The Man Who Told Me I Was Crazy

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by Annie Kaszina on November 14, 2017

A lovely reader contacted me this week to tell me that she would love to translate my work into Spanish.  She could not have been kinder or complimentary about my work.

The post-abuse reality check

Her positive remarks made me do one of those post-abuse reality checks – “Really? Little old me? You take what I have to say seriously?“

What would the wasband have had to say if only he had been privy to the conversation?

One of the conventions of my abusive marriage was that I was The Idiot.  (Anyone who saw any merit in me, without seeing far, far greater merit in him, would also be termed an idiot. The wasband lived in a world of insignificant, often nameless, idiots.)

An abuser needs a cast of idiots

Any abuser needs a cast of idiots around them to throw their genius into the sharpest, most favorable light.  The wasband saw himself as a giant of a human being surrounded by pygmies.  I, of course, was the  pygmiest of them all.  I only had to open my mouth about anything – even things related to my specialist PhD subject – to be reminded that I,

  1. Knew nothing or, at least,
  2. Lacked enough active brain cells to form a worthwhile idea.

Yet, now, that man has become my specialist subject. That was never in his master plan.  However, everything I have learned about toxic relationships, I learned first from having lived through one with him.

If anyone were to ask his opinion (always a bad move unless you have an hour to kill – by inches) he would doubtless state that I was both crazy and inadequate.  He would cite his decades of psychotherapy (which left him more knowledgeable and manipulative but no nicer) to illustrate his extraordinary heroism.  His claim to extraordinary heroism was founded on three things.

The “Heroism” of the abuser

  1. He had managed to put up with crazy, old me for all those years.
  2. His unparalleled extraordinariness. Past, personality, and professional ability all made him an outstanding being (in his own eyes, at least).
  3. The years and years – and years – he had spent in expensive “self-examination” (in reality, more like a weird form of self-celebration). “Not everybody would have the courage to do that,” he would argue. 

The abusive character assassination

He would preface his comments about me with a ‘heartfelt” sigh at the sound of my name – to show that he was saddened – not angry – at the sad mess I had made of my life.  Then, having established his own credentials as a good person, to his own satisfaction, he would set about a thorough character assassination.

He would say, with a shake of his head, that I was crazy, and always had been.  He might dredge up one or two stories from his fund of Things That Didn’t Actually Happen That Way (except in his imagination) and he would sigh. Again.  He did a lot of despairing and/or disapproving sighing.)  He would say that he had done everything to help me,  offered me a realistic perspective and urged me have psychotherapy.  However, I had never listened, or appreciated all that he tried to do for me.

Then, he would  warm to his account of my psychopathology.  He would describe me as a needy, inadequate person but add – in competent professional mode – that my psychopathology was hardly surprising.  My entire family were crazy.  His little head would be nodding up and down as he spoke, subliminally demanding a “Yes” from his listener.

Actually, to the innocent bystander everything he said could well sound quite credible. I was just too big a problem – even for a good guy like him to take on.

Even taking into consideration the fact that his upbringing was not perfect, he had come through it as well as only he could.  I, on the other hand, despite my relatively idyllic childhood, was a “basket-case”.

The power of conviction

The wasband had mastered the art of making even the most outrageous and cruel statements with total conviction.

The lazy listener would find him totally credible and engaging. And, let’s face it, most listeners and onlookers are lazy.  Even when they register something profoundly “off”, they still look at the abuser wearing his formal Mr Wonderful mask and nod to themselves, “No, no, that must be alright. The expression on his face says that everything is okay.  So, it must be. He couldn’t possibly be saying those things with that much conviction if they weren’t true.”

If he did notice faint stirrings of disbelief, he would regale his listeners with a touch of humor at his own expense.  That was a carefully calculated ploy to make him look more vulnerable.  And therefore more impressive.  Most times, it worked very well.

The lies of an abuser are more powerful than the truth of a victim.

The lies of an abuser are a lot more persuasive than the self-doubt of the abuse victim.

Or, to put it another way, an abuser is someone whose lies sound a lot more convincing – to the naive listener – than do your protestations of the truth.

The one thing that the wasband would NEVER do was own his own share of responsibility.  The nearest he would get would be a faux admission of fallibility – actually designed to make himself look better and elicit the, “He’s so open and honest!” response.  He might just opt for a form of words like,

“Well, I wish I could have given her more.  Heaven knows, I tried my best. But it was never going to be enough.  She was just so needy that nothing I did for her was ever going to be enough.  She needed professional help.  If she had gone into psycho-analysis ,- like I did – she might have benefited.”  (But, equally, she might not because not everybody can belong to the mental/emotional/spiritual elite like he did.)

I haven’t spoken to the wasband in years. I see no need to.  I know what would happen if I did.  He would try, yet again, to exert his power over me by reminding me that, in his view of the world, I am a total crazy screw -up of a human being.  That would be the frosting on his cake.

However, he doesn’t need to speak to me to savor the delight of speaking ill of me.  Doing so is, still, one of his specialist subjects.  I doubt that he would miss a chance to do so.  At the very least, he would resort to that old favorite line,

“There is plenty I could say…”

“Well, there is plenty I could say about her but I won’t.”

That line worked wonders, encouraging his listener to fill in the blank with their own worst imaginings, all the while believing that the reality he had so thoughtfully suppressed could only be worse.

The wasband never stopped making it clear to me how crazy I was – and how wise and exceptional he was.  There is plenty I could say about that but won’t (JOKE). All I will say is this; if emotionally abusive, narcissistic men are SO wise and exceptional, how come, once the mask comes off, they all act like petulant toddlers?  How come they habitually exhibit less emotional intelligence than a smart 2 year old?

Emotional abusers are not clinically crazy.  Just crazy manipulative and hell-bent on trampling over their “loved one”’s feeling to get their sense of satisfaction.  Toxic, certainly, but not crazy.

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