Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Breaking Things Down (Part 1)

This is something I've wanted to do for a while, but finding the energy and brain space is tough. I'm going to try and talk about the communications I received from my abuser while we were still friends in the context of abusive mentality and abuser dynamics, because I think it's important to understand that subtle or otherwise, these things come up all the time in our interactions with others... but being blinded by reasons and justifications doesn't make any of it okay. I've posted a lot of what he and I both said in this previous blog post (linked for all necessary context), so I'm not going to reproduce everything here.

Email 1:
There really isn't much to say from my part that I haven't already communicated to you. The only problem I had that personally affected /me/ was the stress (in the context of already being stressed) that I was feeling because I felt like all my options regarding you, you're health, and our friendship, were in some way massively deficient.
This seems reasonable on the surface, but it's a twisty way to get the focus OFF him and back onto me, by denying and ignoring things not related to his agenda. Though he had established himself as a carer/support person, it's still disturbing he is alluding to the idea that he needs to 'fix' me and/or us in some way. Relationships of all sorts need to be a two way street.
You do have a problem with self-regulation, because you (self-admittedly) react in ways when anxiety/emotional brained that when you calm down you understand were not helpful/in your best interest, etc.
By "self-admittedly" he's referring to the fact that I was already gaslighted at this point to take on the burden of guilt for everything going wrong. To be fair, it wasn't a huge push.. my anxiety and depression do already make me think that I'm a "burden" and "difficult to deal with", etc. Plus, it plays on the societal acceptance of the idea that rational=good and emotional=bad, something abusers use to their advantage all the time. My abuser particularly was covert aggressive (good description of this type of abuse lives here) or (as described in this blog post) a Water Torturer type abuser. Basically, this means he stays calm and in control at all times while provoking emotional responses from the target, thus being able to claim they are "overreacting" and "irrational", etc. to invalidate their emotions.
And you do have a problem with dependence, which, other than being observable, you've said as much yourself when you've calmed down.
 Look, this doesn't even explain a damn thing, which goes to show just how much of a gaslighting lie it was. "Being observable" is not actual evidence of anything, neither is the fact I admitted to it at any point (because... gaslighted). What he really disagreed with was now that I trusted him and accepted him as my main source of support, it was unacceptable to expect ANYthing from him that he did not want to give... and since I did expect him to actually give a shit about me and got angry when his behaviour showed otherwise, it was obviously asking too much. 
Now, whilst I accept my part in not being vigilant enough in trying to help you, to not let it become a dependence thing, the communication was /impossible/ until after you spoke to [REDACTED] on Wednesday. Because you were both in denial about the problem and quite defensive/hostile about it. 
Basically, I disagreed with him and therefore I was in denial and hostile. This is an attack designed to put me on the defensive. By putting the burden on me once again as the one with the problem, I'm pushed to either accept his views or at least have to continue defending myself (probably with some anger at the accusation), which would allow him to again call me "unreasonable". He also would often consult with friends about things between us to subtly prime them to agree with his view that I was overreacting or wrong in some way, so that when I spoke to others for outside viewpoints, it was assured I would be led back to his thinking and more likely to succumb to his control. I don't think he outright would say, 'I am right, she is being emotional and is wrong', but I do think he often played off, again, unwritten social rules. In this case, it's partially that being overly emotional is a 'bad' thing and also that he had to keep distancing himself from me because I was 'too much' (Mmm, mental illness stigma).
So whilst I accept that non-communication might be triggering for you, I do not feel responsible for being the trigger. Nor, given the context, do I think it's fair of you to try to tell me I'm responsible for.
Huge red flag. People who actually care about how they are affecting you do not tell you they are not responsible for the harm caused. Even hurting someone inadvertently, most of us would apologise for what happened, because it sucks to hurt a friend and you try not to do it ever again. Abusers, however, never ever take responsibility for their actions and their effects. It is a major thing that MAKES someone an abuser.  (see #9 in this post). And not only does he not care that his behaviour was causing me some massive and stressful anxiety (after I had set it as a hard boundary between us), but he then again turns the guilt and blame BACK onto me to make me feel bad I brought it up in the first place.
Now, if after calming down and maybe talking to [REDACTED] or [REDACTED] you realise that much of what you've just said was in no small way disturbing, I'm happy to ignore it. Either way I haven't taken it personally, or let it impact how I feel about you.
He's Very Kindly (sarcasm ahoy) forgiving me for being angry at him about him causing me a lot of undue stress and anxiety. How very nice and big of him. How very manipulative.
However, until you get perspective on the situation from a third party I'm not going to discuss this further with you.
And he ends with a good dose of stonewalling, or shutting down any further communication on the topic so that a resolution or compromise (other than accepting his views) cannot be reached. It's used to retain control of the situation and frustrate the person on the other side, and is another huge red flag when it comes to attempting to have a healthy relationship with someone.

Email 2:
Look. You are going to calm down at some point, maybe vent your shit at someone or whatever. Then you are going to freak out because you will think you've just destroyed our friendship. It's a pattern. And I like to think I have a pretty damn high tolerance for that kind of thing. But you are walking on very thin ice, tracing the circumference of my no drama policy.
 Let us begin with a threat. The cycle did keep repeating itself, because abuse is a cycle, and there would always be some way he'd try to control me that pushed just a little too far, so I'd get angry at him. Then the gaslighting and self-blame would kick in and I'd go crawling back, asking for forgiveness since it was the only way to keep things status quo between us. This is how abuse works (the only thing he didn't do was get violent with me, obviously, but everything else is true).
So, in the event that you do at some point realise that you are being completely unreasonable
Because I was always unreasonable if I was angry at him. Blame was always put squarely onto my shoulders.
You are very dear to me and I value our friendship. However, I'm /not/ willing to deal with this amount of drama, from anyone. So if you do in fact want to maintain our friendship, this has to stop.
He said I was dear to him and he valued our friendship in that exact phrase many times as reassurance. A weirdly particular way of putting it and I don't believe any of them were ever sincere, it was always just to placate me. And then there is another threat.
No more expectations of how I should or shouldn't act, no more trying (intentionally or otherwise) to guilt trip me over how /you/ are feeling or into me spending time with you (I say trying because I /don't/ feel guilty in any way). No more emotional venty outbursts at me for what you perceive I've done wrong but inevitably, and usually after talking to someone like [REDACTED], realise that you were, in fact, being unreasonable. No more drama, period.
Basically, stop trying to fight against my control in various ways. You can see how he twisted my valid complaints about his behaviour into things I've done wrong to him. He often accused me of being emotionally manipulative and guilt tripping, when in fact, he was doing these things constantly to me by trying to force me to accept the blame and responsibility of all our problems. By framing my actions in such a drastic framework, it, again, attempts to make me go on the defensive and also feel shame for trying to hold him responsible for the way he was affecting me. This is a list of demands that I had to adhere to for the friendship to stay intact, and yet he couldn't be held 'responsible' for the one thing I asked him to do to make me stop feeling terrible all the time. This is one of the main abuse dynamics, where the abuser must be free to do whatever they please without consequence, but you cannot do anything that the abuser dislikes within the relationship. And of course, again, I am unreasonable for being angry that he did not care about my feelings one bit.
If any of this continues after this particular incident, I intend on cutting communication with you for as long as it takes for you to fix your shit so we can go back to being friends without the drama. Hint: this will be measured in months, maybe even years, not days/weeks, to give you some perspective.
The threat in full, with added consequences of not submitting to his demands. Also, for someone so invested in fighting mental health stigma and mental health advocacy (it's his job at a non-profit, even), the phrase "fix your shit" is very demeaning and out of character for his usual "I'm such a nice, understanding guy" facade.
I don't want to talk about this with you, it is not open for discussion. I want our friendship to work, but if time apart is needed then so be it. This is the last time I will deal with it. At a minimum, I don't want to talk to you at all until you've calmed down and got some perspective.
And again, more stonewalling so that the only possible resolution is his resolution.

The second email was one of the last before the friendship dissolved, so it might make ultimatums seem more reasonable (though everything he took issue with was not an actual issue except that I kept getting mad at him for treating me poorly instead of shutting up and taking his crap). Still, he sent this after I had already expressed that I no longer wanted to continue being friends because of how he was acting. He attempted one more go at regaining control over me, but I'd had enough at that point, as you can see in my reply in the blog post linked at the beginning of this one. The issues I state in my reply were all the true issues as I saw them, instead of the ones he kept pushing on me to make me at fault and more compliant to his control. Never once would he address anything I wanted him to address, and instead derailed every argument into what he felt the problem was (aka Me).

These are not the communications of someone who ever truly cared about me, but they are pretty good examples of how subtle psychological and emotional abuse manifests.

It still baffles me that the people defending him believe that any of the above is acceptable, but then again, they probably believe him that I'm 'crazy' cause I'm mentally ill or that he just couldn't cope with dealing with me anymore (protip: relationships work on communication and compromise... not abusive actions like control and stonewalling and manipulation).

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