A primary tool of those who want to keep someone controlled is confusion.
Some well-known tools of confusion are gaslighting, accusations, and isolation.
These are used to disorient the person and keep them doubting the evidence of their senses and gut feelings, or intuition, which is the pipeline of the Holy Spirit within. God’s voice within is not fearful or negative. They counter any incoming information which would help the target.
I and other religious domestic abuse veterans report seven levels of confusion, which my self-help workbook explains. When a partner fears to challenge one level, the controller escalates to the next level. The most severe level creates the most severe trauma.
What level are you in?
- Am I being abused?
Those who cannot empathize may ridicule this question, but the subtle and complex methods of coercive controllers have explained away their cruelties by couching them in terms of caring about their victim.
I had to call a hotline to understand. Because abuse is not always physical, some partners do not identify their violations as abuse. One of the most heartbreaking words I hear are “At least he doesn’t hit me.” Coercive and covert control does not need to use violence against the one they have targeted for manipulation and brainwashing.
- You Know It’s Abuse but You Wonder if You Deserve It
Believing women are in struggles with perfectionism, chronic giving, and people pleasing. Unfortunately, cherry-picking Bible verses to emphasize and other dogmas uplift the very behaviors that controllers find ideal. Any desire or effort to take care of normal needs or choose self-care can be slandered as faithlessness or worse. In this toxic culture, dehumanized suffering becomes a way of following Christ. This is not Jesus’ example.
- You Know You Don’t Deserve It but You Wonder if You Can Help Him
At this level, partners are struggling to obey a misguided ideal that they can and actually should save their controlling, abusive or oppressive partner. Spiritual pride, learned from those who are vested in keeping partners controlled, has developed what amounts to idolatry. Only the Holy Spirit and the person can decide to follow a path of compassion, care and respect. The vow to honor is not in their interest. So in this level, spinning between wanting to help someone who does not respect the helper keeps the sufferer from escaping a one-way, no-win relationship.
- You Know You Can’t Help Him, but You Wonder if it is God’s Will
In this spin cycle, the partner tries to establish or navigate boundaries that are like an obstacle course. A victim will try to avoid the toxicity while moving ahead or keeping a home together. The controller will not allow this.
The misunderstanding of God’s will traps those who try to live in faith at this point. A concept of God’s will as subjection is applied to only one of the partners. Hurling charges of not obeying God’s will never boomerang back to the abuser, who projects his own defects and fears on his partner.
The controlling partner does not apply the Christian ideals to his or her own life, only the partner and children. They claim immunity from any partnership, saying s/he is disrespectful for asking for consideration. The oppressed partner is prohibited or discouraged from leaving the futile fight by misguided family, friends or church leaders who have no understanding of the abusive dynamic.
These are only four of the levels but show the devastation to the partner whose daily life is spinning with the effort to make sense of confusion. While stuck in this struggle, the controller is free to do what he/she wants without any responsibility or consequences.
Any calls to be a partner are sent into the spin cycle of gaslighting, accusations and isolation. If the cycle slows down, the partner just pushes the reset button.
What to do? Begin to chart the patterns of behavior. Clarify and strengthen yourself within the situation. Turn your attention to your own well-being and away from trying to get the controller to stop the spin. It’s a game to the abuser but destroying you.
The workbook contains tools, exercises and clarifying faith concepts to help a reader in this situation. While a victim must have support, the workbook is a map out of the maze to the “Stop Cycle” button.