“I used to be a feisty, confident woman…”

by Annie Kaszina on August 27, 2013

“I used to be a feisty, confident woman.  But Mr Nasty has left me feeling small, frightened, and powerless”, one emotionally abused woman said to me this week.

Ain’t that the truth?  

An emotionally abusive man has a real talent for pulling the rug out from under your feet, does he not?  Before we meet Mr Nasty, we may well be the walking wounded: we’re vulnerable, we may already have been emotionally injured, but we  underestimated the extent of the damage.  We see ourselves as stronger and more together than we truly are.  

When I think back to who I was, pre-Mr Nasty, I was a curious conundrum.  I was both frightened and inadequate at bottom, and quite feisty, given to taking on the world, all guns blazing.  (Somehow, those two extremes co-existed fairly harmoniously.)  While I wasn’t truly confident I, nevertheless, had a certain belief in my own strength.

Mr Nasty did for that belief, of course. The impact of an emotionally abusive marriage shattered that brittle self-image.

One of the powerful techniques an emotionally abusive man uses to great effect is the random attack.  It may, or may not, be physical.  It will, sure as hell, be verbal and emotional.  It will be totally out of proportion to the situation; and you won’t see it coming.

The sheer shock of the attack – or. If you prefer, ambush – serves to wrong-foot you.  It triggers a number of responses, like:

  1.  You attempt to justify yourself – after all, unless the man is deranged, he’ll have to see that his attack is groundless.  Won’t he?
  2.  You relate it to the Rules of Fairness by which you try to live.  As a reasonable, adult human being (which, in point of fact, he is NOT) he has to see that that is no way to behave.  Doesn’t he?  (Actually, as the sole ruler of the Known Universe, he doesn’t have to see that, at all.”
  3.  You try to ‘rewind’ to sane, and normal, functioning.  This has to be a blip, right?  After all, this is not Planet Zog you’re living on.   (Actually…  I don’t even need to finish that sentence, do I?  But for the sake of any new readers, here goes: if it feels like Planet Zog, that’s because it is Planet Zog, spiritual home of ALL abusive relationships.)
  4.  You lick your wounds.  They’re BIG wounds, and there is a LOT of licking to do.  From Mr Nasty’s point of view, that works perfectly, too; by distracting you from the reality of the situation.

The net result is that you become increasingly fearful and anxious, which works beautifully for Mr Nasty. 

Think Pavlov: Mr Nasty trains you to be very, very afraid.  Punishment can come at any time, for any ‘reason’ – better still, from his point of view – for no reason, at all.

Mr Nasty teaches you to live with an axe constantly suspended over your head.  At any time, that axe can fall on you.  Again.  Which means you need to keep as still as you possibly can, so as not to disturb that axe in any way.

An emotionally abusive man trains you to fear so effectively that you end up being frightened of your own shadow.  That’s one of the things that makes it so hard to leave him and stand on your own two feet.

After all, when you were together he sort of grounded you; by standing, very hard, on your feet.  Painful as it was, you – sort of – knew where you stood.  You certainly felt the ground under your poor little, crushed feet.

Being without him just doesn’t feel… well, safe.  You’ve been trained to survive – just – in a war zone.  His war zone, aka Planet Zog.  It works wonderfully well, for him.  It certainly doesn’t work for you.

The worst of it is this:  ou end up believing that his world, is the world.  It isn’t.  It is just one of many possible worlds – one of the worst worlds you could possibly inhabit. 

His world will carry on existing without you.

But so what?

The important thing is that you let go of barely existing, and take the leap of faith into The World – the real world, that is, where you can, finally, enjoy a life worth living?

Now, when will you do it?

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