Ok. Before we do this…
If you didn’t read the last chapter, Love Bombs + Litmus Tests, do not read another word of this until you go backwards.
For a successful bait and switch, I need to of course bait you before I can switch you. Like any good socio. Also, without understanding the staging, you won’t fully get this chapter. They go hand-in-hand.
So, leave this and come back after Chapter 3.
Okay, I trust that you have read all about love bombing now and the tiny tests of loyalty that begin in that phase.
Now we start to turn up the dials. But only by one.
Move the goalpost, which abusers are notorious for.
Just to level set…
You have girl meets boy. Boy puts on the courtship of a lifetime. All calculated for the very purpose of pulling the rug out. Girl, thinks she’s found “the one.”
(This can also be the other way around on the sexes, no doubt. Or same sex. LOTS of that as well.)
I repeat this only to reiterate that NO ONE seeks out a violent asshole. They fall for an act that is unrivaled by a “normal” person. They are quite literally swept off their feet.
So much so, that most find it hard to date again because that degree of courtship is not there with a well-adjusted person. Remember, the mark/victim is looking for a strong enmeshment, sometimes even an unhealthy one to overcompensate for something in their past. They are a target for this reason, they are yearning for that full court press. The abuser gives them that and then some. All the pretty bells and whistles. None of the little pink flags. Yet.
A sugary cake of only your favorite fruits and flavors. Daily.
Maybe just some icing.
No more cake.
And the crumbs is the important part. Because I didn’t train you to incrementally move down from cake to less cake to crumbs. I trained you to have everything, then have nothing and THEN I gave you crumbs. I made sure you were starving first then offered you practically nothing so that I could get you accustomed to BEING HAPPY WITH PRACTICALLY NOTHING.
This is how this next phase works, and most of the entire relationship.
Training you to like crumbs. Training you to think that crumbs are more than enough and to even be thankful you got to eat. Remember the small niceties of Stockholm Syndrome? This is how kidnapped victims psychologically find it hard to leave their captors, turn in their captors, convict their captors and so forth. Because someone abusing you does not abuse 24/7. They have breaks or human moments. They allow you to use a bathroom. They give you water so you don’t die and they can continue to abuse you more.
A well-adjusted mind cannot make sense of a sick mind. It is not natural. A healthy mind is simply not wired that way and cannot think on that track. So being exposed to shockingly abusive situations, our brain does us a solid and starts to find ways to make it make sense.
Coping mechanisms. By any means possible. Sometimes that is lying to us. Finding those niceties and believing your captor cares. Finding the humanness or goodness in someone like Manson, Joe from You, Dexter, Dahmer, Jodi Arias. (Doesn’t matter—someone literally wanted to marry all of them.)
Sometimes that is blacked out Amnesia. Not like a night of heavy brown liquor drinking Amnesia either. Abuse Amnesia is full pockets of time gone forever. Poof. Like you were in a literal coma. Which, conveniently, makes it easier for someone to abuse you. That whole lack of memory and all.
So, in this next phase you are thirsty in the desert and there is a mirage of water.
Hell, you are hungry in the desert and there is a mirage of tacos. Whatever.
We all eat lies when we’re hungry.
You have been primed for the switch. You met your soulmate. You go everywhere together. You’re inseparable. This person is why everything failed up until now. They are it. You sleep holding hands. You have tons of inside jokes. You fit. You finish each other’s…
You make sense.
One day, they are super pissed at you. They say some really harsh things. You’re hurt. You cry. You fight. They tell you they are sorry for the really harsh things but you got them so upset. Maybe it’s semi valid? Maybe you did cause the fight or do something wrong. Maybe you hurt them and they have a point. This is, after all, your soul mate.
The harsh words disintegrate. As words do.
You move on and man it feels good to make up. To move back into bliss. Almost re-invigorated your relationship. And for the next month they are even more in love with you than before.
Pick out whatever you want darlin’, it’s on me. Let’s go out to eat. You decide where, money is no object.
Life is good. Better even.
One day they are completely ignoring you. Full stop silent treatment. What did you do? Why are they mad? My God they won’t even look at you. Straight acting like you don’t exist. And inside you are dying. Where did your partner go? Your soulmate. Who you hold hands with when you sleep. So you try to talk to them but they shut you out for days. No explanation. Nothing.
Just look at me. Talk to me.
Eventually, they will come around and tell you what you did to cause this. And you’ll be so dang grateful to eat those crumbs. That they are even talking to you.
The silent treatment from a grown ass adult is a tactic. It is a way to withhold information so you start blaming yourself. Because you have no one else to talk to.
See, when you forgave the name calling, you entered into an agreement with your partner. A pact that said, you can disrespect me. I will forgive that.
So they upped the ante. I see disrespect and I raise you the silent treatment. They used a very common form of abuse by ignoring you and allowing zero communication to take place. They controlled how long that went on for. And when they were good and ready, they opened the line. And there you were signing your second agreement: You can ignore me and I will be grateful when you return.
Now, in order to do this the argument for how bad you are and that you caused it, has to be pretty darn convincing.
Here is where the stored-up ammo comes in. All of that studying you and your weaknesses and your Achilles’ Heel has set them up for success when brainfucking you sideways to NOT TRUST YOURSELF. What a wealth of resources.
For example, if your fears that you have divulged are that people don’t like you, you aren’t smart enough, you aren’t pretty enough, you are overweight, you aren’t good at your job, you’re not funny, you aren’t successful, your Dad never loved you… this is now the weapon of choice, made with supreme craftsmanship.
In order to get you to hate you, to be mad at you, to distrust you…it’s really quite simple. Leverage the parts of you you hate. They know them all. It can be something embarrassing you did when you were 6 or your boney ankles, it really doesn’t matter. They will exploit every. last. weakness.
So, there are two very important things happening simultaneously. The abuser is cutting down the worth of the victim by slowly eroding it. Sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly. Then projecting and deflecting blame once self-doubt sets in.
Covert or overt, the victim is absorbing it. After all, this is their soulmate. They are their sounding board. And there they are echoing the very things the victim (survivor) hates about themselves. The fears, the weak points, the insecurities, the imperfections. They are leaning in to those vulnerabilities. And hard.
So honestly you probably did cause the fight. You, the embarrassing thing you did at 6 and your boney ankles. Fucked up everything.
Now a very strange plot twist.
You start apologizing for their bad behavior. If only they’d forgive you.
Now, you make up. After all, it was your fault. You always get like this. You always do this. And if you just didn’t do that one thing everything would have been fine. Makes sense why you were ignored. You are like that sometimes. You have been moody. But nevertheless, they forgive you.
You return to nirvana. Ahhhh. Breathe a big exhale you guys are so, so, so good. There’s the person you know. Doting on you. Kissing your forehead. Rubbing your back. Telling everyone how much they love you. Things are really, really good.
For a month even, maybe two.
And then. A disagreement in a diner. You didn’t even see it coming. They get so heated they “accidentally” kick you under the table. “Accidentally” grab your wrist just a little too hard.
This is the beginning. This is how it slowly takes form.
You will go from everything to nothing on a dime and then have patches of time that will erase the episodes.
Each time they will paint themselves the victim and tell you what you did to make them upset. To hurt them. All while simultaneously working you and poisoning your view of yourself. They’ll even tell you you always play the victim or that you are the abusive one. You, no matter what, are wrong.
In every scenario that I have known this story there is only ONE thing that the actual victim did wrong.
They loved the wrong person. And usually, they loved them too much.
This is only one recipe for how the cakes to crumbs unfolds. It is meant to depict raising the temperature in a room by only one degree. One degree. One degree. Until you are in a 100 degree room. It is incredibly hard to notice environmental changes when they happen incrementally. It’s why it is hard to notice weight gain – a pound-by-pound addition.
Bear in mind it isn’t about just what you see and hear, it’s combined with what the only other person in the room is telling you. It is their account you take in account. And after all, they are your soul mate. They are telling you the truth. Aren’t they?
Which brings me to gaslighting.
Yet another term tossed around loosely today with little idea what it actually means.
Taken from a 1944 psychological thriller starring Ingrid Bergman, “Gaslight,” is about a husband who is actively working his wife to make her think she is insane.
Through slow-played manipulation tactics and swearing by a reality different than the one the victim witnesses with their own eyes, the abuser is “crazymaking” the other party and causing a slow descent into madness.
This is how Narcissistic abuse or a lot of coercive/mind control works at the core.
“You didn’t see that.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t hear that.”
“That didn’t happen.”
These are vocabulary staples.
In one such example, my partner had pictures on his computer that were…questionable.
In front of my face, he proceeded to delete them and then looked at me deadpan and said, “There were no pictures on my computer.”
Now, am I crazy? I know I just saw them. With my own eyes. Hell, I watched them get deleted. But my soulmate would never do that. Right?
I repeat. We all eat lies when we are hungry.
And if they then say, “Honey, why don’t you lay down and get some rest. You aren’t acting right. You are saying all kinds of crazy things this week. Maybe we should get you a check-up.”
Well dang. Am I losing it? They are, after all, super concerned.
Gaslighting works because someone is actively trying to make you doubt your reality and if there are only two people in the room, you have no single source of truth. The other party is telling you the exact opposite of what you know to be true.
If your trust in yourself has been depleted (purposefully) it starts to become hard to stand in those convictions. The love of your life is telling you a narrative that goes very differently than yours. There are no cameras or voice recordings. And they are looking you in the face and telling you what just happened didn’t happen. Man is it hard not to second guess your memory.
This is how your memory starts to get fuzzy. You are constantly being disoriented by an evil person out to disorient you. And your good heart doesn’t think that that is possible from a human being. Least of all, this human being.
So, maybe you didn’t have it right. Maybe you thought you saw photos and didn’t. Did you dream that? It has been a long week. You haven’t been sleeping well. Maybe there were never photos there?
And the beat goes on.
Trouble is, after a while not only does the abuser gaslight their partner, but the victim begins to gaslight themselves—just to stay in a partnership that is destroying them. (We will get into why and how later.)
Keep in mind, this is only phase 2. And like I said earlier the average lifetime of a domestically-abusive partnership is 8 years.
This is sadly only the first of the commonly-used tactics. In upwards of 25-30 in the abuser’s trusty handbook. This is the more covert period for many. Subtle.
Things aren’t quite right, but every couple fights. No one is perfect.
These are the thoughts circling around this time. That this is run of mill couple-y stuff. Nothing alarming. Sure, they lost their cool a few times but frankly, if you hadn’t just…If you didn’t just… If you could have just…
Self talk is powerful and if your own negative self talk is beginning to mirror their talk to you, you now have two people against you. You and your partner. This is how this will remain for the duration of the relationship. You both against you. And you both in your partner’s corner.
In essence you both begin speaking the same language. You are both saying you don’t matter. Your partner is saying you don’t matter. And over the course of the relationship you continue to echo that agreement.
Each chaos creates a small trauma. Trauma bonds people.
Think about any traumatic event. That can be a car accident, a plane crash, war, a robbery, tornado, earthquake, hurricane, what have you. The people become bonded, they have endured this acute super difficult thing together.
The partner in a Narcissistically-abusive or even just regular abusive relationship is trauma bonding you to them, over and over again by manufacturing the trauma. The only problem is they are unaffected by it.
Think of it like one partner being super glue but the other being Teflon. A Narcissistic abuser or coercive abuser is Teflon. Everything slides right off of them. They don’t hear you. They don’t see you. They don’t feel for you. They don’t empathize. They are impervious to the bonding but better yet they are creating the trauma that is bonding you in the first place.
Recall from the book intro:
“Then you find out the hero and the villain are the same person.
The hero is only the hero because he is continuously creating a monstrous Antagonist to scare you back into the arms of himself. You are essentially being saved over and over from the very person manufacturing your Purgatory. Your bliss and blunder are one and the same. It was architected this way by design all along.”
This is why this is done. To cement you to them come Hell or high water. And Hell will undoubtedly come.