Who taught you?

by Annie Kaszina on May 18, 2011


Dear Annie,

You are so good at describing any and all situations of abuse in a simple and clear manner. You are direct but respectful not to victimize us women for staying with these so called men we feel so in love with/addicted to.. Where did you get your training?

Barbara

Dear Barbara,

Thank you for your kind words. I trained formally in a number of modalities that gave me a portfolio of skills and tools for helping women – including myself – to shed toxic beliefs, access strengths and resources we didn’t know we had, and create the life we want for ourselves. (These modalities include coaching, NLP, EFT, Hypnotherapy.)

I trained in abuse with a man called Alex – the man I married, to be precise.
Was he as overtly cruel as other emotionally abusive men I’ve heard about over the years? I really don’t know.
But he was bad enough to do considerable damage to my life, and cause me massive pain.

All abusers are bad enough – or, more correctly, unacceptably bad… They know what to say to hurt you, and to hook you back in.

When I look back, Alex, my teacher, was quite good at cold empathy.

Now, I don’t know whether you have heard of “cold empathy”. It is a new idea to me; and a very interesting one. I read about it in Flipnosis by Kevin Dutton.

You, and I – all abused women – are very empathetic. We are, undoubtedly, empathetic to a fault. We can agonize about rejecting an abuser who has rejected us, repeatedly. We can agonize about upsetting anyone, at all.

We project our own feelings onto other people, and then we suffer the pain of rejection we would feel, if we were in their place.

That is “warm empathy” taken to the nth degree: we quite literally feel for other people. We feel what they would feel if they were in our place – if they felt the way we do.

But the thing that abused women find so hard to take on board is that abusive men do not feel as we do. They function in a very different way.

Let’s come back to Alex, my teacher. He was nobody’s fool. Where other people’s feelings were concerned, he was no slouch. In fact, he could often read them far more accurately than I did.

Why was that?

Because he didn’t feel for them. And he certainly didn’t feel the way they felt.

In short, Alex was quite good at “cold empathy”. He could read people…

And, at this point, I realize I need to be more specific. I’ve just fallen into a pattern that all abused women fall into, which is not helpful at all.

It is the pattern of speaking in generalities. Abused women talk about “people” when we mean “I”; or, even more curiously, we say things like: “I was not treated kindly”, as if that ill treatment happened in a disembodied way; as if there was no agent when, clearly, there was; and that agent was your abusive partner.

Alex. was very good at reading me.

How good at “cold empathy” did that make him?

Well, I though that made him pretty good. But when I stop to think about it, all it really means is that there were times when he actually listened.

(I’d always thought he hadn’t listened, because, most commonly, he gave little or no sign of registering my wants and needs, at the time.)

Still, logic indicates that he did, indeed, listen when I told him what I wanted – as we all tell our partner in the naïve belief that he has only to understand, and he will deliver…

Alex listened and made a mental note. He stored that information in the “when I need to pull it out of the bag” folder in his brain. I now see that he was, in some ways, a risk taker.

Alex got his thrills by worming his way out of difficult situations. Ironically, it was his own bad behaviour that got him into those difficult situations in the first place. (This happened in his professional life, as well as his marriage.)

He functioned best when ‘the chips were down’. At that point, he would use his capacity for “cold empathy” to think exactly what he needed to say to win over the people he needed to win over. (And in this instance, I say “people” deliberately. Because he was exceptionally good at offending people, it wasn’t just me that he needed to win over: he alienated colleagues, friends, even policemen when they stopped him for speeding.)

Saying what he needed to say to win people over, often created a conflict within him. He was pleased he had ‘won out’, but angry he had had to talk, or charm, his way out of a situation.

If it sounds like he was devious, cold, and calculating, he was – increasingly so, over time. That is the way abusers are. That is why they can go from abusing you to sweet-talking you. They simply select whichever tool they need, at the time, from their tool-kit, to get the response they desire.

That is also why, when you leave them, you can expect to see them change tack with dazzling speed from fury, to abject apology. That is why they suddenly declare they love you and they’ve seen the light… And then have a temper tantrum, in short order.

That is why they may well become more dangerous than they have ever been before. Once they discover the time honoured techniques of manipulation don’t work, they may spiral out of control. At the very least, they will do their very best to “kick you back into touch” whether physically, or emotionally.

I experienced all these things many times with Alex. When I finally left, I was in pieces. I didn’t know who I was, anymore.

But I have a Ph.D., and a talent for research. I read, I thought, I listened, and I began to make sense of what had happened to me; and happens to 1 woman in 4 at some time in their life.

According to Robert Holden, “Life is not what happens to you, it’s what happens for you”.

Had I believed I had the option to leave and thrive, I would have declined to spend so many years with an emotionally abusive man. But, at the time, I didn’t believe that option was open to me.

So, I stayed. At some point I realized life is what happens for you. I decided to use my experiences – and everything that gifted teacher could teach me – to help other abused women.

Everything I write, every program I teach, is to help you get from misery to happiness. My joy is to help you move on, become whole and experience happiness as your default emotion.

It sure beats everything we’ve experienced in an abusive relationship.

Warm wishes for your recovery,

Annie

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