If you are healing from an abusive relationship then you know that the adage, "time is a great healer" doesn't apply here.
Things were done to you that were out of your awareness. Tactics you don't even know about were used against you. You may not have realised how abusive the relationship was for quite some time. If you don't know about or understand the influence tactics being used against you, then you cannot mentally resist them or protect yourself from them.
In the same way, if you believe you were making your own decisions, and you don't understand how they were influenced, then you won't see any reason to go back and undo those decisions. You basically won't recognize how those decisions were influenced by the manipulator for the benefit of the manipulator, and at your expense. This means you won't know which ones need to be changed.
The reason all these things are important is that you were manipulated with very strong influence tactics daily over months or years and these things affected your thinking, your decision making, your perceptions, your beliefs, your emotions and your behaviors. Just because you have left the abusive relationship does not mean that all these things just snap back to the way they were before the relationship. These changes persist, often for the rest of someone's life, unless they put in the time and effort to undo them.
So what do you have to do if you are healing from an abusive relationship?
Don't be tempted to skip any of the steps. It will cost you later. There are no short cuts!
Some people wll tell you that mind control doesn't exist, that no-one has that much power over another. If you are healing from an abusive relationship, then you have some idea of the power a manipulator has over their victim. Ignore the nay sayers. They just don't want to believe that someone could affect their thoughts and decisions.
Mind control is a big subject and I am not going to write much in this article about it. Suffice it to say that destructive mind control is a series of techniques used to control and dominate others, to take away their free will and make them dependent on the manipulator, while making the victim feel that they are making their own decisions and that they are responsible for the things that happen to them.
This page is a good start to begin exploring the world of mind control.
Some important rules about these people:
It's all very well understanding mind control and psychopaths but unless you can apply these things to your individual situation you're not getting the best out of the information.
Many people read about some tactic and then think that their abuser never actually did that to them. The pseudopersonality (more about this later) is programmed to defend the manipulator and often finds it very difficult to recognise a tactic that the manipulator was using against it. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the manipulator redefines what they are doing and sometimes the pseudopersonality cannot think logically because of the influence of the mind control.
For example, a manipulator might call the victim selfish for not involving the manipulator in a decision. The manipulator claims he's doing that to teach the victim to be a better partner in the relationship. The victim eventually comes to believe that this is actually true. The victim is unable to see that the reality is that the manipulator is training the victim to ask for permission before making decisions.
It's important when you learn about a particular technique to also have examples of where it occurred in your own life. What did the manipulator say in that moment? What effect did it have on you? Specifically, how did it change your thinking, your emotions and your behavior? Was this a regular pattern? How specifically was the manipulator taking advantage of you with this technique?
The reason it's important is that once you understand the technique and you have a sense of how it worked against you, then the effect of it begins to disappear. Understanding how you made some decision or engaged in some behavior means that you don't have to respond in that way again. You begin to have choices about how to respond to that particular stimulus, not only in the past but also whenever you are presented with this particular stimulus in the future.
Destructive mind control tactics are not a secret set of processes used only by manipulators. Psychopath will also make friends, use compliments, give gifts, use rewards and punishments and engage in acts of kindness.
However, the motivation behind these things is very different from the motivation in a healthy, intimate relationship or a normal relationship between the child and its parent. Being able to distinguish these different motivations is an important part to not getting caught by manipulators in the future.
You've heard stories about parents saying that when their son or daughter came back from a particular weekend course that they were unrecognizable. The child's head was full of new ideas, new beliefs, a new language and new behaviors. What the parents are describing is this new, but false, personality that was imposed upon the child in the cult. This pseudo-personality is programmed to believe the leader, to do as the leader says, to be dependent on the leader and to protect the group and the leader.
Unfortunately, this cult personality is not just confined to cult situations. A close relationship with a psychopath or a narcissist can be considered as a cult of two people. The same tactics are used with the same resulting pseudopersonality in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship or mentor-student relationship and so on.
This pseudopersonality idea is a very useful way to think about the results of psychological abuse. This pseudo-personality does not destroy the real personality but rather represses it. The simultaneous existence of these two personalities (not the same as multiple personality disorder or dissociative personality disorder) helps to explain the internal conflict of the abuse victim.
The victim wants to leave, real personality, but the pseudo-personality is programmed to stay. The pseudo-personality loves the manipulator, the real personality hates the way they're being treated. The real personality sees red flags in the relationship while the pseudo-personality is programmed to override them.
As long as the pseudo-personality is in place, there is no way to resolve these conflicts. Many people in abusive relationships cannot understand why one part of them wants one thing and another part wants the opposite. This is often crazy making and the victim comes to believe that there is something inherently wrong with them. The person with a pseudo-personality is also programmed to believe that anything that goes wrong is their own fault.
This pseudopersonality is put in place with very strong influence techniques over months or years and does not disappear on its own. The pseudopersonality was put in place for the benefit of the manipulator and not the victim. When somebody leaves an abusive situation they generally think that they are out of it and the situation no longer affects them. When they have problems later they may not associate this issue with the psychological abuse of the past. They then take steps to try and resolve this isolated issue. The problem with this approach is that the pseudopersonality is not "fixable". You cannot just change individual bits of the pseudopersonality and hope to function well.
The pseudopersonality has to be dismantled completely and the person's real personality allowed to flourish and develop again and to take control. While the pseudopersonality is in place, the manipulator is basically living rent free in your head.
This is a particularly useful skill in order not to get caught in abusive relationships again. The sooner you can recognise when somebody is trying to take advantage of you the better, because that way you don't end of doing things that you regret later.
While you were in the abusive relationship your family and friends were not dealing with your real personality but rather with your pseudo-personality.
It's very common for victims of abuse to be isolated from their friends and family, some completely so. It's also not uncommon for the victim to treat their family and friends quite badly. This often leads family members and friends to be resentful and angry at the victim, believing that the victim themselves was making their own decisions and is responsible for what happened.
When you do extricate yourself from an abusive relationship it may be useful to explain to these people what was actually done to you and why you acted the way you did. This often goes a long way to restoring relationships that may have been distorted because of your interactions with the manipulator.
It's true that people don't choose an abusive relationship, they are tricked into it. However, the manipulator used your values and criteria against you to manipulate you into having a relationship with them.
It's important to reassess these values and criteria, and even put new ones in place, for creating new relationships so that, for example, you are sure you are making your own decisions about the relationship and you're also very clear about what kinds of behaviors you will not tolerate in your friendships under any circumstances.
What does friendship mean? What is a friend? How do you want your friends to treat you? How are you prepared to treat other people?
These are questions that need solid answers for people leaving psychologically abusive environments. The manipulator has twisted and distorted your idea about relationships in a nasty way and the words, definitions and ideas need to be sorted out before you begin to have new, healthy relationships.
Some people, coming out of an abusive situation, need to start working again, or sometimes even for the first time. For someone who has been psychologically abused, this is not as simple as throwing together a resume or CV and sending it around until something comes up. It's actually a very big deal.
How do you sell yourself? How to you take credit for things that you are good at? In fact, what are you good at? Where do your talents lie? These are actually major questions for a victim of psychological abuse because they've never been allowed to put attention on these things by the manipulator.
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?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?