How Abusers Gain Control By Appearing to Lose It
You, the target of verbal abuse, have one mission in your efforts to end verbal abuse: keep your emotions in check. Your 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.
*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, July 22). How Abusers Gain Control By Appearing to Lose It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/07/how-abusers-gain-control
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
He was pointing at me in front of work men sayingN I told you extra 200 its nothing to do with me. I was embarrassed and humiliated. He says I'm a fat ugly cunt and I don't want to go out customers he puts me down. We have no mortgage and he said I embarrassed him as I pmd him on fb to say he paid nothing to council tax bills etc I hate him but love my pets
Then, continue to research on line. Maybe call the domestic violence hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). They will talk to you about verbal abuse too, not just physical abuse. They may also have some suggestions for you. I wish you the best.
That therapist wasn't too familiar with DV. Of course I could pretend to be happy, and I could feel relief to an extent. The thing the therapist didn't seem to understand was that the NICE could end at any second for any reason.
I was constantly on my toes...waiting, watching. You can't be truly happy with an ominous cloud over your head.
Nikky, there may have one technique you can use to help yourself. You said that when you're silent, he stops. He is interpreting your silence as agreement, and that may work to your benefit.
Of course no one wants to agree by silence - especially when you don't agree! But on those days where you need a rest, try this:
Be silent. But in your mind, go somewhere else. Name the type of abuse he is using (diminishing, intimidation, denial, <a href="http://verbalabusejournals.com/about-abuse/what-is-verbal-abuse/types-verbal-abuse/" rel="nofollow"> et cetera</a>. Observe him to see how he uses body language, tone of voice, etc. Watch and listen, making mental notes to yourself. Tell yourself that when he is done, you will write this incident down in a private place to add to your records, or relate it to your friends and ask them to keep the record so he can't find it.
Trick HIM for a change. Be present, let him think whatever you want him to think. But during this time, he is nothing but a lab rat to you. An oddity to observe.
I hope you're in a better place very soon.
It is still so hard for me to accept that he is not sincere when he acts nice :(
OMG - I was hooked as soon as I saw that. Yep - that's how my ex was. Even though we've been divorced for 12 years, I will still occasionally have nightmares about him.
Probably one of the worst 'threats' was after a fight we had in 1997. It was after 10pm, dark... I laid on our bed crying after he left the condo. Then it dawned on me: "Why are you crying? This is what you've been waiting for. He's left... let him go."
Right about that time, I head the door downstairs, then his feet come up the steps to the bedroom. My back was to the door of the room and I heard drawers opening and closing. Whatever he was looking for, he wasn't finding it immediately (or... just making noise to draw attention.) I finally turned around to ask, "What are you doing?" to see him standing there with his 9mm pointed at his temple. I screamed "OMG OMG" He started off on a rant about what a bitch I was and that it was all my fault for him wanting to pull the trigger. He said some other stuff too, but that was the gist of it. He wanted me to know that I was to blame for everything.
I worried for my babies asleep in the next room and could only picture them coming into their mommy and daddy's room to find us dead.
I turned away from him, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing my face if he pulled the trigger. I don't think I've ever been MORE terrified for my life. I thought he would shoot me then turn the gun on himself.
Thankfully, he left... everything was silent and I couldn't move. When I felt sure he was gone, I went into the babies' room to check on them. They were both sound asleep (thank God).
I have a hard time reconciling with myself about allowing him back into my/our lives. I should've packed my stuff and run as fast as I could. But when you're abused, you somehow buy their apologies or reasoning... again, taking all the blame for what happened and vowing to 'do better.'
I walked on eggshells for more than 20 years. I'm so relieved to be away from him. Unfortunately, he's been successful at alienating my children from me.
He very subtlety had control over most aspects of my life and tried to lead me to think he only had my best interest at heart. I was in a 5 yr relationship with him .His previous partner was in contact with him the whole duration.She had similar problems with him and told me so.
Within a few weeks of our relationship ending he is back with her even though they live 100s of miles apart.I am glad I am out of it now but 5 yrs of lies by both of them have left a lot of damage.Not all verbal abuse is violent sometimes it can be very cleverly disguised as "caring" Listen to your "gut instinct" if its telling you its wrong ...then it is and get away no matter how hard!