Has the emotionally abusive individual in your life ever “encouraged” you to behave badly? Were you “pushed” into an emotional response that placed you in a less than favorable light? Did this response seem to bring satisfaction to your abuser? Did he or she gain sympathy or affirmation from others because of your upset? Were you “baited,” into confrontations that ultimately left you very visibly shaken, angry, scared, or feeling out of control? Afterward, were you left confused and wondering what just happened? Worse, yet, were you then accused of being “crazy” or “abusive” by your abuser? Did the events ever cause you to question yourself?
If you are or were involved with a psychopath or anyone with a number of psychopathic features, it is likely that you are answering in the affirmative to these questions. It’s par for the course. Psychopaths are abusive. If you have crossed paths with a psychopathic individual, you have probably been abused and manipulated in some way. As the emotional abuse was occurring, you probably did not realize or understand what was happening. At the same time, you probably knew something was very wrong.
How do they get away with this?
Abusers know that we tend to be unaware of their tactics and that we may easily fall into their traps simply because we do not think as they do. This is important because emotional abuse serves as the platform from which we are more likely to accept all other forms as well.
Over time, when we are abused, it becomes less likely that we will be able to do anything to better our situations. This will not change until we process exactly what it is that we are facing. The fear and exhaustion that we experience as a direct result of their accusations and behaviors is responsible, in part, for keeping victims bound to such relationships.
Our abusers hope to gain and maintain dominance through psychological warfare. The process is complex, but in a nutshell, they work to erode our self esteem, identities, and attempt to make us believe that we deserve to be treated poorly. They purposely work to engage us in conflicts or place us in situations that they know will elicit extreme emotional reactions from us. Later, they use our responses against us.
Ultimately, aren’t we responsible for our own emotions and behaviors?
Of course we are responsible and our abusers like to remind us of that. This is the type of thinking that they enjoy exploiting. They know that we are willing to own our behaviors. They know that we “invest” and care about how we are regarded. They like that we will feverishly “work” to make things “right.” Yet, they have no intention of doing anything positive. They choose to “fight” us for sport. They enjoy dropping the bombs and then sitting back and and watching the “shows” we provide for them.
They set us up to fail, by purposely pressing our buttons. They take no responsibility, whatsoever, for any role they may play in our upset. We will never hear, “Gosh, I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have said that to you.” Or, “You’re right, I should have waited for us to be alone before bringing that up.” That rarely happens.
More commonly, they make fun of us and accuse us of being “disordered,” “crazy,” or tell us to “get our heads checked.” They enjoy getting the best of us and working to erode who we are in the process. What begins as an incident that looks innocent, is really a very abusive maneuver aimed at maintaining or strengthening their holds. These incidents are directs attacks.
How do they work against us or cause us to work against ourselves?
Like any other exploitative measure, an area of weakness is used. They want to make us look bad, both to ourselves and others. So they search their arsenals for ways in which they know, almost with certainty, that we will respond negatively. They know that they can successfully demonize us if we behave badly. We will discredit ourselves and prove them “right” regarding the negative things they have said about us. As this is occurring, we usually have no idea that we are being set up.
Sometimes, they arrange for these “conflicts” to occur in front of others. Why? They want to show others what they are “forced to endure” with us. Often, they do this in order to gain sympathy or begin their smear campaigns, twisting the circumstances in an effort to look like the victims.
In my experience, I can think of several fights that were initiated in this fashion. Once, I was even called a psychopath, as my offender ranted to family members, in an attempt to illustrate my “lunacy.” (What’s the saying about the pot and the kettle?) 🙂 Regardless, it was quite a display. My point is this; if a topic exists that is a source of contention, they will make sure to use it. If we don’t understand what’s happening, unknowingly, we may participate.
What do we do?
The good news is that we can opt out of victimization. We can learn. Remember, psychopaths are easily bored. Compliant victims or those who choose not to participate more than necessary are not much fun.
We must learn not to seek answers or look to them for explanations. While we may feel that communication is a logical path toward solutions, and typically it is, it tends to get us nowhere with these personalities. They tend to remain silent, or fail to consistently address the actual issues. Rather, they use communications, spoken, written, or otherwise, as another means to harass and belittle. This is in an effort to maintain control, by keeping us unbalanced, angry, and questioning ourselves. Once we understand this, however, we can change this.
We may have participated for a time, but knowing allows us to make better choices. We must not react. At first, staying quiet (to them)about what we feel and think may be one of the hardest things we do, but when dealing with emotionally abusive individuals, it is the only thing to do. Eventually, we can come to the place where we are unaffected.