She locked herself in the walk-in closet. Her breath came quickly and shallowly. Her stomach heaved. She covered her mouth with her hands to suppress the sobs that tried to escape from her very soul. She was scared. Bone chilling to the core of her being, scared. She didn’t know what to expect to happen next. Would he pound at her door? Demand she come downstairs? Would he leave the house? All she could do was wait and pray.
An hour later, she had heard nothing from him. Her heart had calmed in her chest to a steady live giving rhythm. She had thought through the situation and decided that she was not going to be scared of him. She would confront him, force him to tell the truth and acknowledge what he had done.
Bravely, she stepped out of the closet. She refused to shrink, to slouch. She forced herself to stand tall and walk downstairs. She counted her heartbeats, willing them to stay strong and steady. She could hear him now, in the kitchen rattling around. He enjoyed cooking. He did not enjoy her holding him accountable, asking him to help her. That is how this all started after all. She asked him to help her fix the drawer.
They were getting the house ready to sell. She was working in the kitchen and when she pulled out the drawer, the back of it fell off. She screeched and giggled and tried to save the utensils from all clanging to the floor! He heard the commotion and when he came into the kitchen, she was grinning.
“It came apart! Quick, help me!” she laughed
He did not respond to the pleasure on her face. His face was masked with dark eyes and a menacing mouth. “What did you do now?” He stalked over to where she was and forceably grabbed the drawer out of her hands. The rescued utensils clanged loudly on the tile floor. “We’re trying to sell this house! Why are you breaking things?” She opened her mouth to respond but there was no chance for words to come out. He turned, quickly, eyes flashing at her. “You can’t do anything right. Are you trying to keep us from selling? Can’t you even put the dishes away the right way? Do I have to do everything around here? Now you want me to fix it, don’t you? You always want me to work on my day off. You bitch!” His arm lifted. For a quick second she thought he’d finally strike her. Everything moved in slow motion as he raised the drawer above his head and hurled it down the stairs. She watched as it splintered. She looked at him with disbelief. Good heavens it was just a drawer, a simple fix, a little bit of help, she didn’t expect this!! She couldn’t remember what all the yelling was about, what he said. She only remembered running upstairs to escape him. Scared that he’d throw her down the stairs next.
She took a deep breath and stepped into the kitchen. She faced him. Her voice was as strong as she felt. “You threw the drawer down the stairs and broke it. That was not necessary. It was an easy fix.” Her eyes wandered to where the draw was, now put back together and returned to its place. The only sign that anything had happened was a fresh chunk of wood the was missing out of the darkly stained brown wood.
“What are you talking about? Did you go take a nap and dream that up? I didn’t throw the drawer!” He laughed out loud at her.
“Yes, you did. I stood right here and saw you. You were upset that the back had broken. You threw it down the stairs. It broke apart. I saw you.” Disbelief tinged her tone.
“Ha! There it is. I fixed it. It’s fine. You don’t even know what you’re talking about.” He seemed to scoff at her.
“I saw you. Look, there is new wood missing. A huge chunk gone from where it hit the wall on the way down the stairs. This is new damage. You can see it!” Inside, she was wondering where all of this would lead? What was he trying to do?
“Are you kidding me? You never noticed that before? That gouge has been there for years. You never see things, I’m always having to point stuff out to you. I fixed the back of the drawer so you don’t have to worry about that anymore. I don’t know why you’re over reacting.” He stated it as though it were fact.
“NO! You cant deny this! You threw that drawer down the stairs and it broke. You must have fixed it while I was upstairs. I know. I saw. You can’t deny this is new damage from you throwing it.” She was determined. Determined not to be crazy.
He reached out and grabbed her arm. Silently, he dragged her toward the stairs. He not so gently pulled her with him to the lower floor of their house. “Look”, he demanded, “if I threw the drawer and broke it you’d find splinters of wood down here. I don’t see any, do you? Look! Look! Look for them since you seem to think you know more then I do!” He pushed her head toward the floor. He stood over her and demanded that she start looking for the missing splinters of wood. Scared again, she stared up at him. Demandingly, he gestured toward the floor and demanded that she look. She feigned compliance. He made her move the couch, look under the book shelf and check all the baseboards. There was nothing there.
“You cleaned it up and fixed the drawer while I was upstairs.” She was determined to give one more try at making him tell the truth.
“Crazy woman. You need more Prozac. You dream stuff up and then think its true. I don’t even know what to do with you. Psycho is what you are. Accuse me of stuff and then can’t even prove it. Its a miracle I choose to keep you around. You don’t do anything, just make up crazy stories. Did you find anything? Did you? No! You didn’t!! Let it go. Just recognize that I know more then you.”
She was defeated; deflated. There was no point. No point in trying to hold him accountable. He always found a way around her. He always made her out to be the crazy one. Was she crazy? She should have just let the matter go. Who cares if he threw it, it’s fixed now anyway. Nobody would believe her. He doesn’t believe her. Maybe she is going crazy…..
Mind games and manipulation are insidious and covert. Manipulation and mind games are an essential part of an abusers profile. All abusive tactics are designed to gain and maintain control; covert manipulations/mind games are no exception its used so that they can gain control over your actions and your thinking. They gain personal power by doing this over and over again to you. Covert manipulation is hard to define and, because it is so hard to identify, it can really mess with your perceptions of reality. Playing games are how they manipulate you into staying, into ignoring the problem, into accepting blame and into compliance. The games keep you from seeing the truth and from being able to analyze the situation in a healthy, productive way because if you could see the truth, you’d see just how dysfunctional and harmful the relationship really is. The only way to fight the games, is to know about them, that way they lose their power over you; you can recognize them.
Mind Games are very hard to flush out. Playing mind games includes using brainwashing techniques much like cults use. (I’ve tackled that here Are Abusers and Cult leaders Similar?) You might notice that the abuser starts out by demanding that you follow certain rules, however, those rules don’t apply to them. They will say one thing but do something entirely different just to make sure that you understand they are above being held accountable by you. Many abusers will require the victim to ‘speak up’ but he will mumble all he wants to. He will keep her up late at night, lecturing her about all the things she has done wrong. He will lecture her and accuse her of not caring for him. This is a very effective to keep her trying to show him how much she cares. He plays the guilt trip card and this automatically triggers her natural instinct to prove to him how much she loves and desires him. The mental games he plays with her keep her in a constant state of awareness, always looking for ways to show him that she loves him. She doesn’t realize that his tactics are oppressing and controlling her or that he will never understand love and trust the same way that she does.
Mental games can go on for years. They have no understandable pattern. In fact many victims will say “I’m just trying to figure out what is going on” or “I am so confused. I love you and I don’t understand why you can’t see how much I love you.” Any positive messages she sends him are blocked and misunderstood, sometimes purposely. Living in a relationship where mind games are used is extremely stressful. Mind games cause the victim to start suffering from anxiety and panic attacks because she has no control of the outcomes of her life. The stress and unpredictability of mind games and even the mind games themselves often cause her to lose much needed sleep and that will lead to her developing illnesses. She might get sick more often, suffer from mental illness or lose her spiritual grounding and worse of all, all three might happen. She is totally exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually. His ongoing denigration and manipulation of her breaks her down to the point that she has no idea how to survive, it becomes impossible for her to stay self aware and maintain her beliefs and her individual thoughts. She loses trust in herself because she is questioned about everything and has to defend even her right to human rights. She begins to identify more with her abuser then with her own self.
In order to protect herself she will stop fighting and give up. His use of withholding, bullying, defaming, defining, trivializing, harassing, diverting, interrogating, accusing, blaming, blocking, countering, lying, berating, taunting, put downs, abuse disguised as a joke, discounting, threatening, name-calling, yelling and raging will win and she’ll die inside, give up hope. Hopefully, with enough support and caring from others she’ll become strong enough to trust herself again. Someday, she’ll rise up and believe her truth. He won’t like it. He won’t tolerate it.
God is not a God of games. He doesn’t play mind games and he doesn’t like it when his people do either. Satan is the father of mind games, confusion and chaos. He comes to steal, kill and destroy, John 10:10. God encourages straight forward, honest communication. Never should we accept or participate in playing mind games in our relationships.
That moment is when she’ll need support more then ever. Will you be there? Will you believe her? Will you help her?
**Inspired by Clare Murphy’s Power and Control wheel