Emotional manipulation and abuse is the core of domestic, workplace, and school violence.
Kids begin to learn how to manipulate emotions from their family, friends, teachers, and on television. Disney has a slew of shows where put-downs, insults, and selfishness are glamorized and humorous; which helps to normalize manipulative and abusive behaviors.
When emotional and verbal abuse is no longer giving the abuser the satisfaction it once did, things become physical. You’re never punched on the first date. But after years of being emotionally torn down and no longer having the self-confidence of being able to provide for yourself, that punch becomes another way to keep you in line. It’s a way to control you into staying the version of you the abuser has in their head. Because that’s what you’re fighting against. Your individuality competes with the abuser’s vision of who they think you should be. Every time you show your individuality, you break the abuser’s vision, and the abuser must regain power and control using emotional and physical violence.
People don’t wake up one day and start manipulating and abusing people; it is a pattern of behavior that starts in childhood or adolescence originating from an emotional trauma that was never dealt with properly. Abusers are emotionally immature, and their level of maturity is stuck at the point of their trauma. Whether or not they develop a clinical Cluster B personality disorder is dependent on the person. However, they do carry a lot of the traits of someone who does have a clinical Cluster B personality disorder.
Points to Remember:
- A clinical personality disorder is one that has been tested for and diagnosed by a clinician.
- Cluster B personality disorders are people with overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior.
- Not all abusers have a personality disorder, and not all people with a personality disorder are abusive.
- Abuse comes from the inherent values and beliefs of the abusive person.
With emotional maturity comes moral development. Childhood ideals and belief patterns in adulthood create drama throughout one’s life and set the pattern for younger generations to follow or change.
You can’t turn on the news or scroll through social media and not see how emotionally devastated and morally corrupt people are.
People live in two different worlds. In one world, you have healthy relationships based on equality. In the second world, you have unhealthy relationships based on power and control.
Power Over vs. Equality
We’re not born with empathy, we learn it from our parents, peers, culture, religion, and society. We also know that those same entities can keep us emotionally stuck. Like attracts like: we gravitate towards people who are similar to us. We want to connect with people we can grow with and people who have a similar belief system. If you marry someone who had a similar childhood to yours and both of you want something different in your marriage but, only one of you takes active steps to change from what you know then the other is pulling you down. Because to change, you have to come to terms with what happened to you and what you do as a result. You may call out the abuse as it is happening and there may be an apology and a promise to be better but, you’re now parenting an adult. You’re now looking for ways to heal your partner’s inner child so that they can be an emotionally healthy adult. You could start teaching them what you’ve learned on your journey, but they won’t change unless they see a reason to change. Everything you’re teaching them can be used to exert more power and control over you because now, they have a deeper understanding of your weaknesses and they know how to exploit them.
You’re dealing with the Ego of an emotionally immature individual, and they’ll never change until they see life being better with equality. Equality makes people look at themselves and how they affect the people around them. Equality makes you take responsibility for your actions thereby, propelling you forward for positive growth and change.
Abusers know the game because they have sat through many of the same seminars and classes as you that taught bullying, dating violence, domestic violence, workplace violence, communication, healthy relationships, and leadership. Abusers know the words to say to make you believe that they’re for the betterment of society and healthy relationships. But their actions never match up to their words.
So when an abuser puts you down for the first time, and you explore the issue to solve the problem, you may be given a heartfelt apology and a promise to change, but the feelings that caused the behavior doesn’t change. Your exploration and problem solving give them more information about you thereby, changing their style of the put-downs. Intelligent and professionally successful abusers are great at disguising put-downs and redirecting blame as a way to help you grow from your past traumas. Their altruistic claims are slimy and packaged in a way that keeps you believing that they want you to want: a healthy relationship based on love, trust, and honesty. They may truly want those things, but to achieve them, you have to be loving, trusting, and honest.
Sorting through the lies
Abusers lie to others all the time so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they also lie to themselves about what they are doing. They also have to maintain the vision of themselves. As their core rots the more power and control, they exert over people they believe they can control because maintaining power and control over others keeps their vision of themselves intact.
I always envision someone pretending they’re Superman standing on a high point telling the world how wonderful they are instead of doing what Superman does, and that is, showing people how wonderful he is.
Abusers have to maintain their idyllic visions of themselves to avoid becoming depressed. They do this by controlling their,
- Partner / Spouse,
- Employees, and
Abusers maintain their vision that they’re better than everyone else by controlling those around them. When any of the above divert from the vision, all hell breaks loose. If the abuser gets fired from their job you better believe life at home will be even worse. If someone leaves the abuser then you can bet that the work life of the people around the abuser is going to suck too. The abuser has to regain control and get their vision back in check because what is at their core is too horrible for them to look at.
Getting back to center
After being with an abuser for a long time, you may think your core is too horrible to look at too, and parts of it may be. But it is this ability to look at yourself and take responsibility for who you are that calls back your power from those controlling you.
Self-worth, self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-confidence are all interwoven and make up the fabric of your existence. This is your power. The power that everyone wants but take power over as a substitute because it’s easier than looking at and healing your core.
When you leave parts of yourself unhealed, they become the holes in which another abuser can use to hook you. Their words may be different, but their intention is the same. You’re someone they can control, and they found your weak spots to grab onto. When you share your horror story of your childhood or your ex, they learn what parts of you are healed and what is unhealed or forgotten. Abusers are first attracted to your strengths and then become delighted by your weaknesses.
An abuser will rarely look at themselves and change their behaviors. But, they will occasionally look at themselves professionally and change their behaviors. An abuser who changes themselves professionally gives their partner hope that they’ll change personally too. However, it rarely happens because they already control you and see no reason to change. Plus, hope is what keeps you hooked on the relationship.
Hope is what keeps you believing that the abuser will change and you’ll get back to the relationship you had in the beginning. It’s the cycle of hope and devastation that keeps you stuck in the relationship for years after you discover the abuse is taking place.
You and the abuser are both trying to get back to the feelings you had at the beginning of the relationship. At the beginning of the relationship, you were perfect to your abuser by just being you. The euphoric feelings you were feeling were also felt by your abuser; it’s the loss of those feelings that elicit the controlling and abusive behaviors. The loss of those feelings is caused by the abuser’s vision taking over.
You start competing against an unrealistic vision the abuser has about how a person in a relationship behaves. You become trapped in a no-win situation. To break free, you have to break the cycle of abuse by emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually leaving the relationship and healing the wounds opened and created by the abuse.