~by Amy Lynn Burch
Published on March 31, 2014 @ 8:23pm EST
“One concrete way in which we all landscape our sanity is by having our experience of reality confirmed by others. When our experience of reality is disconfirmed by others, our confidence in our own sanity can be undermined.” ~Graeme Galton, Forensic Aspects of Dissociative Identity Disorder
An emotional bully will exploit trust at every possible turn. In fact, exploiting trust is their primary method of control. They demand trust without question and then use the victim’s trust against them in order to gain power. They demand absolute trust while simultaneously refusing accountability in terms of proving trustworthiness. They feel obliged to gain every advantage over their victims without providing anything in terms of equity to their targets. If at risk of exposure, and then cornered, the psychologically violent personality will flatly refuse to answer direct questions in which they must admit the truth, sometimes ignoring and redirecting the conversation entirely. Not that redirection, in and of itself is inherently bad. Redirection is often a useful tool for the average non-diabolical personality to steer away from uncomfortable topics. However, for the psychologically violent personality, redirection is a combative tactic. Better stated, they are offended by and refuse to acknowledge inconvenient questions, an utterly diabolical move which exposes the liar without so much as a word of corroboration on the part of the abuser.
It isn’t uncommon for the bully to demand trust from their victims while shaming and blaming them for exhibiting rightful distrust of the abuser. The mere act of suggesting to the bully that his or her exploitative behavior is wrong tends to send the bully on a full frontal assault of sorts against their targets using shaming and manipulative language against their target(s) in order to put them on the defensive. If they can keep their victim(s) on the defensive then the abuser maintains power and control over the situation. The bully may use a combination of overt and covert shaming messages such as:
“You really need to get over your trust issues.”
“Why are you so suspicious and paranoid all the time?”
“I can’t talk to you when you get like this!”
Emotional bullies fail miserably at making the connection between their own deceptive behaviors and abject lack of honesty with their victim’s legitimate issues of trust. It cannot be overstated that bullies believe that they deserve absolute trust without question regardless of how many times they’ve deliberately betrayed their victim’s trust boundaries. They do not understand that trust is a byproduct of honesty and that where there is no honesty there can be no trust. This truth applies to all relationships including, but not limited to: business; romantic; and parent-to-child relationships. It is primarily parent-to-child relationships that we will focus on for the next two postings, current posting included.
Beyond The Mask of Sanity
Similar to Munchhausen by Proxy in which the perpetrator is desperate for admiration at the expense of ones child’s health and well-being, emotionally abusive parents are often desperate to appear to the general public as saintly and long suffering. This also applies to the emotionally violent intimate partner. In truth, these so-called upstanding model parents and mates are often the most heinous of abusers. The most devious are often mothers who see their children as an inconvenience and/or merely as tools used to gain sympathy. The mother whose motivation to have children is so that someone will love her is a red flag indicator of a potential emotional/physical abuser.
The emotional bully’s oversensitivity makes her an emotionally, and sometimes physically violent predator. She is typically motivated by two things: revenge for perceived wrongs; and getting her own way in every situation no matter how trivial. Everything is a contest and they simply must win. When boundaries are imposed on the emotional abuser they turn their focus to seeking revenge at any cost. It isn’t uncommon for the abuser to fake changed behavior even for long periods of time in order to accomplish their goal of evening the score against their target. They will often set out on elaborate schemes which include mimicking sanity, compassion, kindness, sincerity, guilt, and remorse for the sole purpose of catching their intended target off guard so they can deliver the killing blow, so to speak.
No matter how remorseful an emotional bully appears to be on the surface their internal motivation remains unchanged. It is for this reason that an emotional bully should never be trusted. Their entire motivation for gaining and regaining their victims trust after it has been lost is so that they can continue to exploit their victims for their own selfish purposes. It isn’t uncommon for the emotional bully to openly shame their victim for having trust issues without ever acknowledging that their behavior is the cause behind the mistrust. Emotional bullies work very hard to make their prey look irrational to the outside world and openly blame their victims as though their concerns were somehow created in a vacuum (see Gaslighting for more information).
Tools of the Trade: Shame and Guilt
Imposing inappropriate shame and guilt as a means of control for not complying with demands is a common tactic of an emotional abuser and is routinely used against victims regardless of age. However, this tactic works particularly well against children, unfortunately, as abusers well know. Shaming messages are extraordinarily powerful and have a dramatic negative affect on children. However, children are not the only ones susceptible to such abuses. Kind, yet gullible, personalities which appear child-like and trusting regardless of biological age are a hot target for psychological abusers. This is one of the reasons why dominant personalities tend to seek-out compliant souls on which to perpetrate their diabolical abuses, because they know that they can emotionally manipulate the compliant personality into inappropriate guilt very easily.
Before I go any further it should be noted that not all guilt is bad. Guilt, in its proper place, is a necessary emotion designed to correct inappropriate behavior. For example, hurting someone for entertainment value should elicit feelings of guilt in the emotionally stable and well developed person. If it doesn’t then it indicates something deeply wrong within a person’s psyche along the lines of lack of empathy which is no minor deficit. It is true that children must learn empathy but most children understand this inherently with proper feelings of guilt the indicator. Just as stealing a personal possession from another person should impose feelings of guilt, so too should inflicting verbal abuses at another person elicit feelings of guilt in an otherwise healthy person. Guilt in this scenario is designed to point out the wrong behavior to the wrongdoer for the purpose of correcting the behavior in the future. As regards childrearing, many young parents fail to understand the necessity of this emotion e.g., appropriate guilt, in raising their children and seek to save their children from all negative feelings which create a host of character flaws in developing children which could lead to full-blown psychological disorders as they mature. However, that is a topic for another blog post. It does, however, go hand in hand with some parents’ unintentionally nurturing narcissistic bullies who very likely could grow-up to be psychologically violent personalities. All in all that is a very simplified explanation of a complex emotion but the average person reading this will understand the concept. Emotional abusers refuse to accept guilt as a correcting tool as applied to themselves yet do not hesitate to use it as an inappropriately imposed tool of manipulation against others in order to get their own way.
Children of emotional bullies are at particular risk of enduring years of pervasive abuse with little if any outside intervention. Over time, an abused child will likely begin to accept the abuse as normal having nothing in terms of healthy examples by way of comparison. The risk to them is that as they mature they tend to seek our familiar relationships not unlike what they have experienced at home thereby inadvertently repeating the abuse. If left uncorrected, the child will carry the abusive dynamic into adulthood either as a repeat victim or as an abuser. In some cases, they become both dependant on the relationship in question.
“Don’t Criticize My Parenting Style”
Abusive parents and especially those who resort to emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse have the power to isolate and dominate their children not only deliberately keeping them away from help but also using their children as a shield of sorts against accountability. Simply stated, egocentric, selfish, demanding, and callous people have absolutely no tolerance for providing children with proper nutrition, emotional stability, love, and safety or any provision of basic human needs because it detracts from their overall self-absorbed goals of unconditional admiration, attention, absolute control and dominance over their environment. Although there are some children who are difficult personalities from birth, emotionally abused children exhibit certain behaviors which, to the trained eye, point to an abusive home life. Anyone who comes close to examining the truth of the matter behind a seemingly erratic child’s behavior is seen as an exposure risk to the abuser.
If the abuser cannot control and manipulate the questioning party then all ties are cut and the child who typically has no power in the relationship is kept away from those who might very well be able to intervene in, and then stop, the abuse. If confronted, the psychologically violent parent may lean on the excuse of having a different “parenting style” which shouldn’t be criticized. It is normal to some degree to not want to receive correction but the chronic avoidance of correction is a huge red flag that should not be ignored.
Work It, Own It, Utterly Annihilate It
When children are taught from their earliest development to accept emotionally abusive behavior, they will carry that tendency toward acceptance of bad behavior into adulthood thus inviting into their lives the very abuse which they’ve sought to escape. If a child is taught that it is their responsibility to take care of one or more parents feelings and wellbeing at the expense of their own then they will learn to devalue their own very real basic needs and then will chronically acquiesce to the demands of bullies. This is a form of learned helplessness which if instilled in a child during their early formative years and reinforced through coercion becomes ingrained before adulthood. Children are particularly vulnerable to this form of abuse. Most children naturally seek approval and acceptance of parents or other parental authority figures. Abusive parents waste no time exploiting this tendency, willfully using it to their advantage.
Emotionally abusive parents do not hesitate to use their children’s reactive behaviors as a shield against the underlying cause, e.g., sadistically insidiously psychologically abusive injury. Make no mistake: not all abuse leaves a physical mark and it is the abuse that occurs absent physical scarring that is often the most violently wielded by abusive personalities. For the abused, the wounds and scars are long-lasting which are compounded by the absence of physical proof, with abusers who remain unpunished for their crimes that typically remain in the victim’s life.
No Body, No Crime
Emotional abusers are cunning enough to never abuse their victims in the presence of others, at least not intentionally. The only known exceptions are those who abuse in the presence of fellow abusers or in the presence of weak personalities who will say nothing to preserve their own safety. Using spoken words as their primary tool of abuse offers the abuser the luxury of denial as a means of protection from responsibility when confronted. The simple act of denial coupled with a carefully structured exterior façade is all that is needed for an abuser to continue their psychologically violent assaults on their prey. They will either outright deny that an abusive conversation ever took place or will deliberately misremember the conversation to their advantage. Emotional abusers would rather rewrite history than to tell the truth and will omit entire events which they know will expose their behavior if admitted. They will disregard the conversation to others as “I can’t be responsible for how he/she chooses to hear information” or “I can’t be responsible for what you choose to feel” all the while knowing that their victim has the correct information without the power to prove what was said.
It is important to note that the very act of denial is confirmation that the abuser knows what they’ve done is wrong. Otherwise, why carefully omit the incriminating information entirely? They are cunning and diabolical enough to know that without an outside witness willing to corroborate the truth, all that are necessary to avoid responsibility and perpetuate the abuse is denial and silence. Again, although anyone can be a victim of this method of abuse, children are particularly susceptible and at risk for not being believed as a result of the cunningly abusive parent who can tailor the narrative in their own favor.
Next week we will continue to examine the psychologically violent personality as parent while transitioning to other issues within abusive relationships. I welcome your questions, comments, and even criticism as long as it’s respectful. As always, thank you for your readership. You are not alone.
© Amy Lynn Burch 2014
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