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Abuse-Can Be Subtle and Deadly

People hear the word “abuse” and assume physical violence, but there are many forms of abuse. There are your run of the mill a-holes, wife beaters and cheaters and then in a class all of their own, are narcissists/psychopaths. Even narcissism has varying levels of abuse and degrees of severity, some narcissists, although cheaters and liars never physically abuse their partner and are able to hold down jobs. At the other end of the spectrum are the narcissists who destroy all who come in contact with them. It has taken me a long time to accept I was involved with a narcissist and even longer to realize and accept how truly evil he was and the danger I was in. One of the most powerful weapons the abuser has to keep the victim in the relationship is the victim’s own denial.

In my quest for answers I came across a couple who claimed he was a narcissist and she, through her love for him discovered how to “cure” him. For anyone to claim they can cure a narcissist is a dangerous game to play. As is typical of the victim, my hope was restored and I clung to any remote chance; I could “cure” JC also. I was quick to grasp at anything that indicated if I tried harder, was more understanding and loved unconditionally I could save the relationship and JC. That was almost 10 years ago, I don’t know if they are still around but you would figure if it was possible to cure a narcissist the internet would be full of testimonial about their discovery. Never think you can love the narcissist well, or if you try just a little harder to please him things will be ok. We are strong women, we tend to think we can give a little more, bend a little farther and then we find ourselves in too deep to extricate ourselves.

I read somewhere that a woman will stay in or go back to an abusive relationship as long as she feels there is something she can do to “fix” it; until she feels she has done everything she can do, she won’t leave on her own. With my experience I can only say that the longer I stayed and the more times I went back the more severe and insidious the abuse got.

With physical abuse there are often signs of abuse, bruising etc and people are much more apt to believe the victim, come to their assistance, and support them emotionally or financially.

Emotional abuse is ambiguous and hard to prove, the victim is less likely to get support and people tend to think they are exaggerating, overly sensitive or antagonizing the abuser. Society in general does not view psychological or emotional abuse as “dangerous” and feel that if the person isn’t treating you the way you would like just leave. They don’t understand the damage done to the emotional state of the victim or the potential danger to the victim.

All abuse stems from the abusers need to control the victim, whether it is physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse.

A narcissist at his worst will use a combination of all the above abuse tactics and can leave the victim paralyzed, unable to make decisions, hopeless, depressed and lacking the self-confidence to help themselves. They no longer feel like themselves, having lost their soul to the narcissist, they don’t even know who they are any more and have lost all trust in a fair and just world.

The most dangerous of all abuse is Ambient Abuse, (and the kind of abuse JC is so adept at) Often called “crazy-making”, or “gas lighting”, it is the stealth, and subtle, underground maltreatment that sometimes goes unnoticed even by the victims themselves until it is too late. It is ambiguous and atmospheric and very hard to pinpoint or prove; hence it’s insidious and deadly effects.

Ambient Abuse is the fostering of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There is no tangible evidence of abuse but the victim constantly senses a bad omen or premonition of impending doom. It is perpetrated by dropping subtle hints, by disorienting, by constant and unnecessary lying, by persistent doubting and demeaning and by inspiring an air of unmitigated gloom and doom. Insisting the victim did not see or hear what they did, hiding personal items of the victim but blaming the victim, insisting the victim said or did certain things that the victim did not do but eventually starts to doubt their own perception of reality.

Over the long-term this environment eats away at the victim’s self esteem and their self-confidence is severely damaged. Many times the victim starts to act paranoid and highly emotional, which makes them look like the mentally unstable one and the abuser is the poor suffering soul. Some examples of ambient abuse would be withholding affection or intimacy, rolling their eyes when you express an opinion or criticizing your actions “for your own good”.
(With JC the rolling of the eyes was SO frustrating, and made me feel my opinions or feelings weren’t of importance).
(For most of our relationship he refused to come to bed, at first he always came to bed then he would stay up until 3 or 4 am, then he was coming to bed just in time to have sex before we had to get up for work, and the last few years he rarely came to bed at all. He said he just didn’t need sleep, but he would fall asleep any where and every where, he could sleep standing he’d be so tired)

There are 5 categories of ambient abuse:

Inducing Disorientation

The abuser causes the victim to lose faith in her ability to manage and cope with the world and its demands. She no longer trusts her instincts, her skills, her strengths, friends, family, or the benevolence and predictability of her environment.

The abuser challenges his target’s perception of the world, right and wrong, her judgment and offers plausible but false alternatives. JC would always say he couldn’t handle my warped perception of reality, until I questioned myself for getting upset he was seeing other women and whether I was actually being abused. By continually criticizes her decisions he makes her doubt her ability to make wise choices. With his pathological lying he blurs the lines between reality and nightmare. He constantly violates her boundaries and disrespects her values, feelings and opinions, “deal breakers” such as drug abuse, infidelity, lying and stealing become common place and she is made to feel she is in the wrong for confronting him on his indiscretions or that some how she is to blame for them.

By overreacting to the slightest mistake on her part and setting her up with demands impossible to meet he intimidates her to the point of paralysis.

Incapacitating

The abuser gradually takes control over the victim’s freedom and ability to be self-sufficient (i.e.: their vehicle is never working, they lose their job, loss of friends and support system due to never being able to entertain or attend events because of the N) it is very subtle and done in such a way that the victim doesn’t realize what is happening until it is too late. Then they find themselves isolated from the outer world and a hostage to the goodwill – or ill will of their captor.

The abuser engineers impossible, dangerous, and unpredictable situations where his skills or knowledge is sorely needed. He orchestrates circumstances where his specific skills, connections, or traits are the only ones useful and helpful. In this way he creates his own indispensability; giving him another reason to resent his victim and another excuse to be angry with her for being needy. (JC used to sabotage my vehicle, I would have no choice but to call for his help and he would make me wait hours and make it sound like it was a HUGE inconvenience and effort on his part to help me, but acted like the benevolent rescuer when he got there. He also got me evicted from every place I lived or we lived making us homeless and me dependent on him for everything) Right up to the last day we were together he constantly told me I would never find a man who would rescue me like he always had and I believed him. The truth is, I had many men willing to help me when JC was out of the picture but my vehicle didn’t break down like it did when I was with JC either.

Shared Psychosis

The abuser creates a fantasy world inhabited by the victim and himself besieged by imaginary enemies. The enemies may be people they know, (or totally made up) these people are plotting against them, lying to them or about them, basically “out to get them, and destroy their relationship” and she is expected to stand by him, fight against these enemies, lie, and pretend. She is continually “tested” and must prove her continued affiliation and support of him.

Eventually this constant stress reduces the victim’s resistance and ability to “see straight”. (JC used to watch videos and talk about the “one world power” coming and how we would have to live in the hills, the holocaust that was coming and I became very afraid of the future without him there to protect me. He said “they” had erased files on his computer etc)

Abuse Of Information

From the first moment the abuser meets his victim he is collecting information. He will reveal just enough dirt about his past to put his target at ease so they feel safe opening up about their fears, indiscretions, and weak areas. The more he knows about his potential victim the easier it is for him to coerce, charm, manipulate and extort her. Whereas he was sympathetic when he first meets her once the mask drops he will use any information he has to belittle, criticize, discredit, and embarrass. He has no qualms using information he gleans to achieve his goals or destroy the target.

Control By Proxy

If all else fails the abuser will recruit a third-party to do his bidding. That 3rd party could be family, friends, institutions, teachers, the media, the authorities, and he uses them to cajole, threaten, stalk, harass, communicate, and otherwise manipulate his target. He controls these unaware accomplices exactly as he controls his victim and dumps them unceremoniously when the job is done.

Many narcissists do not physically abuse their victims, they are able to control them through psychological and emotional abuse which is much less likely to be detected and it’s much easier to deny and make the victim look crazy. In JC and my relationship he did strangle me once (and denied it, according to him he didn’t strangle me or choke me, he just had his hands around my neck) and he hit me a handful of times in the 10 yrs we were together. There was no need to hit me, like most women after he hit  me the first time all he had to do was come at me with his fist raised and I would back down, but near the end even backing down didn’t stop him. It was as if he knew it was ending and he had nothing to lose by not holding back.  We went several years without him actually hitting me, but like my son said, that doesn’t mean he’s changed it just means you walk on eggshells.

What we all forget as victims is: IT IS NEVER OK FOR A MAN TO HIT A WOMAN (vise versa) there is absolutely no excuse for hitting a woman unless she was coming at him with a knife. There is nothing a woman can do that justifies getting hit, he can walk away, hit a wall if he has to hit something but she can not MAKE him hit her. Another thing we have to remind ourselves of: He knows exactly what he is doing and that it is wrong, he expects you to lie about it to everyone and if someone came to the door he would stop. If he was so justified in what he was doing there would be no need to lie and IF life with you is so unbearable that he feels he has no choice but to hit you then he needs to leave the relationship, BEFORE he finds your replacement!

Narcissists control by keeping their victim off-balance, another tactic for this is to not respond to something that would normally send them into a rage. They appear unaffected by an argument and act as if nothing happened leaving the victim waiting for the shoe to drop. Have no doubt that the narcissist will get revenge; he is the king of passive aggressive behavior that punishes the victim. He will take or destroy something of value to the victim. It could be weeks or months after the incident when the victim realizes a treasured possession in missing or broken, of course the N will deny knowing anything about it. This is most likely to happen when her focus is shifted on something other than the N, perhaps a child or other family member she is concerned about, anything that takes the attention off the N. (In 10 years I had all my clothes stolen, my photos had anti freeze dumped on them, memento’s were lost, my son’s baby teeth disappeared but the container they were in was in JC’s music room, 3 vehicles were stolen, my vehicles were tampered with, the amount of hours I spent broken down on the side of the road would boggle your mind, almost weekly I would need him to rescue me, he made me miss events that were of immense importance to me, I was unable to finish my college education, every single piece of personal property I had was destroyed or stolen. I do not own anything today that I owed 14 years ago, nothing. Oh sorry, a few Christmas decorations, that is it)

The best indicator that you are a victim of ambient abuse is your gut; throughout the 10 years of my relationship with JC I denied what my gut was telling me. And I wish with all my heart that you believe me when I say; it does not get better, his apologies mean nothing, he is only manipulating you further. Get out!! Before it’s too late.

Link to a post from 2012 one year after JC and I split, You can’t be first but you can be next http://wp.me/p1wKh3-kb

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150 responses to “Abuse-Can Be Subtle and Deadly

  • Megan

    Carrie, literally, you saved my sanity by sharing your story. Currently, I’m in a healthy relationship with the most compassionate, and understanding doctor. I committed to him after years of ex’s disposal. I really thought I resolved the pain he had caused me. Recently, my ex contacted me (all fear that he would distance himself forever, never happened, by the way), and there I found myself back in full throttle inside his spawned drama. In typical fashion, it begins with a phone call about how horrible he’s doing, drinking and what not, how desperate he is, and how much he would change things if he could because he realizes how much “he loves me.” The story ends the same, subtly he expressed his needs, never directly employing my assistance, with sympathy, I insist on helping him. After he is complete, he will change back into his secretive, mysterious behavior, (he knows “the lie of silence is as evil as the lie of speech”)I will obsess to find what he is hiding, (this time, he was hiding a relationship with a 19 year old girl — he is 45). I blow a head gasket and confront his immoral, irresponsible, and careless choices, he denies it and will insult me down to nothing, hang up on me, and ignore me completely until he needs me again. Humbly, I broke down to my partner, trying to gather the right words to explain myself, my wounds, my reactions, and hoping he understands that I don’t take my ex’s calls because I’m still in love with him or want to reconnect with him. The motive for connecting is indescribable. Desperately, I vowed to my new partner that I would find the right treatment for my wounds, but my greatest obstacle is finding out what the hell is wrong with me and what caused all this pain to go unresolved for so long. With no choice, I began googling my “symptoms”, and my ex’s characteristics, Divinely, your blog appeared and although the road to recovery has finally begun, I have a lot of work to do ahead of me. I’m motivated to rediscover the woman I was before I swallowed all this poison. I felt shameful for 9 years, until this evening. Reading this stories saved me in so many ways. May the Universe bless you and all those who suffer through this. I am so thankful for all those who courageously shared their story. I was hesitant to write on here. Silence is perpetuating this serious problem. Thank you for speaking the words that I couldn’t. I’m deeply gracious.

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  • Carrie Reimer

    Megan, welcome! I am so glad you found some answers here tonight. Yes you are on the road to recovery, it starts once you realize what you were dealing with. It is a lot to absorb and there are some good articles on healing if you just do a search on “healing” in the search box up at the top of the blog.
    There are a few things right off the top that you have to do; one is forgive yourself and never be ashamed for being the loving, caring, forgiving, beautiful woman you are. The reason he was attracted to you to begin with was because you were everything he will never be and he sucks people like you, me and the other women who have been abused by these soul suckers; dry and then destroys them. You had no way of knowing what you were getting into and once a person is in it, it is so hard to extricate yourself. We are compassionate people, we want to believe in the best in people, we thought we had found the love of our life and we don’t give up on the people we love. There is no shame in that!
    If it were possible, he is the only one who should be ashamed but he is incapable of guilt, remorse or shame.
    You are obviously a very strong woman to have gotten this far after breaking up with him, you are almost at the finish line and it sounds like you have a support boyfriend which will help. (even though I don’t recommend anyone dating until they have healed because they are usually so fragile but it appears you got lucky) Either way you have some emotions that are going to come up now that you have found out what he is. You will find that you relive the whole relationship in light of the new knowledge you have. Your brain has to process the whole thing over now and you will more than likely have some revelations, some puzzle pieces will fall into place. Most victims of Ns have buried much of the pain and as they heal more of the pain is brought to the surface, it is perfectly normal and does not mean you still love him or want him back OR that you are having a nervous breakdown. It means you are truly starting to heal.
    it is very hard to grasp the idea that the man we loved with all our heart was born disabled, These “people” ‘s brains are not wired right, Dr Robert Hare has studied psychopaths for 30 years and has taken scans of their brains compared to a normal brain; they don’t even look the same.
    They are incapable of love, empathy, or compassion, they do not love, they only imitate the emotions of people around them.
    The second thing you have to do is to go NO CONTACT. If you have to change your phone number, whatever it takes, the only way to heal is to not talk to him any more. As long as you leave him any kind of opening he will do everything he can to destroy you and your new relationship. So far he hasn’t gotten really nasty but if he thinks you are happy with a decent guy he will do everything he can to ruin it for you. Trust me on this!!
    The time to stop feeling sorry for him and taking responsibility for his F-ups is now. Block him on email, Facebook any social media and tell friends you don’t want to hear what he is doing or what he is saying. They will get friends to feed you information or to get info on you.
    You are not alone, you are not crazy and you can not fix him. He will leave a trail of destruction behind him the rest of his life and you really don’t want this soul vampire sucking up the rest of your life do you? There is no point in warning the other woman, you are right she won’t believe you, he has already told her you are a psycho bitch. We all want to warn the one that comes behind us but there are going to be so many more. I had one of JC;’s ex’s call me, he said she called every single one of his g/f’s warning them. But you know, how did she get the women’s phone numbers? he called from their phone; he liked the dramas, the tears, pitting one woman against the other. After she died he laughed and said, “She sure hated you.” when I asked why, she didn’t even know me. He said, “Because we were so happy for 10 years.” I said, “We were? you could have fooled me.”
    He had led her to believe he had found the love of his life knowing it would drive her crazy, they are cruel like that.
    Anyway, come back as often as you need and someone will be more than happy to listen, give advice or just hand you a tissue.
    Hugs
    Carrie

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  • Nicole

    I am not sure that my husband is that bad. But he certainly is manipulating me. He has just been diagnosed with ADHD, but I always thought it was Bipolar. Maybe its narcissist. I can relate about him going to bed late and then he would jumps on the bed Yellings bunny rabbit. Of course, it would wake me up, make me feel sick. I was so fed up and then if I got angry, he would yell at me. And all the things my mom gave me… pretty much they all got broken. I never thought of it that way cause he never did it in purpose right?! How he always managed to turn things around in an argument and I could never know what to respond to him. Feeling like a fool and apologizing. He never, ever apologised. I want to leave him, but he made such a drama in front of our son. Our son was 14 years old, and I had told my husband that I wanted to separate, I did not love him anymore. That is after a lot of therapy. Well he got home and started to cry, harder and harder and my son asked what was wrong? My husband yells she dont love me anymore! So my son started to cry… It was a mess. My heart broked for my son, but I hated my husband more. YEs king of drama is my husband. I want to leave but I am scared of him and of his manip[ulation especially on my son. What to do?

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