Saturday, December 20, 2014

When a Break Up Really Isn't a Break Up

By: Maple Seawright

      There are millions of pages devoted to prying open the minds of abusers to reveal the venomous thinking patterns directing their behavior. Some are heart-wrenching stories that read like psychological thrillers while others attempt to scientifically probe into the madness using a clinical and detached approach. There is a compulsion to peer into the deceptively irrational to make it rational, intelligible and explainable. Just consider this another one of the millions struggling to decode the enigma that is the abuser (for part two click here).

     Abusers rule with confusion. I believe that an abuser's behavior is at the peak of confusion when the individual they are victimizing becomes aware of the toxic dance and starts to wriggle from its cruel grasp. During breakups, it is usually the victim's confusing and seemingly irrational behavior that is scrutinized under judgment’s glaring microscope, but I would like to investigate what victims are directly responding to.

Chris Brown "packing" Karrueche Tran's bags in 2012. Part Two: When Abusers Manipulate Family & Friends

Implicit Reorientation

     While for most relationships, breakups signify the messy severing of bonds, for abusers, breakups are the prime opportunity for a power grab in the form of reorientation. The abuser already assumes that the breakup is temporary. Reorientation is the abuser implicitly demanding to increase your threshold for emotional pain, the bulldozing of protective boundaries and the starving any forms of empowerment, all for the comfort of the abuser. The abuser is demanding for more abusive behaviors to be acceptable; for new norms, new lows, even if unpleasant, for the relationship. 

     Generally the abuser causes so much obvious damage that the individual being victimized is forced to breakup or at least re-evaluate the relationship. For example undeniable betrayal such as cheating that the victimized individual has previously considered as unacceptable and grounds for breakup are directly bluffed by the abuser. The individual may have opened up at the beginning of the relationship by recanting about how the brutal divorce of her parents caused by cheating caused a significant amount of pain that she would never want to go through this, the victim is unknowingly outlining a boundary for the relationship and creating a rule to be broken. The abuser sees this as a threat to his power and using cheating as a tool to obviously challenge this threat.

     Instead of being honest about their intentions, abusers takes on the role of the victim, begging for forgiveness and using guilt by implying they are willing to change if the heartless individual would just give them a chance. Little does the individual being victimized knows, is that the abuser secretly feels entitled to abuse the other. The victim dared to exercise a semblance of power and control over their environment; even though  in reality the individual is probably just too brokenhearted to continue with the relationship. Unfortunately instead of candidly explaining the victimized individual  "I feel entitled to cheat on you even though I expect you to be faithful to me" or "I believe that physical abuse if a great way for me to get what I want while neglecting your needs" the victim is depleted of explicit information and thus the confidence and power to make a rational decision. Just when the victim is putting the last pieces of the frightening puzzle together, the blood stained images and jagged shapes mutate into something soothing. Perhaps what the individual visualized didn't really exist in the first place? There's the confusion of abuse and then there’s abuser's remorse and desire for the relationship. 

      Now if the victimized individual was to reinitiate a relationship with the abuser, not only will the victim be reoriented into a new acceptable low, but this will slowly manipulate the perceptions of his or her identity. Reorientation implicitly manipulates you by showing you who are really are... a willing victim. Now the abuser doesn't have to risk telling you what they are entitled to, you subconsciously believe it. They are re-orientating you on what is love... them unleashing unbearable abuse and you accepting it, even after some resistance, and eventually moving on. You are now the resilient punching bag. This also increases your emotional investment and psychological ties to the relationship thus increasing their power. The imbalance of hurt and investment is creates a significant power imbalance. Few people would easily walk into these harsher terms of conditions, especially if the abuser started off charming. So the abuser takes out their entrapment toolbox that produces background social pressure even if not obvious to the victimized individual. Read part two of the series: how abusers manipulate the victim's social environment!

This post was inspired by the Chris Brown and Karrueche Tran debacle and by the book Stalking the Soul by Marie-France Hirigoyen. 

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