behind the masque – severing the ties that bind
His control broadens its borders.
Severely limiting contact with others became a priority.
Friends and family were recast as intruders bent toward sabotage.
Isolation was the prison sentence that crippled our ability to escape.
Overt Control and Manipulation – Separation and Isolation
To insure Manipulation and Control continued their quest unhindered, John swiftly launched his strategy that transformed the inhabitants of Miserable House into isolated Miserable People. In three short months he successfully launched an insidious assault to restrict and eventually eliminate our access to friends and family. Our world was rapidly shrinking before our eyes, because there was only room for John and John alone.
The initial directive for all Manipulative Controllers is almost always separation and isolation. Silencing the guidance and intuition of trusted voices of influence, thwarts the possibility for outside intervention. John achieved his goal in four strategic moves with staggering ease and finality.
• poison our perception of loved ones
• eliminate telephone communication
• restrict our ability to leave the house
• forbid visitors without approval
Poison Our Perception of Loved Ones –
Character assassination was achieved by ingesting a steady diet of disparaging remarks and fabrications. One at a time, loved ones became casualties of his war to eliminate their influence. Wielding the skills of a master chef, he filleted their conversations, character and depth of their love until nothing of substance remained. Trusted Loved Ones morphed into Untrustworthy Saboteurs bent toward the demise of our newly formed family – according to John. The guilty ones were indicted for possible crimes in the future. Pleasant interactions were reclassified as dangerous intrusion to be avoided at all costs. It’s no coincidence that each time someone new came into our lives, membership in the saboteur club increased by one, because everyone miserably failed John’s scrutiny for approval.
• Spoiler Alert – The Approved Club maintains a membership of zero to this very day.
John was adept at breaking your will through hours of interrogation if you dared to resist or worse refuse to believe his espoused falsehoods. Resistance was futile and dangerous. It was the high-octane fuel that fed his powerful desire to wound. Initially in the doubting phase, Mom would object and attempt to defend those she still loved. Unfortunately she was neither equipped nor strong enough to withstand John’s special type of cruelty.
Hour upon torturous hour she endured an unending barrage of entrapping questions, insults, belittling comments and threats for holding an opposing opinion or belief. Finally, brokenhearted and incapable of withstanding his tirade any longer, Mom would crumble under the weight of a forced surrender. Eventually she learned that the pain of surrender was preferred to the pain of defense. However, each time she sacrificed something or someone on the altar of John’s control she also lost a piece of herself. Surrendering to appease – crippled her self-esteem. The weight of recrimination for “caving” eroded her ability to stand strong the next time.
Eliminate Telephone Communication –
Aghast and overwhelmingly confused about those we loved, John quickly launched Step Two and Three designed to severely restrict and eventually eliminate our ability to communicate with the outside world. You probably read that sentence and thought, “What! No Way! That’s Impossible!” Friends prepare to be stunned. It was extremely easy to accomplish.
John gathered the inhabitants of Miserable House to explain the amended Telephone Rules, Regulations and Repercussions. The third portion of the contract was recited often for fear emphasis. His presentation was polished, convincing and far too familiar. Effective immediately almost everybody living in Miserable House was forbidden to use the telephone, except for John. That meant Mom as well. No outgoing calls were made. No incoming calls were answered.
His persuasive methodology to ensure obedience was ingenious and unbelievably effective to achieve his goal – even in his absence. Gloating, he presented his plan. Randomly and repeatedly throughout any given day John would test our subservient behavior – by calling us. If anybody dared to answer the telephone, they would be punished. Fear of punishment was a great obedience motivator in our house.
Overnight the normally pleasant melody of (ring, ring, pause – ring, ring, pause) transmogrified to the macabre introduction from the Phantom of the Opera. The foreboding, horrible sound triggered fearful gasps and instantaneous stomach-aches in Five Miserable People. Was it John testing us? Was it family missing us? Our questions like the telephone were literally never answered. Communication by telephone ceased as surely as if the wires were severed by a knife. Our indoctrination was a complete success.
• Spoiler Alert – I was nearly twenty before a ringing telephone ceased to trigger foreboding and nausea.
Restrict Our Ability To Leave –
Around the same time our telephone privileges were permanently revoked, we also became a single car family. A stay at home mother in 1965 didn’t normally need an automobile. Normally being the operative word. The decision though financially prudent, was a controllers dream. We became prisoners sentenced to virtual house arrest. Only John could grant permission to leave, if he deemed the reason sufficient.
Forbid Visitors Without Approval –
The contrast between our former and current life was as different as a dream and nightmare.
The paper calendar hanging in the kitchen had one word scribbled under July 15th – Elaine. It was the day to affirm, appreciate and celebrate the specialness of Mom. The one, who asked little and received less, experienced the same on that day. With great timidity she put voice to her birthday wish, John I miss my family. Could I please see them today? I don’t want you to miss the magnitude of this moment. She asked permission.
John had risen in the ranks to the position of Roman Emperor dispensing judgments in the coliseum. Permission Denied! Heartbroken to the point of despondency Mom spent the next few hours pleading through tears of anguish. John felt no remorse or compassion toward his victims. On the contrary, the aftermath of inflicting cruelty only fueled his sense of superiority and power.
A temporary cease-fire finally brought quiet to Miserable House. I sat cross-legged turned backward on the living room sofa mindlessly watching geckos chase one another through the flowerbed. The silence of peace lulled me to daydream, until something startled me. A familiar automobile filled with my favorites turned into our driveway. Pure adrenaline coursed through my veins transforming a short, slightly chunky legged Wendy into a mini decathlete. Vaulting from the sofa I sprinted toward the front door before anybody else realized we had visitors. Once outside I leaped into the safe, loving arms of – Uncle R.
As a child in addition to chunky legs I was plagued with adorably chubby cheeks. The later according to everybody else, begged to be pinched and kissed often. I vehemently disagreed, but to no avail. “You say amusing and I say annoying.”
Today was no different. Once each cheek received sufficient attention from Uncle R, he put me down. The next few moments were quintessential Italian – demonstrative and loud. Squeals of delight, bone crushing hugs and running back and forth sharing months of girlie news unfolded in hyper speed. Slowly we moved toward the front door as one giant cluster of happy jumping beans. Our joyful front yard mini-reunion would last a grand total of five minutes. While our jumping bean group was immersed in enthusiasm, we failed to notice the lone figure standing stoically at a distance. Annoyance oozed from his pores as he stood cemented in place refusing to step forward offering a warm greeting. His silent rudeness spoke volumes, but Uncle R tolerated the intolerable behavior, because of his sister. That was precisely what John hoped would occur. Manipulation and Control seized their moment and expanded past the inhabitants of Miserable House to now include my aunt and uncle.
His clinched jaw pulsated as he declared to the giddy group that, “Elaine is too exhausted to receive guests today.” The cluster stood silent struggling to process his edict. John capitalized on their confusion and snatched the beautifully wrapped gift from my aunt’s hands before she could utter a single word of complaint. I remember someone feebly stammered, “So, so we can’t even wish her a happy birthday?” “No, I will let her know you stopped by.”
Briefly stunned Uncle R and Aunt B rushed to coral their distraught Ballerina Daughters back into the car amongst confused protests and cascading tears. I watched them drive away with pitiful tear-stained faces smashed against the windows. We were alone – again.
John lied. He knew it wasn’t necessary to mention the almost birthday visit, because Mom already knew about it. Remember his delay in following me when I ran outside to greet our visitors? That delay was intentional and crucial to his plan. Apparently it took a few minutes to sufficiently threaten Mom into submission demanding she stayed out of sight. In a pitiful act of defiance she remained in the living room smashed against a corner wall hidden from sight, but soaking in the front yard scene through curtain shadows. Hopeless. Trapped. Alone.
John successfully denied her birthday request not once, but twice that day. And his power grew…
If only she had defied him. If only she had opened the door. If only she had invited them in. If only she had begged them to help us. Over time there would be countless (If Only) moments that could have forever changed her life and ours. This day was filled with them.
John Had A Problem –
The failed birthday visit was traumatic for us, but temporarily problematic for John. He knew questions would be asked and answers expected the following day, because he worked for Uncle R. John had tipped his hand exposing his arrogance and control. Undaunted, he crafted a Picassoesque story for inquiring outsiders. His presentation was powerfully persuasive. Loved ones now believed Mom was fragile and overwhelmed.
The Twisted Sound of Manipulation – to her family
“Elaine is daily overwhelmed and exhausted caring for our four young children. It would be such a waste to drive over for a drop in visit if she’s resting or involved in something important. So from now on I’ll find out if or when Elaine is emotionally and physically able to have guests. Then I’ll let you know.” Our friends and family were ignorant to the secrets of Miserable House. Their ignorance enabled John’s deception. Knowing Mom would never answer enabled him to report his attempt to contact her had failed.
The Twisted Sound of Manipulation – to mom
“Elaine, I love you so much. I want to protect you from overworking yourself with entertaining unannounced visitors. You don’t need to be dealing with this. I will gladly be the fall guy and tell everybody they don’t have permission to stop by unannounced. I will instruct them to telephone me first and I’ll let them know if and when it’s convenient to stop by for a visit. I will handle it for you.”
The Truth – Just that quickly John became the sole gatekeeper wielding supreme power to grant or deny permission to interact with the all the dwellers of Miserable House. Over time nearly every cherished one would grow weary of the impenetrable barrier of requirements that blocked access to us. Eventually they would cease to try.
Abuse Truth –
1. A sense of isolation must first take root in the mind of the victim. It’s imperative that the victim not only feels alone, but also actually is alone. The victim’s ability to hear a sound healthy perspective of their situation is extinguished by isolation. Extended separation and isolation eventually will numb a victim to the severity of their dysfunctional living environment. In the absence of exposure to normal, abnormal easily becomes the new normal.
2. It is paramount for the abuser to quickly alter and then dramatically hinder the victim’s access to friends and family. Any dramatic change in demeanor, accessibility, habits or hobbies should never be ignored. You are looking at a jumbotron-sized warning that separation and isolation are around the corner.
3. Manipulative Controllers are patient farmers. They are intuitive in their timing to plant, water, and harvest their seeds of doubt. Eventually doubt grows into an ugly twisted vine that strangles the victim’s belief in their own mental and emotional stability. Tragically if the victim summons the courage to reveal the abuse truth, the abuser is one step ahead of them undermining their credibility in the minds of outsiders. If you ever get an opportunity, you should watch the movie Gas Light. It is an excellent depiction of what I am sharing.
Ending With Something Lovely –
Bogged down in the details of an exceptionally stressful day, I was losing perspective and needed to change my environment. My handy-dandy weather app displayed the typical Florida forecast – cloudy with a 25% chance of rain. The green light was flashing. Operation Pool Bliss was going down. During the 7-minute drive to the rec center, the puffy white clouds turned grey as they clustered together preparing to rain. I refused to abandon my quest for relaxation and peace, because of the threat of rain.
The Olympic size swimming pool was empty except for two brave souls and one mandatory lifeguard. The cool water was wonderfully refreshing for but a few minutes and then I heard them. The previously brave swimmers were now lamenting the weather channels lack of accuracy. I floated farther away to drown out their negative voices. Then it happened. The grey clouds overflowed spilling their water contents.
The complaining swimmers rapidly exited the pool and huddled under an awning to protect their hair. As for me I am crazy in love with walking in the rain and there was no reason to believe swimming in the rain would be any different. I was now the lone pool person, except of course for the mandatory lifeguard now glaring at me from under his umbrella.
For some unknown reason as the rain increased I had a random thought. What does the rain look like when you are nearly eye level with the surface of the water? I submerged myself even deeper until I became two brown eyes, a forehead and hair indulging a silly thought. My discovery was breathtakingly beautiful. The droplets looked like thousands upon thousands of shimmering diamonds tap dancing on the water. And they performed their captivating dance for an audience of one. Sweet friends, don’t miss your dancing diamond moments, because you’re intimidated by looking foolish. Trust me it’s worth it…
My Random Partial List –
I love dole whip. I love encouraging others. I love sunsets over Marblehead Harbor. I love God.
Until next time,