As good as an abuser is at wooing their partner, they are even better at wooing everyone around them. This can range from their family, their partner’s family, mutual friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, members of the community and of course, social media. Only makes sense, if they can court one, they can court ‘em all.
Sometimes, these unwavering supporters are referred to as Flying Monkeys. According to Wikipedia, Flying Monkeys is a phrase used in popular psychology to describe people who are acting at the behest of another to control a targeted individual. It is a metaphor taken from the Wizard of Oz wherein the Wicked Witch of the West used winged monkeys to carry out evil deeds on her behalf.
At first, this is merely just a staging so they are well liked across the board. They are charming. No one has a bad word to utter about them because man, they are just the dang salt of the earth. A good egg. The cat’s pajamas.
Eventually, as the relationship sours, it will start to become more like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And guess what, as a victim, you are Roger.
This means that a network of people are now working against you. Including you.
Your partner has successfully inducted even more people into the plot against you, oftentimes, with your own people. It is hashtag team them.
Whether or not a relationship has yet reached this stage (as sometimes it does come toward the tail end via smear campaigns) it will inevitably get there. In the meantime, it will be a one-sided communication painting the abuser as the victim and vilifying the victim as the devil. Read that again.
What does this mean?
Most victims come to me and say the following:
“I’m not sure I am being abused,” “It was only once,” “He didn’t mean to hit me,” “He just choked me to be quiet,” “I provoked it, “He had a bad day,” “He has spit on me but never hit me,” “He has thrown things at me or thrown liquids on me but doesn’t beat me up,” and the list goes on.
These are quintessential phrases for someone in the fog who has been told they are the cause for far too long. Whatever boomerang method their abuser used to have it come back to them, has clouded their brain with faulty thinking.
Remember, they are rubber you are glue, it bounces right off of them and sticks to you.
The abuser conditions their partner to believe many things over time. (Again, they leverage the Achilles’ Heel in order to custom deplete someone.) This can be telling them they are too fat, they are too skinny, they are not smart, they are not attractive, they are unsuccessful, they are a loser, they are too loud, too quiet, too reserved, too social, too slutty, too prude, or unliked.
But the one fatal lie that an abuser convinces their victim of:
That they are the abuser.
They provoked it. They caused it. They egged it on. They are the toxic one. They are the mean one. They are the one who yells. They are the one who says abusive things.
How do they do this?
Through reactional abuse.
Person A punches Person B in the face. Person B screams from the pain. Person B gets yelled at for screaming. Person A has no recourse.
Did Person B scream? Yes. That is an undeniable truth. In reactional abuse, the focus is on that last reaction but ignores everything that led to it.
The series of events gets screwy when people only hone in on the most recent thing: Person B screaming.
Person B always screams. They are so loud. They are emotional. They can’t control themselves. Why is Person B such a problem? If only Person B could be quiet and control their emotions.
This is how many Person A’s in the world get off scot free. By pointing at the reaction and acting like the cause never happened. Abusers are very skilled at this.
Person B starts to say, “My God I am screaming. I am emotional. I can’t control myself.”
Because the victim has a well-adjusted mind, they feel empathetic and remorseful for their contribution. The abuser then lays it on thick that truly it is reaction B that caused action A, chronology be damned. And eventually Person B is apologizing.
This is how an abuser will work someone for as long as it works. By pushing their buttons. Needling them. Goading them. Setting them up for failure, but exactly this failure. Making sure that the reaction they cause isn’t seen as a reaction but rather the action and that all provocation from the abuser is then ignored. The only thing that is under the microscope is the unhinged response from the abused. How dare they cry when they are punched?
So overdramatic. (Insert eye roll.)
When the abuser can start to set these “booby traps” around others, well, even better.
For example, an abuser and their partner are having “a good day.” Then, right before they enter into company with friends and family, the abuser calls the victim a loser. The victim is taken aback. Confused and sad, they still have to put on a brave face in front of company. So their eyes well with tears but they swallow the hurt bubble in their throat, straighten their spine and force a smile through gritted teeth.
Remember, this is the well-adjusted individual. So it isn’t that easy to fake it. They are emotional on the inside and do their best to put on a charade, but that isn’t their forte. It’s their partner’s.
Born actors, they are. (Makes you wonder if celebrity actors become Narcissists or if, conversely, Narcissists become actors because faking is just. so. easy.)
The abusive partner? Charming as ever. Smiling. Happy. Radiant, really.
The victim’s emotions are written all over them.
Guess what story this just created? The one where the abusive partner tells those same family members and friends that you (the victim) are always just miserable for no reason. You’re a downer. You’re a bitch. You’re a c*nt. And they may not believe it, but they sure noticed how happy your partner is and you just sulking through forced smiles.
Boom. A narrative.
When I lived this nightmare, I began therapy. AS ALL OF YOU SHOULD IF YOU IDENTIFY.
The therapist looked at me dead in the eye and said, “You’re purple.”
She put down her notepad and met my eyes again and said, “I said you’re purple.”
Shit. Was I?
I quickly racked my brain for every logical, non-hypochondriac reason I could be turning purple. Was I hypothermic? Bruised? Violet from Willy Wonka? What the fuck was happening?
Then she went on…
“If someone told you you were purple every single day, and you had no mirrors, eventually you would believe it.”
In my life, no phrase has ever hit as differently as that one.
This is incredibly hard for people who have never been coercively-controlled or abused to understand but the reality is, there is a reason you are slowly isolated away from any and all support circles. With no peanut gallery for a basis of comparison, you have one single source of truth: that of a purple people eater.
They have smashed all your mirrors and frankly, you just stopped looking in them. You don’t look at yourself like you used to because honestly, you can’t get a fucking thing right no matter how hard you try. So this single sounding board is repeatedly telling you you are purple.
You are the problem. You yelled. You are emotional. You are the abuser. You caused it. You egged it on. You are annoying. You are unlovable. You are a loser.
YOU. ARE. “PURPLE.”
You aren’t. Not one bit. However, the only way they can hold onto you (in their mind) is to keep you believing that you are purple and then orchestrating a show to everyone around you both that there is just something wrong with you.
These two concurrent lanes will run for the duration of your relationship with an abusive person.
The smear campaign that you are the problem which is basically like the “you are purple” press release they blast to everyone you both know, as well as the smashed mirror lifestyle you are living with them, where they are the only real reflection of you you are paying attention to.
Whether this is you or someone you know living this, the most important takeaway is that this is, and always will be, BY DESIGN. This is no accident.
One thing that is hard to believe with abusers, especially when you are an empathetic person, is that they are purposely doing this. That anyone can purposely lie, cheat, steal and set fire to their partner’s life.
Then I want you to remember that there are people that run over innocent people with their car on purpose. That rape on purpose. That kidnap and murder children on purpose.
The list, sadly, goes on.
Unfortunately what happens is that this is so unbelievable by a healthy mind that we simply do not. We think of it like fiction in another town somewhere far. We make it sexy by romanticizing serial killers and true crime podcasts. We keep our heads down instead of see something, say something. We re-write history we know is not exactly what happened. We cope however our minds will allow us. And when we are in it? Well, that’s even more dangerous because both our time and our emotions are invested in this big, fat fucking lie that someone we love is okay. When they aren’t. It is way easier to believe you are goddamn purple than to believe your partner is sick and is intentionally hurting you. Hell, may even kill you.
No. Our brains don’t know what to make of that information. So, you’re turning violet, Violet. Purple it fucking is.
Until it isn’t. Until you lift the veil and stop dancing in the fog and admit, you were never purple. Not even once.