When the emotionally abused “behave badly”

Has the emotionally abusive individual in your life ever “encouraged” you to behave badly?  Were you “pushed” into an emotional response that placed you in a less than favorable light?  Did this response seem to bring satisfaction to your abuser?  Did he or she gain sympathy or affirmation from others because of your upset?  Were you “baited,” into confrontations that ultimately left you very visibly shaken, angry, scared, or feeling out of control?  Afterward, were you left confused and wondering what just happened?  Worse, yet, were you then accused of being “crazy” or “abusive” by your abuser?  Did the events ever cause you to question yourself?

If you are or were involved with a psychopath or anyone with a number of psychopathic features, it is likely that you are answering in the affirmative to these questions.  It’s par for the course.  Psychopaths are abusive.  If you have crossed paths with a psychopathic individual, you have probably been abused and manipulated in some way.  As the emotional abuse was occurring, you probably did not realize or understand what was happening.  At the same time, you probably knew something was very wrong.

How do they get away with this?    

Abusers know that we tend to be unaware of their tactics and that we may easily fall into their traps simply because we do not think as they do.  This is important because emotional abuse serves as the platform from which we are more likely to accept all other forms as well.

Over time, when we are abused, it becomes less likely that we will be able to do anything to better our situations.  This will not change until we process exactly what it is that we are facing.  The fear and exhaustion that we experience as a direct result of their accusations and behaviors is responsible, in part, for keeping victims bound to such relationships.

Our abusers hope to gain and maintain dominance through psychological warfare.  The process is complex, but in a nutshell, they work to erode our self esteem, identities, and attempt to make us believe that we deserve to be treated poorly.  They purposely work to engage us in conflicts or place us in situations that they know will elicit extreme emotional reactions from us.  Later, they use our responses against us.

Ultimately, aren’t we responsible for our own emotions and behaviors? 

Of course we are responsible and our abusers like to remind us of that.  This is the type of thinking that they enjoy exploiting.  They know that we are willing to own our behaviors.  They know that we “invest” and care about how we are regarded.  They like that we will feverishly “work” to make things “right.”  Yet, they have no intention of doing anything positive.  They choose to “fight” us for sport.  They enjoy dropping the bombs and then sitting back and and watching the  “shows” we provide for them.

They set us up to fail, by purposely pressing our buttons.  They take no responsibility, whatsoever, for any role they may play in our upset.  We will never hear, “Gosh, I’m really sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that to you.”  Or, “You’re right, I should have waited for us to be alone before bringing that up.”  That rarely happens.

More commonly, they make fun of us and accuse us of being “disordered,” “crazy,” or tell us to “get our heads checked.”  They enjoy getting the best of us and working to erode who we are in the process.  What begins as an incident that looks innocent, is really a very abusive maneuver aimed at maintaining or strengthening their holds.  These incidents are directs attacks.

How do they work against us or cause us to work against ourselves?

Like any other exploitative measure, an area of weakness is used.  They want to make us look bad, both to ourselves and others.  So they search their arsenals for ways in which they know, almost with certainty, that we will respond negatively.  They know that they can successfully demonize us if we behave badly.  We will discredit ourselves and prove them “right” regarding the negative things they have said about us.  As this is occurring, we usually have no idea that we are being set up.

Sometimes, they arrange for these “conflicts” to occur in front of others.  Why?  They want to show others what they are “forced to endure” with us.  Often, they do this in order to gain sympathy or begin their smear campaigns, twisting the circumstances in an effort to look like the victims.

In my experience, I can think of several fights that were initiated in this fashion.  Once, I was even called a psychopath, as my offender ranted to family members, in an attempt to illustrate my “lunacy.”  (What’s the saying about the pot and the kettle?)  🙂  Regardless, it was quite a display.  My point is this; if a topic exists that is a source of contention, they will make sure to use it.  If we don’t understand what’s happening, unknowingly, we may participate.

What do we do?

The good news is that we can opt out of victimization.  We can learn.  Remember, psychopaths are easily bored.  Compliant victims or those who choose not to participate more than necessary are not much fun.

We must learn not to seek answers or look to them for explanations.  While we may feel that communication is a logical path toward solutions, and typically it is, it tends to get us nowhere with these personalities.   They tend to remain silent, or fail to consistently address the actual issues.  Rather, they use communications, spoken, written, or otherwise, as another means to harass and belittle.  This is in an effort to maintain control, by keeping us unbalanced, angry, and questioning ourselves.  Once we understand this, however, we can change this.

We may have participated for a time, but knowing allows us to make better choices.  We must not react.  At first, staying quiet (to them)about what we feel and think may be one of the hardest things we do, but when dealing with emotionally abusive individuals, it is the only thing to do.  Eventually, we can come to the place where we are unaffected.



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37 Comments on "When the emotionally abused “behave badly”"

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Fluffy, love your nickname!

This place has saved my sanity countless times. Linda, great article!

My ex is continuing with his smear campaign and sadly my young adult son lives with the idiot. The main concern I have is when my ex goes down (and he will), that my son will be dragged down with him. I cannot intervene at this point as it just makes things worse. This guy fooled me for decades and continues to dupe everyone else. Fine, up standing member of the community that he is. Barf.

I’m BAAAACKKKKK LOL–been off line (computer connection problems) for two weeks. Surgery was postponed till Aug 22…

Roof blew off the studio and did a bunch of damage to hangar roof and other crazy things….so been busier’n a one armed wall paper hanger or a one legged man in a butt kicking contest!

Linda, Great article. They DO push our buttons. Abusers are good at that. Trying to defend ourselves we end up appearing crazy to any onlookers and with the smear campaign of the abusers telling others we are the abusers and/or the crazies, it makes us even more crazy in appearances.

I’ve sure been there and done that, but once we get AWAY from them, go NO contact it gives us time to regroup and to see what is going on from a distance that allows us to “see the trees instead of just the forest”

That is why NO CONTACT is so important, and if we MUST (because of “co parenting” or other legal issues) that we keep as much distance as we can and exercise the “Gray rock” attitude of boring. Doesn’t hurt to keep contacts via e mails or other ways in which we can prove what was said either.

This is a wonderful article for us all. Thanks for writing it!

So nice to hear from you.

Yes, they do push our buttons in the most innane ways.

Add to that, it’s important to not anthropomorphize them. Don’t think of them as normal human beings. As empaths, that’s hard. I had empathy for my stuffed animals (as a kid), my car, even my droid (because it talks). It’s ridiculous, I know, but it’s a knee jerk reaction to my programming: If it looks or sounds human, then it must have feelings right? WRONG.

If anyone knows how to over come these cognitive dissonance moments, let me know. I’d like to become a more grounded person.

Skylar, I had to laugh when you talked about anthropomorphizing them….When I was a kid, I lined my dolls and stuffed toys up on my pillow and had so many that I didn’t have room on my pillow for myself and felt badly that I might hurt the feelings of the dolls if I favored one over the others. LOL

I think psychopaths have “feelings” just not ALL the kinds of “feelings” that non-psychopaths have…they have rage and jealousy, anger etc. and those are “feelings” just not the FULL RANGE of human emotions and feelings. We do tend though, because WE feel love, caring, compassion and empathy to think that ALL people feel those same emotions and feelings…but as you pointed out, not everyone that appears human has the full range of feelings.

That cracked me up. I was the same way with my dolls and bears.

It’s interesting though, that spaths have “shallow effect”. They don’t stay angry very long. All the while, they are seething with rage 24/7. It’s a conundrum.

I just watched an interesting video on apergers. I’m thinking about writing an article, but if I do, I will also download the you tube and send it to you. It’s over an hour long and I know you will be fascinated by it.

Not making promises cuz I’m sort of overwhelmed right now, but this was an eye opening video by a man who has aspergers and has written 2 books. His mom had mental illness, his dad an alcoholic, his brother wrote the book, “running with scissors”.


My adopted son’s bio sister who I think has mild aspergers herself is dating/living with a guy with blatant aspergers. He is unable to keep a job because of it and makes his living as a professional poker player both on line and at casinos. I’ve spent one weekend with him when they came to visit and he is “weird” for sure. His mother is also “mentally ill.” Not sure what particular mental illness though.

Interesting condition and many with the condition are highly functioning (Dr. Temple Granlin for example) He is also very smart as well. Very high IQ and can “count cards” and make a living at poker at least.

Been there done that, and knew the game around it. It took me while to understand after he left, when he was around you used ot keep me very confused. I had to go somewhere to think calmly. You could feel the negative energy as soon as you walk in the house.

I still don’t know what these spath get at the end, losing a loving partner, who could have done anything for them.

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