Various techniques used by abusers to manipulate their victims or enablers have been given “cutesie” names by various survivors. These techniques are not “cutesie” though, but by recognizing them when we see them in a relationship, we can make ourselves less vulnerable to being victimized or taken advantage of by anyone. Some of these techniques are:
The Love Bomb: This is how they hook victims. When you first meet them they start telling the future victim how smart, beautiful, strong, wonderful you are, and just overwhelm them with this “love bomb.” Most people are susceptible to this as we all like to hear how great we are from someone else’s lips. Once the victim is hooked, the critical stage begins where nothing you do is good enough.
The Cold Reading: Making us feel like they know all about us and have our best interests at heart.
The Pity Ploy: They say “Feel sorry for me I’m a victim/downcast and I NEED your help, it doesn’t make any difference that I got myself into this fix, but now I “need” you and I will play on your empathy and get you to get me out of this mess I created.” While under their breath they are thinking “I will use your own caring, empathetic nature against you, to get you to enable me and for you to assume the consequences of my bad choices.”
The Smear campaign: This is what they will do to your name and character if you don’t do what they want or if you refuse to be further victimized by them. They will use the pity ploy with your friends and relatives and tell them how you have victimized them and what a scum bag you are. They present themselves as a victim of your mean hearted behavior.
Devalue and discard: This is the stage where the abuser thinks they no longer need you, or you refuse to be victimized further. They will humiliate and denigrate their victim, and then dump them. Then comes the smear campaign.
Gaslighting: Is a term taken from an old movie by that name in which Ingrid Bergman is manipulated by her new husband in order to make her appear crazy so he can steal her fortune. He does this by manipulating the gas lights in the house. When they flicker he pretends that he doesn’t see it and tries to undermine her own five senses.
This is one of the techniques used to undermine the victim’s confidence in their own gut instincts and make them question their own sanity.
The Spin Cycle: The Spin Cycle is named from how our heads go round and round like we had them in a washing machine on spin cycle. We just can’t seem somehow to focus on what is important, or to stay focused at all. It seems when we start to feel that there is a danger or problem in one direction, when we turn around, there is another one from another direction, and we keep spinning around and around. Even little things become problematic because we have trouble making decisions or even figuring out what is a big deal and what isn’t.
My grandfather called this “being pecked to death by a flock of geese.” Or as my late husband would have said, “it is hard to drain the swamp when you are up to your back side in alligators.” It is when there are always new problems, maybe even just small ones, that take our focus off the bigger problem. Magicians and slight of hand artists use distraction to keep the focus off of what they are really doing, and abusers do this with the “spin cycle.”
The constant barrage of problems, even “small ones,” keep us off balance, and spinning around. There is no way to really fix a situation when you are continually being distracted by other things. It is like trying to memorize the chemical periodic table while you are at a rock concert. It just can’t be done when the distractions are taking all of our energy, mind, and focus.
When we find ourselves in a “spin cycle” it is difficult to get out because our judgment is impaired to some extent. Looking back, I see the shape I was in when I was involved in the spin cycle, trying to stamp out one fire, only to have someone start another one or throw gasoline on the small one already burning. During that time I made some poor decisions regarding my own safety. It was only when my very life was threatened that I at least realized I had to get out of the line of fire, literally, and go into hiding. It was the most difficult decision I ever made in my life. And the most painful one.
Many times victims of domestic abuse stay “one day too long” because they are in the spin cycle and it causes them to negate the evidence before their eyes, the evidence that they do not want to believe, that someone they love is dangerous to them. It costs these people their very lives not to make the decision to flee the situation. Of course “break up violence” (link) is the time in which an abuser may be the most dangerous.
In working with victims of domestic abuse, I have seen so many go back, and leave and go back again, much to the detriment of their lives and the lives of their children. Of course not all are killed by their abuser, but if it is YOU that is the one killed, it will pretty much wreck your life. No pun intended.
How do you break out of the spin cycle? Well, by reading this article you are taking one step forward. Education is the primary way we can get out of any of the situations we get into when we continue to engage in a relationship with an offender who is without conscience, without remorse, and without any intention of changing and stopping their abusive behavior. (Though they may give a “sincere sounding” apology and promise never to do it again.) Finding support or therapy is another way to help us focus on the here and now, and to stop spinning.
Abusers will blame us for their rages, it is all our fault, never theirs. They will use the excuses that it is not them, it is the drugs or the alcohol, and they should be pitied, after all they are “tryyyyyying so hard” to change. As Yoda said, there “is no try, only do.” People who really want to change do change, and those who continually find excuses for why they aren’t successful in stopping their bad behavior will never change, no matter how much hope and “support” we give them. (link)
Once in a while I may still, under high stress situations, fall back into the spin cycle. During the preparation for my son’s latest parole hearing, I allowed myself to become so stressed I fell into the abyss of the “spin cycle” myself. High stress, high anxiety and out right terror of him getting out. The stress caused all kinds of health problems as well as emotional problems. I’m finally out of that deep dark hole, and working toward staying out of the hole. Some days it is a constant struggle to ascertain what is a real danger and what I need to ‘blow off.” Healing is a journey, not a destination. I do know though, that separating myself from worry about my son’s life and concentrating on making my own the best it can be, and accepting what is, not worrying about what is not, and what I do not have control over is the key to living a healthy and fulfilling life.
We have no control over the behavior of others, only how we react to it.