Category Archives: Control Techniques

Manipulative people brainwash their partners using something called ‘perspecticide’ — here are the signs it’s happening to you

Business Insider/October 15, 2017
By Lindsay Dodgson

Living with a controlling or abusive partner is confusing and draining. They blame you for things that weren’t your fault, or that you didn’t even do, and you become isolated from your friends and family in an attempt to keep the abuser happy.

The way you see the world can also completely change, because it may be dangerous for you to know the truth.

Lisa Aronson Fontes, a psychology researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of “Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship,” told Business Insider the word for this is “perspecticide.”

She said the word, which basically means “the incapacity to know what you know,” was first used in the literature on the brainwashing of prisoners of war, and has also been applied to people in cults.

“In an abusive or controlling relationship, over time the dominating partner changes how the victim thinks,” Fontes said. “The abuser defines what love is. The abuser defines what it appropriate in terms of monitoring the partner. The abuser defines what is wrong with the victim, and what she needs to do to change it.”

Over time, the victim — or survivor, if that is your preferred term — loses sense of what their own ideas, goals, and thoughts were. Instead, they start taking on those of their dominating partner.

“Through perspecticide, people give up their own opinions, religious affiliations, views of friends, goals in life, etc,” Fontes said. “I am not talking about the natural mutual influencing that occurs in all intimate relationships — this is much more nefarious and one-sided.”

Someone can fall into an abuser’s trap in a number of ways, but it’s often through psychological, emotional, or physical abuse. Once the victim has been hooked and reeled in, their partner starts to bring them down with belittling comments and insults.

However, they often pause the abuse with intermittent periods of kindness and warmth. This means the victim is trauma-bonded to their partner, constantly trying to make them happy, because they believe they deserve to be punished if they don’t.

Victims become prisoners in their own lives.
The controlling partner might cut off resources like money and transportation, practically keeping the victim a prisoner. By living in fear, the victim changes how they view themselves and the world.

Fontes recalled several stories of people who had been controlled by their partners. All her examples were from women who were being abused, but it’s important to note that emotional, psychological, and physical abuse can happen to anyone.

One man convinced his wife she could not have her own toothbrush, because married couples share these things. He also never let her have any privacy — she wasn’t even allowed to close the door when she was using the bathroom.

Another husband slept all day so he could keep his wife up at night. He deliberately didn’t let her sleep, controlled what she ate, and hid her medication, which all made her physically weak. Eventually, she even forgot her age because everything down to the way she walked was managed by someone else.

Other stories involved a woman who believed her partner could read her mind, when really he was spying on her with cameras in her house and trackers in her belongings. Another man actually told his wife he had inserted a microphone into her fillings to monitor where she went all day.

“He was actually monitoring her through other routes, but she believed what he said — she had no other explanation for why he knew everything about her days,” Fontes said. “Of course, anyone who she told this to thought she was crazy. This isolated her further.”

For the victim, their life is overwhelmed with wondering how to appease their controlling partner. Fontes said they may even experience physical signs of stress over time such as changes to eating and sleeping, head or back aches, and digestive problems, because they are too worried about their partner’s wrath.

“A person who is being coercively controlled — even without physical violence — does not feel free to live their own life on their own terms,” she said.

If you think you might be a victim of abuse of any kind, you can talk to your GP in confidence, or contact organisations such as Women’s Aid and Victim Support.

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What’s ‘Love Bombing’ And How To Tell If You’ve Been A Victim Of It

From showering you with gifts to messaging you non-stop throughout the day, we delve into the worrying behaviours of a ‘love bomber’, who might have convinced you they’re ‘the one’.
Elle/August 2, 2017
By Katie O’Malle
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A bunch of flowers delivered to your office. A surprise romantic getaway to a secluded countryside cottage for the weekend. A thoughtful phone call when you least expect it. All the signs of the beginning a of loving, caring relationship, right?

Well, perhaps not. In fact, they might be signposts for the opposite, or what is commonly known as ‘love bombing’.

According to Dale Archer, a psychiatrist and author, ‘love bombing’ occurs when people are showered with over-the-top displays of attention and affection. And, we’re not just talking romantic gestures and the occasional home-cooked meal, but romantic conversations, talks of the ‘future’ together, and constant contact via social media, phone calls and messages. The difference between a solid loving relationship and one that is subject to ‘love bombing’ is what happens next…

More often than not, ‘love bombing’ is when these displays of ‘affection’ are grandiose and really over the top, leading people to quickly think they might have found their ‘soul mate’ or ‘the one’. However, they soon find the loving, caring, affection, and understanding behaviour from their partner flips, resulting in unreasonable, controlling and manipulative traits.

What is ‘love bombing’?

In essence, ‘love bombing’ is a form of conditioning tool (otherwise known as a form of abuse), whereby one person in the relationship drowns the other in displays of ‘love’ to maintain power and control.

‘Healthy relationships build slowly, and are based on a series of actions, not a flood of words,’ Archer writes for a blog post titled ‘The Manipulative Partner’s Most Devious Tactic’ for Psychology Today.

The term is widely believed to have been first used by the Unification Church of the United States in the 1970s, whose cult leaders used love as a form of ammunition ‘to con followers into committing mass suicide and murder’, according to Archer.

‘Pimps and gang leaders use ‘love bombing’ to encourage loyalty and obedience as well,’ he writes.

How does it work?

First things first, all relationships are different and just because a partner showers you with love and affection does not mean they’re narcissistic or have psychopathic tendencies that might lead to ‘love bombing’. Some people genuinely are very loving and thoughtful and these sorts of gestures continue long into the relationship with no catch.

However, those who use ‘love bombing’ as a form of control often reinforce their love for their victim by showering them with affection when they act in a certain way that pleases the abuser, and later they will punish that person for behaving in a way that the abuser doesn’t like.

For example, an abuser will post an adorable snap of the two of you at dinner to Facebook, for all to see, with an equally mushy caption about how much you mean to him and how happy he is to be spending the evening with a gorgeous creature like you. The same person, though, when you head out for a dinner without him or go to a club with your friends, will call you ten times and accuse you of cheating/abandoning/not caring enough about him.

”Love bombing’ works because humans have a natural need to feel good about who we are, and often we can’t fill this need on our own,’ writes Archer.

How do you spot ‘love-bombing’?

Getting butterflies, falling head-over-heels, and feeling like you’re falling madly in love with a new boyfriend/girlfriend is very normal in the early months of a relationship.

But, according to Archer, potential love bombing victims often find themselves trapped into having constant contact with a partner, which ultimately convinces them the intensity of the communication is a sign of success and love.

‘If extravagant displays of affection continue indefinitely, if actions match words, and there is no devaluation phase, then it’s probably not “love bombing”,’ adds Archer.

‘On the other hand, if there’s an abrupt shift in the type of attention, from affectionate and loving to controlling and angry, with the pursuing partner making unreasonable demands, that’s a red flag.’

Who is vulnerable?

Joe Pierre, a Health Sciences Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA, explained in Psychology Today that narcissists (aka common ‘love bombers’) are attractive because they display behaviours such as self-sufficiency, confidence, and ambition. Meanwhile, Deborah Ward, author of the book Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness suggests in a different post for the publication that victims are attracted to partners who remind them of their parents.

Quite often, people who have experienced family trauma or turmoil might choose relationships with individuals who show similar traits to their family members, as a way of filling the void or in an attempt to fix what was ‘damaged’. However, this tendency isn’t to be taken as a sign of weakness necessarily, but of potential empathy, argues psychologist Perpetua Neo.

‘People think often if you are attracted to a narcissist, you tend to be someone quite weak and very passive in your life… but they tend to be very high achieving women,’ Neo told Business Insider.

‘A very common trait I see in my clients is they’re over-empathetic… but you stop empathising with yourself, because you explain everything away for other people,’ she adds.

How do you avoid being ‘love bombed’?

When the ‘love bombing’ turns into making a victim feel unappreciated, guilty or devalued, they often strive to get their relationship back to the ‘good old days’, when their partner would shower them with affection and surprises. However, Neo argues that those former positive behaviours were illusory.

‘They “love bomb” and then they devalue you, so you’re always on high alert, and you never want to do anything wrong.

‘Because of that your standards are lowering, your boundaries are getting pinched upon, and you lose your sense of self,’ she adds.

The best thing to do with a new relationship is to take things slow, keep perspective and remind yourself of boundaries so not to feel trapped in a ‘love bombed’ relationship.

Archer urges people to remember the advice: ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.’

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‘It’s like being in a cult for one’: Read 14 tactics used by coercive controllers

East Anglican Daily Times/March 7, 2017
By Gemma Mitchell

Experts in the field of domestic abuse gathered in Suffolk to explore the intricacies of a crime that is “invisible in plain sight”.
A sold-out audience filled the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds on Monday, March 6 for the third Conference on Coercive Control, with presentations from a line-up of celebrated professionals.

Keynote speaker was American university lecturer and author Lisa Aronson Fontes, who described a manipulative relationship as “like being in a cult of one”.

Dr Fontes said dangerous romances often started out happy, with abusers using methods that seem loving, such as constant texting or not wanting to be around anyone else.

She added: “It looks like the care that many women crave, then over time that warm beam gets narrower and narrower and she wants to get that back and she feels like it’s her fault she doesn’t have it.
“Her life is then spent looking for ways of getting into that light again.”

One form of abuse that survivors often feel unable to talk about, Dr Fontes said, is sexual coercion, violence and degradation. This includes revenge porn, sex on demand and forced prostitution.

“Coercive control feels like being trapped in a cage and you can’t get out and you don’t know where to turn,” Dr Fontes added.

Professor Evan Stark, a forensic social worker and lecturer, praised the criminalisation of coercive control – calling it a “revolutionary moment in our women’s movement”.
According to Mr Stark, around 25% of women in abuse relationships are never assaulted, and in some cases it is “low level” harm which police may not take seriously, such as biting, pushing and shoving.

This is where the new law, which was passed in England and Wales in 2015, can come into play.

It carries a maximum prison term of five years for perpetrators who repeatedly subject spouses, partners and other family members to serious psychological, social, financial and emotional torment.

Mr Stark deems coercive control a “liberty crime” that turns victims into “slaves in their own homes”.

He added: “When you smell the suppression of freedom the stench of injustice reeks through society like a great wind.”

Dr Jane Monckton-Smith, an expert in domestic homicide and stalking, told the conference abusers often used coercive control because they were experiencing “separation anxiety” – a fear of losing someone.

She said: “They do not want to be separated from this person that they control because that person is absolutely fundamental to the way they feel about their life.”

It is this trait that can lead to a domestic murder, Dr Monckton-Smith said.

She added: “Some killers say to me once they kill someone it’s like a relief, they don’t have to worry about owning her anymore because she’s gone.”

Organiser Min Grob said she was “ecstatic” about how well received the Conference on Coercive Control had been since she launched it last year.

She added: “What I wanted to do is have coercive control pitched at a level that anyone can get more knowledge or understanding, from frontline workers, professionals and people in relationships or those who know someone who is being coercively controlled.

“It is a day of learning because coercive control is invisible in plain sight and even if you don’t realise it we all know someone in our family that could be being coercively controlled.”

Ms Grob, who has experienced domestic abuse in the past, said putting on an event like this made her feel “safer”.
Here are 14 ways coercive control can exist in an intimate relationship:

– Controlling access to a phone and social media

– Enforcing a certain diet

– Prohibiting or limiting contact with friends, family and health services

– Monitoring and controlling a person’s time or movement

– Regulating what clothes, make up, hairstyle is worn

– Continual belittlement, telling someone they are worthless

– Harming or threatening children

– Jealous accusations

– Constant phone calls, texting and emails

– Controlling access to money and transport

– Forcing sex

– Name calling

– Refusing contraception

– Preventing a person from working and sleeping

With Coercive Control, the Abuse Is Psychological

The New York Times/July 7, 2016
By Abby Ellin

Lisa Fontes’s ex-boyfriend never punched her, or pulled her hair. But he hacked into her computer, and installed a spy cam in her bedroom, and subtly distanced her from her friends and family.

Still, she didn’t think she was a victim of domestic abuse. “I had no way to understand this relationship except it was a bad relationship,” said Dr. Fontes, 54, who teaches adult education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

It was only after doing research on emotional abuse that she discovered a name for what she experienced: Coercive control, a pattern of behavior that some people — usually but not always men — employ to dominate their partners. Coercive control describes an ongoing and multi-pronged strategy, with tactics that include manipulation, humiliation, isolation, financial abuse, stalking, gas lighting and sometimes physical or sexual abuse.

“The number of abusive behaviors don’t matter so much as the degree,” said Dr. Fontes, the author of “Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship.” “One woman told me her husband didn’t want her to sleep on her back. She had to pack the shopping cart a certain way, wear her clothes a certain way, wash herself in the shower in a certain order.”

While the term “coercive control” isn’t widely known in the United States, the concept of nonphysical forms of mistreatment as a kind of domestic abuse is gaining recognition. In May, the hashtag #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou took off on Twitter, with users sharing their own stories.

Last December, England and Wales expanded the definition of domestic abuse to include “coercive and controlling behavior in an intimate or family relationship,” making it a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years. To date, at least four men have been sentenced under the new law.

“In this approach, many acts that had been treated as low-level misdemeanors or not treated as offenses at all are considered as part of a single course of serious criminal conduct,” said Evan Stark, a forensic social worker and professor emeritus at Rutgers University, whose work helped shaped the new law in England and Wales.

Dr. Stark, the author of “Coercive Control,” noted that the English law pertains to a course of conduct over time. American law still does not address coercive control; it deals only with episodes of assault, and mainly protects women who have been subjected to physical attacks. But in about 20 percent of domestic violence cases there is no bodily harm, he said.

Coercive control often escalates to spousal physical violence, as a 2010 study in The Journal of Interpersonal Violence found. “Control is really the issue,” said Connie Beck, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona. “If you can control a person’s basic liberties verbally — where they go, who they see, what they do — you do not necessarily have to hit them regularly, but if a person is not complying, then often physical abuse escalates.”

To a victim of coercive control, a threat might be misinterpreted as love, especially in the early stages of a relationship, or when one is feeling especially vulnerable.

Dr. Fontes, for example, was in her 40s and newly divorced when she met her ex-boyfriend. He was charming and adoring, and though he was a little obsessive, she overlooked it. Never mind that she has a PhD. in counseling psychology, and specializes in child abuse and violence against women.

“For a person looking for love and romance, it can feel wonderful that someone wants to monopolize your time,” she admitted.

For Rachel G., 46, a mother of three who lives outside Boston (she didn’t want her full name used to protect her privacy), the manipulation was all-consuming. Her ex-husband made them share a toothbrush, and wouldn’t let her shut the bathroom door — ever. He set up cameras around the house, and fastened a GPS in her car to track her movements. Sometimes he would show up at her work unannounced, “always framed as him needing to know where I was in case the kids needed me, or because he missed me and wanted to see me, but it was just his way of regulating my behavior.”

She was miserable, but stuck it out for 18 years. It never occurred to her to leave: She had three children, and “he had convinced me that I would be unhappy anywhere,” said Ms. G., who does fund-raising for a nonprofit. “I wasn’t only a bad wife — in every respect — but I was a negligent mother, or an overbearing mother, I was unsupportive of him, I was a bad cook, I prioritized work over family, my family liked him better than me, our friends liked him better than me. The worse I felt about myself and doubted myself and internalized his view of me and the way the world should work, the more submissive and accommodating I became.”

In the end, it was he, not she, who filed for divorce, after catching her in an extramarital affair. She is not proud of her actions, but she is grateful it got her out of the relationship. “I would never have left if he hadn’t filed,” she said. “I was afraid.” Since then, she has been trying to re-establish connections with family members and friends.

Dr. Fontes ultimately left her partner after four years. The decision came after she spent two weeks away from him, and realized how diminished she had become. “There were repeated telephone calls and emails every day, but it was such a relief to wake up and go to sleep without having to check in with this other person,” she said. “I recovered a sense of who I was as a separate person, my own opinions, my own perspective.”

7 Ways to Tell If Your Partner Might Be Manipulative

Everyday Feminism/November 23, 2015
By Suzannah Weiss

“I think I do it to distract myself.”

I was telling a friend about my newly acquired habit of picking the split ends from my waist-length hair.

“From what?”

“Anger.” I thought about it. “I’m angry all the time.”

“With who?”

My eyes darted around the room. I was scared to admit it. “My boyfriend.”

I was so petty. The words came flooding back from my subconscious. How could I be so petty as to resent someone who never yelled at me or physically hurt me, who I loved and wanted more than anything to get along with?

But all the fights that seemed resolved every time he dropped me off at my apartment kept creeping back. Once I’d realize they weren’t resolved, I’d put on Friends reruns and pick at my hair to forget them, the red tips gathering on my white sheets.

It didn’t matter anyway. I was just overreacting. He was so loving and kind in so many ways. I couldn’t just let things go, could I?

I couldn’t. The memories would resurface days and weeks later.

There was the time I refused to lend him money because he hadn’t paid me back last time, and he sarcastically responded that if I want to treat our relationship like a set of transactions, then we’d might as well put everything on a spreadsheet and never get each other gifts.

Selfish. Greedy. Viewing relationships like transactions. That was me. So petty. Such an underserving girlfriend.

The truncated hairs fell one by one, severing the half of me still angry he never paid me back.

“Name one other time I’ve been unreliable,” he asked in order to make me justify my decision.

“You never read my thesis.” He’d said he would “later tonight” one day in January; it was March.

“Of course I’m going to read it. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. It hurts that you don’t believe in me.”

I was hurting him. I didn’t believe in my own boyfriend.

Never mind the money. Never mind the thesis. What was wrong with me?

This was the guy who had surprised me by arriving at my apartment with newly bought ingredients and cooking me dinner. Who had patiently reassured me about all my body image concerns even though I must have sounded ridiculous.

But I was so mad.

Mad he wouldn’t pay me back the money he owed. Mad he didn’t keep his promises. Mad he turned this all around on me. Mad at him for making me mad at myself, and mad at myself for being mad at him.

I picked one hair after another, lost in the hypnotizing strands.

My brain was as split as the tips of my hair. I couldn’t tell which half of me was right.

While caught in this cacophony of conflicting thoughts, I went to a book fair with my boyfriend and a title caught my eye: The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. This should be interesting, I thought. I’m interested in psychology. I stuffed it into my paper bag, all-you-can-fit for five dollars.

It was only during that fleeting moment between our kiss goodbye and my Friends reruns that I admitted to myself why I had really bought that book.

The next day, I opened it instead of my computer. As I half expected, I saw myself – both selves – scattered across the pages.

And in the midst of those pages, I learned that gaslighting – my partner’s technique of making me doubt my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions – was an abusive manipulation tactic. For the first time, I saw why his behavior stressed me out. And it wasn’t because I was a bad partner.

If you can identify any of these six patterns in your own relationship, you may not be a bad partner either. You may simply have been manipulated into believing you are one. If you find yourself in that position, I hope this list helps you the way The Verbally Abusive Relationship helped me: by providing an explanation for your distress other than your own inadequacy.

1. Conflicts Never Feel Resolved

If conflicts from days, weeks, or months ago still bother you even though you’ve discussed them with your partner, it’s possible they manipulated you into believing the discussion was over before it was.

My partner accomplished this manipulation by deflecting blame onto me.

Even if the action under discussion was his, I was just looking at it from the wrong angle. He’d tell me what the right angle was, and I’d feel guilty for not seeing things that way in the first place.

When our arguments were “resolved,” the resolution was usually that I had to work on myself because I was overreacting or my expectations were unreasonable.

Making someone feel oversensitive and unreasonable is gaslighting.

For example, one night, I was painting an instrument he’d built. After he told me what to paint and hovered over me complaining that I was doing it all wrong, I got mad and left the room. When he asked what was wrong, I yelled out of frustration, “You’re so clueless!” (Admittedly, I could have handled this better as well.)

He then gave me a talk about how I needed to stop calling him names like “clueless” to back him into a corner with no choice but apologizing. I panicked. Could I be the manipulative one? Would he break up with me?

I went to the bathroom, and when I got out, I was relieved to find him standing there holding his cat. We stood together and pet her like nothing had ever happened. Forget about my anger toward him. I was just relieved he wasn’t mad at me – so I dropped it.

Our fights went on like this for months, with me getting hurt and then repressing that hurt so he didn’t get mad at me.

As they started getting worse, a friend encouraged me to end the relationship. “But you fight with your boyfriend,” I pointed out.

“Our arguments end, though,” she said.

Finally, I saw why I could never get our arguments out of my mind: None of my concerns were ever addressed. They were simply deflected onto me.

I had stopped taking issue with his actions because I wasn’t allowed to, not because I felt better.

In a healthy relationship, your partner hears you out if you’re upset, and their goal is to avoid upsetting you in the future, not to debate whether you should have been upset in the first place.

2. When Your Partner Hurts You, You End Up Apologizing

Repeatedly gaslighted into believing my feelings were wrong, I grew remorseful for feeling them. Conversations would start with me believing he’d hurt me and end with me apologizing for getting hurt.

He’d convince me I was not only too hard on him, but also myopic. “Life is too short to get mad,” he’d say. “Can’t we just enjoy this nice day together?”

I’d tear up and think about how much I loved him and hated to taint our precious time together and thank him for reminding me what’s important in life and hug him and apologize for being so petty.

I’d go home on a high, feeling like I’d had a revelation about picking my battles, though the high would fade once I realized the conflict wasn’t resolved.

My concerns became results of my own pettiness. They didn’t matter – I was oversensitive, after all. I couldn’t be trusted.

Feeling like your feelings can’t be trusted to the point that you apologize for them is also a sign you’re being gaslighted.

3. You Don’t Feel You Deserve Your Partner

If someone makes you feel like the source of every conflict and convinces you that you’re shortsighted for getting upset, as my partner did by telling me it was unproductive to get angry and that it was my choice to be hurt by him, you may begin to feel like you don’t deserve them.

In fact, I wondered if I would drive all my future partners away for being so over-critical.

I grew to believe he was noble for resisting the urge to argue and I was small-minded in comparison. Thank God he was there to steer me back on track, I’d think. He understood what life was about.

Terrified I didn’t deserve him, I squashed my negative feelings to try to make myself more deserving.

This is what manipulative people want.

“It’s important to remember that you are not the problem; you’re simply being manipulated to feel bad about yourself, so that you’re more likely to surrender your power and rights,” psychologist Preston Ni writes in Psychology Today.

Since I was constantly trying to prove I was deserving, my partner always got what he wanted from me.

4. You’ve Done Things That Make You Uncomfortable to Avoid Conflict

Manipulation occurs when someone tries to force you out of your comfort zone. And I’m not talking about going on a spontaneous trip or trying a new food – I’m talking about disregarding your physical, emotional, or financial boundaries.

Manipulative people have sneaky ways of making their partners think their comfort zones don’t matter.

My partner’s chosen method was convincing me my comfort zone was unreasonable and that respecting it would mean disrespecting his.

The first boundary he coaxed me to cross was my standard for safer sex.

Since he’d had unprotected sex since he’d last gotten tested, I wanted him to get tested or use a condom before sleeping with me. He told me condoms hurt, so I asked him to get tested – for months.

He kept saying he would make appointments but never did. Eventually, he confessed that doctors’ offices made him anxious. He told me he’d only had unprotected sex one time since he was last tested and she said she was STI-negative, so it shouldn’t be an issue. I got sick of having the same discussion over and over, so I gave in and had unprotected sex.

My decision was not safe either, but it was understandable given the alternative. I didn’t want to dishonor his own feelings about condoms or doctors’ offices and put him out of his comfort zone.

The next boundary he wore away at was financial. Since I made more money than him, he argued, I should cover our dates when he was short on cash.

I had enough money to pay for his meals, so I again felt petty that it made me uncomfortable. Why was I putting my own ability to save money over his ability to enjoy our time together?

He also got me to cough up cash by telling me I was privileged and couldn’t understand what he was going through. I didn’t want to be unsympathetic, so I helped him out. I was afraid I’d be an inconsiderate, spoiled girlfriend if I didn’t.

As these stories show, his weapon of choice was not overt aggression, but intellectual, seemingly rational arguments. If I couldn’t justify my boundaries intellectually, I couldn’t have them.

That’s the ultimate manipulation – not violating the boundaries you’re defending, but convincing you to take them down on your own.

5. They Don’t Answer Your Questions Directly

My partner once taught me a trick for job interviews.

If someone stumps you with a question, he said, change the subject. Talk about how passionate you are about your work, how you always give it 100%, how you don’t like to say 110% because that’s an imaginary standard that doesn’t hold us accountable. By the time you’re done, the interviewer won’t remember what they asked you.

I soon realized he took this same approach to our conversations, which explained why so many of them left me wondering “Where did this all start?” only to realize they started with me unhappy.

When I’d try to tell him something was wrong in our relationship or even discuss a problem in my life that wasn’t about him, he’d bring up a tangentially related experience of his own or an abstract philosophical concept that had nothing to do with us. It was maddening.

Manipulative people do this so you can’t expose them.

Instead of confronting their mistakes, they divert your attention to something else, often with an emotional story that you’d feel bad interrupting. So, you comply with their subject change and try to forget how the conversation started in the first place.

Unfortunately, if it started with something important to you, it comes back to haunt you later.

6. You Feel Like Two Different People

One minute, I’d be complaining about my partner to my friends and family. The next, I’d be defending him against their claims that he wasn’t good for me. One minute, I’d vow to change my ways and hold him to lower expectations. The next, I’d be angry with him for not meeting the expectations I held.

I felt like I had split personalities, my allegiances constantly shifting. My thoughts were muddled and confused.

But after gaining an understanding of manipulation, I realized the version of me that was aligned with him was not based on my own original thoughts. He had manipulated me into advocating for him.

In fact, when I defended him, I sounded just like him. I ranted about how misunderstood he was. “Gas prices are ridiculous these days,” I’d point out when my friends found his habit of backing out of plans due to insufficient funds inconsiderate. “There was only one time he could have gotten anything,” I’d say to downplay the whole STI debacle. “I’m not perfect either,” I’d remind my friends, repeating something he liked to remind me.

I was in the middle of defending my boyfriend’s decision not to share any of the food in his house with me when my dad yelled, “Snap out of it!” Something clicked, and I realized I had been upset about all these things, too, before my partner convinced me they were no big deal.

Thankfully, I had family and friends who stood up for me – and stood up to me when I was gaslighting myself. Eventually, it became impossible to play the roles of both the loyal girlfriend and the friend and daughter of people who wanted the best for me. I had to pick one version of myself.

So I decided to speak up.

7. They Manipulate Your Beliefs About the Manipulation Itself

If you want to confront a manipulative person, Ni writes that they behave like bullies, so as you would stand up to a bully, “be sure to place yourself in a position where you can safely protect yourself, whether it’s standing tall on your own, having other people present to witness and support, or keeping a paper trail of the bully’s inappropriate behavior.”

But sometimes that doesn’t work. In my case, my partner used my “paper trail” as further evidence of my own pettiness.

That September, I pointed out that he still hadn’t read the thesis he promised to read in January. I didn’t even care about the thesis anymore, but I wanted him to understand why I had trouble putting faith in him rather than portraying my lack of trust as an attack.

“You didn’t have the right to yell at me for calling you out on not reading my thesis,” I said.

“Yes, I did.”

And that was about when I knew our relationship was headed downhill for good.

I was starting to see I didn’t deserve to feel like an ice queen for asking to split expenses or like I had to compromise my sexual boundaries to make him comfortable. And I knew that as long as I stayed with him, I would feel those pressures.

I dragged myself out of that relationship kicking and screaming, but I haven’t looked back since.

In her follow-up book The Verbally Abusive Man: Can He Change?, Evans writes that some verbally abusive people can change if they truly understand what they’re doing, which usually requires therapy, while others don’t recognize themselves as abusive.

When you confront a manipulative person, they will either take a good, hard look at themselves, or they will manipulate you into unseeing the manipulation.

That’s the final sign that you’re in a relationship with a manipulative person – and a loud and clear signal that they won’t change.

By the time of that conversation, I had already seen my partner’s manipulation too clearly for him to deny it, no matter how convincing his arguments were.

I hope that if you are being manipulated, what was previously fuzzy and confusing and so maddening you wanted to tear your hair out has come into focus for you as well.

Over two years since I ended that relationship, I’m still learning to view myself in a more positive light. I still gaslight myself all the time, but when I catch myself doing this, I try to remember my negative feelings are a sign something’s wrong, not a character flaw.

And I no longer pick my split ends.

In the Name of Love: Abusive Controlling Relationships (DVD)

How do individuals get involved with cults in the first place, and what steps can be taken to “deprogram” and heal those who have been drawn into these damaging groups? These questions and more are addressed in Cults Inside Out, written by a leading cult expert Rick Alan Ross. Over the course of three decades, Ross has participated in around five hundred cult interventions, provided expert court testimony, and performed cult-related work all around the world. With the help of current and former cult members, Ross demonstrates many of the tactics the groups use for control and manipulation-and, more importantly, some of the most effective methods he and other experts have used to reverse that programming. As a result, readers will find themselves armed with a greater understanding of the nature of destructive cults and an improved ability to assess and deal with similar situations-either in their own lives or the lives of friends and family members.Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out
In the Name of Love: Abusive and Controlling Relationships 

One third of American women report that at some time in their lives they were involved in abusive controlling and often violent relationships. Entertainer Tina Turner and Nicole Brown Simpson were just two well-known examples. Why don’t the victims of abusive partners leave? What draws them into and holds them much like prisoners within destructive and potentially unsafe relationships?

In the Name of Love: Abusive and Controlling Relationships

Cults: An Educational Volume 

A review of the cult problem and its history; a detailed explanation of cult “brainwashing” techniques; the warning signs of cult involvement; most frequently asked questions about cults and cult involvement; coping strategies when dealing with cult members; and bringing people out of cults through planned interventions

Cults: An Educational Volume

Prison camp mentality keeps domestic violence going

Cabot Star-Herald/May 14, 2005
By Ed Galucki

Beatings, injuries, rape, fear – even death. Bad enough on the streets, but it appears that a growing number of persons in Lonoke County have these as part of their home life. Why does someone stay in the face of such danger? The answer has its roots in prisons, concentration camps and brainwashing.

The relationships in domestic violence are complex, and are the result of careful manipulation by the abuser, Charlotte Carroll, founder of a battered women’s shelter at Stuttgart, said. Carroll gave her own account of domestic violence at a public meeting sponsored by Lonoke County Safe Haven.

In a long-term relationship, simply leaving is possibly the most difficult option, Carroll said. “It’s just not that easy,” she exclaimed.

Lona McCastlain, Lonoke County prosecuting attorney, said it is likely every person in the county knows someone in a violent relationship. “You see it, but you really do not put a face to it… Death is not uncommon,” she remarked.

Her office deals with large numbers of domestic violence cases each year. There were 217 domestic violence cases last year, that includes everything from misdemeanor violation of protective orders, to battery, to rape, to murder, McCastlain said. “The need is here,” she declared.

It is not a simple family argument, Carroll said of her 23 years in a violent relationship.

People need to realize that there are reasons victims choose to remain in a violent relationship, Carroll said. Most victims are in conditions very similar to those used in concentration camps — reduce victims to submission, she said.

“It is all about control,” Carroll said. Superficially, a person appears to be very confident, but in reality is very insecure and needs to control, she said.

“I have been battered, beaten, ridiculed; I have had a 30.06 put in my mouth, a knife put to my throat; I have been kicked with sharp-pointed cowboy boots; I have been whipped with a belt,” Carroll recounted.

“I never understood why [the beatings occurred], but it was my fault,” Carroll said. Other women who shared experiences repeated that, she said.

“They thought it was their fault. ‘If I hadn’t have done this, then you wouldn’t done that – I made him do it,’” Carroll said of a victim’s reasoning.

Carroll said she becomes upset with officers who question a victim about what she had done to provoke an attack. “She didn’t have to do anything to make him do that; it is his problem,” she exclaimed. An attacker’s reactions are his choices, Carroll declared.

More upsetting are comments that a woman should just leave, or, worse, “She must like it or else she wouldn’t stay,” Carroll exclaimed. “Let me tell you, leaving is not easy,” she declared.

First, a woman is, “Scared to death,” Carroll said. “He has already proven that he can hurt you, and he can hurt you bad.”

Second, if there are children involved, a mother is not going to leave, Carroll said. “You are not going to go out that door and leave those kids behind,” she declared.

The longer one stays in a relationship, the harder it is to get out, “Because you have so much invested in it…You have to get to the point that nothing else matters but your and your children’s sanity and safety,” Carroll exclaimed.

Examples abound of how far the victim’s mindset can allow the conditions to continue. One woman, new to the Stuttgart shelter, cried because she was told she could fix whatever she wanted for a meal. “She had never been able to do that,” Carroll said.

Until then everything was determined by husband; what she was to do, what she was to wear, where she was to go, what time supper was to be ready, and what was supposed to be fixed, Carroll recalled. “If it was not done the exact way he told her to do it, she got beaten,” she said.

Carroll said she was 19 when she first met the man she later married. Actually, she did not like him at first; “I thought he acted like he had a ‘chip on his shoulder,’” she recalled. But over time he won her over and she fell in love with him, she said.

Looking back now, she can see the warning signs that she could not see at the time; it is said “Love is blind.’ “It also makes you blind, stupid and deaf,” she remarked.

“He would get upset with me when I didn’t do the things he wanted me to do,” Carroll said. “But he wouldn’t tell me why he was mad at me.”

Questions about what was wrong would not get a clear answer, Carroll recalled. “He’d say, ‘You know what’s wrong,’” she said.

Nurturing women, those who wish to please, are most targeted; not women who would say, “Well, forget you,” Carroll said.

“I was going to be the perfect wife, perfect mother,” she said. “We were close. Went everywhere together, did everything together. I liked it that way, I thought, ‘He really loves me because he can’t stand to be away from me,’” she recalled.

But he restricted her visits to family, she said. Later, a move from Georgia to a home in the Arkansas countryside only ended up isolating her from friends and family, she said.

When he was gone for lengths of time, questions about where he had been would be rebuffed; she was not to ask where he had been, Carroll recalled.

Carroll recalled an incident when she had gone fishing with friends and was not home when he came home, when it seemed the treatment became worse. So began a cycle of beating and remorse, when she would get almost anything she wanted after being beaten.

Carroll said conditions were chillingly parallel to those described in Biderman’s Chart of Coercion, which outlines tactics also used in concentration camps and brainwashing.

“One night he put me outside on the porch. It was freezing cold and I was in my nightgown. I stayed outside, in the carport, in the corner. I was too ashamed, I didn’t want anybody to see me, and so I wouldn’t even go to a neighbor. The next morning, he opened the door, and said, ‘You think you can behave now?’” Carroll recalled.

“But it gets to the point that he will kill me if I stay, and kill me if I go,” Carroll said. The scariest time was when she finally drew up the courage to leave, she said.

However, at the time, there was little help for a victim trying to break free. When he attacked her, for the police it was simply a matter of an argument between husband and wife.

She was asked if she was in the process of getting a divorce. When she said, “No,” the reply was that without a protective order, there was nothing the officers could do.

She filed for divorce and got a protective order, but her husband violated it and attacked her. “He held a knife to my throat, even cut me,” she said.

“I called the police, and they asked if there were any witnesses,” Carroll recalled. “When I said, ‘No,’ they said, ‘Well ma’am, you could have done that,” she said.

But she stood by her decision to leave, nothing he used to get her back before worked anymore. The final battle was custody of her daughter, and when that was over, there were new problems, and she had to face them alone.

Crucial to the “escape” is a place to go, but a woman often has nothing, no car, no money, no job. Carroll said. “Make a plan of escape, have your bags packed, have money hidden, get spare car keys made, get all your important papers together – birth certificates, driver’s license, shot records, social security cards, anything,” Carroll advised.

“Keep it all in a safe place, at a friend’s house. Get together anything of value to sell, you will need the money because the first thing that will happen is that he will tie up all the bank accounts,” Carroll said.

It takes an average of seven attempts for a woman to leave a violent relationship, Carroll said.

McCastlain said eventually women cannot stand to see the children tortured any longer, or the woman realizes they will lose their life if they stay. “They are going to have to have a place to go, that is why a shelter is so important,” McCastlain exclaimed.

Lonoke County Safe Haven is a local group trying to establish a refuge, a Safe Haven, for women fleeing from a violent, potentially fatal, relationship.

Safe Haven is at its earliest stages and help is needed; both volunteer and with donations, J.M. Park, one of the members of the Safe Haven steering committee, said during the meeting. But domestic violence in the county has to be dealt with, and people need to know of the alarming incidence of it, he said.

The goal is a shelter, but the first step is going to be a 24-hour help line, staffed with volunteers, he said at the meeting.

Why we love the ones who hurt us

MSNBC News/May 11, 2005
By Clint Van Zandt

In August 1973, a heavily-armed robber by the name of Olafson swaggered into a busy bank in downtown Stockholm, Sweden. Firing shots as he entered, he took three women and a man hostage, strapped dynamite to their bodies, and herded them into a subterranean bank vault where he refused police demands for his surrender and the release of his hostages for the next six days.

After the eventual arrest of the robbers (a friend of the bank robber who was in prison at the time had been brought mid-standoff to the bank at the demand of Olafson) and the rescue of the four victims, the continued friendly and caring attitude on the part of some of the hostages toward their captors was viewed with suspicion. This was especially so when the police considered that the captives were abused, threatened, and had allegedly feared for their lives during the week they had been held against their will. Authorities were even more amazed when they found out that one or more of the female hostages may have had consensual physical intimacy with their captors.

The relationship between the robbers and their former captives thereafter saw former hostage Kristin break off her engagement to another man in order to become engaged to Olafson; while another former hostage started a defense fund to pay for the robbers’ legal defense.

The relationship that develops between hostages and their captors is now known as “the Stockholm Syndrome,” a type of emotional bonding that is in reality a survival strategy for victims of emotional and physical abuse— including not only hostages, but also battered spouses and partners, abused children, and even POWs.

Hostage in abusive relationships

Although not victims of a robbery or hostage situation, 700,000 Americans per year experience non-fatal physical domestic violence. There are about 8 million individuals involved in emotionally and physically abusive relationships at any one time. About 20 percent of all women report having been assaulted by an intimate partner in their lifetime. In same-gender partner violence, over half a million gay men are victims of domestic violence. Ten percent of high school students and 40 percent of college students report being assaulted by a date, and 20 to 25 percent of college women report rape during college. The vast majority of rapes and intimate partner violence, whether the victim is male or female, still go unreported.

The bond that exists between the captor/abuser and his or her victim is strong and can compel the victim to stay with (or otherwise support the actions of the abuser) when the need to run is blatantly obvious to everyone but the victim. The investment that one has made in the relationship directly impacts the ability to recognize the negative or threatening aspects of the association. This also affects the ability to either correct or flee.

People share various intimacies with their significant others (who may also be an abuser). Abusers can threaten to tell other people about the “special” aspects of their relationship, if he or she does not do exactly as the abuser says. Victims may have become financially dependent on the abuser and find themselves unable to pay their own way, or they may believe that they can’t make it in life without the other’s physical and financial support. Many have allowed an abusive relationship to stay hidden from family and friends, and people have stayed in these kinds of relationships so as not to embarrass themselves or their abuser. (One woman whose husband made her “pretend” to beg for physical intimacy with him told me that she’d be too embarrassed for “her husband’s sake” to ever ask for help, even though this aspect of their relationship emotionally devastated her.)

Some abused individuals have had children with their abuser; therefore they keep quiet so as not to “damage” their family reputation or otherwise impact on the “stability” of their family, forgetting that to allowing one’s self to be abused in front of one’s children only paves the way for further victimization. Allowing abuse to go on in a family also sets a negative example that children may follow, perpetuating the abuse from generation to generation.

Why don’t victims just leave?

Abused individuals are questioned by family and friends as to why they take the mistreatment and why they just don’t leave. This is one of the many situations in life where you must have walked a mile in the shoes of another to understand their situation. A long-term relationship is just that for many of us— long-term. We have invested much of ourselves into the relationship and it just isn’t like selling a car that continues to break down. A large part of one’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem is likely to have been invested in the relationship and, like the broken down car, we just want it fixed and running— as we neither want nor can afford a new car or a new relationship.

Hostage negotiators know that they cannot argue or otherwise talk a delusional individual out of their delusion. They will not listen to the negotiator, or they will somehow incorporate the negotiator into their delusion. They can write off the negotiator off as someone who “just doesn’t understand.”

If you are in a long-term abusive relationship, your choice may be to ignore the warnings of others,believing that those opinions could destroy your relationship. The logic goes that the person offering advice simply doesn’t understand your situation and doesn’t know that their well-meaning advice, if taken, could destroy your relationship with your spouse or partner. But the long-term effects of abuse include depression; suicide or attempted suicide; anxiety; guilt; withdrawal from school, work and social settings; feelings of shame; and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (both on the one abused and on any children in the family).

What to do if you’re in an abusive relationship

Understand that an abusive individual will continue to abuse you until you stop him or her from doing so, even if it requires you to emotionally and physically separate yourself from your abuser. But don’t allow your abuser to separate you from your contact with family and friends. They are your support system and you need them to help you maintain a healthy frame of reference concerning your life, your relationship, and the world.

If the victim of the abusive relationship is your child or a friend, you need to remain supportive and not put even more stress, pressure, and guilt on the abused individual. An abuser can change, but he/she must want to change, and the longer he is allowed to abuse, the less likely he is to alter his behavior. If emotional or physical abuse is present in a dating relationship, know that the abuser is a loser; the abuse will become worse as time goes by, so turn on your heels and move quickly away from the influence of this person. Period.

If you, your friend, or your child is involved in a long-term abusive relationship, including a marriage with children, again know that the abuse is not likely to end without outside assistance. The more you pretend it isn’t happening, or the more you accept abusive behavior in your home and within your family, the more will come your way.

I recall a woman who told us that she helped her husband commit a kidnapping and murder because “If he was occupied doing something else, he was too busy to abuse me.”

The abuser may threaten you or even himself (“I’ll kill myself if you leave,” or “I’ll lose my job if you tell”) in an attempt to control you and keep you as his helpless victim. He may abuse and then— even beg— for your forgiveness, only to reoffend in the near future. If the abuse is due to a mental disorder, a personality disorder, or substance abuse, there is no way that it will get any better. It will definitely get worse. Some victims will become so conditioned to their abuser’s actions that they cannot function without the co-dependent relationship with their abuser.

Like cancer, abuse will not heal itself and if left alone, it can destroy your lifestyle and happiness. It may even take your life. Be quick to demand that the abuse ends— and if it doesn’t, know that your decision is either to continue to be emotionally and perhaps physically pounded on, or to seek outside help to save the relationship, and possibly save your very life or that of your children.

Not everyone continues to take this abuse and many have successfully altered the behavior within the relationship— or left the relationship to ultimately survive and thrive. We all need to endure the many challenges and traumas of life in ways that preserve our sense of self worth and self-esteem. We don’t have to be victims and we don’t have to accept abuse at the hands of others, especially a supposed intimate whom we initially trusted and loved and who now hurts us with clock-like regularity. We each have an inner voice that tells us when something is really wrong. In the case of abusive relationships, listen to the voice and then do something about it. Your very life is on the line.

Oh, and by the way. Remember the Stockholm bank robbery where the hostages gave into their captors? In another similar situation, the police sniper had to shoot an armed hostage-taker who was threatening the lives of two female hostages. When shot, the robber fell to the floor, whereupon his two female hostages picked him up off the floor and held him in front of a window so that he could be shot a second time. (No second shot was needed.)

Stay safe!

The Stockholm Syndrome

Signs and symptoms

As an FBI hostage negotiator and behavioral profiler, I taught others that this so-called syndrome or set of symptoms includes certain behaviors that may be exhibited during a significant personal challenge or stressful situation, including:

Positive feelings towards kidnapper/abuser

Victims have positive feelings towards the hostage taker, kidnapper, abuser or controller in his or her life.

Negative towards help

Victims have negative feelings towards the authorities, family members, or friends who try to rescue or otherwise win the victim’s release from their threatening and/or challenging situation. By this, any rescue attempt– be it from a volatile hostage situation or a volatile marriage– could be seen as a threat as it’s likely that the “victim” could be injured (physically or emotionally) during any attempt at “rescue.”

Supporting their reasoning

Victims support the hostage taker’s or the abuser’s behavior and reasoning, including assisting, helping, or refusing to acknowledge the negative impact of the individual’s behavior and actions.

Inability to escape

The victim is unable to behave or assist in a manner to help his/herself escape from a challenging or threatening situation.

Verbal abuse often as damaging as physical

Berating typically used for controlling others

The Journal Gazette/April 14, 2005
By Stefanie Scarlett

We’ve all heard them: the couple who scream obscenities at each other in public, the overzealous parent who berates a child for failing to catch the ball during the big game.

Examples of verbal, or emotional, abuse are everywhere: Just turn on “Jerry Springer” almost any day of the week.

Stephen Jackson of the Indiana Pacers was suspended for a game in February after verbally abusing an official, just the latest athlete to be punished for such an offense.

The Center for Nonviolence in Fort Wayne defines violence as “any words or actions that hurt and control another, cause fear or make someone feel belittled or weak and powerless,” coordinator John Beams says.

It can take the form of blaming, criticizing, humiliating, name-calling, threatening or trivializing someone else as a way to gain control or exert power.

One of the more stunning media examples of verbal abuse came from Jonathan Baker and Victoria Fuller, a married couple who appeared on “The Amazing Race 6” this year and shocked other racers and fans with their ongoing and intense bickering.

In the eyes of many viewers, Baker berated and blamed his wife for every problem they encountered, which left Fuller in tears more than once.

After the race, they were chastised on prime-time television by no less than Dr. Phil. The couple has said “The Amazing Race” didn’t portray their relationship accurately, that things weren’t nearly as bad as they seemed and that they were affected by the stress of competition.

They are still together – and are filming a reality show based on their post-“Race” experiences.

Some might say it’s yet another example of undeserving people being rewarded for their bad behavior.

Of course, many of us will watch.

“In entertainment, the producers are often looking for shock value. There are tremendous amounts of violence and abuse on TV, so people can see the most titillating, shocking things possible & which makes it appear to young people that it’s an OK thing to do,” says Patricia Evans, the author of several books on verbal abuse and runs the Evans Interpersonal Communications Institute in Alamo, Calif.

She didn’t see the Baker-Fuller arguments. But there are plenty of other examples, such as “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell, whom Evans takes to task for his biting criticism and disparaging comments to young wannabe singers.

The problem is the other view, the calm voice of reason to explain that belittling others is wrong, usually isn’t heard in the same context to counteract the effect, she says.

That absence is notable in many TV programs and video games, both of which “have had a horrendous effect on our collective inability to learn the hard task of living in a civilized world,” Beams agrees.

It’s especially troubling, he says, because both forms of media are greedily consumed by children and teens, often without their parents present to discuss what they’re seeing.

But media do not necessarily create a new generation of potential abusers; some might argue what we see is just a reflection of what’s going on in the culture anyway.

So how did we get this way?

Part of it might be due to cultural socialization, Beams says.

“Aggression and control are still very much a part of male identity today & the traditional female socialization tends to still value being more nurturing and more yielding.”

So when the two meet up in romantic relationships, there can be communication problems.

“The same words, spoken by a man or a woman, can have a different impact,” he says.

In many cases, verbal abuse is something that both partners engage in.

In some cases, it leads to physical abuse.

Although anyone can be an abuser, statistics show the majority of them are male, although male victims likely are underreported.

In situations of verbal abuse, the abusers focus on their intent, and not the effect, of their actions, Beams says.

They might explain their behavior by saying, ” “I was just trying to express myself; I was just blowing off steam; I was trying to motivate people; or I was raised in a family where people talked that way all the time,’ ” he says. “If you focus on intent, you’d think there never was abuse.”

Evans agrees, saying that abusers will often accuse their victims of starting arguments or being too sensitive, when they really are just trying to defend themselves.

“Verbal abuse is like brainwashing – it makes the target or victim confused, feeling crazy and struggling to remain herself, while her awareness is constantly assaulted,” she says.

Most cases stem either from habit, or “tit-for-tat escalation” where one person is determined to get payback and it keeps going, Beams says.

“For some people, there’s sort of a gain to be had from baiting somebody else & all the better if they can get that person to try to respond to them, argue with them. There are some really angry people in this world,” says Jeannie DiClementi, assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Verbal abuse is a learned behavior; some people aren’t even aware that what they’re doing is hurtful to others, she says.

“Sometimes people resort to swearing and name-calling because they lack the communication skills to express themselves properly. But it’s not a form of communication … calling somebody a ‘bitch’ gives you no information whatsoever,” DiClementi says. “It’s not something to be taken lightly.”

Long-term cases of verbal abuse are damaging to both children and adults.

“Abusing loved ones does not teach anybody a lesson, at least not a good lesson,” Beams says.

“It damages self-esteem, self-image. People begin to internalize it; they feel powerless, they feel helpless. If you hear it enough, you begin to believe it,” DiClementi says.

Experts advise that if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, you should seek help.

Beams and DiClementi suggest the following:

“Examine your own behavior. Pay attention to how people react to you, in good times and bad. Are they hurt or afraid or angry because of something you said, or how you said it?

“Fight the need to always be right, or always win the argument.

“Set limits to name-calling, criticizing and blaming, especially in front of your children.

“Don’t repeat the same arguments over and over.

“Learn better communication skills through counseling or group therapy.

“And perhaps most importantly, if you’re feeling emotional, think before you speak.

Brainwashing agitates victims into submission

Palm Beach Post/March 14, 2003
By Michael Browning

Was Elizabeth Smart — the Utah teenager snatched from her bedroom last June, then remarkably rescued Wednesday — brainwashed into staying with her captors?

Her father, Ed Smart, said Thursday he knows “that she’s been through brainwashing,” though he has not asked his daughter for details about her nine-month ordeal.

The American view of mind control is more sensational than clinical. The public tends to remember how attorney F. Lee Bailey defended heiress Patty Hearst in the 1970s, claiming she was brainwashed into joining her kidnappers in their crime spree.

But where, exactly, did he get the idea?

“Brainwashing” is one of the few Chinese phrases to have made its way directly into English in translation, thanks to the Korean War. Chinese Taoist temples often displayed the two characters “Xi Xin,” pronounced “shee shin,” meaning “Wash Heart.” It was an adjuration to all those entering to purge their hearts of base thoughts [i.e. Chinese Thought Reform] and desires, and rise to a higher spiritual plane.

The Chinese communists adopted this phrase during political “struggle sessions,” in which an erring comrade would be urged by the group to straighten out, fly right, get back in tune with the common goal. The very word for “comrade” in Chinese is tongzhi, meaning “share goal.”

Only one slight change was made: Instead of washing the heart, one was urged to wash the brain, “Xi Nao,” purify one’s thoughts.

During the Korean War, captured American soldiers were subjected to prolonged interrogations and harangues by their captors, who often worked in relays and used the “good-cop, bad-cop” approach, alternating a brutal interrogator with a gentle one.

It was all part of “Xi Nao,” washing the brain. The Chinese and Koreans were making valiant attempts to convert the captives to the communist way of thought.

Soldiers sometimes caved in, sometimes did not. For some reason, sociologists later noted, the Turks proved the toughest to persuade, while Americans were a mixed lot. Some were converted, some actually defected and at least one was living in China as late as the 1980s.

British journalist Edward Hunter translated the term brainwashing in his 1953 book, Brain-Washing in Red China, which described communist techniques for controlling the minds of nonbelievers.

The word gained wide currency, given a powerful assist by the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate, which revolved around the plot device of brainwashing. In the film, with the flip of a queen of diamonds card, a pre-programmed and seemingly normal person could be turned into an assassin. The device was revived in a later film, Telefon, starring Charles Bronson.

In 1968, when Michigan Gov. George Romney claimed that the Johnson administration had “brainwashed” him about Vietnam, Sen. Eugene McCarthy quipped that, in Romney’s case, “a light rinse would have done.” Romney, who was creating excitement in the Republican presidential nomination contest, quickly faded, clearing the way for Richard Nixon.

But it was the 1970s kidnapping of Hearst, 19-year-old heiress to the publishing fortune, that brought brainwashing into the courtroom. Hearst was held in a closet and tortured for several months by the Symbionese Liberation Army, which she then joined and aided in several armed robberies — changing her name to Tania.

Her attorney, Bailey, said she had been brainwashed. The defense didn’t succeed. Hearst was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The brainwashing defense has recently been tried again to explain the behavior of men arrested for their association with terrorists and terrorism. A friend of John “American Tailbone” Walker’s told People magazine that Al-Qaeda had brainwashed Walker. Slate magazine reported that Abd-Samad Moussaoui, the brother of Zacarias “20th Hijacker” Moussaoui, believes that, in Britain, his brother “became prey to an extremist brainwashing cult.”

The real soldiers who survived the Korean War and returned to the United States carried with them the stigma and guilt of having been captured and having survived the war and their interrogations. “Survivor’s guilt” is a common trait among prisoners of war.

So brainwashing became a pejorative, and the phrase “you’ve been brainwashed,” a term of reproach, as if the prisoner had become addlebrained, or a simpleton, during his captivity.

Sometimes the brainwashing sessions backfired ludicrously. There is the story of one British soldier who, during an interrogation session, was asked how much land his family owned.

The Englishman replied that he had only a window box in a flat back in London where he grew geraniums.

The translator didn’t understand what a window box was and asked the dimensions of the plot of ground. When the soldier showed him, with his hands, the interrogator brightened immediately.

“Ah, then you should be on our side! Obviously you are a small land owner and have been exploited terribly!” he said.