By Sybil Cummin, MA, LPC, ACS
Understanding why your abuser does what they do can be extremely helpful in the initial stages of the healing process. You can see the patterns of behaviors to gain and maintain power and control and start to challenge the effects of gaslighting, learning that you are not crazy. Your experiences are real. This psycho education is also helpful in managing the effects of post separation abuse. Understanding the tactics your abuser will use when going to family court or how they will use your children to continue abuse can also help you prepare and stay resilient.
There is also a time when focusing on the mind of your abuser can lead you down the crazy making rabbit hole.
Do they really believe the s#*% that comes out of their mouths?
How can they continue the lies when the evidence is stacked up against them that proves they are lying?
Do they truly believe that no one can touch them? That they are invincible?
Coming to terms with the answers to the questions when you are a rational human being can be mind boggling. The discussions can go on and on and on. All the while, you are still feeling completely confused and flabbergasted. It doesn’t even matter if they believe these things, they are going to continue doing them anyway.
The belief of invincibility can be one of the most frustrating aspects of your ex or current partner as they flaunt this in your face and do not seem to fear any repercussions of their behaviors. Few things can make you feel as small as someone abusing you or your children, believing that they will never face any consequences. And unfortunately, this is often true. Our systems and our misconceptions of domestic violence allow for abusers to get away with abuse over and over again. Thus inflating this belief of invincibility.
What can you do to limit the frustrations of the belief of invincibility?
1. Radical Acceptance.
This is how my abuser thinks and behaves and nothing I do will change this. You can talk and show evidence of their lies until you are blue in the face and they will continue to deny any wrongdoing. And if they haven’t done anything wrong, then there is nothing to be consequence for. Do not waste your breath trying to win the argument. Document your experience and evidence and move on.
2. Document, Document, Document.
If you will wind up involving one of the systems (criminal or family court, or child protective services), you need evidence to overcome the persona your abuser will put on for the professionals. He said, she said, does not go well when one partner is comfortable lying (and does not fear consequences) and the other has trauma from the relationship. It is possible that the professionals will see through the mask, but having physical evidence will go much farther.
3. Set Up Your Support Network.
This step can be extremely difficult, especially if isolation has been a significant tactic of power and control in your situation. It can also be extremely difficult if your client uses a smear campaign against you. And it is one of the most important steps to ensure your resilience and resolve. If finding organic support in your ecology does not feel doable initially, reach out to those who do understand. Contact your local advocacy agency. Start a relationship with a well-informed therapist. Attend support groups or join online support groups so that you do not feel as alone. These folks can help you start to reach out to others in your ecology and can help you weather the storm of any smear campaigns against you.
4. Continue the Fight.
As sad as it makes me when I have these conversations with clients, often times there will be no consequences given or the consequence will not fit the crime. If there is a lot at stake, your safety or the safety of your children, do not give up. Continue to speak your voice. Continue to bolster your support network. Continue to document your experiences. Someone will eventually see through the façade.
So, while understanding the mind of your abuser is helpful, focusing solely on how they work can add more crazy to your world. As you are trying to unravel them, you are giving them more attention than they deserve. Giving them your energy. Learn what you need to learn to prepare yourself and then place your focus back on you; what you can do to keep yourself and your children safe. And to eventually find peace.