Some of their techniques are subtle, some brash and blatant. All are intended to be disruptive to the intended victim's peace of mind and body.
They will do to you what you let them. Ah, but you don't let them, you say, they just haul off and do it. They sneak up on you with it. Before you know what hit you, it's Zap, Slap, Zowie, and you are off to reaction land, where you will stay until that episode's misery induced effect wears off.
No, you don't have to go to that familiar place of anger, sorrow, grief, fear, and hopelessness. But you do have to know how to go somewhere else.
Detect What's Happening
Let's look at what's happening, what your part to play is in the abuser's plan book, and how to do something else instead, something much better for you than what he/she is trying to choose for you.
Always the first step in change work is to determine what's happening. Why? Isn't it obvious what's happening? No, because abuse is calibrated to confuse, distract, and divert the victim from their most reasonable and self protective response to any threat that comes from any source. It takes some detection work to get past the roadblocks and smoke screens the abuser puts out, insists is "really happening," and cut through the yellow "do not cross" tape to examine the true state of affairs.
It helps to write down the what's happening info. You need to do it as soon as possible, and make it private too. Abuse victims, over time, get less and less able to remember precise details about abuse incidents even thirty minutes after the abuse happens. It's a self protective defense, an attempt to lessen the stress and divert the mind/body from continuing the abuse misery.
But, one needs to have a record to study and learn from so reasonable action to move the victim out of the emotional prison the abuser's efforts place them in can be planned and executed .
One way, that I like, is to write the What's Happening record is as a dialogue script, as in:
X: " Where were you? What took you so long?" (stern, accusative tone)
Me: "The checkout lane was long, and the checker slow."
After you've written out the whole scene, or a series of connected interactions and actions that may take place over hours or days, read over the whole thing quickly to see if you can detect any patterns that seem familiar, looking for attempts to trap you, make you seem incompetent, create fear, or threats. And, particularly, look for actions, statements, and voice tones that contain presuppositions. The real message of any communication or action is in the presuppositions.
Change The Outcome
What are you supposed to feel and or do after the incident? That is, what does the abuser set you up for with his/her abuse actions? What part does he/she put pressure on you to play?
Now, go back and look at the interaction record slowly and look at your own actions and words. What are the presuppositions in what you did and said? Are these the messages you want to send? Where is the earliest point at which you could have done something different that would have created a different outcome to the incident, not necessarily a different outcome for the abuser, but different for you?
Abuse is about power over someone, the victim position is about being powerless. This is the essential configuration of all abuse situations. When you change that configuration, you change the dynamics of the abuse process.
Warning: If you become more powerful the abuser will attempt to make you less powerful. So be careful about how you empower yourself. Don't make yourself more vulnerable by revealing what you are attempting to do.
Change Your Focus
The number one, absolutely essential, change you need to make is to stop focusing on the abuser and focus on yourself. This is not easy because you have been relentlessly trained by an abuse expert to focus on them.
Victims who come to the email discussion list for help and encouragement usually want very much to change the abuser so he/she "won't do it anymore." It takes some time for them to see that that's backward. They need to reverse their efforts and stop thinking about him/her so much and think about themselves, work for themselves, create a good life for themselves, have a bright future to go toward whether the abuser is in it or not.
So, looking at the written script of an incident/episode, ask yourself: Where is the earliest point that the smallest change in what you did/said could have changed the outcome to a better one, a better one for you?
If you can find that place, then imagine that you did make that change in what you said and/or did. Then mentally practice doing something similar in future opportunities.
Changing The Aftermath
Now, look at how you felt when the episode was over. Chances are, you didn't feel very good. The abuser had created in you responses that put you in an unpleasant state, one that diverted you from what you intended to do, or ruined a good time, or trashed something that was precious, or in some way took over your life and emotional/physical state and slapped it down to the dumps.
This is the next thing you need to change. When you begin empowering yourself to have different responses to abuse attempts, you will find that you can use the emotional fuel generated by those abuse attempts to energize and propel you into states that are better for you. You can use that fuel to create more change.
For example, a rude response from the abuser, following a set-up on his/her part that has caused trouble for you in some way, and you've objected to it, can, instead of creating anger and discouragement in you, be used to fuel effort to empower yourself to work to free yourself from his/her control. It can be used to improve your personal environment, improve your physical fitness, your appearance, your education, expand your options, plan your own future, and/or work to get free from the abuser.
Every abuse attempt can backfire on the abuser because he/she will be helping fuel your work toward freedom from abuse.
Ask yourself what you would like to feel after an abuse attempt. Energized? Determined? Empowered? Working toward a better future that you create for yourself? Switch to that emotional and physical channel.
Remember times when you've felt that good way before,, and step into that experience. Feel it fully. Imagine future opportunities to feel that way after difficult interactions or situations the abuser attempts to foist onto you.
Be careful to not tell the abuser about your plans or explain to him/her what you are doing differently. They will be threatened by the challenge to their "authority" over you and make stronger efforts to subdue you.
Be quiet about what you are doing differently. And be realistic about any physical danger they may pose. Never, ever, underestimate the deviousness and potentially dangerous actions or situations the abuser is capable of.
Create A Future By Changing The Present
1. Shift your focus from the abuser to yourself.
2. Examine and analyze what happens.
3. Make the smallest changes in your own behavior that are to your benefit.
4. Shift from powerless to powerful by using abuse attempts as fuel for action. Take wise action.
5. Create a vision for the future that is worth going toward.
6. Protect yourself.