Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why Does He DO That? Introduction (Part 4)

We are reading, and, I hope, entering into a healthy discussion of the book Why Does He DO That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.

Please, do buy your own copy - both because I won't be excerpting all of it, and because this author deserves our $upport.

From the Introduction - My Experience Working with Angry and Controlling Men:
Counseling abusive men is difficult work. They are usually very reluctant to face up to the damage that they have been causing women, and often children as well, and hold tightly to their excuses and victim blaming. As you will see in the pages ahead, they become attached to the various privileges they earn through mistreating their partners, and they have habits of mind and make it difficult for them to imagine being in a respectful and equal relationship with a woman.

From the Introduction - How To Use This Book

One of the prevalent features of life with an angry or controlling partner is that he frequently tells you what you should think and tries to get you to doubt or devalue your own perceptions and beliefs. I would not like to see your experience with this book re-create that unhealthy dynamic. <snip>  listen carefully to what I’m saying, but always think for yourself. If any part of what I describe about abusers doesn’t match your experience, cast it aside and focus on the parts that do fit. <snip> If you come upon sections that don’t speak to you - because you don’t have children, for example, or because your partner is never physically frightening - to skip ahead to the piece that can help you more.

Some women will find it being alone with this book is too difficult because it awakens feelings and realizations that are overwhelming. I encourage you to reach out for support from trusted friends and family as you go along. While reading this book is likely to be clarifying for you, it may also awaken awareness that can be painful or distressing. <snip> Again, don’t be stymied by the word abuse; the hotline staff is there to listen to you and to help you think about any relationship in which you are being treated in a way that is making you feel bad.

One of the biggest battles I had repeatedly with my ex is he tried, like Orwell's Big Brother, to control my thoughts. He would frequently begin a rant at me with, "You think blah blah blah," and at least that ticked me off enough that I refused to follow him down that particular rabbit hole.

Just like nobody gets to put baby in a corner, NOBODY gets in my face and TELLS me what I am thinking or what I "should" think. The full frontal assault was almost always a fail.

Other mental manipulations - and I am not sure they are/were all conscious - were much more successful at twisting my thoughts and perceptions, to get me to "behave." Acting hurt/wounded by something I said or did. The compliment with a sting in it, "You look good in that color, and if you just lost another five pounds, that dress would look fantastic." Those are the kinds of messages that kept replaying in my mind, planted seeds of doubt. Bruises are easy to recognize and point to, but the slow poisoning of heart and confidence through planting those ugly words and thoughts is much dirtier and more insidious.

Human beings all want others to do what we want, and are manipulative, to a certain degree. If I have a difficult subject to bring up with my boss, for example, I will wait until he is in a good mood (most of the time, luckily for me) and he has an open window of time (that one's more difficult) to really think about my issue and discuss it. Is that manipulation, or common sense? How about letting your partner know that you really, really want to see a certain concert or movie?

Where manipulation turns into abuse is when there is the lack of respect and an equal relationship. In most societies, even Western ones, there is an open assumption that "the man is the head of the house," and so sometimes, it's hard to see where an abusive attitude begins. Isn't church/temple/mosque/society telling the man that he is supposed to rule over "his" woman? If one party believes that he (or she) has the right to dismiss without discussion an idea or plan floated by his (or her) partner, it's not a relationship of equals.

My ex found it nearly impossible to compromise. He wanted to have things his way, the superior way. On occasion, he would allow me to have things my way, but there was very little of the give and take and negotiation that happens in a relationship of equals.

Once when I had described what I wanted, and why, he was (again) locked into the black-or-white thinking, and nastily accused me of  "always wanting things my way." I became so frustrated that I got very sarcastic with him.

"No," I said. "I am trying to work this out together. That's what grown-ups do. I put what I want out on the table, here," I gestured to the right hand side of the coffee table. "You put what you want out on the table, there," I gestured to the left hand side of the table. "Then we work together to try to meet in the middle and find a way for both of us to get our needs and wants satisfied. A win-win. That's what grown-ups do."

I think, in retrospect, that part of his issue was that he either didn't have or couldn't verbalize a position, but felt compelled (demand-resistance, knee-jerk reaction) to say no to what I was proposing, no matter what it was. He simply couldn't let me have the "win" of  "Yes, that sounds like a great idea."

I found it very difficult to work through this book and consider how much of it applied to me.

Yes, my boyfriend often called me names, had jealous spats, wouldn't work together with me. Yes, he frequently liked to refer to women as bitches - but he was only joking.

Even now I have a very hard time talking about it as abuse. But it was.


Disclaimer: The information and opinions posted here, and any comment responses, are not to be considered professional advice and are not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical or mental health professional. If you are involved in a relationship that includes physical, financial, and/or emotional violence, please contact a professional for help and assistance.

In the US:

National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)  TTY- 1-800-787-3224 
RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network)
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (includes downloadable guides for helping women in abusive relationships)
National Alliance on Mental Illness, aka NAMI

International Resources linked here.

Your thoughts?