Month: November 2012

As I Witnessed, Abusers Control Spouse’s Friends/Family

I’m not the only one to suffer isolation from loved ones as a tool used to force me to accept abuse.   As I wrote about in Emotional Blackmail, The Incident and The Fallout,

Emotional blackmail: That’s the term for Tracy’s demand that I accept her verbal abuse of me as my due, and sit and let her scream and yell at me in person about all my “faults” and all the “horrible” things I had done, or else I never am allowed to speak to or e-mail Richard again.

Basically, she was to change nothing about herself, while I was to change everything about myself and grovel at her feet, or else I lose what I thought was my best friend.

My ex Phil also tried various ways to isolate me from my friends, coming up with the excuse that they were dissing him for being Catholic, when in reality they hated the way he treated me.

When his constant complaints to me didn’t work, he got angry at me for not sticking up for him against them, when I never saw them dissing him.

He got angry at me for not supporting him, when they saw he was trying to passive-aggressively embarrass me, told him he was wrong–and I agreed.

He even got his best friend to help as his abuser-by-proxy, telling him that my friends were treating him badly.

The best friend then told me that not only was it the way to get Phil back, but a moral imperative, for me to distance myself from my friends!  My best friends, people who are still my best friends, good people, people I lived with, who had helped, supported and stuck up for me all through college!

This is all in my College Memoirs, junior and senior year installments.

And it matches up with Tracy’s treatment of Richard, involving me or his family or friends.

All I know about one of Richard’s old friends and Tracy, is that they were “at war” and Tracy got angry when she discovered Richard had been talking to her.  I know that this friend warned Richard before he married Tracy that Tracy was going to cause him trouble.

I know Richard felt he had to support Tracy when Tracy began abusing and smearing Richard’s close friend Todd.  I know that there was another friend who fought with Tracy and finally broke off her friendship with Richard because of it.

I know that Tracy complained about Richard’s family, especially when one day she was mean to him over the phone, they told her to stop it, and she got mad at Richard for not sticking up for her against them.

I know, also, in the situation I referenced above, that Phil did the same to me when he tried to embarrass me, my friends stuck up for me, and he got furious with me–and broke up with me for the second and final time–for not supporting him.

It all fits together, all follows the same playbook which abusers and narcissists follow, yet Tracy’s response to my writings about this is to accuse me of “false facts” and accusing an “innocent” person. That, too, is part of the abuser’s playbook, as abusers refuse to see themselves and their actions for what they are.  No, no, the victim is to blame!

Another unnamed blogger is in the same place.  His father, like Tracy, refuses to accept that he has abused, refuses to repent and reconcile to his victims.

Instead, he has forced his wife, mother of this man and his brothers, to cut them out of her life.  She is not allowed to contact them, just as I am not allowed to contact Richard (which, by the way, is precisely why I wrote these blogs instead of a letter to Richard).

Maybe if Tracy and this man’s abuser were to allow communication between their victims and abusers-by-proxy, this man’s blog and mine would never have happened.

This man’s mother and Richard are obviously both afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome.  The abuser-by-proxy which Richard became of me over time, was so different from the sweet, caring, sensitive, kind, open man he was when he alone lived in our house, that I had to wonder if he was the same person.

The friend who used to share everything with me, called me the most awesome person he knew, loved to spend time with me, became closed, short, cutting, critical.  And I am also afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome, because I still care about him after the things he’s done.

The other blogger’s mother is also a victim of all sorts of abuse from his abuser, according to the blogger.  I have witnessed Richard being verbally abused and angrily smacked by Tracy, only to later hear from him those classic victim lines, “I deserved it.”  I also know, straight from Richard, that Tracy punches him and verbally abuses him and the children.

Yet he defends her to me, pretends that even when she verbally abuses me and even desires to physically assault me, she is somehow in the right, even accepts the ban on communication between him and me, because that is what Tracy wants.

Just as the other blogger’s mother tells her children that she hates them and refuses to communicate with them or her grandchildren, because this is what the abuser wants her to do.  And no, this is NOT okay.

This is isolation.  Not only does it isolate the blogger and his brothers from their mother, not only does it isolate me from Richard–it goes even further:

It isolates the closest abuse victim, the spouse, from those who see the abuser’s actions for what they are.  And when the spouse agrees with it, the abuser has won, gets the spouse into complete control.

After all, if the spouse were to still communicate with the ostracized, estranged family member or friend, he/she could open his/her eyes and see what’s really going on–and leave!  The abuser can’t have that, now, can she/he?

The combination of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “cognitive dissonance” produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended.

In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed “all their eggs in one basket”. The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.

For reasons described above, the victim feels family and friends are a threat to the relationship and eventually to their personal health and existence.

The more family/friends protest the controlling and abusive nature of the relationship, the more the victim develops cognitive dissonance and becomes defensive.

At this point, family and friends become victims of the abusive and controlling individual. –Joseph Carver, Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser

The above is exactly what happened in my situation with Richard and Tracy.  First I recognized that what Richard had told me about Tracy, was true, as I witnessed it playing out in front of my eyes and ears in my own house for six weeks.

As soon as Tracy realized I recognized her for an abuser, I became her victim as well, as she tried desperately to control me–and Richard allowed it, even made excuses for her, became her abuser-by-proxy.

He seemed to forget everything he had told me as soon as she arrived, to begin making excuses for everything she did to him, the children and to me–except at isolated moments, when he admitted what she was doing was wrong.

I remembered those moments, remembered everything he told me, kept e-mails and made notes.  I even have a draft of an e-mail I wrote to my mother months after they moved out, complaining about some things he had just said that condoned screaming at children and yelling at one’s spouse.

And this after he’d complained to me many times about Tracy screaming at and verbally abusing the kids and breaking their spirits and making them cry, and her mother doing the same thing to the kids and the two of them yelling at each other to stop it.

And this before I heard him scolding Tracy for screaming at the kids, in May or June 2010, while we were at their house.  I felt gaslit every time he made me feel as if I’d imagined his words, but those isolated moments would remind me that I did not imagine a thing.

You see it also happening with that other blogger.  Even though he has witnessed his mother’s own brutal abuses at the hands of his stepfather, she refuses to believe that he is an abuser.

She became the blogger’s abuser-by-proxy, cutting him off from her even when he begged for her to communicate with him, just as I was cut off from my dear friend and spiritual mentor Richard–as Tracy said, with his consent.  The blogger’s mother is obviously consenting, as well.  It doesn’t make it right.

The worst part is when the spouse makes this into some sort of perceived societal requirement.

For example, 1) If the wife tells you your friend is a horrible person and you must separate from her, you must do as she asks out of respect for her, even though your relationship with that friend is and has always been platonic.

She might spin in her head all sorts of reasons why that friend is trying to get her husband into bed, as justification.  Or maybe it’s a male friend she claims was rude to her.

(Such as in the latest episode of Big Bang Theory, when Amy became Director-Zilla, Wil Wheaton snapped at her, and she got angry with her boyfriend Sheldon for not automatically taking her side.)

For another example, 2) The husband is appointed by God as the head of the household, so the wife must submit and obey without question, even if that means cutting herself off from her own children and grandchildren.  To do otherwise would defy not only her husband, but God himself!

You see how easily such beliefs lead to isolation and abuse not only of the friend who was perceived as a threat, but of the spouse expected to follow these “rules.”

This is why I maintain that, while supporting your spouse is generally a good thing, if your spouse is abusing you or another person, you must refuse to support and participate in that abuse.  Otherwise, you gang up on the victim, and become an abuser yourself.

This is also the belief of Anna Valerious, author of the blog Narcissists Suck:

The narcissist appeaser, the self-anointed and so-called peacemaker, is as immoral as his master. He is a pagan priest who will gladly slice your throat or rip your heart out of your chest if it will buy time, peace or prosperity for himself.

He is as demanding and capricious as his N god; he must in order to thrive in the narcissist environment. Know it and plan accordingly. —The Pagan Priesthood of Appeasement

As I write this, the example that I am reflecting on is my own father. He is a living representation of the ultimate cost of peace at any cost.

Don’t picture my father as a obsequious, weak man. He is nothing of the sort. He was a man of strength and forthrightness at one time…a long time ago. This was a man who would never stand by to watch some stranger get attacked and he not intervene. With fists if need be.

This was not true, though, with his own children. He seems to have had no perspective where it concerned how his wife was…and how she treated his own children.

He saved his pity for her. He made allowances for her bad behavior because he believed her childhood explained (and justified) her bad behavior as an adult.

Because he made these allowances for the perpetrator, he was not able to see his way clear to protect his children from the beast. Because he pitied the perp, he ended up consigning helpless children to her abuses.

He loved my mother above all else. His children were unwanted and annoying appendages to his idol, my mother. He tolerated us because he loved her.

This also made it easy for him to demand of us better behavior than he expected from a full-grown woman, his wife. He only ‘loved’ us when we were invisible or when we performed as he expected us to.

My father today is a bitter, angry, cynical man. His mind gradually poisoned by Worm Tongue against his children and extended family.

I have evidence in his own writing that he has surrendered his integrity in order to keep peace with the devil. His moral compass is so broken that he feels righteous and justified to demand of me, his grown daughter, that I too capitulate to the selfish demands of his infernal wife.

He sees me as the problem because I will not bend over and grab the ankles in order to ‘make peace’…like he has.

Yes, indeed. The price for peace with a villain is very high indeed. It has cost my father much. He has lost every one of his extended family members.

He has lost at least one daughter. All he has left is his evil wife. And, perhaps, the one daughter who greatly resembles his evil wife, my sister.

Was it really worth defending the indefensible all these years? I highly doubt it. I have seen clear indications that much of the time he can’t stand to be around my mother.

They live separate lives. He speaks impatiently and angrily with her much of the time.

There are times when he is tender and indulgent with my mother. These are rare times when she has managed to use enough of her feminine charms to soften him.

He is not a happy man. He has paid out too much of his soul, though, to cash in his chips. He will stay with her to the bitter, ugly end.

Count carefully the ultimate cost of ‘peace at any and all costs’. It is very steep. In the end, all you will be left with is the cold comfort of your pretended integrity and righteousness minus your soul. —The High Price of Peace at Any Cost

Richard informed me once that Tracy insisted on being friends with his friends, that she had to put the friend through an approval process, that it wasn’t just me.  Most people, he said, she approved right away.

(Oh, it makes me feel special that I had to jump through all sorts of impossibly high hoops!  Especially when I was the one providing her with food and shelter while she was homeless.)

She got furious with him for contacting an old friend whom she hated.  To her, as she wrote, this was all perfectly normal, all part of “respecting” a spouse, and me submitting to it was expected and normal because “everybody knows” you have to befriend the wife as well.

Um…..I had never encountered such a rule, and in fact, when I twice tried to friend my pastor friend Mike‘s wife on Facebook (they live far away), she rejected me!  As Mike explained, she does not want to be friends with his friends just because they’re his friends, does not want to read his chats with me, and trusts him completely.

It’s the same thing between my husband and me.  I have also never forbidden my husband from being friends with someone just because I don’t like that person.  (There was a time, many years ago, when I felt justified in forbidding him from being friends with former lovers, but after dealing with Tracy, I realized how controlling that was, repented, and rescinded that rule.)

There’s also a huge difference between someone being deliberately rude to your spouse, and someone being naturally shy and quiet, and/or reacting to your spouse’s abuses.

No, feeling entitled to “approve” your spouse’s friends, or even family members, is just another element of control in the abuser’s toolbox.  It treats the spouse like a child, not a full-grown, fully-functioning adult capable of making his own decisions.  It shows a lack of trust in the spouse’s judgment.

Meanwhile, Richard only asked that he meet a guy friend of his wife once, did not require being friends with him as well, did not have to “approve” him.

And Tracy did not require of herself the same things she required from others, allowing herself all sorts of freedoms with my husband–going to a concert alone with, playing footsie with, flirting with–even though she had not befriended me first.  I did not mind or object, but did see the double standard.

Many abusers try to cut you off from your family and your friends. And by doing this, they gain more control over you and how you think.

Because they are well aware that your family and friends would not approve of how they are treating you.

And they also know that those closest to you would begin to see a huge difference in your personality, which is becoming more and more unsure of yourself on a daily basis.

You realize that you are slowly becoming a “non-person” like a frog that is slowing boiling to death in hot water because the temperature is being turned up little by little so that they hardly notice it.

The abuser may contrive to move the target to another city or state, to limit contact. Once out of sight, it is much easier to control the amount of contact the target has with friends and family. These “outsiders” are often blamed for any problems the couple have.

Before you know it, you are cutting ties with your family and with your closest friends.  You are afraid to have them and the abuser in the same room together for fear of what he might say to them and vice versa.

He will use any number of excuses to keep you from seeing them. And if distance is involved he will use the lack of money for why you cannot visit your own family or even call them….

Everything in a relationship with an abuser is one-way- the abuser’s way. What an abuser requires of you, he does not expect of himself. The rules that he applies to you do not apply to him.

When you do something to break the rules it is a “cardinal sin.” However, when he breaks the same rule he finds justification for it. Or so he thinks.

6.) A Deep Internal Rage

The abuser often has a very violent temper that will flare up over the most minor of things. You will be surprised at the intensity of their anger over something that you hardly even saw as a problem..

Many targets of abuse describe arguments with their abuser as being about “stupid” things.  This usually happens when you dare to disagree with or challenge something they have said. Or when you dare to voice your own opinion about something.  You find out that your opinions and suggestions don’t count, only theirs do….

Many times, an early indication of abuse is the use of verbal language designed to make you feel small, ugly, worthless or stupid. Cutting remarks are used whenever the abuser feels down and out.

By making the target feel lousy, too, the abuser feels better. Even so-called pet names are often thinly disguised abuse.  Another name for this is verbal abuse.

9.) A tendency to blame others.

Abusers have a talent for twisting things around so it appears someone else is to blame for whatever goes wrong. If they get mad – it’s someone else’s fault. If they hit someone, it’s their fault. If the car breaks down, it’s someone else’s fault.

Usually, the person an abuser blames is YOU,  the victim — the spouse or lover. Abusers are so good at this that the victim often comes to believe it is true. Then the victim feels guilty.  This is called “crazy making.” —Recognizing the Abusive Personality

 A frequent condition of abuse is seeking to socially isolate the partner. The abuser cuts off their partner from contact with other people, such as family, friends and children, by creating a social deprivation that leads the partner to be more reliant, or dependent, on the abuser.

Social isolation also prevents the partner from seeking support from others or successfully leaving the relationship. Behaviors commonly used to impose social isolation include:

  • Blaming the partner’s friends or family for the couple’s “relationship” problems
  • Monitoring phone calls, mail or visits
  • Demanding an account of the partner’s daily activities
  • Insulting, threatening or assaulting the partner’s friends or family; driving them away
  • Forcing the partner to choose between the relationship and loved ones
  • Creating public scenes or disturbances when the partner is out with others
  • Stalking the partner and other forms of surveillance —Types of Domestic Abuse

Often the abuser will isolate his spouse from friends or family members in an attempt to keep her focused solely on him, and to maintain control. It is much easier to keep someone feeling worthless or crazy, if her contact with outside sources of reassurance or reality are limited.

The abuser may accomplish this by monitoring her actions, making her account for her time, checking up on her, and expecting that she go out only with people, or to do things, that he approves of. He may accomplish this by creating strife between her [and] people he does not want her to be around.

Or, he might make it so unpleasant for her if she attempts to have a social life, that she cuts off contact with people on her own. This may happen because he calls incessantly when she is out, embarrassing her, or because he picks fights with her friends or family members, or he picks fights with her anytime she wants to go out.

At that point, some women just give up trying to do certain things that would help her feel less isolated because it takes so much out of her.

There is also another kind of isolation that occurs when a woman who is allowed to be social, is still so quiet about her situation, out of fear or embarrassment, that she keeps it all to herself.

This woman will feel just as alone and doubtful of herself and her situation as the woman who finds its to scary to try and have relationships with friends or family if the abuser does not approve. —Domestic Abuse is Hitting Home

Tracy even picked fights with Richard for coming to my house for ten minutes to pick up bags of their stuff which I found while cleaning my house, after they moved out!  “Tooth and nail,” he called it.  I also heard her accuse him of not wanting to spend time with the family, when he’d be late coming home from work.

For those whose question really means, ‘why don’t you stand up to him?’ they obviously don’t understand what a woman who is being abused faces.

The abusers absolute conviction that he is entitled to control, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get it, means that standing up to him is dangerous. When the abuser is violent, that could mean being assaulted.

However, even in the absence of physical violence, a woman has to fear the consequences of standing up to him.

Perhaps it’s the woman who insisted that it was okay for her to speak with her sister every now and then, who got her phone taken away.

Perhaps it’s the woman who did push for them to go to her parents for Shabbat, only to have her husband purposely leave the clothing for the children at home, explaining to her parents when they arrive, that she had forgotten the children’s things, and that he is very worried because there has been something not right lately.

For those whose question really means ‘why don’t you get out?’, they aren’t understanding what a complex and difficult situation a woman in this marriage is facing.

She often worries about her children, what a divorce will do to them; what hell do during a divorce process, whether they’ll be better or worse off if she divorces and isn’t around to see what happens when the abuser has visitation with them.

She is often ashamed because she has learned that shalom bayis is her responsibility and she feels a failure, even though there is no pleasing an abuser. She worries about her family’s and the community’s reaction.

Thinking about leaving can be scary. Although living with an abuser can be dangerous, most women sense that the danger can increase in trying to get out, something statistics have borne out. The abuser has usually done scary things and made threats, specifically about what he’ll do if she tries to leave him.

But probably the most compelling reason women don’t leave is that they keep hoping things will get better. They got married to stay married. There are often children. There are good times, and the hope is that there is something they can do to keep the good times and get rid of the bad times.

The issue is that this is a very complex situation, one in which professional intervention, along with Rabbinic/community /parental support is needed.

However, that support needs to be well informed and trained in understanding the different problems that can exist in marriage, and there needs to be an expertise in handling domestic abuse so that the help thats given is what is safe and appropriate to the situation.  —Domestic Abuse is Hitting Home

Richard, you know I’m telling the truth.  You know you and the kids have been abused.  You know the things you’ve told me.  I know you’ve abused your kids, too, because the state convicted you of it.  But you can get out of this abusive situation.  You can change this.  We would help you.  There are resources here in town.

Taking the abuser’s perspective as a survival technique can become so intense that the victim actually develops anger toward those trying to help them.

The abuser is already angry and resentful toward anyone who would provide the victim support, typically using multiple methods and manipulations to isolate the victim from others. Any contact the victim has with supportive people in the community is met with accusations, threats, and/or violent outbursts.

Victims then turn on their family – fearing family contact will cause additional violence and abuse in the home. At this point, victims curse their parents and friends, tell them not to call and stop interfering, and break off communication with others.

Agreeing with the abuser/controller, supportive others are now viewed as “causing trouble” and must be avoided. Many victims threaten their family and friends with restraining orders if they continue to “interfere” or try to help the victim in their situation.

On the surface it would appear that they have sided with the abuser/controller. In truth, they are trying to minimize contact situation that might make them a target of additional verbal abuse or intimidation.

If a casual phone call from Mom prompts a two-hour temper outburst with threats and accusations – the victim quickly realizes it’s safer if Mom stops calling.

If simply telling Mom to stop calling doesn’t work, for his or her own safety the victim may accuse Mom of attempting to ruin the relationship and demand that she stop calling. —Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser

 

Why Abuse Victims *Should* Blog

I keep finding blogs about abuse and narcissism on the Net, people’s personal experiences.  Some are about narcissistic families of origin, some are about divorcing a narcissistic ex, some are about domestic violence, child abuse, abuse from a friend….

And the inevitable comments: “Why put this on the Net instead of in a personal journal?”  Or complaints that it’s “dirty laundry” being aired on the Net.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between typical arguments with others, which do not make good blog material, and actual abuse, bullying and molestation.  If you argue with a family member over who gets to host Thanksgiving, that’s not abuse, and not of lasting interest.

I don’t post about such things as, arguments with my husband, teenage arguments I had with my parents (except to say how I’ve since learned from it), disputes with the in-laws, getting dissed by a receptionist, etc.  These things are common to everyone and have very little public interest.

I really don’t want to read a blog about how some wench at work ripped on your outfit and you snarked back at her.  But actual abuse situations, psychological manipulation, narcissism, bullying, and the resulting traumas, should be considered valid subjects for blogs.

There are reasons to blog about this publicly.  There are various ways you can vent, after all.  But one is to put your experience where others can easily find it, be validated by it, and learn more than they ever could from a clinical manual.

Sure you can publish it in a book, as many people do, but then you have to go through a publisher, editing, marketing, then your book doing poorly and no longer getting published.  You also get accused of selling your grief for money.  At least with a blog, all these things do not happen, and anyone can read your blog for free.  It’s authentic.

Another is the most important: For millennia, abuse victims have been forced to keep quiet.  Don’t air dirty laundry, they’re told.  It’s “vengeance” and “gossip,” they’re told.  Outsiders are told to mind their own business.

Some have been able to tell what happened, but many more try and fail, and get punished by the abuser–or even by society.  Many will tell, but the statute of limitations has expired, or the abuser will have a good lawyer, or the principal doesn’t believe you, or the church places your molester in a different parish, or the abuser refuses to apologize and make things right, or whatever.

But now, the Internet has given abuse and bullying victims a unique and effective means to get out our message.  We don’t have to hold our silence anymore.  Don’t squelch us from speaking out about what’s happened to us.

And maybe, just maybe, the more of us speak out, the more abusers will realize they can’t keep us quiet, and abuse will begin to cease in our society.

Here is a blog post and comment thread addressing the question of abuse blogs: should we blog about it, should we show all our emotions, etc. etc.  At least a couple of comments show that whatever we write, whatever emotions we show, are all part of the process of dealing with abuse situations, and should not be censored.

 

Grief Continues Over False Friend

Why can’t I abolish the grief?  Everything I know about Richard says he is not worth it.  But the good times keep coming back to mind.  I keep wishing for a call, a knock on the door, something.

But why?  Why from someone who read all about my pain, anguish and anger, and laughed at it?  Why from someone who claimed to love me like a sister or cousin, then tore my heart out by betraying me?  Why from someone with a violent record who has told me chilling things that made my hair stand on end?

My husband wonders how I can still care about someone who’s done all the things Richard has done to me.  I see every evidence that Richard used me and was never truly my friend.  Yet I keep remembering things that made me think he was my true friend in the first place….

It must be Stockholm Syndrome.

I suppose it’s because they did even more just recently to hurt me, and he did nothing to stop it.  I saw him going along with it.

This is the one I loved like a brother, opened my home to, did anything for, stuck up for, was intensely loyal to, told my secrets to, called my best friend, called my spiritual mentor and guide?

It went against my long-held hopes, which had flared up after his quiet visit to church last October, that one day he would realize what he had done, and come to my husband and me to apologize and make peace.

I suppose it’s because he was my spiritual mentor and guide, the one who showed me the way and was there for me every step of the way through my conversion to Orthodoxy.  Not only did this form a special, unusual bond between us, but it has made his betrayal of me–and his criminal conviction–far more devastating.

It took me maybe a year or less to get over two of my ex-boyfriends after devastating and brutal breakups, to accept that a couple of my friends had drifted off (probably because of an argument they had with another friend), to get past the horrible way my boss quit one day.

Well…Maybe I get used to it, anyway.  I still miss the person and try to reconnect on occasion….

But this…this is not going away.  I still miss my friend, probably always will, still have a huge hole in my heart that nothing and nobody else can fill.  Such a friendship as (I thought it) was, does not just spring up overnight to replace it.

I was always a kind, sweet, good, loyal friend to him.  His welfare was always first on my mind, I cried when he had problems and tried to help, I cried when he gave me certain bad news one day in November 2007 [which I won’t describe on the Web] and I tried to comfort him, I got angry when I saw him abused.  He knows that I do not deserve all of this abuse.

I want to say to him, “Don’t fight against the pricks of conscience, Richard; your salvation is at stake.  Don’t defend and make excuses for evil.  Don’t do evil yourself.  Remember the monks falling from the ladder?

I heard every word of the priest’s sermon the last time you were there.  I think he meant to speak directly to us, since we’ve both been bothering him with this issue.  Remember what he said?  Stop poking each other, I think it was……Well, every time you act nasty and refuse to consider my feelings about anything, you poke me.  Every day without repentance and forgiveness is another poke.”

Also, whenever he reads my blog, it’s a poke.  It keeps me connected to him.  Keeps me wondering what he’ll read next, and why he’s reading.  It’s another reason I keep sinking into grief again.

Oddly enough, my son’s favorite cartoon, Phineas and Ferb, reminds me of this.  The poseur-evil mad scientist Doofenschmirtz, always fights against Perry the Platypus, his nemesis.  Yet at the same time, he expects Perry to show up to fight his schemes, scolds him when he’s late, even looks forward to him showing up.  He even has little get-togethers with him on occasion.

And in one episode, Doofenschmirtz declares that his best friend is Perry the Platypus.  I suppose seeing my blog stalkers in the stats, is much like this.  “You’re late!  I expect better from you, Perry.”  Oh, look, I have my own nemesis…..It made Doofenschmirtz so proud to have a nemesis.

In reading another abuse blog, I see that the writer has posted a few messages there to his dad, who reads it.  So I’m not the only one who posts messages to my abusers.  For example,

ONE FINAL APPEAL: [Abuser], your other option is to confess, repent, come clean and seek reconciliation and get help for your many issues and ask for mercy.

True repentance begins with acknowledging the sin and admitting you have a problem. You still may have to suffer some consequences for your sin, I can’t guarantee you won’t, but I’m pretty sure the consequences will be worse if you keep digging in.

[Abuser], stop this nonsense. Come forward and confess and repent. I’ll then help you to make amends, and help you ask for mercy, even though you may have to suffer some consequences, but it will go better for my Mom and your wife if you do the right thing now without this going further.

Call me, you know how to reach me. –Blog now defunct

I can only hope that my own such posts lead to better results than this blogger has found, though like him, I don’t mince words, don’t sacrifice honesty.  It is one of my most fervent desires, that one day Richard will prove me wrong, and show himself to be the kind of person I once thought he was, and come to us.

In abuse situations, the abuse victim cannot be forced to be the one to apologize, cannot be expected to make the first move.  It is not my place to reconcile with Tracy; it is not my place to make a move for forgiveness with Richard.

Tracy must repent for abusing me, her husband, children and Todd before any relationship between us could ever be possible; my husband will not allow me to make any more apologies to her, and for me to go to her, would be dangerous emotionally and physically.

This is the only way it can possibly be, or else I’d just set myself up for more abuse.  Richard must repent for abusing me by proxy, threatening and intimidating my husband, betraying me, and choking his kid; I can’t be the one going to him with more apologies until he has done these things.

Yet I keep finding complaints in articles and blogs of well-meaning spiritual leaders and friends telling abuse victims they should apologize, forgive and seek reconciliation, even though their abuser is not even sorry, thinks he/she did nothing wrong, and is pretending to be the real victim.

That is precisely what makes a victim a perpetual victim, what makes her a doormat.  People should back off and recognize that the abuser needs to apologize, repent and seek forgiveness, not the victim.

Over and over on abuse blogs, I find victims telling their abusers exactly what must be done before a reconciliation can happen.

I have come across one or two commenters on those blogs, who claim they were given such terms, met them, and are now restoring a relationship with their estranged loved one.  But among the bloggers themselves, I have yet to find a situation like this.

Instead, I find pain, grief, anger, as the bloggers try to deal with the fact that the ones they love, don’t love them enough to do what it takes to restore a relationship with them.  Not even their own parents.

All they find are parents who stalk them, refuse to admit wrongdoing, send them messages denying everything.  Or parents who just cut them off without another word.

It is sad and wicked to do such a thing to another person, to just ridicule and hurt them further, rather than doing the work to overcome abusive behavior and show love.

I find some bloggers still writing years later, while some others stop writing, leaving their blogs up for others to learn from.  I suppose the ones who still write, still feel deep pain, or it would no longer bother them enough to write about it.

That’s what happens when the one who hurts you, is someone you love.  As these bloggers keep noting when commenters accuse them of hate, If they hated their abusers, they wouldn’t need blogs to deal with the pain!

I’ve been reading One Mom’s Battle, a blog written by a woman in the process of divorcing her narcissistic husband.  First she wrote her story; now she writes about the constant custody battles and visitation issues.

And yes, her ex-husband and his family read her blog, and try to use it against her in court, even post comments on other blogs and articles, accusing her of libel and stalking.

In the post How to Forgive, she writes how she’s trying desperately to forgive her husband, about a sermon series her pastor did on this topic.  I’m impressed because the pastor seems to get it, saying, “2. Your heart has to be healed to get to a place of forgiveness.” 

He doesn’t repeat the cliche that so many abuse bloggers have exposed as false, that forgiveness precedes healing.  As the author, Tina, wrote,

Here is where my main struggle lies.  How does my heart heal when the wounds keep coming?  Every story I hear from my daughters breaks my heart- over and over.  Every week there is a new wound.

How does a wound heal when it is repeatedly injured?  You can bandage a wound and you can apply healing ointments but if something keeps striking the wound then it simply can’t heal.  It is impossible.

Heather writes in the comments,

We as a society expect people to forgive someone who does not deserve it, has not earned it, does not believe they have done anything to warrant it, and fully intends to continue the behaviors for which society preaches the offended party should forgive.

If the subject was financial security, or good health, we would describe someone else trying to give it to a person in those circumstances toxicly co-dependent.

From your post I’m going to assume you fall somewhere within the Christian continuum of faiths. Even the Bible expects repentance before forgiveness. Not even God gives free passes.

God even states, if you are going to make an offering to Me, but then remember you have offended your brother, leave your offering and go and get right with your brother. (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point.)

God even says you cannot be right with Him, while at odds with your family or friend due to *your* behavior and choices. You don’t get to be a monster pretending to be a person, and fully intend to continue in these behaviors, and get a clean slate with the man upstairs….

I’m going to say this again, because it bears repeating: There is a difference between accepting someone for who they are and what they are and are not capable of, and forgiving someone who does not believe they have done anything wrong and fully intends to continue doing things that hurt those around them.

It was also noted that Tina may never completely heal and forgive until after her children grow up and she no longer needs to deal with her ex.

Just the other day, Tina wrote about an e-mail her ex sent her, which accuses her of lying and mental instability, protests Tina calling him “disturbed,” “sick,” narcissistic, etc., accuses her blog of being “fiction” and an “ego trip,” and accuses her of needing to “move on.”

He even twisted facts, which she could document, such as accusing her of crying to Christie Brinkley when that was actually somebody else.

It sounds very much like the e-mail sent to me by Richard and Tracy, as posted in “Now I’m Being Stalked.”

The trouble with the Net is not being sure who’s actually telling the truth.  But her blog does not strike me as “fiction,” and many commenters on that post wrote that their exes send them similar e-mails, so don’t let it get to her.

Basically, all that I’ve been going through is extremely common, both in general and in the blogosphere.

It is NOT gossip or slander to tell the truth about how you’ve been bullied and abused.

I tried numerous times over 2007-2010 to deal with these problems directly with Richard and, through him, Tracy (since I was too scared of her to speak directly to her–and since I’ve always felt that husbands should deal with wives themselves, and not the friends of the husband).

Tracy’s repeated response over the years was to bully and verbally abuse, and do absolutely nothing to give me confidence that if I sat down with her, that she would give me a fair hearing and do anything but try to rip me apart emotionally, especially after she had just been cussing me out and sending me all sorts of abusive e-mails.

I also had the example, which I witnessed firsthand, of how she treated Todd when she had a problem with him, and it gave me no reason to expect fairness from her.

The full story of what happened, not a summary, was never read through by anyone until they saw it and read it 6 months ago, then after they read it, I removed it for a time.

But their response was hugely disappointing, a typical abuser’s response, to deny, twist facts, twist your words, threaten you into silence, refuse to repent, refuse to admit wrongdoing, blame it all on the victim.

It’s exactly the same as they did in 2010, only this time with the addition of legal threats, giving me a brand-new hump to get over in the recovery process.

I’ve told Social Services, back in 2011, coincidentally at the same time Richard appeared in court for a child abuse incident I was not even aware of.  So I have legitimately tried to address the things I saw going on and the things Richard told me were going on.

Richard has been convicted of that incident, which gives legitimacy to my impressions of other abuses.  (I don’t know what became of the SS report, since such information is blocked to the public, but I do know what I witnessed and what Richard told me.)

I’ve been to my priest about the situation between us as well, and I know he spoke to them about it at least once, because I observed the conversation.

I also know, being in the congregation at the time, that my priest, knowing all about this, preached twice, while they were in the congregation [Father’s Day and late August 2012], about men being examples of righteousness to their families, forgiveness, repentance, making peace with others, and “not poking each other.”  This was a few months ago.

Yet they have not repented, have not made a move for peace, have not ceased to read my blog.  So I am free to treat them as tax collectors, have no fellowship with them, tell my story here.

If they were repentant, if they showed an ounce of consideration for my feelings, there would never have been a need for these blogs.  Abusers do this over and over again, refusing to take responsibility for their abuse, blaming the victim for it, and then telling the victim it’s her problem and she needs to get over it.

This blog is my outlet until it’s all out of my system.  There is no arbitrary timetable for getting over abuse and bullying.

Life does go on, and blogging only takes up a tiny part of my time: Most of my days are about dealing with the stuff I have to do, deep-cleaning the house each summer, moving furniture, what I’m reading, favorite TV shows, going to church, interacting with friends on Facebook or occasionally visiting them, pondering where to go for Thanksgiving, traveling, learning Greek, reading, working out, bicycling, or whatever.

I have friends at church and a friend who throws a huge bash every year, based on the Highland Games.  This year we’re hosting Thanksgiving for Hubby’s brother and his wife and child.

But every once in a while, something brings back a feeling of anger or grief; I blog about it; then I feel better.  I also want to help others recognize abuse and get out of it; I also want to hold my abusers accountable.  So I blog.

And to be honest, it pretty much was out of my system, when my abusers found the blog 6 months ago and gave me brand-new abuses and denials to recover from.  The grief was refreshed because I saw nothing from Richard but a hard heart and refusal to stand up for what’s right and end the abuse, which was very disappointing.

Because he laughed at my pain, threatened and frightened me, and acted as if I had never meant a thing to him, ever, but was just a tool he manipulated and preyed upon.

Because I keep seeing him reading all sorts of things and wonder if he cares, but he still says nothing encouraging.

So that’s why I am back in the pit again, because this is ongoing, not something that ended a couple of years ago.

The other problem is that the whole situation had many repercussions throughout the rest of my life, affecting–sometimes severely–practically everything I deal with or encounter:

music, movies I watched with Richard, my faith and religion because it had become so interconnected with his through his mentorship, my NVLD, my selective mutism, how I interact with people as friends or acquaintances or strangers (because this was the most severe part of how I was traumatized by Tracy), trusting anyone enough to form new friendships, forums I went to on the Net….

Even hearing the words “I don’t understand” became a trigger reminding me of abuse, because when I said this, Tracy said, “You’re too stupid to understand!”  July 4 reminds me of them.  My favorite Thanksgiving movies remind me of them.  Lord of the Rings reminds me of them.  Cthulhu reminds me of them.  (This is a real problem in geek culture.)

As it has done for the past several years, just cleaning my basement causes echoes in my mind of Tracy’s jeering words ripping on my household “routine.”  Hearing the words “F— off” on TV is a trigger reminding me of abuse and putting me back in the pit.

It’s one thing to deal with a relationship breakup; it’s quite another when there was severe psychological or other abuse as well.  Especially since the abuser puts on such a good, charismatic front in the beginning that you can’t believe this wonderful person is an abuser.

That makes the breakup that much harder to deal with and get past.  That’s not the fault of the victim, who should not be blamed for having trouble.  The responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the abuser, and society must keep it there.

Though it helps tremendously that I did stand up to my bullies, told them the truth, told them to leave me alone, kept my blog up, kept going to my church despite them, went to my priest for help, told my friends, told my family.

While these past 6 months have been especially difficult, there is now the feeling that this could be the last gasp of a long-held grief, that standing up to them will eventually pull me out to the place where I can finally say, I’m a survivor.  I’m a thriver.

But because I still care, if Richard were to come to us and say, “I’m sorry, I screwed up, I was an a**hole, I’m working on being a better father, I’m working on being a better friend,” I would probably take him back.  Though Hubby might be a harder sell.

There is also the erroneous idea, which many people including my abusers/bullies apparently share, that you should just forgive and forget abuse, then act like it’s perfectly fine to interact with your abusers.

Sorry, no.  The appropriate response to an unrepentant abuser is to cut them out of your life.  No contact, or limited contact.  Forced niceties are just lying, fake, two-faced.

It’s one thing if an abuser/bully has expressed some sort of apology/repentance; past abusers/bullies do this on occasion with me.  They find me capable of letting them into some sort of relationship with them again, maybe friending them on Facebook or the occasional e-mail.

But if you don’t repent, despite my repeated attempts to demonstrate what you’ve done and how it’s affected me, then don’t expect me to give you so much as the time of day if we pass on the street/in church.  Don’t expect me to be happy to see you.

As the writer of One Mom’s Battle writes,

As I’ve said before, I don’t want to be seen as a victim.  I don’t want you to be seen as a victim because your story is my story.  My story is your story.

I have the privilege of authoring the next chapter of my life and you have the ability to write your next chapter.  Is it going to be a chapter where you are the victim or is it going to be the chapter where the victim finds her (his) voice and stands up to the bully?

Narcissists are the same as bullies– they have low self esteems yet portray themselves to be powerful and bigger than life.  I want to be that awesome kid on the playground who finally stands up to the bully and sets boundaries.

Cheers to setting boundaries and finding your voice!

I have set the boundaries.  I have found my voice and stood up to my bullies.  I am still grieving, but grief does not make you a victim.  It’s okay that I still grieve, especially since I do not oppress my family/friends with it, but let it out here on my blog.

Letting the bullies push you around, that’s what makes you a victim.  I did hit a low point a while back, but I’m rising above it and beginning to heal.

Paul later says in Galatians 5 “why” we are to rebuke: We want people to repent of their sins:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Those who have “selfish ambition”…who “lie”…are given over to “fits of rage”…have “hatred”…spread “discord”…are “jealous”…are “idolatrous” etc etc. All fruits of the flesh.

…I admit that I am a sinner and I actually literally confess and repent of those sins. …You can’t repent if you don’t cop to it. Big difference.

Everything has the potential for getting better with confession and repentance…a key ingredient all of us…and especially a Pastor who professes to “teach the Bible simply”…cannot skip…yet claims otherwise.

Relationships, hurts, offenses, abuses…all can heal with the Offender doing their God Instructed part of the equation. But, Pride and fear of losing one’s position as king of their kingdom…can be quite an obstacle. –Blog that is now defunct

“[Yes, true. Mercy would be swallowing your pride and admitting to your sins so that my brothers and I could have a mother again…and so my grandkids could have a grandmother. That would be both Just and Merciful come to think of it.

But no, you can’t cop to any sin…you’re an “anointed Prophet” and we all know anointed Prophets can’t cop to specific sins…just generalities and allusions to some nebulous undefined non-descript stuff that allows you to dodge accountability…and perpetuates your myth of piety…false piety. Inside and behind closed doors, you’re a ravenous unrepentant wolf].”–  From Blog that is now defunct, from person who–just as Tracy forbade me to contact Richard until she had her yell at me–is being kept from his mother for confronting his stepfather about his abuses.

I personally began to confront the abuses within our family, privately, over six years ago. I met stiff resistance from [abuser]. I asked him to repent and change his behavior toward all of us.

Instead of repenting, he denied the abuse and then continued more wrong behavior and began to lie and abuse further.

I was not afforded a Matt.18 meeting with him and his board and elders as witnesses to address the allegations. I was cut off from all communication with him and my mom when I pressed the issue of abuse and continued to ask him to repent and stop mistreating our family.

I was told to talk to Greg and Sue Dowds about it and to “put my thoughts in a letter”…instead of [abuser] communicating with me in person any longer. I resisted at first, and then met with [abuser’s] two right-hand surrogates) and gave *** his “letter”. *** did not like the “letter” very much. –Now-defunct blog

 

“The Juvenilization of American Christianity”: Orthodox Observer, Christianity Today

It’s on page 9 of the September issue of the Orthodox Observer:
http://www.goarch.org/news/observer/2012-09-observer/issuu

Fr. John S. Bakas, in the column “The Juvenilization of American Christianity,” remarks on a Christianity Today article by the same name by Thomas E. Bergler.

Both articles are worth reading.  From the one by Bergler:

Juvenilization is the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for adults.

It began with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young, which in fact revitalized American Christianity.

But it has sometimes ended with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith. In any case, white evangelicals led the way.

In my days as an Evangelical, I actually liked modern praise choruses and poppy hymns.  I liked having more upbeat songs in church than “Just As I Am” and the like.

But then one day in 2004 or 2005, after singing one too many of the silly kids’ songs that had made it into adult services (either “Trading My Sorrows” or “Every Move I Make”), I realized this was just like modern radio pop: all fluff with no substance.

We used to have substance in these modern hymns, such as when Rich Mullins’ hits became hymns.  But over time they turned into a bunch of mind-numbing, hypnotic repetition of lines like “Jesus I love you,” cornball tunes, and no doctrinal meat.

“Awesome God” and “As the Deer” are examples of the heights modern hymns can rise to.  Dancing around to “Every Move I Make” is an example of a church service turning into a ball.  A song like that is fine for Sunday School or youth group, but making 50-year-olds do it, too, complete with hand motions?

Another thing Bergler points out, is that American Evangelical teenagers are turning their relationship with Jesus into the equivalent of a romantic relationship, or an “erotic, emotional attraction to a teen idol.”

Unlike many teens, adults are well aware that romantic love is very fragile and changeable.  You can be totally, passionately in love one month, then hate that person the next.  Or you can be married for 50 years, and spend most of it contemplating bills and doing housework and childcare, rather than getting butterflies as you stare at each other.

This is why you should marry based on how well you get along, rather than just on a warm, fuzzy feeling, because those warm, fuzzy feelings wax and wane over and over again over the years.  Should we really expect to have those same warm, fuzzy feelings for Christ, and have them last?

Bergler’s article goes even further, digging into the history of Christian youth culture from the 30s to now.  I had no idea that even in the 40s, they had Christian Big Band music, just as now they have Christian rock and pop.

The article also notes that there is nothing wrong with doing such things for the children and teenagers, as a way to interest them in the faith–especially since Catholicism did not, and later paid the price.  But this is not supposed to be carried on into the adult worship services.  It’s spiritual milk, kid stuff.  Adults need meat.  From Bergler:

When asked what they get out of their rock band-energized youth liturgies, Catholic teenagers report that they like the “intense experience” that serves as a “stress reliever” and they “love the music.”

Some African American church leaders are experimenting with hip-hop worship in order to reach young people who are alienated from traditional black churches.

The history of white evangelical youth movements suggests that over time these innovations will filter into adult church life. And that is not all bad. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is not a compelling theological argument.

Still, churches new to juvenilization would do well to consider its unintended consequences. Juvenilization tends to create a self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually empty faith.

In their landmark National Study of Youth and Religion, Christian Smith and his team of researchers found that the majority of American teenagers, even those who are highly involved in church activities, are inarticulate about religious matters.

They seldom used words like faith, salvation, sin, or even Jesus to describe their beliefs. Instead, they return again and again to the language of personal fulfillment to describe why God and Christianity are important to them. The phrase “feel happy” appeared over 2,000 times in 267 interviews.

…Today many Americans of all ages not only accept a Christianized version of adolescent narcissism, they often celebrate it as authentic spirituality. God, faith, and the church all exist to help me with my problems. Religious institutions are bad; only my personal relationship with Jesus matters.

If we believe that a mature faith involves more than good feelings, vague beliefs, and living however we want, we must conclude that juvenilization has revitalized American Christianity at the cost of leaving many individuals mired in spiritual immaturity.

…Teenagers can legitimately follow Christ in adolescent ways, including participating in age-appropriate youth ministries. But those ministries must also help youth catch a vision for growing up spiritually.

Churches full of people who are building each other up toward spiritual maturity are not only the best antidote to the juvenilization of American Christianity, but also a powerful countercultural witness in a juvenilized society.

Fr. Bakas adapted this to the Orthodox Church’s way of doing things.  Orthodoxy does not allow for such things as “rock liturgies” to replace the traditional way of worship.  There’s already enough controversy over Greeks allowing pews, organs and bare-headed women in their services, let alone putting in praise choruses!  This has kept us from juvenilizing the faith.

Not that it would be bad for Orthodox youth groups to take some tips from the other churches, though cornball substitutes for the “world” have always been a danger in youth ministries.

(Case in point: Christian rock that sucks, or youth pastors trying too hard to be “hip.”  My youth group respected our youth leader, who made no attempt to be “hip.”  I’ve also known a youth pastor who is young and legitimately hip, because that’s how he is, not a fake.  But my husband had a youth minister who tried too hard.)

Unfortunately, Fr. Bakas does not recognize the good points of adapting youth ministry to teenage culture.  As Bergler pointed out, the Catholic Church did not, either, and paid the price because

They had not learned how to create the emotionally satisfying, entertaining youth environments that would be needed to sustain religious interest among the young in post-1960s America.

We can keep adult worship adult, train our children how to worship in the adult service, but also have more vibrant youth ministries which not only attract the youth, but train them in the meat of the faith.

 

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