Coercive control is about power and control. It is a pattern of behaviour, a course of conduct, which occurs over time. It is strategic and aimed at creating co-dependency and utter domination. It can include isolation, exploitation, intimidation and/or threats or actual physical harm. The behaviour is insidious and undermines the victim’s sense of self. It is a form of hostage taking – an insidious ‘drip, drip, drip’. It can also include pseudo-caring behaviour and oftentimes the perpetrators are charming. They may charm their way into the victim’s life and once controlled, upend them.
Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is: a continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim.
The controlling behaviour can be subtle, nuanced, indirect and by proxy. Psychological abuse includes, but is not limited to, intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property and threats of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or psychological abuse, gaslighting, love bombing, fear inducing, inserting in relationships and taking over relationships.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting involves reality distortion. It’as a tactic in which a person, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists and cult leaders.
It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realise how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind when all along he has set her up. I see it in so many of my cases, along with love bombing. Oftentimes the victim does not see themselves as the victim.
In fact, a large number of victims do not self-identify as a victim. It is akin to brain washing and often when talking with victims we hear the perpetrator’s voice, rather than their own.
If you think you are a victim or if you believe someone else is here are some of the warning signs and information so that you can help them:
What Are the Signs of Gaslighting?
- Charm can be used to disarm
- Denying they said or did something when you have the evidence
- Data mining your vulnerabilities and acting very interested in your life. They may trade a vulnerability about their life with you and ask you to share something. When you share a secret, they weaponize what you tell them and use it as ammunition against you.
- They attack the things that you hold near and dear. They attack your very essence of being.
- They flip the script when you challenge them and out you on the back foot. You end up feeling sorry for them or defending your behaviour.
- They continually upend you
- They claim victimhood when challenged
- They project – whatever they are doing, they accuse you of doing
- They say that you are crazy and tell others
- Their insidious ‘drip, drip, drip’ behaviour wears you down over time
- Their actions do not match what they tell you
- They align people against you
- They insert themselves in your relationships
- They tell you those closest to you are bad or up to no good
- They isolate you.
What is Love bombing?
Love bombing is an intense and constant stream of love communication, texts, emails, notes and gifts to sweep you off your feet and intoxicate you with love. It’s designed to make you fall in love.
It will not feel like bombardment, although it is. It will feel flattering. It will feel like the kind of romance we watch in movies – the attention to your every need, the sweet notes, the love declarations, the adoration, the flowers, the gifts.
He has assessed you and is mirroring exactly what you want to see and hear. It feels almost too good to be true – well, guess what, it is. It is all about control. The intention is to hook you in and make you fall in love. A whirlwind to get you under control.
Love bombing is a powerful aphrodisiac and tool in the abuser’s tool box. It gives you little time to think, it isolates you as they monopolise your every waking hour, it gives a false impression of who they are, and it moves the relationship along very quickly.
Before you know it, you are hooked. The message you receive is ‘he is really into you’ ‘we have an intense connection’ ‘we have known each other longer than you actually have.’ This is mind control and distorts the reality and before long, there will be pressure to move in together. Once he has you where he wants you, the behaviour will change.