Ellie Izzo, PhD, LPC and
Vicki Carpel Miller, BSN, MS, LMFT
Domestic Abuse is an umbrella term that covers different dimensions of abusive relationships: verbal, emotional, physical, and spiritual. It is important to understand and recognize the traits of an abuser as well as the traits of being in the victim position in order to transform into healthy change. Here are some of the traits of an abusive partner:
• Competitive with his/her
• Quick with comebacks or put-downs
• Lack of compassion
• Unable to be empathic
• Has difficulty listening
• Angers easily
• Shuts Down/goes dark
• Acts like a nice person to others
• Often is involved in one or more addictions
After living with this type of personality over time, the victim begins to experience a form of brainwashing. Here are the characteristics of brainwashing:
1. Omnipotence – the abuser behaves like he/she has all the power
2. Futility of the situation – the victim Is led to believe there is no way out
3. Threats – the abuser intimidates and undermines the confidence of the victim
4. Isolation – the victim is frequently barred from having outside attachments
5. Occasional Crumb – once in a while the abuser does something nice to keep the victim believing that things are going to improve.
Here is an example of the abusive system: Bill and Mary were married for three years and were very involved in their church activities. Bill was extremely jealous if Mary wanted to do any activity outside of work or the church, and would become threatened, and would proceed to “brainwash” his wife. Let’s look at the brainwashing cycle using Bill and Mary as an example.
1. Omnipotence – Bill was an elder in the church and wielded his power as a Godlike figure. He would speak down to Mary and criticize her imperfections.
2. Futility of the situation – Bill would denigrate Mary’s looks, her lack of education, and her confidence; often saying things like, “no one would ever want you.”
3. Threats – Bill would threaten that if Mary left him, she would be damned by the congregation and banned from the church, her primary support system.
4. Isolation – Bill prohibited Mary from being away from him by tormenting her with constant calls and texts when she was away from the home.
5. Occasional Crumb – when Bill sensed that Mary was maxed out from his abusive behavior, he would switch gears and temporarily act like the partner she always wished he would be.
If any of these red flags apply to you, please remember what you deserve to experience in your relationship:
• To communicate and feel heard and respected for your thoughts and feelings
• To feel safe and acceptable just as you are
• To not suffer personal attacks.To be able to accept constructive feedback without feeling worthless.
• To receive a genuine, heartfelt apology,without caveats or conditions.
• To be with a partner who can take responsibility for his/her anger and communicate it in a constructive way that serves to bring you closer together.
• The right to say “no.”
• The freedom to grow and experience outside interests.
If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, you will need help to debrief from the brainwashing and guidance to lead you out of the fog of conflict. Please seek the appropriate support and you will find your strength and renew your faith in yourself.
ONLINE RESOURCES FOR HELP
Understanding Emotional Abuse
Read more about Domestic Abuse in our March Issue of Mindset