Courage

You have lived through so much. It took courage to stay, to live each moment – one to the next. Sometimes you questioned if you would make it.

Suffering extends time. Maybe it seemed like forever. Heavy. Hopeless at times. Crushed.

And then, no more. Not one more minute. No. The courage to say No.

Response to Previous Post: FREEDOM

“Being FREE of the shackles that held me prisoner for over a decade is a feeling that I cannot put into words. To know I do not have to look over my shoulder or watch what I say brings me nothing but overwhelming joy.
My house is now a home!!  I can be me all the time now!  It took me what feels like forever to get the courage to move forward and believe in myself.
I did it at my own pace and never gave up. What he did to me throughout the years just taught me to live on my own. What he thought was punishment was actually a blessing in disguise and for that I thank him!”

Thank you for sharing this!  I post it here to show there is hope from even the direst of circumstances.  You are a role model and we thank you for your inspiration!

freedom-in-the-shape-of-a-cross. google images jpg

“I did this!”

Here is the transcript of a therapy session with a client who is suffering from an extended abusive relationship.  The next blog will attempt to answer some of the questions raised by her disturbing story.

Bing watercolor eye drawing

“I fear change.  I tried to prevent his explosions by going along with his abuses.  He trained me to keep quiet while at the same time his viciousness escalated.  I kept his secret, but I didn’t even know it.  I thought I had some control and was trying through patience and education to help him, to improve him and help him heal.  I was wrong.

I see clearly now that the entire relationship was not normal.  What I thought was more positive in the beginning was actually an elaborate manipulation.  Before I knew it I was hooked.  When I started to see what happened I was in so deep that I had to hide it from my family and friends, even my therapist.  It was all too humiliating and embarrassing.

I did this.  I should have seen through the elaborate mask.  This is my fault. Someone smarter or stronger would never have put up with what I did.  He called me demeaning names, called  me fat, ugly, no one else would ever want me so I was lucky that he put up with me.  He hit me, and I still let him back in. The Fuck You have entered into every cell in my body now.  I hold it. It is mine now.  He has worked on me for five years, and now I am contaminated completely.  No matter how much I wash, pray, clear, cleanse, I can’t get rid of the belief that he is right.  I am nothing.

But then I go back and forth.  I hate him.  I want him dead.  How dare you do this to me? Just die.  I feel better only when he leaves.  But then the minute I pull away, he senses it and he comes after me with constant text, emails or phone calls.  If I don’t answer he comes to my house and demands entrance, only to give me more abuse and threats.

His ability to manipulate and control was far better than I ever could have imagined.  He has attached himself to me and like a barnacle to a rock,  I can’t get rid of him. I am helpless and hopeless.

No matter how many times we have gone through the charade, when I try to escape he pleads his love for me, and he just doesn’t understand how I could blindsided him like this.  How could I be so cruel and stupid?  What is the matter with me?  How dare I manipulate and abuse him in this way?  Don’t I realize how lucky I am? Who else would put up with my drama?

I’ve already blocked him on my phone many times.  He comes back with a vengeance and he wears me down so I let him back in.  For a brief moment I believe him, or even if I don’t, I am tired of fending him off.  Exhausted.  Each time I let him back in, the weaker I become.

I am not safe.  I never have been.  I don’t even know what safe is.  I can’t have one day, one moment of peace.  Everything I try to do is undermined by his penetrating evil.  I will lose my mind if I don’t get him out of me.  I am so mad at myself.  I am disgusted by my powerlessness.  I am trapped.

You know what shocks me?  He knows nothing about me.  He just wants to control me, make me his – without regard to how I feel, what I need or want.  He has no love for me.  He actually wants to destroy me, kill me – or even better, set me up to finish off the job he has started.

I am deeply ashamed and humiliated.

Can you help me?  Am I beyond hope?”

Are you in danger of becoming like your abuser?

If you stay long enough under the yoke of the abuser, you are at risk of conversion. How long can you take the manipulations, unjust attacks, torture before you turn to darkness yourself?

 

Your goodness, hope and charitable nature can turn to rage, hatred and the desire for revenge. Do you build up this fire of anger against the injustice? Do you find your body too small to contain the fire within? Are your thoughts turning more and more to violence? Can you find no peace, not even in sleep? Are you being overtaken with a dark urge to retaliate? Do you feel like a bomb ready to blow?

 

Do you find the abuser working relentlessly to trigger you? Do you feel like a trapped animal?

 

Consider the assumptions that make you stay. What holds you in the dark embrace? What hope do you still have, after all this time and pain, which fuels the suffering of daily betrayal?

 

Do you find yourself turning into your abuser, turning dark, bitter and explosive?

Fearless Eyes

 

HOPE

 

Can you say, “I am done. I have choices. I’ve had enough. This is not acceptable. I won’t live like this another minute. I pull the plug on my emotional connection with you. I take my power back and say yes to myself.”

volo spirituale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Meditation on Reality

You see how I have guided you to an open meditation, leaving yourself available to see what emerges.  How is it going for you?

Today, I invite you to a more specific meditation.  Here goes:

Sit in your meditation position.

portrait of meditating yogi

Part One:  Your feet on the floor, hands resting comfortably in your lap.  Close your eyes.  Allow yourself to focus on the person in your life that is disturbing to you, the one that your feel may have betrayed you, the one that manipulates or abuses you.

Look at their face.  Use your imagination to see the details of their face, their expression, their mouth, eyes.  This takes courage.  Remember the words they have spoken to you.  Remember their behaviors toward you.  Go over in detail what they have done and said to you.

Leave behind the rationalizations for their words or behavior.  Just look, like a movie.  Witness from a distance.  Take off your rose-colored glasses and see clearly what is in front of you.  Look carefully at their words, how the mouth sets, the position of the body, the body language, the actions.

Pause, then press forward, slowly.  Look with open eyes.  Allow the clouds to part.

You may feel fear at what you see:

a green snake head in the hole

You can deny your truth and be at the mercy of it, or see it.  Once seen hold still bravely.  Keep looking at the cold truth.  Hold your focus.

Part Two:  Now turn to look at yourself.  Notice how you feel as you “see” the other.  Notice in which part of your body your emotional reactions lie.  There may be layers of truth and layers of emotion surfacing. Do not run:  feel the emotions.  Emotions are your inner friends guiding you on your path.   Now use your mind and imagination to look at your own face, the words you have spoken, the behaviors which you have lived in relation to the other.

See clearly.  Sit with the experience even though it may be uncomfortable.

Part Three:  Now leave the door open to inspiration.  Now that you have seen layers of “truths” in the other and in yourself, allow discovery of the path which leads to your highest good.  Leave space for a message to bubble up from deep within you – a message from you to you.  Allow it to be  a message of hope and salvation.

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The Prey – Characteristics and Behavior of the Victims

The Prey – Characteristics and Behavior of the Victims

1. What makes you so vulnerable?

Let’s start out with a look at what makes you so vulnerable to the manipulator. What signals are you sending out that draws them to you like a magnet?

Here are some questions for you:

  • Are you needy, deep down inside? Are you desperate for love, attention and approval?
  • Is your self-esteem based on how others see you?
  • Are you caring and conscientious? Do you tend to be sympathetic and giving, wanting to help others?
  • Do you tend to think that others are like you? Do you have the tendency to believe in the best in others? Do you see the glass half full?
  • Do you magnetize users and narcissists? Are you driven by the need to fix or rescue broken people that in part you may feel sorry for, and then find yourself the one needing repair? Do you find yourself exhausted and depleted in the process?
  • Do you tend to be gullible and just can’t believe it when someone crosses or betrays you? Are you easily bamboozled?
  • Are you a bit of a Pollyanna? Do you see yourself as optimistic?
  • Do you believe that love can solve everything?
  • Do you take on people as projects, feeling that with enough love and support, you can change them? Do you take on other people’s responsibilities (and then secretly resent it)?
  • Do you stay in a painful relationships and try to “work it out” even though the other is not trying in good faith to work it out too? (This is called inappropriate loyalty!)
  • Do you tend to minimize the hurtful behavior of the other, to minimize the pain you feel, thinking that that this is just part of being in a relationship?
  • Do you do more than your part, giving and giving – because this is just who you are? Do you then feel drained with all that energy going out and very little positive coming in?
  • Do you sometimes feel that your head is in the clouds, or have others accused you of this?


Some of these qualities sound like such wonderful and positive ways of being, don’t they? You might say, what’s wrong with caring and believing in the power of love? What’s wrong with seeing the best in others and being loyal, in spite of relationship difficulties?

When mismatched with a user, the relationship is a disaster! If you drew someone more like you, you would not be at risk! Later we will get into how to discern how to know whom you are drawing to you. Discernment depends on tuning into your own deep feelings and responses when you meet someone or are in their presence. Your connecting with the feelings in you in response to the presence of the other is key! Otherwise you are swimming right into the mouth of the whale.

2. Fear-Based Behavior


Think about this: are you motivated by fear? Do you tend to make decisions based on avoiding confrontation? Do you make choices to avoid upsetting or getting others mad at you? Will you do anything to avoid being in the eye of the storm? Do you have a hard time saying no? If so, you may find yourself vulnerable to being manipulated and dominated. This may make you overly compliant because you focus on pleasing others.

Ironically, even though you try to avoid confrontation at any cost, you walk every day with fear. That avoidance actually draws aggression to you, your fear answered by the other’s challenge. You invite it by keeping in your presence one whom you don’t trust. It’s like walking a tiger!


Internally the constant presence of danger stimulates fear. Fear induces the endocrine system to run on high alert. Adrenal fatigue can result and even the thyroid can be thrown off balance. You may have the tendency to be triggered into the fight, flight and freeze mode (numbing paralysis). If the trauma is intense and prolonged enough dissociation can be induced. What this means is that you don’t actually feel fully present; it is a means of removing yourself from fully experiencing the pain. The problem is that this numbing can prevent appropriate action actually designed to promote survival. The numbness overlays the pain keeping it covered and in place like a blanket. The pain remains intact, like a time capsule, deep inside.

You may be giving away your own power out of fear without even knowing it. You may discover you focus on the other and you are left out of your own equation. You may find yourself thinking, “How can I make him or her happy? What do I need to do to make my world safe? How do I need to act in order to keep the world around me calm? How can I placate the other so I can be safe?” When you find yourself thinking in these ways, then you know the fulcrum of your life has shifted dangerously away from your own center.

When you give away your power, you give away the ability to control your own life. Do you try to micro-manage certain areas of your life because in the big picture someone else is in your drivers seat? Do you stay engaged in the relationship out of fear you can’t make it on your own? Do you believe you really are unworthy and no one else would care? Staying in the relationship for these reasons (the wrong reasons) are fear-based and are sure to lead you to feel inauthentic in your own life, as though you are a hypocrite. You may feel like you are in a secret war within yourself; if that is so you are a war casualty!

There is an epidemic of these types of abusive relationships with teenage girls. The boys are trying out their aggressive and masculine ways, looking for a girl to dominate and control. Is this what it takes for them to feel powerful? Does it take demeaning and controlling their girlfriend and putting her down, putting her into a jealousy box for him to appear manly to himself and others? Do you girls really need to accept this behavior, to sacrifice yourself in order to make him look “bigger?” Are you afraid to shine your own light because no one will “like you?”


3. Are you prone to create fictional reality?

As the relationship progresses do you shift your perceptions to agree with the other? Are you worn down and come to accept the perspective of the abuser? Are you justifying an alternative or fictional reality that sets you up more and more as the bad guy? If you have a tendency to deny signs of aggression, meanness and disrespect you actually give permission for the abuse to continue and grow. Is it possible that you are emotionally naïve? If you don’t face another person’s meanness does it mean it doesn’t exist?

In the fully developed stage of abuse the victim can develop a delusional version of reality that joins with the abusers view. This may sound like, “It must be me” or “I know I’m not perfect” or “I must have done something to deserve this.” It may be that you justify the disrespectful behavior or make excuses for him or her. And do you then believe it yourself?

Sometimes those under the yoke tend to avoid those who truly support them. Is it out of shame and the desire not to be “found out?” Whatever the motivation the victim often forms a protective bubble around him or herself, keeping out potential sources of support and perspective.


Intense feelings of shame can keep the relationship going when it should be stopped. Fear of others seeing just how bad things are can promote a smiling mask put on over the truth of suffering and pain. Rather than be embarrassed by others seeing how diminished you are, do you hide the truth and act like everything is all right?

It can go so far as defending the person who is hurting you. Have you ever done that? Maybe you say, “They can’t help it,” “They must be hungry, tired or sick,” “they are under so much stress,” “I can’t blame them,” “I must have done something to set them off, “After all, I am not perfect.”

For one wounded over the years, especially since childhood, an even more dire scenario can develop. The wounded can become one who wounds: victim turned persecutor. Tired of fighting, tired of being the one on the bottom, some turn to victimize others. I see one person in this situation and she wonders, “Will I ever find my real self? Have I lost my innocence forever?” The suffering she has experienced is so overwhelming that she turned to identify with the aggressor. And now even more tragedy: the (apparent) loss of her beautiful self. So poignant, when she was only 4 or 5 years old she turned to her mother and said of her father, “Mommy, if you leave me with him he will ruin me.” He did. She ultimately became as cruel, vindictive and twisted as her father.

But I say her true self is yet to be re-discovered. She has only to call for it. Beneath the twisted wreckage is the bright and beautiful essence of herself – waiting, just waiting to be recognized.

But remember, it is not your job to rescue her. Only she can save herself. Your job is to save you!

4. Do you have loose boundaries?

As the abuser tends to penetrate boundaries, do you invite the abuser into your inner realm without regard for your own safety? Does he or she stray into what should be sacred territory, like your computer, cell phone or work life, or your very mind? Do you give them the key to your world then feel profoundly unsafe? Do you fail to set up safe boundaries for yourself?

Once penetrated the danger is that you “internalize” the emotional bullets that have been shot at you. Do you take “hook, line and sinker” what has been projected onto you? It’s as though you lost yourself, the self you once were. Do you recognize how much you’ve lost?

5. Do you have low self-esteem?

If you started out confident, it won’t end that way if you are being ambushed at every turn. If you started out self-doubting, anxious and submissive the damage can even more pervasive. Low self-esteem makes you available for “the hook.”


Low self-esteem can also lead to not trusting yourself. Do you have intuition but then deny it and go ahead anyway against your own better judgment?

Bottom line: if consciously or unconsciously you feel unworthy you may draw to you someone who acts like that is true. If you feel you deserve punishment, the abuser is ready and waiting to make you “dream” or as it may be, your “nightmare” come true. Do you think you can “dream” up another reality?

  1. Do you find yourself taking excess responsibility

I have seen this over and over. If you have a tendency to look to yourself for wrongdoing in the name of “taking responsibility” and if you are in relationship with an abuser, that will be used against you. Your tendency to be fair and look to yourself for “your part” will lead to projection of blame on you only. After all, “It’s all your fault.”

  1. Did you have a dysfunctional traumatic childhood?

The background music of abusive relationships is the history of traumatic, abusive or neglectful early childhood experience. That theme song can be set for the future: the nature of later abuse often reflects a similar pattern established in childhood.

One wounded often draws the same type of abuser to them, as experienced in childhood. It makes no logical sense but this is the way the mind works. We are drawn to the familiar patterns established in childhood even if they hurt. Freud called it the repetition compulsion and it is amazing how powerful it is! It can put it all in motion even without your obvious awareness. It can be insidious.

The lack of self-confidence based on damaging childhood or early experiences can lead to minimizing your own worth, and over-valuing the other. This creates a setup for just the “wrong” person to take advantage.

There is hope: once we know who we are and what we draw we have choices. More to come!


 

A. Introduction: Power Politics or True Empowerment

 

Power Politics or True Empowerment

by Cynthia M Chase

     With awareness, we have choice. Knowing the “truth” can set us free. This blog is based on personal and 30 plus years of clinical experience. It is my hope that by sharing the intricacies and inner workings of abusive relationships, both abuser and the victims of their abuse can be set free from their suffering and pain.

     The depth of pain felt by those dis-empowered is extraordinary.  Sometimes people say, “It’s only emotional pain, not physical.”  No scars or black and blue marks are left, but the psychological wounding is profound.  Just because the effects are not physically evident doesn’t mean that it hurts any less.  The hidden twistings and turnings that make up an emotionally abusive relationship can be hard to describe.  The Police won’t arrest the abuser since their ways are hidden behind closed doors and sometimes even the victim doesn’t understand what is happening.

     Accommodations are made, subtle adjustments are put in place to placate the abuser and to try to keep safe.  Over time the victim doesn’t often notice the ground lost or the confidence diminished.  Denial is the constant companion of the victim.  I was there, I know.  It is because of my own pain, years of denial and devastated self-esteem that I had to fight to empower my own life.  “What is wrong with me?” “What is wrong with him/her that makes me hurt so?”  These are the questions that plagued me.  This is my contribution to those of you who are suffering victims.  If you know what makes you vulnerable to these manipulations and if you begin to track the motivations, techniques and behaviors of the Abuser, you have a chance to change your life.

     The Abusers are in pain as well but are more difficult to help:  often they fight awareness of what they do, how much pain they cause, and sometimes don’t even care.  Certain Abusers act as though their feelings are the only ones that matter.  I offer compassion to you – you may not even know the loss of humanity that has robbed you of a heart.  Look carefully at yourself.  Understand that this loss deprives you of true empowerment.  The power that you seek over your Victim is a hollow victory.  Where is the happiness and contentment that you deserve?  You can never find it by using, manipulating or overpowering the other.

     As a psychotherapist of over 30 years I have seen hundreds of people caught in the web of an emotionally abusive relationship.  I have shared many of the ideas with my patients which I will now present to you.  They have been helped and have urged me to spread the word so that others may also seek their own salvation.  I honor them as I share my insights with you now.

I will be introducing ongoing chapters on this blog, Power Politics or True Empowerment on a regular basis.  I welcome your feedback and the sharing of your experience.

     Abusive relationships are based on the belief that external power over another leads to “winning.” What I have seen is that, on the contrary, abuser and victim become “locked in a death embrace” and both lose, unless detachment is achieved. Detachment facilitates the ability to “come home” to the self, to grow, and move towards self love.

     I have separated the abusers into two categories: The stealth hunters and the raptors. Based on nature’s model the first group hunts in the dark, keeping somewhat hidden in their search for prey and tending to camouflage their aggression. My focus here will be on stealth hunters. The second group, the raptors, is the equivalent of birds of prey: they attack, maim, and kill their prey. This may be the focus of a later blog.  Just know that in reality, there may be a fuzzy line between the stealth hunters and the raptors.

     First I want to talk to you about the abuse cycle. Then I will identify the characteristics of the stealth hunters and the victims or prey. We will approach this dysfunctional relationship in terms of how the abuser and victim connect with their energies so you can see why it is so difficult to “untangle the web”.  Then we will take a look at what a healthy relationship looks like and what kind of healing is needed to be free and empowered.

     We will delve into the Bill of Rights for both the Abuser and the Victim and end with thoughts on how to heal both the hunters and the prey.

     The journey is one from darkness and despair to freedom and light.  It’s not an easy journey but one worth traveling. There is hope!  Let’s begin.