If you are getting over an abusive relationship then you know how difficult it is. There are lots of emotions as in any breakup, but there are also contradictory emotions, emotions that contradict your thoughts and a whole lot of events and ideas that just don't make sense. It can be very confusing and even crazy making.
People around you, with the best of intentions, will tell you that you are now out of the situation, you can just forget about it, move on and live your own life. But you know that is impossible.
And when you hear it, it makes you feel bad because if so many people are telling you this, and you can't do it, then there must be something wrong with you. And that plays into the idea that your ex might have been right, that you are the problem.
So let's have a look at what you have to consider when getting over an abusive relationship in order for you to understand what you are going through.
Then, and only then, are you ready to start other healthy relationships.
To understand why it's do difficult getting over an abusive relationship it's useful to understand the dynamics of such a bond. Here I will give you a broad overview with links to other pages where you will find more in-depth explanations.
At the start of an intimate relationship with an abuser, they will make you feel special, unique, cared for and understood. There are compliments, gifts and lots and lots of good feelings. Unfortunately, these good feelings are linked solely to the abuser. They make you feel fantastic, you have met the partner of your dreams. This phase will continue until they know they have 'caught' you, that you are committed in a significant way in the relationship.
Then all the good stuff becomes conditional. They let you know, subtly at first, that if you want to continue with them, you will need to stop doing this and start saying that. These are little things and you think, "That's just a small thing. If it keeps them happy, I will go along with it." But when you forget, or don't comply, the controlling and abusive behavior starts to kick in. The punishments start showing up. You think, "Oh, they told me they didn't like that, I did it, my fault, I must remember not do it again."
This continues over time. More and more changes are expected of you, with the punishments getting more and more severe. You still believe that this wonderful person loves you. You want more of the nice times. You try and adapt yourself to them to get more compliments and less criticism. This dynamic becomes normalized in the relationship and you end up tolerating abusive and controlling behaviors that you would never have accepted before.
This new personality is called a pseudopersonality, or false personality. This is why some family and friends tell you that they don't recognize you any more, or that you are not yourself since you started in this relationship. Some victims will recognize that they lost themselves in the relationship.
This pseudopersonality is programmed to trust and believe the abuser. It is programmed to do as it is told, to take care of the abuser and, very importantly, it is programmed to be dependent on the abuser. The combination of compliments and criticism, for example, augments the dependency. When the victim of mind control is criticized, (instead of walking out as most people think they personally would do) the pseudopersonality is actually programmed to try harder to please the abuser, because it actually craves the approval of the abuser. Basically, the victim only knows they are ok if the abuser lets them know they are, with compliments or good behavior, such is the level of dependency of the pseudopersonality.
These ideas will give you some idea of the level of control that is possible when an abuser is using mind control to coerce and dominate their victims. This is not just heavily influencing, this is dominating and controlling literally all aspects of the victim's life. The manipulator has destroyed the victim's real personality (with criticisms, belittling, humiliation, insults etc.), they have forced changes and then they are freezing these changes in place to create a submissive, obedient pseudopersonality. This new personality is organized around the manipulator, programmed to have the manipulator as it's purpose in life, designed to take care of the manipulator, to avoid upsetting the manipulator, basically to make the life of the manipulator easier and more comfortable. Think 'slave'!
There are many reasons for one person trying to control others. Here, I am talking about a specific group of people, namely, those with personality disorders.
These are psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. This may be a shock to some people because the impression they have of a psychopath does not fit the person they have been in a relationship with and whom they may still love. However, if you are in a relationship with a psychopath or a narcissist, you need to know it, because the rules for dealing with these people are different. You cannot expect to use society's general rules with these people and manage the situation. You will lose and you will lose badly.
So, playing by the normal rules with these people is a bad idea.
The first thing is to get away from them, as little contact with them as possible. I know this is incredibly difficult. They have been your whole world for some time, you are driven to be with them, it feels awful not to have contact, to not know what they are up to. It's even more complicated if there are children or if you work together.
However, when you have contact with them, there are all sorts of triggers that fire up your pseudopersonality again, their voice, the sight of them, words they use, gestures and so on. And besides, every time they have any contact with you, they are manipulating and abusing you all over again. The sooner that stops the better for you.
As little contact as possible is the order of the day. The bare minimum. Only absolutely necessary stuff. Think what you consider necessary and divide that by 4 and aim for that. If you have children you communicate in written form only (to have a record of what is going on) and you only put factual stuff in your communications. Don't give them information about what you think or feel. It will be used against you.
If you don't have children or a property or business together, aim for no contact. It's initially the most difficult but it is easier in the long run. That means blocking the abuser in all channels of communication, not meeting up to discuss things, not giving them one more chance and not taking messages from them through other people.
Next up is getting them out of your head. This rolls in with undoing the damage they have done to you. This means learning about mind control, what was done to you, why it was done, what specific techniques were used against you, why the manipulator used those particular techniques with you, what effect the techniques had on your thinking, on your emotions, on your decision making, on your emotions.
It's important to learn what beliefs and ideas they installed in your mind, why they installed those ideas, and in particular, how they did it. Understanding the ideas and how they benefitted the manipulator is crucial in undoing them and putting other ideas in their place, ideas that benefit you. Only by understanding the control can you actually undo it and take charge of your own life again.
For example, repetition is a very important tactic for the manipulators. If 3 people tell you something, you are very likely to believe it. Studies show that if one person tells you the same thing 3 times, it has 90% of the effect of 3 people telling you. When you think of how often the manipulator said the same things to you, called you the same derogatory names, repeated their ideas, had arguments over and over about the same topics, this is a very significant tactic. In fact, they say some things so often that they blur into the background and you don't even consider them important any more. These are the ideas that they want in your head and these are the very ideas that it's imperative to recognize and undo.
Working with an expert in the field will save you a lot of time money and heartache. The recovery is not always pleasant, sometimes it can be incredibly difficult, but it is worth it.
A professional will also teach you about the manipulators so that you can begin to spot them in your own life. As you already know, this can be tricky if you don't have a system for doing it. They are usually very good at hiding their true colors from their potential victims.
It's also important to understand your vulnerabilities. This is not something that should be done first. Because of the nature of pseudopersonalities and the associated distorted thinking, looking at vulnerabilities early on often means that the victim ends up blaming themselves for things that are not their fault. The question 'how did you get yourself into this situation?' is a very dangerous one for someone getting over an abusive relationship. It is not a good question to ask yourself, and don't let others ask you either, even therapists. It will reinforce many of the destructive beliefs of the pseudopersonality and trying to deal with the answers may make things worse for you because the answers are wrong. The fact is you didn't get yourself into this mess. You were tricked into it, from the very first encounter and all the way along. The manipulator was doing so many things out of your awareness that you were not actually making fully informed decisions. It's not your fault!
If you are getting over an abusive relationship you really need more information to be able to make sense of what was done to you. Otherwise you will just end up with events going around and around in your head unable to understand logically what happened. The manipulators don't operate with the same logic as you or I. They do things that you would never do in a month of Sundays. They do things that are illogical, that actually work against themselves because they are only interested in domination and they want instant gratification.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
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