I work at a children’s shelter. One day last summer, we were playing dodge ball with the children and it made me think about the Bad Man. When we play dodge ball, we divide the teams children against counselors. To play the game, we divide the basketball court in half with the mid line being the divide between territories and we use six balls. When the referee blows the whistle to start the game, balls begin flying in every direction, someone is “OUT!” and the heated arguments ensue (from the children of course, we adults keep our heads) about the rules and who threw what? Was their foot over the line? Was it before or after “TIME OUT” was called? Which player was “out” first? In other words, it is complete and total chaos. I hate when they defer to me and ask what I saw. Ummm … I saw people running all over the place and balls bouncing and then someone shouted “TIME OUT!” Whom that was, I don’t know. Which team was it that was tagged first? What color was the ball that made the first impact? Sheesh! This is hard. I am a terrible referee! I can’t process all this information at once. EXACTLY.
Mental Gymnastics otherwise known as “Being Kept Off Balance” or “Crazy Making”
This is how it was with the Bad Man. Complete and total chaos. “Balls” coming at me from every direction and constantly being told I crossed the line somewhere. Just like with children, the rules and the lines were changing all the time. Breaking the “rules” was totally unavoidable. I couldn’t keep anything straight. He claimed I yelled at him. Did I? I don’t remember that. He claimed I was “out of line” and “out of control.” Was I? I wasn’t sure. I admit I was upset. I admit I was hurt. I became confused in the midst of the chaos. There was so much coming at me!
At first, I reacted to everything. However, it didn’t take long before I stopped reacting because I didn’t know what to react to. I often woke up to tirades over email and the sheer volume of accusations were just completely mind boggling. Sometimes, I tried to understand where he was coming from. Other times, I attempted to apologize but for what, I was not sure. Apologies never worked anyway. Bad Man would say, “You didn’t even apologize for the RIGHT thing.” Or “You missed something in your apology.” If I asked, “What did I miss?” he would tell me, “I am NOT going there with you.” Okay.
After one or two episodes in which I dared to be angered by his outrageous attacks and accusations, I changed my tactic because being angry and arguing my side made things worse. I began to be very careful. I had a sense that he was taking apart my reality but at the time, I didn’t really have words for that. Instinctively, I started stepping ever so carefully. It was not because I thought I could avoid the attacks coming out of him. I gave that idea up quickly. I became careful and measured with my words and my tone because I wanted to be sure of whom I was being in the moment. If I was mad or outraged, then I would be unsure of what I said and how I said it. So, I became a ZEN master of sorts. I stayed in the moment. I was careful not to lose my head in anger or frustration. That way, I could be sure, at least for myself, that I had not been out of control. Not that this made any difference.
A big part of emotional/psychological abuse is something called “keeping the victim off balance.” The abuser is always changing his demands, his rules, his desires. You will know you are being abused in this way when you are trying with all your might to make your partner happy, nothing you do is good enough and “everything is your fault.” You will know you are being abused when you are in constant defense of your character. You will know you are being abused when you ask yourself, “If he hates everything about me, then why does he stay?”
When I was with the Bad Man, I started to wish that everything that was happening between us was being recorded. That way, I could go back to the tapes when he started rewriting history to suit himself. I often asked myself, “How could he possibly say that is what happened?” If this sounds familiar, it’s a sure sign that you were deep in the throes of “Crazy Making.” As you start to doubt yourself, you begin to feel as if you are losing your mind. An Abuser’s version of what happened will be fixed like super glue with no room to budge an inch. Not one. This nearly drove me mad! The Bad Man was always imagining himself as the victim of me! And no amount of talking could convince him that he had any part in breakdown-of-the-day. ARGH!
I believe that anytime you notice these kinds of dynamics with anyone, a boss, your mother, a lover, it means something is wrong with them, not you. This is just my unscientific opinion. We all have room to grow but when suddenly, everything in the world is wrong with you, well, that doesn’t seem fair does it? Also, it’s fairly unlikely assuming you are a full grown adult with a life that was functioning before this person came into your life.
No Coping Strategies Will Work
Fairly early on in the relationship, I began to try to modify my behavior in order to please the Bad Man. I became very measured in my words and watched my tone of voice. I focused all my attention on being a pleasing machine. I tried to meet his outrageous demands and… (if you are easily offended, please don’t read the next phrase) had sex like a circus monkey. Even that didn’t work. Nothing worked! Nothing stopped him from getting mad at me. Nothing stopped him from living in his warped reality where I was evil and he was the victim of me and my “horrid” ways. It was so tiring.
I left the Bad Man and his chaos in search of my own peace and an answer. I found the answers I needed here at LoveFraud. Really. I am not trying to get points here. I needed this explanation and thank God I found it. I still don’t know all of the Bad Man’s secrets but I know the biggest one. Bad Man definitely has a personality disorder, or two. Since I am not a clinician, I am unsure if he qualifies as a sociopath. I am SURE he qualifies as a borderline and a narcissist. Not too long ago, I believed that but still felt a little uncomfortable stating it because I wondered if saying he was an abuser made me the “drama queen” that he said I was. Now I know that calling me “drama queen” was a way to discredit me to others and to make me doubt myself and my own perceptions. That’s just one of the things I know today. I also know something else. “Drama” and chaos seem to follow the Bad Man wherever he goes. To this day, anytime I hear a man say he is looking for a woman with “no drama” it makes me wonder… about the man.