I ran across this article and thought it summed up a kind of enmeshment phenomenon that I only discovered in the past few years. This article focuses on the mind of the abuser rather than the victim, or recognition of the signs of abuse. It explains how abusers tend to brainwash their victims by taking over their personalities. I’m going to excerpt it.
Research has shown one of the main reasons why people put up with abuse in their relationships is pity. The person who is being abused often feels sorry for the person who is abusing them and this can be hard for others to understand.
They surround, or attempt to surround, that person with themselves and they try to keep everyone, and everything, else away from their “core” for fear of losing it. Abusive partners often hide the fact that they are weak and vulnerable. They replace their “core” self with the “core” of their partner.
The problem with a relationship like this is that the person will feel threatened by anything they do not feel in control of. If their “core” tries to have a life of “its” own they feel threatened.
Abusive people inspire pity because, when they are at risk of losing their partner, their panic and pain is massive. This is because, for them, they are literally in danger of losing themselves and their whole world starts to fall apart.
Abusive people hurt the people they love the most because in their effort to try to control, they attempt to stop the person with whom their enmeshed from being an individual separate from them. So they try to control every aspect of their life including who they talk to, what they do in their free time, who they’re friends are, and what they believe and think.
The more entrenched an abusive person’s partner becomes in their “core” the more control they need over that person. They begin trying to control every part of the other person’s life up to, and including, their mind. They often try to replace the thoughts and feelings of their partner by, in a sense, brainwashing them.
This is the scary part. A friend of mine explained his feelings about his relationship dynamics in lesser words, just like that. I was shocked because for me, I’ve always had a solid sense of who I was. It was hard to relate and it was shocking to hear.
He explained how every attempt to get his feelings heard ended in his words being twisted, and his feelings being completed redefined by what she wanted him to believe. He even expressed this as happening so often, and so frequently, that he didn’t even know what his opinions and feelings were about events in the past. It was as if history had been rewritten and his independent memories were completely erased and replaced by her version of events and feelings.
He was so frustrated with that phenomenon, he decided to shut down all together and simply comply with everything no matter what he felt about it. (Which also isn’t good.)
They will repeatedly tell their partner they are lying about what they say they think or feel. They persistently insist their beliefs about what their partner is thinking or feeling are all that matter because they are the truth.
When the abuser feels threatened to lose their “core”, they will do anything to get it back. This is because they define their core as their relationship instead of finding it within themselves.
This arouses intense pity in the abused partner and they will try again to make the relationship work. They cannot understand how it is possible to love the way their abusive partner clearly loves them without changing. They can see how much they mean to their partner and this makes them believe that, one day, their partner will change to avoid losing them for good.
They are wrong. Their partner will simply put more and more strategies into place to try and keep them under control because that’s what you do when someone is out to take what is yours – you fight them.
I can’t begin to tell you how much this resonates with me regarding my friend’s situation. It makes me very sad because while he expressed that this has been happening to him, he hasn’t made the connection how dysfunctional and destructive it is to his identity, nor how much it skews his perception of reality and his own happiness. (How can you know how you feel if someone else is telling you what you feel and you believe them?)
The full article can be found here: http://www.wordsbykim.com/contents/Why-They-Hurt-The-Ones-They-Love.html