Photo credit: Homespun Engineer.
I kid you not, almost weekly I’m introduced to a woman (and sometimes a man) who has just survived a relationship riddled with narcissistic abuse.
It brings up different memories and reminds me of the subtleties that can be dismissed when you're living in it, like isolation techniques I wrote about in this recent blog post. It’s those subtleties that all add up to one big fat directive: Run.
Let’s talk about blocking/diversion and repetition. It sounds like child's play and it certainly feels that way as the receiver.
For example, with blocking/diversion, it’s as if the partner dolling out abuse is incapable of going to a place of introspection.
Travel back in time with me. About one year ago, I learned about one of the dating site relationships he engaged in (from the woman who bravely reached out to me with screenshots of said communication) while he still making me believe he was only focusing on his kids and was forever loving me. After seeing with my own eyes the reality of the situation, I pressed him about it. I didn’t press him about the relationship, per se, but more about his tactics in the dialogue I read between he and the woman from the dating site. It was clear he was using what I now refer to as “The Script,” i.e., he immediately started wooing her with promises of tantric massage as a way to help her take care of herself and “give back to her.” Within a 24-hour time span of meeting her on social media, he was utilizing his “I’m a good guy who cares about you; therefore, I will take care of you and perform tantric massage and then make love for hours ” technique. Ya know, same old pick up lines most guys use. Ha! As you can tell (read: sarcasm), it's very simlar to "Hi, it's nice to meet you. Maybe you'd like to get coffee sometime?"
Here’s where the diversion comes in. When I confronted him about all of the women who were writing to me saying he was using the same lines and tactics (like what I laid about above), I said, “Look, your daughter is young now but a few years down the road she is going to be dating. Would you want your daughter to meet YOU—with your predatory tactics and grandiose promises of sexual healing massage on the very first day of communication? Only to get what you want and then move on to the next woman?”
You know what I got? Dead silence. No answer. I can only figure he read it and then completely blocked it from his mind, and then blocked me from getting an answer. He skipped past it and moved on to throwing more mud at me—a diversion tactic.
The second tactic I want to share today—repetition—used to drive me up a wall. In the middle of an argument, instead of dialoguing back and forth like people do who are emotionally mature, he would repeat the same phrase over and over again. For example, in a text argument where he didn’t agree with a choice I made, I would get “Ask Scott and Cindy, they know best” over and over again no matter what I said. No matter what I asked. He would repeat the same phrase more than a dozen times, in most cases. It now reminds me of the childhood comeback, “I know you are but what am i?” It felt like I was trying to reason with a toddler.
If this happens or has happened in your life, it’s a tell-tale sign you’re involved with someone who lacks emotional maturity. Outwardly, they can project the image of being wise and mature, but the minute this type of behavior starts, know you’re in a losing battle. You can’t reason with someone who isn't a rational thinker.
Blocking/diversion and repetition are road signs telling you to get off the road, now. Exit immediately. I wish someone had explained this to me when I was knee-deep in it—I just kept trying to understand it from his perspective. No matter what the argument is or the context around it, if the person you’re with just stonewalls you with the same phrase over and over again or completely ignores something you say, you’re not with a person who will grow with you. He or she will likely remain stuck emotionally at an age far younger than you can imagine or want. Save yourself from a lifetime of child's play.
There are so many names out there right now to describe similar abuses—narcissistic abuse, psychological abuse, and sociopathic abuse, to name a few. I’ve found it’s less important to put a name to it than it is to recognize it. I didn’t know what it looked like so I had no clue to watch for signs. With that said, when I was struggling with what the hell was going on in the abusive relationship I was in, I did strongly connect to articles written about being in relationships with people who were diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and/or Borderline Personality Disorder; however, I do not know if he would be diagnosed with either. While he went to my therapist once to appease me, I know he would never go in order to seek answers because he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way he treats women. As you can guess, that’s a sign.
Many women of all ages have been asking me, “Is this abusive? If he does this, does that mean he’s a narcissist?” It’s so tricky because there’s a preconceived notion that “narcissists” are the guys who are constantly seeking attention for their looks and come across as cocky. Not all people who are prone to dishing out psychological abuse act this way. Many are chameleons who morph given their environment and intent to connect with someone, and can publicly look like they are loving, caring, empathic human beings. This is why it’s so hard to tell, initially, if someone is abusive at first glance. Let's face it—people aren't abusive from the get-go. They need to hook you first.
Today, I want to talk about two behaviors/truths that quickly became red flags for me but I didn't see them as abusive, at first. They aren’t talked about as frequently as other red flags, like love bombing and gas lighting, but based on the women I’ve spoken with who have endured emotional and verbal abuse in romantic relationships, they seem to be common indicators.
First, let’s tackle what happens when you don’t back them up 100% all of the time. We’re not talking playing devil’s advocate, we’re talking not living up to their warped expectations of full agreement. Any "slight" on them is as if you've cut them with a knife. Prepare for the backlash.
For example, when we were traveling for work early on in the relationship (maybe 3 months), all was going well on the drive from High Point, NC back up to Philadelphia until a friend of ours called and said something that made him angry. I simply said, like I would with anyone, “Maybe she was feeling x, and that’s the place she was coming from when she said that.” What he heard was, “I’m not backing you up 100% on this.” The ride got very quiet. We ended up in a crappy motel room a few hours outside of Philly. I apologized for it sounding like I wasn’t supporting him but it was no help. By then, the rage had set in and there was no turning back. We were in a really awful motel room and he wasn’t talking to me—he was avoiding me. His avoidance tactic is frequently sleeping so he fell asleep in full clothing on top of the bed. I was so spun around, I had no idea what I had done to warrant this behavior—I actually felt scared. I remember hiding in the bug-infested bathroom calling my son just to hear his voice. To hear from someone I knew loved me unconditionally and was as grounded as they come.
I pretended to be ok but I clearly wasn’t. I managed to fall asleep for a bit until I heard him up, putting his boots on without talking to me. I was asking him if he was ok and where he was going. He didn’t say a word but looked at me with fire in his eyes. He stormed out of the motel room and slammed the door. I was in tears. What the hell happened? Most people go to sleep and it’s better in the morning—for three years it was NEVER better in the morning. It was worse. He eventually came back and after more silence, told me when the sun came up that he’d had a dream about being betrayed by his sister and father. And me. All of that erupted because I thought we were having a mature conversation and I could say, “Hey, have you thought of it this way? Maybe she said that because….” What did I do afterwards, you ask? Little did I know I was being conditioned to a.) apologize and take the blame, and b.) do whatever I could to get back to the calm. I did just that and hoped that maybe he was just having a bad day and he’d get back to being the guy I thought he was.
Now, let’s talk about the second tip-off, social media, and how it will potentially become a huge issue in your relationship.
These were posted by him before and right at the time I finally started telling the truth of what I endured/allowed. The photo of me sitting on the rock formation says, "She looked me in the eyes, she smiled, and she lied. #brokenheart - With Kiersten Parsons. --- The photo of the two of us says, "If in my darkest hours of pain I gave anyone the wrong impression, I'm sorry. And I certainly tried but through the darkness my soul knows only one thing. No matter what, my hear and soul belong to her. #TNF #MYTRUTH #THISLIFE #FOREVER LOVE
Social media (Facebook and Instagram, in particular) became a complete nightmare. I’d never had issues with social media before him. Now, I realize we met on Facebook through friends but still, I never looked at it and scrutinized it the way he did. I would hear things from him like, “this person is such a supporter and I think she’s crushing on me.” If I didn't proactively tell him who I thought had a crush on me (not my style nor on my radar), I would hear about it. When he would get mad at someone, he would block them for not being a “supporter.” He blocked my parents on Facebook because they stuck up for me. They invested 8K in him and Mod Life. And they got blocked and of course, never repayed. He blocked me numerous times during our relationship. At one point, I couldn't take it. I got off FB all together in hopes it would help the relationship.
He would ask, “Who’s that guy liking your photos?... Who’s this person?.... Has he ever reached out publicly? If he did, what did you say back to him? Why did you tell him you were flattered by his compliment? Would you want me saying that?” No matter what I said or did, or how open I was with him, I would always be blamed for being too nice and not being a "pit bull" for him. It got to the point I even lied to him when he asked if a particular guy had ever reached out privately because I knew it would come back on me. It always did. It didn’t end there.
If I did something he didn’t like, I could pretty much guarantee something would show up on social media in the form of a passive aggressive post or something even more pointed. I could count it down to the minute, almost…3, 2, 1....post aimed at me. Eventually, we would make up which meant I said I was to blame for whatever it was I did—look at a colleague with too much eye contact, be too nice to a man, not work hard enough on Mod Life, not wear the right clothing, not bring up that I believed someone had a crush on me, and so on and so forth. Shortly thereafter, posts about how much he loved me would appear, making him look like the most romantic guy on the planet. And after that, posts that talk about how he loved fully and how through the pain and anger, only our souls knew the truth would be put on display. A lot of spiritual jargon was included, for sure. Something I came to learn from other women in his past, women he was with while he was targeting me, and women who came shortly after me is part of his script and has been for years.
I remember thinking each time, if only the social media world knew what was happening behind closed doors. I felt a lot of pressure to post lovey dovey posts of us. If I didn’t like his posts fast enough, I didn’t care enough about him. If I didn’t reciprocate, I would hear about it. I finally confided in my friends and family about the social media stuff, but it took me about a year for me to open up to them. I was embarrassed and I didn’t want to believe it was full-on controlling behavior but I needed to understand from someone on the outside if what was happening was normal. It was never my normal before meeting him. He was pretty vocal about how I wronged him long before I finally opened my mouth publicly. When I came out with the full story about us after the final break up—the one that didn’t jive with his carefully crafted social media campaign and facade, I was called mentally ill, dishonest, narcissistic, and so on.
It’s crazy to think that between now and then, I’ve learned so much about what was really happening behind the scenes from all of the courageous women with whom I've spoken, who were targets of his in years past or during the time he was targeting me. No wonder he was worried about social media—it was his favorite predatory channel!
I hope by sharing this, it helps someone who is struggling with the question, “Is this abusive?” I just thought he was insecure at times and didn't want to lose me (read: jealous) because he told me I was the one; his true soulmate he'd finally found. I thought he simply needed reassurance so I adjusted my behavior which meant I start blocking people and cutting them out of my life so he wouldn't get angry not knowing that isolation is also one of the tip-offs. I didn’t recognize either of the two points I covered in this blog as abusive, at first. I questioned myself and looked deep, trying to find the proof that I was indeed to blame.
I wasn’t to blame. You aren’t to blame, if you're enduring this. Frankly, it's manipulative, controlling BS and it is indeed abuse. Even after all Scott and I have been through, neither of us ever monitors Facebook. We support each other but we don't stalk one another. You’d think there would be trust issues but there aren’t. Stable, emotionally mature men welcome when their partners say, "Hey, have you thought of looking at it this way?" and they certainly don’t need to monitor social media as a way to control and isolate their partner.
If you notice either of these tip-offs happening in your relationship early on, run.
Another blog post about an abusive tactic:
Even after all I've been through since 2009, I will forever be amazed by the way this Earth School thing works. I felt compelled this morning to repost my blog from July on my belief that there are no coincidences. Shortly after, I was remembering a couple conversations I had this weekend with women who are struggling to come to grips with emotional and verbal abuse in their romantic relationships. Narcissistic abuse, to be exact. Both women have been in therapy for years dealing with childhood abuse and it made me remember the post I wrote about "wounded attachment." It's something that really made me think about how my childhood abuse unknowingly influenced the ease at which I bonded with my ex.
I went to that post and re-read it. I typically don't do that. Then I looked at the comments. OMG. There's a comment from August that I somehow missed!!! How did I not see it? I hadn't read the incredibly sad comment left by yet another past love interest of R's until today:
"Hello. I found you because of a friend who knows "Richard" (Note from Kiers: I called him Richard at first but it's pretty obvious who it is because were were so public, i.e. all over the internet.)
I knew him as Bob. I am happy for you and I wish I could be happy but I cant. he has destroyed me inside and out. I hope he wasn't physically abusive to you as well. He made me feel like a piece of trash and then tell me how much he loved me. I was so confused I didn't know what to do. I moved out of the country but its not far enough. Your story eases me that's why I am writing. I see you in me but much more stronger. He put me through hell. I could go on but I wont. I replay our time together from the poems and songs to the soulmate and I cant believe how stupid I was to fall for this abuser. I don't want to but I know in my heart I have to tell you. I contracted a sexual disease from him. I know it was him because I never fooled around our time together. I know because I took a blood test and the doctor told me. he looked at my past tests because of an issue I had and it showed me as clean. I asked him how I could get this disease and he said only from sexual contact. I confronted him at the end and he called me a whore and said he was clean. I didn't believe him and now I must watch myself. I'm so ashamed I haven't had sex since because I'm so embarrassed I hope he will feel the wrath of my savior our Lord. He teaches me to turn the other cheek but its so hard. I thank you for your writings it gives me some solace. I pray I can be like you someday and heal my heart.
-- Broken Woman"
Turns out, according to the IP address associated with the comment, she did move out of the country. My heart aches for her on all fronts. I simply want to wipe her pain away and erase all memory and physical damage left by him. I wish I could. I did my best to comfort her and apologized for just now seeing her comment but I know there's little I can do except share what I'm learning through this journey.
Again, I'm being hit over the head with the thought: why did I JUST NOW see her comment? I can't quite wrap my brain around this. I normally get notifications when comments are left. If I truly believe nothing is a coincidence, then why now? This comment. Her pain. Her courage. All of it cut through me like a knife.
Turns out, I just might have an answer to the question, "why now?"
Yesterday, I was cleaning up my computer. Read: four million icons on my desktop. While doing so, I came across the letter that R sent to me on the day he met me. I read it and it reminded me about a poem he said he wrote about me.
I thought about my conversations with women this weekend. How I shared that the "abuser" typically uses the same lines, songs, pet names, poems, language, and even tactics. It's all too eerily similar and for most women, it's what helps them come to grips with the fact that the relationship is not what it seems. Saturday, I found myself advising one of the women to please reach out to her boyfriend's ex. I bet money on the fact that he's likely used the same language and tactics.
Below is the letter I received after he first met me—the one I found yesterday on my computer. And the poem that he mentioned in his letter. Also, I wrote about some of the other things (lines, songs, etc) that multiple women in his past have confirmed they, too, experienced in this old post: https://www.kierstenparsons.com/blog/truth-5. Maybe, just maybe, something in this post or in the link above will help one of the women who has already come forward, like "broken woman," or one who hasn't come forward and never will.
Without the notes and screenshots from other women who were with R, and the testimony of women who were in relationships with men who could be clones, I would have had a hard time healing and believing what I now know is true—that it's as if there's a script/handbook being shared across the world and uncovering the "sameness" from one relationship to another makes the healing process so much faster and easier. It's no coincidence I found myself sharing this very truth this weekend. And then I saw the comment today that was written in August. I get it, Universe. I need to share for other's healing, specifically words/tactics/songs/pet names and the letter I found yesterday. Maybe it's just what's needed to help speed the healing process for one beautiful woman who is still struggling with everything she endured. It's a message that needs to be driven home with a hammer. Looks like I'm just the woman to do it. :)
Letter I received after he met me at High Point Market:
So, I need to bare my soul. Something very profound happened to me the very first second I saw you online. And, I mean the very first second. It was a feeling so strong and so beyond words, I literally sat in my chair and felt completely paralyzed. And later on 3/31, I wrote the first piece of poetry I’ve ever written in my life. You can read it on my FB Profile Page. It's actually the caption to my Profile Banner Photo.
What nobody knows, nor will ever know, I wrote this about my feelings for you. Please don't worry!! I will never bring this up again. In fact, I will take an aspirin or something and get over it as quickly as possible. But, I want you to know, it’s truly shaken me to my core. I have literally been sick to my stomach ever since then. Please know that I have no delusions, and I know very well the reality. I also feel certain you suspected, or even completely knew this already. It’s why I’m writing to you now. I know I would not be able to keep from saying something to you, so I figured writing it will spare you that uncomfortable moment in person. What’s most important to me is that I don’t lose you as a friend because I have these feelings. I’m sure the aspirin, or maybe some magic kale smoothie drink will eventually cure this. I’ll find the way. Seriously though, if this makes you uncomfortable for me to be at dinner tomorrow, please tell me! I will find a good excuse to miss it.
I didn’t have to meet you today to confirm it either. This came from your spirit through universe that transcends your physical presence. But I still felt was so nervous today. I needed to run away basically. I pray to the universe that this doesn’t put me in the same pile of guys who most certainly and constantly throw themselves at your feet. Especially after writing this to you at Market, where you’ve already experienced the wolves! No matter that you think of me now, I know I will be adoring you, watching proudly, respecting, and loving you from afar. You are such a precious precious person. And I know deep in my soul, you will achieve your goals.
With my warmest heartfelt feelings,
It washed over me with unimaginable power, consuming all of me from the very first second. Now fully and profoundly inhabiting the deepest reaches of my soul, there's no way to touch it. My hand would only destroy it. A part of my being I cannot hold, yet its grip is unbreakable and wondrous. Now frozen, I can only stand and try to see. - R
The other night, I received a message from a childhood friend. We don’t connect much at all but she took the time to tell me she is leaving her abusive husband. I had no idea she was in this type of a relationship. She said she felt so blind for so long, which is not the first time I’ve been told this by women I know. Nor is it foreign to me—I felt blind in my relationship. She thanked me for being a voice and said she reads everything that I write. I felt happy to be there for her in some small way, but I also felt the weight of her words when I read them, and I felt intuitively what so many of us feel—we beat ourselves up for staying so long.
Last night, Scott and I watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on the topic of shame. It got me thinking about how I felt truly blind to reality of what I had gotten myself into on many levels because he was such a good manipulator, but then when I finally started to acknowledge the levels of abuse I was allowing/enduring, I felt so much shame. Adding insult to injury, I felt MORE shame because I had a tough time staying out of the relationship for good. In fact, I packed up his things twice and eventually shipped them the second time. What happened the first time? Well, I let him back in. I didn’t believe I deserved the treatment I was getting so when people would suggest maybe I was lacking self-confidence, it wouldn’t sit right with me. I'd get kinda mad, actually. It wasn't about self-esteem. I knew who I was and most importantly, I liked who I had become AND I knew what real love was supposed to feel like. More than anything, I believed he was still the guy he presented himself to be in the beginning and I couldn’t figure out why it was so hard for him to just be that guy, again. I believed in him. When he went to see my therapist, I believed he really wanted to get to the bottom of his anger and pain for himself, and for me. I simply believed.
One thing I never considered was what was happening to me chemically, inside my mind and body. I had no idea that a big part of the reason I kept going back to him was because I was literally conditioned and addicted. I just thought I wasn’t “strong enough” and that led to, you guessed it, more shame.
Shahida Arabi shares in her article, YOUR BRAIN ON LOVE, SEX AND THE NARCISSIST: THE ADDICTION TO BONDING WITH OUR ABUSERS, that “recovering from an abusive relationship can be similar to withdrawal from drug addiction due to the biochemical bonds we may develop with our toxic ex-partners.”
She goes on to explain the biochemical bonds that make it extremely difficult to leave these types of relationships. In Shahida’s words, here’s what may be keeping you addicted, or was keeping you addicted to a relationship dripping in narcisssistic abuse:
1) Oxytocin. This hormone, known famously as the “cuddle” or “love hormone,” is released during touching, orgasm and sexual intercourse; it promotes attachment and trust. It is the same hormone released by the hypothalamus that enables bonding between mother and child. During “lovebombing” and mirroring in the idealization phases with our abusive partners, it’s likely that our bond to them is quite strong as a result of this hormone. Intermittent reinforcement of positive behaviors dispersed throughout the abuse cycle (e.g. gifts, flowers, compliments, sex) ensures that we still release oxytocin even after experiencing incidents of abuse.
I’ve heard from many survivors who reminisce about the great sexual relationship they had with the narcissist, containing an electrifying sexual chemistry they feel unable to achieve with future partners. This is because charming emotional predators such as narcissists are able to mirror our deepest sexual and emotional desires, which leads to a strong sexual bond, which then, of course, releases oxytocin, and promotes even more trust and attachment. Meanwhile, the narcissist, who is usually devoid of empathy and does not form these types of close attachments, is able to move onto his or her next source of supply without much thought or remorse.
The addictive nature of oxytocin is also gendered according to Susan Kuchinskas, author of the book, The Chemistry of Connection: How the Oxytocin Response Can Help You Find Trust, Intimacy and Love. The unfortunate fact is that estrogen promotes the effects of oxytocin bonding whereas testosterone discourages it. This makes it more difficult for females in any typeof relationship to detach from the bond as quickly as men.
2) Dopamine. The same neurotransmitter that is responsible for cocaine addiction is the same one responsible for addiction to dangerous romantic partners. According to Harvard Health, both drugs and intense, pleasurable memories trigger dopamine and create reward circuits in the brain, essentially telling the brain to “do it again.”
Do you remember recalling the pleasurable, beautiful first moments with your narcissistic partner? The romantic dates, the sweet compliments and praise, the incredible sex – long after you two had broken up? Yeah – it’s releasing the dopamine in your brain that’s telling you to “do it again.”
The salience theory of dopamine suggests that our brain releases dopamine not just for pleasurable events but to important ones that are linked to survival. As Samantha Smithstein, Psy.d,puts it, “Dopamine is not just a messenger that dictates what feels good; it is also tells the brain what is important and what to pay attention to in order to survive. And the more powerful the experience is, the stronger the message is to the brain to repeat the activity for survival.”
Abuse survivors are unfortunately hijacked by dopamine. Abusive tactics like intermittent reinforcement works well with our dopamine system, because studies show that dopamine flows more readily when the rewards are given out on unpredictable schedule rather than predictably after conditioned cues.
So the random sweet nothings whispered to us after an incident of emotional abuse, the apologies, the pity ploys, the rare displays of tenderness during the devaluation phase, right before another incident of abuse – actually help cement this type of reward circuit rather than deter it. Combine this with powerful experiences of abuse which alert our brain to “pay attention” as well as pleasurable memories we recollect over and over again – and we’ve got ourselves a biochemical bond from hell.
3) Cortisol, Adrenaline and Norepinephrine. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and boy, does it get released during the traumatic highs and lows of an abusive relationship. It is released by the adrenal glands in response to fear as part of the “fight or flight” mechanism. Since we are unlikely to have a physical outlet of release when cortisol is triggered during cycles of emotional abuse, this often traps the stress within our bodies instead. As we ruminate over incidents of abuse, increased levels of cortisol lead to more and more health problems. Christopher Bergland suggests numerous ways to counteract the effects of this hormone, which include physical activity, mindfulness, meditation, laughter, music and social connectivity.
Adrenaline and norepinephrine also prepare our body for the flight or fight response, and are also culprits in biochemical reactions to our abusers. Adrenaline promotes an antidepressant effect, triggering fear and anxiety which then releases dopamine – this can cause us to become “adrenaline junkies,” addicted to the rush of vacillating between bonding and betrayal. During No Contact, withdrawal from that “rush” can be incredibly painful.
4) Trauma bonding. All of these jolts of fear and anxiety in the face of danger can reenact past traumas and create trauma bonding. Trauma bonding occurs after intense, emotional experiences with our abusers and tethers us to them, creating subconscious patterns of attachment that are very difficult to detach from. It is part of the phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome, in which victims of hostage become attached to their perpetrators and even defend their captors.
Although survivors of narcissistic abuse come from many different backgrounds and anyone can be a victim of narcissistic abuse, trauma bonding is even more significant for those who grow up in violent or emotionally abusive homes, and/or have had a narcissistic parent in addition to their most recent experiences with trauma and abuse. Survivors of multiple incidents of abuse by various narcissistic individuals can further reinforce subconscious wounds they experienced in childhood in the trauma bond with their current abusers. If there has been victimization in the past, such as the experience of having to survive in an abusive household, this can lead to trauma repetition or reenactment, the root of which Gary Reece, Ph.D in his article, “The Trauma Bond,” calls “relational trauma”:
“The key to understanding behavior found in abusive relationships is to look at the very early years of childhood. Relational trauma is at the root….There are several features these kinds of relationships have in common. The first is, they are deeply ambivalent, reflective of the Trauma Bond: fear, dependency, need, fear of abandonment, despair, the realization of helplessness, and rage. This is an amalgam of very powerful emotions which drive and make the relationship so unstable…The second feature of this kind of relationship is that it is a compulsive reenactment. Allan Schore, an attachment expert put it this way. “A further complication of unresolved trauma is narrative reenactment of the trauma wherein the victim unconsciously recreates the original traumatic event over and over.” (Handbook for Treatment of Attachment Trauma, pg. 35)
For more information on trauma bonding, please see The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitative Relationships by Patrick Carnes.
It is important to understand the various types of biochemical and psychological bonds that often create attachments between abusers and their victims. Better understanding these bonds enables us to move past victim-blaming and move forward into greater understanding, compassion and support for survivors who struggle with leaving abusive relationships. We must not judge but continue to empower ourselves and others with this newfound knowledge.
I’m just so grateful. Beyond grateful, to be exact.
Since 2014, I have had a literal team of angels—here on earth and in spirit—around me, helping guide me through the experiences of the last four years. Regardless of whether or not these folks agreed with my choices, they were there for me. Always.
Obviously, Scott is and has always been my protector, even when that meant he had to let go and have faith I would get through what he knew was mine to get through. No matter how angry he was at me, he still respected and loved me, and wanted me to be OK. He wanted me to be more than OK—for me, for our kids, for life in general, whether that meant we ended up back together or not. That’s true, unconditional love. Turns out, Hallmark doesn’t make cards that say, “Thanks for helping save my soul.” They should, though. And the card should have his photo on it. Scott, you are the best of the best humans on earth. And clearly, my #1 angel on earth. I love you beyond 5.
In the same vein, I would also be handing out thank you cards to my dearest circle of family and friends-who-are-like-family who never gave up on me. They, too, knew that even if I was choosing the cycle of abuse that had become my life, it was because I wasn’t ready or strong enough to end it for good at that moment. Not that I never would be strong enough to end it. They all knew I would learn what I needed to learn, and become the person I’m becoming today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for standing by me through thick and thin, and light and dark. Andy, Egan, Mom and Dad, Lorraine, Cindy B, Theresa B, Krista A, Janine, Caroline H, Kari, Ben, Stacey B, Ari, Cathy S, Katie H, Cami D, Maria Louisa, and Julie and Suzi. Your support, love, compassion, grace, wisdom, channeled messages, and sometimes “tough love” helped me find myself, again. I am eternally grateful and love you all, dearly.
To my soul sisters in the land of “woo woo,” your messages, guidance, perfectly timed channeling was always taken very seriously, and even though it looked at times like I would never come out of it, your gifts helped me heal more than you will ever know. Yvette, Tracy W, Camilla, Cynthia, Necole, and Lynn B, I am in awe of your hearts, your intuition, and your foresight. Yvette, you and Jason—I just truly have no words to properly express my love and gratitude for you both. Yvette, I remember your son in spirit, Jason, pleading with me through you one night, saying, “Kiers, I died because of this type of drug (an analogy to a relationship in his life).” I could feel his desperation so many times and you both guided me out of the dark hole I was desperately trying to climb out of, yet scared to death to climb out of at the same time. I can’t wait to tell the whole story of the magnificent people you both are, and how we came into each other’s lives. Tracy, Camilla, Cynthia, Necole, and Lynn B—my mind is swimming with flashes of so many moments where you would reach out to me at the exact right moments I needed to hear a message, whether it be a channeled one from my grandmother who was kicking my ass while encouraging me to wake up and see the reality of the situation, or you were simply saying “there’s a bigger picture here than you can see now, Kiers. Keep trusting yourself.” Thank you, thank you, thank you. My heart is with you always.
To my wonderful therapists, Deanna Vance and Suzanne Botello—I know I was guided to you. Your heart, intuition, experience, and true belief in me is gift beyond what I ever thought possible. Again, you are angels on earth to so many, and I’m just one of the lucky ones who sat in your therapy chair sometimes twice a week. In the beginning, I was scared to death you would think I was crazy—and you didn’t. Just the opposite happened. You confirmed everything I was feeling and held my hand as I walked step-by-step out of the darkness (and sometimes backwards into the darkness.) You never judged. You made me think deeply and helped me honor all parts of myself. Thank you, for helping me find the light again, and teaching me ways to embrace my darkness, too.
About Deanna Vance, LPC
Deanna Vance is a Licensed a Professional Counselor at the New Leaf Wellness Building. She has over thirty years of experience in varied settings including Community Mental Health, Group Homes, Schools & Private Practice. Deanna specializes in Play Therapy which is a powerful & effective reparative approach for children. Trauma and Attachment problems have been her expertise. She also enjoys working with adolescents and adults.
About Dr. Suzanne Botello, PhD, LPC, Psychologist
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Employee Assistance and Wellness Program at Northern Arizona University. I have a PhD in Counseling Psychology, and am a psychology resident, earning supervised work hours toward licensure. I work primarily with staff, faculty, and their families doing individual, group, and couples work. My life is most in balance when I am making art. Having my hands in clay or working in mixed media, using textiles, paper, fiber, old photos, and embellishments, I find myself again and again. My personal mission statement: I help people remember who they are through art, love, and sacred space.
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