When an abusive tyrant singles you out, it’s easy to feel like you have a target on your back. It’s actually hard not to take it personally when the pattern of insults feels like a premeditated character assassination.
You might ask yourself: What did I do to deserve this treatment? Why me?
The reality is that bullies don’t treat everyone the same. They might treat others around you with respect and civility. This can be problematic, as it can have a gaslighting effect. When you seek support and confide in others, instead of empathetic, they might be incredulous.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. He treats me just fine.”
Gaslighting is debilitating because you begin to question your own judgement and perception of reality. This is how manipulative people take over the minds of others.
When these thoughts take root, it can be extraordinarily destructive. You can begin to question yourself, your behavior, your performance. You might wonder: Maybe he’s right? Maybe I do deserve this. Maybe, as he says, he is “doing me a favor” by taking the time to point out my flaws.
And like a virus infecting a host organism, this thought process can begin to erode our mental health from within, poisoning every ounce of self-confidence, self-respect and sense of agency that we once had.
That’s what happened to me, repeatedly. The experience(s) left me crushed and defeated. As I described in my other piece, I turned to therapist for help. His insights enabled me to rebuild my self-respect by revealing the hidden subtext beneath the emotional manipulation.
Discovering the why and the how helped me take my tormentor’s power away.
Weakness masked by aggression
When we think about bullying or emotional abuse, our default belief is often that a malevolent villain is willfully manipulating the emotions of those perceived as weaker for their own sadistic pleasure.
But, as my therapist pointed out, this default belief is often wrong.