Three Ways to Soften the Power of Abuse and Have Some Control

Recently, we made a post about going “no contact”. It was incredibly popular and we received several messages asking about how to go no contact with abusive individuals. As a result, we decided we ought to blog about some suggestions as to how to protect oneself. At Give Her Wings, we consider three different methods of “managing” these high conflict personalities (with several caveats) to be basic strategies.

1. No Contact: This is the most highly recommended form of avoiding abuse. We cannot stress the need to be free of abuse enough. We urge no contact over and over and over again. No contact means no communication via phone, texting, email and “in person”. But, it also means no peeking at a person’s social media. No twitter, no breezing through photos, no Facebook, nothing. Furthermore, it means asking others to refrain from communicating with you about the abuser, as well. This can all be very difficult for two reasons. First, it is overwhelmingly problematic for a former victim to go no contact. We do believe there is such a thing as Stockholm Syndrome. There is also a great, big natural desire to forgive, forget and move forward. It is often too difficult to sift through all of the painful feelings, PTSD and intense desire for things to be “set right”, especially when the abusive person is love-bombing. The victim finds herself alone, being pursued and struggling with breaking trauma bonds. Truly, only the power of Christ can help her. Second, it can cause conflict or uncomfortable feelings when we have to ask a person to stop talking about, sharing or gossiping about said abuser. I have written a little guide on writing friendly notes concerning setting up boundaries here.

2. Low-Contact must occur when a former victim is unable to completely disconnect. This is seen, mostly, when a victim has to parallel parent with an abuser. This, also, is extremely taxing. We hear, repeatedly, how deeply a former victim wants to be completely liberated from the abuser. These momentary connections with an abuser are used and manipulated (by him) to try to pull the former victim back into the fog. Or, he jabs at her, throws her off balance or attempts to make her feel as though she will never be free of his influence. It is simply awful. In order to go low-contact, a former victim needs to shut down as many avenues of communication as possible and leave the door open for only one. Conversation must be limited, as well. For example, “John, I will only communicate to you via email and only about the children. If you cannot abide by this, I will contact my attorney for further advise”. And then, the former victim must be strong enough to keep to this promise or else be ready to inflict consequences. It always helps to have accountability. Perhaps someone to call or text when the temptation to stray away from these boundaries threatens to overcome. So, at this point, we just want to admit that we know there are a million different scenarios. Maybe low-contact is not even possible, which brings us to our final suggestion . . .

3. Grey Rock Method: We drew the name for this technique from this article here: The Gray Rock Method of Dealing with Psychopaths.  Essentially, the author writes that one way of warding off the attacks of an abuser (particularly one with whom a victim shares custody of children) is to be a “boring person”. To be a gray rock; to be bland. In other words, to have an emotionless affect when an abuser jabs. Many psychopaths, sociopaths or those who are just flat out emotionally draining crave drama. If we do not give into that drama, they will soon lose interest and, perhaps, wander away on their own, eventually looking for a new place to stir up crazy. This method is different than just cutting abusers off.

The article makes sense and there is much good to be pulled from it. At the same time, we want to caution readers to recognize that it is not written from a Christian world view. That does not mean there are not some gems in there (as we have seen time and time again from “secular” psychologists and authors). But, there are a few times in reading the article where it is obvious the author may not share the same values as we. We also cannot claim that the gray rock method. will “work”. But, it might. And it is certainly something to explore.

One positive aspect of the gray rock method is that it keeps the victim from feeling powerless or losing control. It may anger the abuser more — for he or she cannot get a “rise” out of the victim — but it may aid in helping the victim to stop feeling so powerless, crazy or out of control. We do caution our readers, however, to be careful. If “gray-rocking” makes an abuser angry, there needs to be another way. I do know that some abusers scream and scream and do all they can to get a rise out of the victim. Of course, this is miserable.

We hope that this helps, as a short guide, all of you precious ladies who are trying to enforce boundaries and feel as though you have some control over your life! If you know of any other methods or you have thoughts or ideas, please comment!

Remember,  each time you allow him to have unnecessary contact, in your life, you are allowing him to abuse you all over again. You are too precious and too valued to allow that — ever again. No contact. Low contact. Grey Rock. You can do this.

Love,

Megan

9 Replies to “Three Ways to Soften the Power of Abuse and Have Some Control”

  1. This is excellent advice. Among the most common rationales I hear from abuse victims are, “he just doesn’t get it,” or “his thinking is messed up.” The victim seems certain that her abuser is just misreading her, so she is ever looking for new ways to assure him of her good intentions. The reality is that he is deliberately contorting his victim’s messages and hooking her into crazy-making conversations that she simply cannot win.

    Another useful exercise I’ve shared with abuse victims is to mentally identify the abuser’s MO in the moment. When he says something cruel or manipulative, rather than thinking, “That was a terrible thing to say, ” a victim can take a step back and affirm inwardly, “There it is. That’s abuse.” Suddenly, she begins to see her abuser for who he is rather than receiving or trying to counter what he is saying.

    All good stuff that empower victims to see the truth and better protect themselves.

  2. First, I find the white on black very difficult to read.
    Second, even after having left the emotionally abusive spiritual abuse of the pastor, so often I find the situations rehearsing in my mind from one trigger or another. This is a good reminder to avoid “no contact” in the mind as well.
    Thank you.

  3. Hello..
    I want to first say thank you so much for your wonderful site and facebook page. It has helped me immensely as I struggle some times to just get through the day…and thank you helping to learn that JESUS IS SAFE!!! Unfortunately it is something I struggle with.

    I have recently separated from an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage of 12 years. I am having a very difficult time with boundaries and implementing even GREY ROCK. We have 2 young children together so no contact is not an option and even low contact is hard because we still reside within 5 minutes of each and still have the same church community.

    I also feel guilty about implementing these boundaries. Sometimes I read stories of women in other abusive situations and think..” Wow! their situation is worse than mine” so I don’t have a right to have such firm boundaries…It is also hard because he is acting sorry and remorseful…being extra nice….though still “pushing my boundaries” I have asked for no contact outside of children’s schedule and activities…yet he continually finds way to contact me or see me about something..but it is never mean spirited so I get confused.. He is seeing a counselor now too as well…Something I had asked of him for years but he refused…until now.

    can anyone help me with some wisdom in my situation?

  4. Hello, Onmyway.

    From my experience, your situation is very common.

    You finally step back, set some boundaries, the guy plays nice and you feel guilty for keeping him at a distance. And with the new dynamic comes the confusion you mentioned. So I would like to share my personal definition of confusion – a state of mind caused by either a lack of information or a distortion of the truth. Here you lack both sufficient information (in terms of his short-term history), and his seemingly sincere actions may be distorting the truth. The short answer: When you are confused, wait until you have clarity. Do nothing out of a sense of obligation. That’s where danger lies.

    The fact that in the midst of his niceness he is bulldozing your boundaries reveals his true agenda. He is saying essentially, “If I’m nice to you, you have to let me in.”

    No you don’t. If he were truly safe, he would respect your boundaries and give you all of the time and distance you need.

    He’s seeing a counselor, eh? That’s likely a check-off to pressure you to back down even when your instincts are screaming “danger!” Trust your instincts rather than his words. If it’s okay, I would like to recommend a few articles I think might help: “Checklist Blackmail,” “Did He Apologize or Not?” and “I’m Trying: Setting the Stage for Failure.” I think these might help you to see some of your husband’s strategies. Unfortunately, the spam blocker won’t allow me to provide links – but they can be found on my website, if you want to check them out.

    You are not alone, friend. Many of us have been where you are. Be strong, keep a safe distance and keep growing in your knowledge of the truth…

    Blessings,

    Cindy

    [Let me know, Megan, if you’d prefer that I not offer recommendations.]

    1. Cindy – I am so grateful that you did! I absolutely agree with Cindy, Onmyway, and I am so glad that you reached out. Trust that God-given intuition and keep yourself safe! I recently posted this on our FB page: If you are like me, it is easy to forgive quickly and want to believe the best about people. As time goes by, I forget about the horrendous things people have done to me and I just feel certain that they have changed and that we can do better than this. I turn into the Israelites, wishing for the “leeks and onions” of the “good ole’ slavery days in Egypt”. But, God did not want His people enslaved. There was no reconciliation to be had with the Egyptians. He wanted a free people then and He desires a free people now! Don’t go back there! Hugs, dear one. You are not alone!

  5. Hello Cindy,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I have also read through some of the article on your site and found them to be extremely helpful. At what point though do you know it is not a strategy ..and that things are real..is it time?

    To be honest sometimes I just don’t want him to change so then I can be released and don’t have to worry about trying to discern the process of change. It seems exhausting and overwhelming..
    other times I hope that this time I will finally be able to live peacefully with him..

    I do have another question about the severity of abuse…I know abuse is abuse but although at times I do think the emotional abuse I endured is not to be taken lightly…I don’t think the abuse can compare to physical abuse or infidelity…neither of which was committed by my husband…how can I get past comparing my abuse to others and feeling like I don’t have as much “rights” to leave or divorce..

    thanks again for your wisdom!

  6. Hello again, Onmyway.

    When you say…”that things are real – is it time?” do you mean is it time to return? Presuming that is the case, I would urge you ask yourself several important questions.

    What are your instincts telling you? If there is that niggling sense of confusion, doubt or fear, then I encourage you to trust those instincts. They are likely telling you that something is not right.

    Would you return out of a sense of obligation or guilt, because logically it would seem like the right thing to do, and you don’t want to make things worse? Just know that obligation is the wrong motivation. Reconciliation is not necessarily the priority, but rather the truth about your relationship is.

    Your confusion regarding a life with him (or not) is understood. This is why allowing a generous amount of time is so important. You don’t have to decide anything right now. The priority is for you to detox and heal and learn – and watch to see how your husband responds to your boundaries and situations that are uncomfortable for him.

    And perhaps most importantly, the question regarding whether the abuse you have endured is not as bad as what others have… I get that. At its core, the essence of abuse is power and control. It is primarily a mental/emotional game before it is ever a physical one.

    Perhaps the simplest questions I might ask you are: Do you trust him? Do you feel safe with him? Does he cherish you? Does he diminish the effects of his actions or blame you for them?

    If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of your husband’s repentance, then the simplest choice is to do nothing – to wait until you are absolutely certain one way or another. In many, if not most, cases, abusers have an agenda. An abuser will go to extreme lengths to get his victim back and when his tactics don’t seem to work, he will become impatient and angry, because the target is not buying into his plans. A truly repentant man will respect the need to wait, understanding the need to re-earn trust.

    Another article you might want to check out in this regard is, “Leaving an Abuser: What to Expect and How to Stay Grounded.”

    I hope this helps.

    Pray for wisdom and trust your instincts. The reality is that you probably know more than you think you do…

    I welcome your questions and pray that you find the clarity you seek.

    Cindy

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