationships with women and girls or I wanted to see his cellphone, he shouted on me and leave me for several times..
He was in my life for 18 months and during this time, I was very stressful..Each time I complained about any things, he told me: You don't have any things to loose...
The time finally came, unplanned and over the simplest situation. I walked out the door. I still can't believe it - I simply WALKED OUT the door, (without a plan) He never thought I could do it. But when I did and he knew I was stronger than ever, he knew he had no power over me anymore, and I took the power back.
8 years later I'm still coping with issues, mainly trust and thinking everyone has a motive and doubting myself. Please.... after walking out the door, deal with what's happened DONT
BLOCK IT OUT - it doesn't work.
mostly because I couldnt explain in my words what he was doing because i had his words in my head. Every time I left him, i was drowning in the misery of his lies. it is only now that I remembered the fear he put in me, how when I started talking to a friend I had isolated myself from, my heart beat out my chest when he found out and I never understood why. At one point i even called a friend to tell him not to post on my status because it would make him mad. I remember now, all of the words other people have said to me, you put up such a fascade... how do you do it? You're in pain and you dont even act like it. You should be screaming at him, it's your life... why aren't you angry? I wasnt angry... i was confused. I was numb with grief. I was silently drowning. I could never understand how my friends could hold me while I cried but he couldn't. That's not true, he held me while I cried about the people i felt completely isolated from, asking me ,"Do you want me to beat them up for hurting you?" I literally had flashbacks about the things people would say, "What's the matter with you?" I told you that you were bad?" All of which confirmed everything he said about me, that there was something wrong with me. I remember all of it, all of the nasty things he ever said to me, did to me and I wonder how long it will stay with me? I also wonder after I leave him when the numbness will come and then the pain, the drowning...I remember I used to watch and wait for his lips to thin out, tried to prevent it with everything i had inside of me because I knew what it meant. It meant that those bad words were coming but would it mean that this time he would ridicule me like a child, point his finger in my face like last time, what name would he call me this time. The worst part is that my daughter will grow up and find a man just like him and he's gonna make her cry and he's gonna steal her joy and her hope and she's gonna wonder why she wants to die.
i just wish he would have just hit me, atleast then I could have found the right words to explain what was happening to me. I tried to tell people but I didnt know
how... i couldnt explain it... all i ever said was he was mean or he doesnt contribute... he's bad with money...or he mistreats me financially because I was trying to make sense of it by looking at his actions but i never thought about the words. I remember when i would pray out in pain, I knew in my heart God was trying to tell me something. All I heard was, finish your book, finish it... what you are looking for are in the words.
I remember when i first move to Texas, God was stronger. i would look at signs find words, put them in my book. And I heard God again. The words are every where.. now that i know and have found the right words... i want to shout it from the roof tops... I'm not crazy.
Document EVERYTHING! Save it for court. I was able to get a 3 year restraining order, and full custody of our son. No visitation from my husband. All the time he was threatening me with owning me in court with his lawyer. He never had one and didn't even show up to court.
Move out as soon as possible. From the way it sounds from some of you ladies things can't get much worse if you leave. If you stay though that is another story. Why waste your life and your children's life on someone who only wants to use you? People who love you won't curse at you, hit you, talk down to you, make you cry, or control you. That isn't love and every one of you deserves to be loved. You're still with your abusers because you are comfortable with them. Trust me, it might take awhile to find someone new, but it will be totally worth it compared to living with an abusive person. I'd rather live alone the rest of my life than continue being degraded.
For now I'm single and happy with my infant son. Being a single mother for me is a breeze compared to living with my husband. I go where I want, when I want, and no one to answer to. I can now concentrate on my baby and even my blood pressure has improved since I left. Sometimes I get a little depressed, but you know what? My husband made me cry every day. He didn't care, and he made fun of me for it. Whatever I'm feeling now is no where near as bad as what I felt when living with my husband. I'm amazed that these abusers haven't gotten their butts kicked by REAL men.
Stop 'the inner critic's' cycle of; How could I be so dumb, How could I have let this happen, How could I not see this: STOP.
With a pure and loving heart, you let someone in, you loved and trusted them, and they used, misused and abused you and that trust. PERIOD.
FORGIVE yourself, first. Do not 'forget' what happened, but remember the signs, so that it never happens again.
Seek out help if you get stuck. Google "abuse advocate ______(your town's name in the blank)". They have MANY free services, and many more services based upon your income. It's an amazing help when you feel like there is no where to turn.
If you want to break free, you sever ties. Clean cut. You move out NOW. Not tonight, not tomorrow morning. You grab what you need to survive and you leave. I started by switching apartments with the abuser's friend who lived in the same block. Lasted a couple of months. Wasn't easy and he made my life as hard as he could. But after I got to move to another city until, ultimately, I was out of the country (planned trip).
I understand that some of you have children and I was lucky enough to only have a cat. You shouldn't stay because of the kids. Make them you're reason to leave if anything. So my bare minimum was: my meds, my cat. That's it! Do the same: your kids, your <>. Be ready to start at ground zero. I had NOTHING after leaving...except a new ease to breathe and think. The distance will help. The more distance, the better. Go ahead, you're stronger than you think.
All that is going to happen is that it is going to get worse and never at times better; my rule is once a hand has been bought up to hit you in anyway that's the end of the relationship.
So think about it, all your going to do is keep on letting him back into your life and putting you in danger and is no good for your children to be put threw nor worth seeing. Being scared is a Suspect of doing nothing about it and is leading you to be guilty more and more and at fault to a point that you will always give in to his nonsense. It isn't until you move on will you ever see a change or difference within you and children's lives; it has to start with YOU for the CHILDREN sake.
LET HIM GO MOVE ON TO BETTER AND HEALTHIER FUTURE!
left until i leave. Its been pretty easy up until this pint but now he is being nice to me again. I almos wish we xoukd have a huge blowout right beifore i leave. I just wish i didnt care so much about his feelings. Y is this so hard uggghh
I was so brainwashed at the time of the divorce that I agreed to shared parenting, 50/50 custody, but me as the Residential Parent (at the direction of my Attorney).
He later convinced me that it would be better for our Daughter if I moved to the same school district where he lived. I did so. Then I tried when our Daughter turned 5, 2 years ago to change the schedule to make things easier for her with not having to go back and forth during the school week. He did not agree. I then told him I had plans to leave the district mid school year and get on with my life with my boyfriend who is now my fiance. We planned to move just 25 minutes away from him to make the commute for my Daughter easy to see her Father. I enrolled her in the new school and had plans to move her Jan of this year. He filed for full custody, a change in residential status from me to him and a motion to prevent me from moving our Daughter mid school year. I moved under the direction of my former Attorney. The motion became an order. As a result, until the custody trial was heard, I had to commute her from Jan to the end of the school year which was last Thursday (as the Residential Parent). We have not yet been to trial. I obtained a different Attorney and because I moved under the order to not move my Daughter even though I commuted her, my Attorney advises I move back to the district where he resides, then refile to move her to the district where I am currently residing. This sounds like much upheaval for my Daughter. However, I am afraid that if I don't move back and retain my Residential Status that I will be pushed out of her life. He married the other Woman 2 months after our divorce was final and our Daughter started calling her Mom at times. I have grown a lot and learned a lot about myself and why I was a victim to this type of abuse and why I allowed this to happen to me; no boundaries/co-dependent...etc.
I think it is better for me not to move back, but not sure it is better for my Daughter. At the beginning of the custody case, a GAL was assigned to our case and he manipulated our Daughter into saying things that he wanted her to say, telling her lies about my Fiance and me...etc. It goes on and on. I am tired and want to move on, but unsure if I should return to the school district and keep my Res Status and continue to fight to move her to the district where I am residing (which may create havoc for her not attending the district where he lives and his wife's kids attend) or stay where I am, continue with shared custody and commute her to school during my parenting time. At least I would have less of him to deal with.
I left my husband 5 months ago. When we first met I had just turned 19. Married when I was twenty. At first he seemed to be everything I ever wanted. He was quirkey and fun anf liked music. Which was wonderful. The funny thing is I never noticed the cues that I was being taken advantage of or treated wrong. Until a month into our marriage he came home from work one day and brought me to the floor by my hair because I forgot to fill out a form. He then proceeded to choke me till I passed out. This happened continuously throughout my marriage. He would always apologize and say he had a rough day at work or whatnot and usually treat me better for a little while. And it would usually last until three weeks and it seemed as if he couldnt hold it back anymore. Eventually I was no longer allowed to drive or pay bills. Not because I wasnt capable of soing it. But because he said it was his form of "helping me". He always made it appear that my isolation was always for the better or because he was protecting me. Anything nice I ever had was broken by him. And he had the best of everything. I wanted to leave but eventually became pregnant. So I thought that it would get better. Unfortunately he lost his job (which happened almost every six months) so I had to work overtime to keep us with somewhere to live. He was never home and I never had any support by him. When he was he would yalk down to me or make me stay home because he would tell me that I wouldnt enjoy it. Which is funny because I had always been so full of life and open to anything within reason. We eventually had to move in with my mother because he refused to find a job and I could no longer work my labor job. He not only treated me badly but my mother as well when we lived with her. And even threatened to kill me with his gun because I had not cooked properly. After I had my son he got worse. I was afraid to act like I enjoyed or didnt enjoy anything. It seemed like he didnt want me to have a personality at all. I felt like he just wanted to use me as his prisoner. Or slave. I never saw any if the money I made working. And when I wasnt working I had to take care of home life such as my son. And eventually his new pit bull. I am not blaming the breed but my family always owned small dogs. So I didnt know how to handle.her. he would beat the hell out of that dog. And I tried so hard to show her what little bit of love I could. Until one day she attacked me with my son in my hands. And he wouldnt allow me to seek medical attention. But hit me because I accidentally got blood on his shoe. I could go on and on about it. And I grew up in a houshold that showed me nothing but love. Until then. I guess I was very naive. . But after being treated like that for seven years I felt as though people eventually saw me as trash and didnt want to be around me. At the very end I was so anxious and deppressed that I couldnt hold food down. And I felt like my body was shutting down on me. . So I took up the courage one night to take my child and leave while he was out "playing music.". The one question I have is how can I teach myself that not everyone is out to hurt me? How can I find confidence in myself or make myself feel like I csn do the things I wasnt allowed to do? Am I going to be alone forever because I am too broken? I feel hopeless and like scum of the earth. And I just want peace.
For #2, you can start really small.
Hey, that dude choosing carrots at the grocery store didn't hurt me.
Woah. I just spent the afternoon at the park and not one person hurt me.
Check your current relationships, too.
Wow. My aunt is really good to me.
My child loves me.
You learn to trust again by knowing you CAN trust (some) people. (You revise how and when you trust someone based on what you've learned from your abusive relationship.)
Maybe a mentor would help you as you regain self-confidence. Check out this page: http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/
MY GREATEST BLESSING, MY DAUGHTER IS GOING THRU THIS..
SHE WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED. SO I SENT HER TO HER DADS TO GET AWAY FROM WHERE IT HAPPENED...
I NEVER GOT MY DAUGHTER BACK...............
My husband destroyed my sense of self to the point where I almost committed suicide while I was pregnant. At that point I sought out help.
I was told then I was in an emotionally abusive marriage. A light clicked on. I don't know how I didn't see it before. Years later I'm still recovering but I can't keep from feeling broken. And I'm still here.
I want to leave, I need to leave but I have nothing. I gave up my career, I don't have any job prospects as I've been out of the workforce for nearly a decade. He even ruined my credit score because he controlles the finances and dictates how and when bills were payed and nothing in the sphere of me mattered including my bills. I have small children. One who is too young to be in school so I'd need daycare. I don't have anymore friends. My family can't take us in.
And now that my husband has destroyed who I used to be, now that he has removed all the chances I ever had to live independently of him, it's like he's lost interest in me, I'm something to be discarded, he treats me like I'm a Leech. If try and stand up for myself now he says I'm abusing him! He nullifies what he did to me but tells me I'm abusive towards him and he's a victim?!
To make matters worse we live overseas and I can't just pack up the kids and drive away. I'm stuck. He's already told me if I get his command involved he will cut me off financially. He will keep the kids and call my ex and tell him I can't take care of my child with my ex. I know his command won't do anything if I ask for help anyways.
He has threatened to kick me out. (ERD if you're familiar with the military) If I don't stop (fill-in-the-blank-of-irrational-demands) he also said he would invoke the Soiliders & Sailors Relief Act when I leave so that I can't divorce him while he's stationed overseas. He knows that would effect my GI Bill benefits, social services everything. I'm trapped.
I was a soldier and a military wife. There is little my ex could have done to my career besides talk badly about me, and that wouldn't have been enough to take away any of my benefits. And once a military wife, with access to dependent services such as the social services offered at the hospital, there was nothing he could do to me without it hurting HIS career more than anything else.
He tells you these things, in part, because he knows HE is the one who is "stuck". He wants you to believe the opposite.
of you own then someone else will be making the decisions for you.
Take responsibility instead of blaming others.
I was in an abusive relationship for ten and a half years.
I was 18 years old when it all started. I have been out now for 8 years and have transformed. I am the one who did that, I took the responsibility as I had to.
I had no one else to blame so had to look within.
Anyways, i want to thank you for writing this article, when i read it i was able to see what my dad did to brainwash me, and the effect it had. And it helps me to believe that it was wrong.
he would make comments like "I don't like driving with chicks next to me cause they are irritating" that's if I comment about him drinking while driving.
I am currently expecting another child.
I feel like he is using me for money and possesions but it is not easy to go back to my mother's house. I also don't know what to do. I think he does not love me any more but I don't want to accept it.
He would come home and ask me whether I have been crying for him.
I lost all my friends a few months after meeting him and now I am lonely all the time.
I threatened to take the kids if I leave him.
I feel much better when I am at work because I do customer service and after work I don't look forward to going to that house.