One crazy-making ally-obtaining tactic of an abuser: simultaneous scorn and imitation
Our thanks to Rebecca Davis for submitting this post. It was written with the permission of the abuse survivor whose story it is.
When Lydia was young she was very creative, and the other girls at school liked to copy her creative ideas. She didn’t like being copied, but her mother assured her, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Instead of being bothered by the imitators, Lydia was told she should understand it was a way of honoring her.
Then when Lydia married Dick the abuser, she was still very creative and would sometimes talk about her ideas to him. But almost without exception he would mock and scorn them.
Later, though, when talking with other people, a curious thing would happen. He would present her creative ideas as legitimate and valid . . . and his own.
Lydia’s mother’s words rang in her ears, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so she tried to understand the abuser’s actions in light of this old saying. “Dick really does think well of my ideas,” she would tell herself. “It’s a way of honoring me.” But it was hard to see clearly in a fog.
This went on for at least ten years. Creative ideas presented to husband, and not only creative ideas, but wise perspectives and sensible thoughts. Reaction from the husband of mockery and scorn and belittling. Later hearing the husband present the ideas and thoughts to others as his own, thereby impressing them with his wisdom and creativity. Trying to make the scenario fit into a framework that made sense.
It all came to a head when Lydia and Dick went to a church that was more spiritually abusive than any they had been in before. There Dick felt more empowered than ever, and he used this crazy-making, ally-obtaining tactic on her even more. There, through a number of resources God brought in from outside (including A Cry for Justice), the fog began to lift, and Lydia began to see this gaslighting for what it was. She began to recognize truth.
Now, after Lydia has escaped in some measure from the abuser, Dick continues to scorn and belittle over email. But now she understand the tactics, so even when she has a well-reasoned idea, she doesn’t readily express it. She knows that when he asks her to “explain,” there’s still the possibility that her ideas could show up in a different context when she least expects it . . . as his own.
When Lydia read the draft of this blog post and saw the validation she received by the recognition of this crazy-making, ally-obtaining tactic, along with a hope of helping someone else, she wrote,
The years I dealt with it, and the frustration/hurt/confusion/anger I subsequently felt because of it, continue to be healed by moments like this. Like another dead blade of grass in a meadow of brown becomes green once again. Makes me feel some “healthy” and “normalness” again. Not a small thing.
Rebecca Davis is the author of the Justice Keepers Publishing book Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind*. Connect with her at her blog — Heresthejoy.com