One of the mysteries of manipulative, abusive relationships is the feeling that, despite all rationality, the victim feels no choice but to stay. The feeling of helplessness is profound. Systematic degrading of the self creates destroys the feeling of self-worth, freedom and independence.
Let me speak in the first person to show one version of what it might be like inside:
“I hate you. You have hurt me in ways that are evil. I am a spider caught in your web. Why don’t you see me? Can’t you see how much I have done to please you, to make you happy, how I have tried to give you what you want? Why am I never good enough for you? You tell me you can never please me no matter how hard you try. How can you twist it around so?
I beg you to have mercy on me. I can’t bear to think about being separate from you. I can’t do it on my own. I am broken. You are the only one who can save me. Please love and accept me. No one else can do this for me.
I used to be strong. I have lost that person. I am a shell. My ankles are shackled and my feet are heavy, like stuck in cement. I am paralyzed. I stand here and argue with you in an endless rant. I get caught up in your endless accusations against me, I try to defend myself – but never win. You create a world of beliefs in your own head that have nothing to do with me; you are convinced that you see me, but you have created this horrible vision of me that is not me.
You are those things that you call me: controlling, deceitful, conniving, and uncaring. You say I have abandoned you but you have left me. I am not safe with you. Everything I say or do is misinterpreted: I am amazed at your creative distortions! I feel like I am in a maze and can’t find my way out.
I can’t win. You are smarter than me in. You are endlessly creative in the ways in which you see me as deficient, devious and hateful. I keep trying though. I try to defend. The more I try, the more I fail, and the more I feel trapped.
I have become so used to this trap that I feel naked and ashamed when I step out of the maze. I feel deeply embarrassed outside of our relationship. I don’t want anyone else to see how helpless I am, how small and damaged I have become. This keeps me tied to you. You are the jailer and I am your prisoner. You hold the key.
If only you loved me. If only you saw me. Life would be good. We could have the kind of relationship I have dreamed of. We had it once. Why can’t we get it back?
I love you. I don’t care what anybody says. I know I am confused but I can’t give up hope. I will do anything to make this right. If I find the right argument, the right approach, I just have to reach you. I keep giving, doing the right thing even though you are incredibly mean to me.
Now I hate me. I question whether you are right about me. I “know” this is not true, but I feel it must be true – otherwise why would you so vehemently believe what you do about me? I must be as bad as you say. I surrender. I accept responsibility for myself.
But then you push me over the edge. You have gone too far this time. I crack near to breaking. I yell, I break out – and then you really come at me. Now you have proof that I am crazy. My emotional reaction proves you are right about me. You punish me, again.
I can’t let anyone else get too close to me. They don’t understand what it is like in here. No one else can understand the forces which keep me here. No matter how hard they try, their caring and logic is no match for the magnetic force that draws me to you. I don’t understand myself. I am amazed because a part of me knows this is insane. Why do I stay? Why do I keep doing the same thing over and over? I must be stupid.
You are killing my spirit. I find myself becoming cold. I am walled off and curl up in my heart surrounded by darkness. There is no hope. I walk around in a daze. I remove myself from myself. I watch myself like a witness, from a distance. I am a robot.
You can’t get to me now. It doesn’t matter what you do to me anymore. I am gone.”