journaling then and now – setting the stage of understanding

The stage is nearly set for the entrance of our family abuser into my life story. Here are a few remaining, yet vital pieces to ensure the brightest light of truth will illuminate and dispel the darkest deception. Knowledge illuminates the truth; at the same time it also dispels the myths, stereotypes and misconceptions about the abused and the abuser.

My personal observations and insights are culled from the childhood abuser in our home, and other abuse victims and abusers I have known. The process of writing this blog prompted me to commit to paper what I have stored in my heart for many years. The prompting is the easy stuff. Submitting to the process – not so much. Honestly, I labored over the creation of The Three Stages and Top Five lists for nearly a month.

Unknown reader, there’s immeasurable hope woven between each line I write. Hope for you. Hope for someone you love. Hope you will recognize and bravely react to the markers of abuse. Hope you will live an abuse free life.

But first a poignant word picture…
The abuse victim literally becomes a marionette who lives to perform the will of the puppeteer. With each attached silken strand, the marionette forfeits a portion of control and transfers it to the hand of the master puppeteer.

Progressive Stages of Abuse – #1 the challenge
Gaining control in a new relationship creates a challenge rush for the abuser. Once a potential abuse victim is identified, the abuser quickly initiates The Con. To convince the target and their support system of friends and family that they are nearly perfect is the goal. The false persona and uncanny amount of professed similarities between the abused and the abuser is meant to gain unwarranted favor and premature trust.

This is a brief phase marked by commitment urgency. The urgency whirlwind inhibits the ability to adequately process what is actually occurring. If this phase is prolonged, the true motives of the abuser will be revealed. Always remember – time is your friend. Hit the pause button to give yourself time to gain a clear perspective.

A few thought-provoking questions that may help. Be honest, because your life may depend on it.
How do they treat others?
Are they respectful or rude the majority of the time?
After a seemingly (nice) interaction, do they mock the individual?
How do they react to accurate constructive criticism?
Are they more often than not critical of you and others?
Do they lie, cheat, or steal?

Summary: The Con. Urgency. Practically Perfect.

Progressive Stages of Abuse – #2 covert control and manipulation
A subtle element of control and manipulation is initially introduced in such a way to appear nearly benign and harmless. Is it caring? Is it attentiveness? Is it concern? Doubt and uncertainty begin to cloud the mind of the victim,  undermining their belief that they’re capable of perceiving correctly. With each step the abuser pauses to ascertain the level of resistance or compliance of the victim and their support system of established relationships.

Every individual has a support system (aka) a personal cheer squad. The group of beaming faces you search for in the stands that encourage, support, believe and love you. Rain or shine, lose or win, agree or disagree, they’re for you. This group of individuals is a dangerous threat to the success of the abuser, because they hold the potential for intervention. In order for control and manipulation to flourish unhindered, these powerful relationship bonds must be severed as completely as an amputation.

The process of silencing your cheer squad doesn’t begin with an edict from the abuser, because that would be far too obvious. Instead it subtly unfolds as one seed of doubt after another is planted in the heart of the victim to nullify the voice of the cheer squad. Eliminating the support group voices will result in only one voice of influence to remain – the voice of the abuser.

Summary: Subtly. Doubt. Separation.

Progressive Stages of Abuse – #3 overt control and manipulation
The abuser ceases to conceal his true identity or intent, believing the abuse victim is trapped. Constant belittling and unrelenting criticism erodes the victim’s self-esteem and creates a doubt-paralyzed mind. Doubt cripples the mental and emotional strength to believe there is a way of escape. The goal is achieved – the abused is totally dependent on the abuser.

The military assault waged in the brain of the victim succeeds in the stripping away of all things unique to you as a person. The stripping must occur in order for the abuser to recreate the abused. Any trace of the former person, must be eradicated and replaced with what the abuser dictates. Total compliance to the will and whim of the abuser is mandatory. Constant reassurance of love, and single-minded devotion is demanded at the personal expense of the abused.

Physical and mental isolation, chaos, fear, pain, and self-recrimination for believing a consummate liar permeate their daily life. Hopelessness becomes the skin that envelops the victim, who now believes they are condemned to a life long sentence of abuse. Hopelessness for one creates freedom for the other. The freedom to abuse leads to an escalation of frequency and ferocity of abuse.

Summary: Criticism. Brainwashing. Hopelessness.

Top Five Abuser Characteristics – #1 abusers are Machiavellian at heart
Initially they appear to be charismatic, perceptive, and engaging.

Their charm is disarming, allowing them to subtly weave their web of lies undetected, and in full view of others. Remember first and foremost that psychological and physical abusers have a doctorate in Con Artistry. The definition of con artist: a fake, hustler, shark, deceiver, or fraud who is adept at lying, cajolery, glib, self-serving talk, and swindling by means of confidence games.

Summary: They are better at deception than we are at detection. Ignore the charisma, listen to their words and observe their character as they interact with others.

Top Five Abuser Characteristics – #2 abusers are attentive listeners and information gatherers
The Listening Gathering Search Engine for abusers identifies the passions and insecurities of an individual.

Their motive for discovery: manipulation. Abusers feign a nearly instantaneous affinity with their potential victim through a fabricated commonality of desires, interests, experiences, and life goals. So many similarities between two individual would move any heart.

While engaged in (get acquainted) conversation they enthusiastically sprinkle you with flattery. This falsely forged connection often produces a dangerous lapse in judgment. Common Sense is bullied by Premature Trust to entice you into ignoring cautious vetting and let your guard down. This is fertile soil for control and manipulation to take root and thrive.

Summary: They briefly appear to be Prince Charming or Cinderella, but they only exist in fairy tales.

Top Five Abuser Characteristics – #3 abusers are extreme narcissists
A narcissist wants to be the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every funeral. e. lutzer

In their twisted thinking there can only be one who is superior – them. All other humanoids are inferior competitors vying to steal their deserved glorious accolades. In a room overflowing with fascinating, brilliant people, they’re the sole card-carrying member of the Est Club. Smartest. Prettiest. Funniest. Strongest. A narcissist becomes highly agitated and sullen if the conversation doesn’t often focus on them. After all, hearing the opinions of another is torturous waste of time, since there is only one opinion that truly matters.

Nothing is more egregious to a narcissist than the success of another, especially those in relationship with them. Any accomplishments of supposed loved ones is critiqued, minimized and belittled. It is impossible for the narcissistic abuser to encourage, facilitate, and celebrate the success of another when they’re viewed as competitors. How do you react when you believe someone is stealing your thunder? You attack.

Rarely will the abuser display an interest in the childhood memories or family traditions of the abused. Any life lived prior to the narcissist was insignificant and inconsequential, because life didn’t truly begin until their arrival.

Summary: They could capture the gold medal, win the beauty contest, and single-handedly discover the cure to all diseases, because of their genius.

Top Five Abuser Characteristics – #4 abusers are infallible
They never do anything wrong. They never say anything wrong. They never are wrong.

In their twisted thinking they are practically perfect. In actuality, they’re astute blame shifters. Like a broken record repeating a single song, the abuser repeats the blame rhetoric with each abuse occurrence.
This absolves the abuser of all culpability for their actions, and the blame for the abuse cascades over the mind and heart of the already fragile, wounded one.

“If you would simply obey my requests, instructions, and demands, then there would be no need for me to punish you.” Translation: If you wouldn’t do (X) – I wouldn’t do (Y). This insane thought process isn’t just espoused propaganda to their victim – it’s actually what they believe. Reasoning with an abuser is futile. A rational mind can’t reason with an irrational mind.

Infallibility Belief can’t be restrained; it will flourish in both the private and public life of an abuser. In their public life, espoused infallibility quickly collides with resistance among friends and coworkers. Character discovery leads to resistance, and constant change in jobs and friend groups. However the core reasons for the change – change not. I was misunderstood, mistreated, and my talents were marginalized.

Summary: They believe in their personal perfection and seldom admit wrong doing for their actions, reactions and words.

Top Five Abuser Characteristics – #5 abusers are addicted to power
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Abusers regard life as a continuous game. Human beings are objects, game pieces, to be controlled and manipulated to feed their sense of power. Winning in everything is everything. Each day every innocuous, routine interaction with family, friends, acquaintances, or strangers must culminate in a demoralizing display of power over others.

Demeaning and dominating others feed the feeling of superiority, which must be reaffirmed daily. The character traits of honesty, kindness, compassion, and generosity are signs of weakness, and disgusting to the abuser. As with all addictions the abuse appetite increases, because the feelings of strength and superiority are increasingly fleeting. The abuser is unfulfilled until the scales of power tip completely to their side.

The abuser treats the abused as an indentured servant who exists solely to fulfill the perverted will of the abuser. Remember these words: Who. What. When. Where.

They decide – Who you see. What you do. Where you go. When you go.

Summary: Inflicting pain feeds the feeling of power at the expense of the mind and heart of others.

One last thing – Abuse crosses the boundaries of gender, age, education, and socio-economic status. The current statistics concerning abuse perpetrated on either gender is startling. We need to be aware that more than 40% of abuse cases consist of a female partner abusing the male partner.

Now I want to end our time together with something lovely – The hushed sound of peace that settles over the earth after a fresh blanket of snow gently kisses the tree limbs and covers the ground with a frosting of delicate untouched softness.      


journaling then and now – reading to educate

Periodically,  journaling then and now will feature an article or story that is share worthy, and designed to dispel abuse ignorance through education.

21 Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Is it possible that you are being abused and don’t even know it? Domestic violence is once again in the forefront of the news. This is in part due to abusive incidents with sports figures or celebrities that have become very public. Abuse is not always as obvious as being hit or shoved, called degrading names or cussed out. In fact, it can very well be underhanded or subtle.

You may find yourself feeling confused about the relationship, off balance or like you are “walking on eggshells” all the time. This is the kind of abuse that often sneaks up on you as you become more entrenched in the relationship. I am talking here about psychological abuse, which is also known as mental or emotional abuse.

Psychological abuse occurs when a person in the relationship tries to control information available to another person with intent to manipulate that person’s sense of reality or their view of what is acceptable and unacceptable. Psychological abuse often contains strong emotionally manipulative content and threats designed to force the victim to comply with the abuser’s wishes.

All abuse takes a severe toll on self-esteem. The abused person starts feeling helpless and possibly even hopeless. In addition, most mental abusers are adept at convincing the victim that the abuse is his/her fault. Somehow, the victim is responsible for what happened.

A more sophisticated form of psychological abuse is often referred to as “gas lighting.” This happens when false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. Examples may range simply from the abuser denying that previous abusive incidents ever occurred to staging bizarre events with the intention of confusing the victim.

I listened to a client tell me that her husband denied an affair after she found a racy email to another woman on his computer and confronted him. The husband vehemently denied this and when so far as to send an email to his tech guy asking how his account could have been hacked and to fix the problem!

A common form of emotional abuse is “I love you, but…” That may sound nice at first, yet it is both a disguised criticism and a threat. It indicates, “I love you now, but if you don’t stop this or that, my love will be taken away.” It is a constant jab that slowly strips away your self-esteem. Abusers get a lot of reinforcement out of using the word “love” as it seems to become a magic word to control you.

Abusers at times do what I call “throw you a bone.” I have heard countless times from clients that their partner was “nice,” “complimentary,” “gave me a gift,” etc. as if it should erase all of the bad treatment. You need to understand that this is part of the dynamic and cycle of abuse.

In fact, it is rare for abusive relationships to not have these (often intense) moments of feeling good, overly sincere apologies or attempts to make up for the bad behavior. The victim clings to hope when these moments occur and the abuser knows this.

Psychological abuse can look like:
1. Humiliating or embarrassing you.
2. Constant put-downs.
3. Hyper-criticism.
4. Refusing to communicate.
5. Ignoring or excluding you.
6. Extramarital affairs.
7. Provocative behavior with opposite sex.
8. Use of sarcasm and unpleasant tone of voice.
9. Unreasonable jealousy.
10. Extreme moodiness.
11. Mean jokes or constantly making fun of you.
12. Saying “I love you but…”
13. Saying things like “If you don’t _____, I will_____.”
14. Domination and control.
15. Withdrawal of affection.
16. Guilt trips.
17. Making everything your fault.
18. Isolating you from friends and family.
19. Using money to control.
20. Constant calling or texting when you are not with him/her.
21. Threatening to commit suicide if you leave.

It is important to remember that it is absolutely not your fault. Abusers are expert manipulators with a knack for getting you to believe that the way you are being treated is your fault. These people know that everyone has insecurities, and they use those insecurities against you.

Abusers can convince you that you do not deserve better treatment or that they are treating you this way to “help” you. Some abusers even act quite charming and nice in public so that others have a good impression of them. In private is a different story, which is also quite baffling.

If you see yourself in these words, know that there is little hope for your relationship to improve. It would take a monumental amount of insight and motivation for the abuser to change and unfortunately, this is rarely the case. If you are in an abusive relationship, I urge you to get out and with professional help if needed. Often the first step in leaving the abuser is obtaining counseling just to rebuild your esteem so that you can leave.

I particularly want you to know that you may “love” this person, but that they do not “love” you or respect you. I assure you that in time you will get over this person if you break it off. You will be making the right decision … no looking back.

For further information on abusive relationships and domestic violence, please contact your local domestic violence shelter, or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). This number will lead you to immediate help in your area. Help is available in either English or Spanish and 170 other languages through interpreters.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Oct 2014
Published on All rights reserved.

journaling then and now – nit picking

A glimpse into the workings of my brain.  

A few days ago I was on the hunt for a travel size pillbox at Target. This was strictly a search and rescue mission, get in and get out as quickly as possible.  Strategically walking down the center of each aisle, eyes rapidly darting from left to right I quickly eliminated aisles 39-41.  Rounding the corner I glanced to my left, my brain briefly registered the section of product dedicated to lice eradication, and quite by accident a loud “yuck” escaped my lips.

What followed “yuck” I liken to a roller coaster ride shrouded in darkness, until a series of gargantuan sized words exploded and then vanished one at a time the moment my brain registered them.  Somehow the word “lice” triggered the ride, that I am pleased to report was brief.  The next word “nit” exploded in bright white letters, and simultaneously unlocked the memory of the Great Lice Infestation of 1993.  Each morning for months, a team of parents would line the sidewalks to meticulously search the sweaty heads of K-4 students for hatched or unhatched lice babies, aka “nits”.  I barely had time to smile, when the lice ride came to a screeching, rather abrupt halt arriving at the desired destination, the gargantuan word nit-picking”.

Merriam Webster’s definition of Nit-picking

  • minute and usually unjustified criticism
  • looking for small unimportant errors or faults, especially in order to criticize unnecessarily.

Nit-picking was an often-used phrase in my childhood home, because fault-finding and belittling were my stepfather’s passion.  If, a Ph.D. could be awarded for excellence in this field, he would have graduated first in his class.  Think finding a nettle in a haystack.  Think never good enough.  Think constant criticism.  Think incessant ridicule.  Think negative, always negative.

He would mercilessly ridicule and attack the validity of any and everything you liked, loved, preferred, desired, created, experienced, or accomplished.  His goal was to tarnish and ruin the thing you valued.  Over and over again for hours at a time, he would rehearse and accentuate a single minute flaw, all the while demanding an explanation for your ridiculous beliefs.  As he cruelly diminished and destroyed that which was significant to you, he was keenly aware of the pain he was inflicting.  It was the practice of inflicting pain that caused him to feel powerful and superior.  Relenting was never an option until his desired, demeaning goal was accomplished.  Finally, after hours of feebly attempting to defend yourself, exhaustion became your foe, and confusion enveloped your mind.  At this point you (willingly yet unwillingly) apologized, proclaimed your extreme wrongness and affirmed his supreme rightness.  Then, as if a light switch was flipped, he would grin the victor’s grin, cease his torment, and leave you alone.   

Enduring repeated episodes of nit-picking year after year eventually produced an ever-present state of confusion and overall doubt that became fertile ground for future deep-rooted feelings of insecurity and insignificance.  This was debilitating and crippling to a child, especially when you slowly began to believe his lies.  After all you were supposed to be able to trust and believe your parents.  Why would the ones who loved you the most tell you lies or deliberately choose to hurt you? 

Nit-picking – it should be reserved for destroying lice, not people.


journaling then and now – the rock

Today, while perched on the edge of a jagged cliff that dropped into the bluest of oceans, I was captivated again by the choreographed rhythm of the waves.  At times they gently rolled across the ocean surface like blue agave, yet a moment later they almost appeared to be chasing one another toward the finish line located along the jagged rocks.  Each and every time I gaze upon an endless ocean that is serenaded by a symphony of rolling waves an amazing thing transpires.  The constant decisions, demands and disappointments of life are quickly replaced with something beautiful, peace and clarity.

Today, was no different.  A single, gentle thought found a voice in the silence, “I wonder when the beauty of the ocean became such a place of peace and clarity for me?”  I had only rolled it across my brain a few times when I quite suddenly remembered something long forgotten.  I guess I could say, in the quieting of my life I hear about my life.

You see as a child I lived on a small island in the Florida Keys.  Across the street from our house was an empty lot void of grass, but covered in white coral rocks that increased in size as you approached the water’s edge.  This empty lot afforded us the most breathtaking, unobstructed view of the ocean.

Countless times throughout my childhood in moments of pain filled despair, I would flee across the road, and climb a particular rock I later named, ‘Wendy’s Rock’.  I know, I know not at all very creative, but adequate and appropriate in the rock naming world.  Anyway, I would often sit weeping with my back turned away from our house, and stare for hours at the thin silvery line where ocean and sky blend from two to one.  As I struggled to envision a future without tears, ‘Wendy’s Rock’ became my secret place that was neither hidden nor secret.  Sitting on that rock, as I watched the movement of the water, and stared into the horizon, for a few brief moments I felt a peace and hope that one day things would be different in my life.

So to answer my question, as an adult the sense of peace and clarity that I obtain at the ocean’s edge, I now remember began when I was child sitting with my back turned symbolically away from a painful world so I could focus my sight toward the possibility of a different future.