It’s not that we don’t think when we stay in abusive relationships. We do. It’s just that instead of using our thinking to discern the truth, we use our thinking to hide from it. Instead of using our thinking to protect ourselves, we use it to justify staying in danger. Instead of calling out wrong behavior, we rationalize the inexcusable.
We are mental contortionists. And that takes a lot of work and considerable skill.
When I think back to my most abusive relationship, I am amazed at my incredible tunnel vision and my ability to twist everything around to defend what was indefensible and to protect someone who didn’t even exist.
I created a fairy tale, the one about the soul mate. I realize now I was never defending my ex as much as my idea of him. Lest anyone starts to feel sorry for him — poor thing, never loved for himself — let me say it was exactly what he wanted. It worked for him, enabled him to be who he was, while benefiting from who I thought he was.
If anything ever threatened my idea of him, including/especially me, there was hell to pay. Being loved for something he was not was not only what he counted on, but demanded.
Many people have a belief or, at least, a hope in finding a soul mate, and more pointedly, many victims of abuse believe they have found theirs in the person who abuses them. Not because targets are masochistic, but because they bought the package they were presented with, and believe it represents what’s inside.
Covert abusers will do what it takes to make us believe we are correct in this assessment, at least while we’re still being baited.
They will adopt our likes and dislikes, reflect back to us what we want to hear or see, be so attentive that we have to believe we’ve found our true soul mate. Whether in a whirlwind romance or a longer haul relationship, all that matters is that we take the hook — however long or short it takes.
Once we are convinced, once we are invested enough, our ability to think, to discern doesn’t dissipate. It just gets hijacked to no longer serve our best interests.
We look not to see the person who would hurt us, but to re-find the person who is our soul mate. We desire to return to the original state of bliss, to draw back the person we love, the one we know is still there, the one hidden somewhere behind the abusive words, the derision, the caustic remarks, the cold shoulder and silent treatment, the rages, betrayals both public and private.
You just know the person you finally recognized as your soul mate is still in there somewhere. Whatever doesn’t fit that picture gets rationalized or justified away. We can use logic, make sense to ourselves while veering ourselves away from truth.
I was such a mental contortionist, using my mental faculties to reinterpret everything to fit into my story of destiny and meant-to-be’s.
I found reasons and excuses behind every action that would have been the last straw for someone else. I justified every assault that would clearly have crossed the line for a more self-respecting person. I not only reconnected the dots to draw the correct picture, I created a few! That took skill.
Surely, I can now use that skill on my behalf now.
In all fairness, I did not do this just for myself. When you’re in this type of relationship to not do this is to reveal the abuser, which to the abuser is to betray the abuser. So I was, also, motivated to excuse, justify and rationalize, because if I didn’t protect the illusion, the backlash — which is “narcissistic rage” — would be great. More on that later.
The important thing is when the scales start falling off your eyes, and you begin to realize just how abusive the relationship you are in is, and you begin to see just how much you may have contributed to your own blindness, don’t despair. Don’t condemn yourself. Don’t beat up on yourself.
Regardless your own personal motivation, whatever your agendas or issues notwithstanding, the skills behind the very things you used to blind you — the rationalizations, the justifications — those choices contain the very skills that you can use to give you sight, that can empower you to see and to discern the right course of action for you. The tenacity alone involved in such a feat is enough to carry you to freedom if you will but use it for yourself!
So easy to feel discouraged when the fog starts to lift, so easy to judge and condemn yourself as stupid. Don’t. You’re not.
Whatever personal part got you into this mess or kept you in, can get you out. That’s the beauty of it. You don’t have to ask for something you don’t already have. The ability to get out is found in your ability to stay.
Reclaim your strengths, your wonderful mind, your ability to think, your tenacity. Someone else has benefited from them long enough. It’s now your turn.
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