Abuse Feed

When, "I'm sorry" isn't an apology

When people say they are "sorry", but keep doing a hurtful behavior - they aren't sorry.

I'm just saying...

I see this a lot with antisocial folks.  Since they feel no remorse, they can't really be sorry.  But they say the words "I'm sorry" because they have learned are socially expected.

So everyone says you should forgive them - because they said they were sorry.

But you can't, can you?  Because they haven't actually apologized, they've just mouthed the words.  And because they keep hurting you.  If someone says they're sorry, but continues to hit you in the head, how can you forgive them?

You can walk away from them.  You can stop allowing them to hit you in the head.  You can let go of the hurt and the betrayal and the sadness and the anger.  You can get over it and get on with your life. 

But you can't forgive them, because they haven't truly asked you for forgiveness - or earned it.




What They Say vs. What They Do

In abusive relationships it is not uncommon for the victim to feel that the abuser loves because they say they do.   

Abused children believe their parents love them because they say they do.  And children will believe this even when the parent has a long history of beating the child or profoundly neglecting the child.

This is why it's important to watch what people do, rather than what they say.  The predators and abusers of the world often display "empathy gaps", gaps in their ability to feel compassion or empathy for others.  Their words are very charming and full of "love", yet their actions tells a different story.  



How Could I Be So Stupid?

Have you been manipulated, lied to, controlled by a toxic person?  The person may be a psychopath (antisocial), a narcissist or a borderline.  They've betrayed, exploited and misled you.  They've seduced you with their charm and beguiled you with their lies.  They've stolen your money, your life, your heart.  And you're left wondering, "How could I have been so stupid?"

I am reminded of an old Spanish saying that I absolutely love,

"The lion believes that all are like him."

An honest person expects people to treat them honestly.   Someone who is not a thief may not lock up their belongings, because it does not occur to them that other people would steal from her.

Naturally, you need to check yourself for a susceptibility to flowery speech and manipulation.  If you have a low self esteem you may be especially susceptible to someone showering you with compliments while they simultaneously mistreat, dismiss or disregard you.

But aside from that, one of the struggles of people who are dealing with psychopaths, narcissists or other manipulative people is the nagging question, "How could I not have seen this?", "How could I have been so stupid as to pick out this person?", "Why am I so gullible?" If you are really kicking yourself thinking you were inordinately naive or dumb for having been duped so completely you might find the following explanation helpful.

I found this description of psychopathic manipulation in an article on manipulation and controlling behaviors:

Psychopaths know well and have nothing but disdain for the characteristics of good-natured people and use those very qualities — including most people’s willingness to trust and afford others the benefit of the doubt and the conscientiousness most people have and discomfort they typically have when they think they might be the cause of anyone else’s pain — against them. Possessing a narcissism so malignant (“Narcissism: Pathological Self-Love”) that they consider truly decent folks as inherently weak and inferior, they feel “entitled” to prey on such folks, and deliberately play on their sensitivities and sensibilities to con, exploit, and otherwise victimize them. Worst of all, they do these things for the pure pleasure of it. It’s not fear, insecurity or emotional pain that drives them, just an incapacity to care and a craving to dominate.

Your gullibility and naivete is normal - because you are an honest person.  One other thought you might want to consider.  The alternative to being gullible and naive may be worse - to become cynical, jaded and suspicious of everyone.



Narcissistic Rage: The Scorpion and the Frog

Once, there was a frog trying to cross a flooded river.   As he prepared to cross to the other side on a lily pad a scorpion asked to ride with him.  The frog responded, "If I let you go you still sting me."  The scorpion answered, "If I sting you we will both die.  Why would I do that?"  So the frog acquiesced and they boarded the lily pad.  Halfway across the scorpion stung the frog.  As the frog lay dying he pleaded, "Why on Earth did you sting me?  Now we will both die!"  The scorpion answered, "Because I'm a scorpion.  It's my nature."

We cannot change other people.  This is especially true if you are dealing with a narcissist.  Even knowing this, it's hard to grasp just how far they will go to hurt you when enraged.  Their behavior sometimes defies reason and reality.

I recently watched a narcissist who became so enraged at the "frog" in her life that she she stung herself to death trying to get at the frog.  Having destroyed herself, the frog and the entire lily pad she now sits in the wreckage which was her life, still trying to take shots at the frog.  Fortunately, in real life, the frog is usually able to get to shore and carry on with their lives.  But not without the narcissist's stings having taken their toll.  This is especially true if there are children involved.

What enraged this narcissist?  The fact that her partner saw through her facade.  He saw what she really was and therefore had to be destroyed.  Family members and friends tried to understand what he had done to her to make her so angry.  They interpreted her rage as hurt.  They were certain he had done something truly heinous.  But he hadn't.  He had merely seen reality.  He had seen the vacuum of her psyche, the absence of all the things which make us human;  the lack of empathy  for others, the absence of remorse when she hurt people, the lack of regard for any other person.  He saw what she really was, what she fought to cover up with a carefully contrived facade.  And for that the narcissist was determined to destroy him.  And and destroying him became more important than her own well being.  She utterly destroyed every good thing in her life, including herself, trying to get back at him.

Beware of narcissistic rage.  It can be fatal.




Why Horses Make the Best Therapists

A teenaged boy was brought to us who had experienced a horrific childhood full of abuse and neglect.  He had adopted some bizarre behaviors as a result which distanced him from his peers and provoked a lot of bullying and chiding.  Almost everything he did begged to be made fun of.  It was heart wrenching to watch him struggle to get along with children at the shelter and at school.  But how to address so many behaviors without totally crushing him?

With a horse named Buddy.  Buddy is probably the best therapist I ever met.  He is sensitive and patient beyond belief so he came straight up to the boy and loved all over him.  The boy was elated, the horse liked him!  (Most abused children take the blame for their own abuse, assuming there is something wrong with them which provokes or deserves the abuse.  So their first fear is always that they will not be liked.)  So Buddy's ready acceptance of the boy was healing.  But, as the boy started acting out his behaviors Buddy would gently pull away.  He didn't leave, he just moved away from the inappropriate touching or the explosive noises.  The boy got it immediately.  "He doesn't like that!"  Not a word was spoken, but volumes were communicated.  As his other therapist, I could then gently ask, "how do other people respond when you do that?"  And the boy could tell me without feeling badly about himself because Buddy was right there nuzzling him and liking him.  With Buddy's positive reinforcement we moved through his disruptive behaviors in no time replacing things Buddy did not like with behaviors Buddy did like.  

And what Buddy liked, the other kids did too! 


When One Compliment Negates a Hundred Slights

People who find themselves in an unhealthy, even abusive relationship often ask themselves, "why do I stay?",  "what is it that keeps sucking me back in?"  Many times it can be the "courting behavior" that follows the abuse.  In domestic violence, this is illustrated in the Circle of Abuse.  The abuser becomes violent and lashes out at the victim.  Afterward, he or she engages in the courting behavior they originally used when dating the victim.  They are charming, caring, attentive.  They lavish the victim with compliments and gifts.  A victim who has low self esteem may tolerate the abuse to get the courting behavior.  The pain of being hurt is overridden by the kindness and attention that are lavished on them after it is over. 

In less abusive relationships a more subtle form of this behavior may exist.  If someone is in a relationship with a narcissist or a sociopath, they may experience a constant stream of unloving treatment.  Their partner may be uncaring, callous, accusatory, jealous, cold, distant, hostile, selfish, critical, demanding, demeaning, etc.  They may heap insults on them or demean them with a constant stream of disparaging remarks.  They may constantly accuse them of cheating.  Or they may be dismissive and condescending.  The relationship may be totally devoid of empathic, nurturing, caring, loving behavior.  So why do they stay?

It may be that they are totally taken for granted, until they attempt to leave or start to pull away.  When the emotional manipulator reailizes they've gone too far, they may engage in courting behavior to reel the partner back into the relationship.  If their partner's self esteem is low enough this may go on for years and years.  If their self esteem is somewhat higher, they may eventually realize that, "One compliment negates a thousand slights." 


What to Do if You Were Sexually Molested as a Child

Someone sent me a link to the story of Brigitte Harris who accidentally killed her father after she found out he was intended to molest other children as he had molested her.  Unfortunately, her story is not rare.  But she said something which deeply saddened me.

Continue reading "What to Do if You Were Sexually Molested as a Child" »