Why does fear count? Because, if we allow it, it controls the decisions we make. It is important to comprehend it. Unlike personality traits that we are born with, becoming a fearful person, due to abuse, is a learned trait that penetrates deep into your being.
You know that commercial for anti-depressants; the one that shows the little black cloud following the poor person around? To a person who is in an abusive relationship, fear is that little cloud. It follows you everywhere you go. And, it dictates you from the morning when you get out of bed until you close your eyes at night. Sometimes, it even haunts your dreams, causing stress to rack your body 24/7.
Walking on egg shells, being jumpy, analyzing your flaws, rushing to get more done…all of it dictated by fear. Fear that you will say the wrong thing, fear that you will not be dressed in the right outfit, fear that you have gained or lost too much weight, fear that dinner will not be done on time, fear that you will get yelled at and/or hit…again.
Fear can be used as a tool for manipulation, or one of control. Remember those personality traits? Fear is a great tactic to use on people who are trusting, nurturing, and empathetic. Of course, it will not work on everyone who has those traits. But, many abusers are masters of manipulation and can successfully bend and mold a trusting, nurturing, and empathetic person into someone who fears hurting or disappointing their abuser. Remember, this is a person that they love. Those same traits also cause the abused to be misguided in their own thoughts, therefore not recognizing the abuse for what it is.
People, like me, somehow excuse the abuser’s behavior. The excuses start directed toward the abuser. “It will get better when….” “They really didn’t mean it.” “They are just having a bad day.” Over time, and after the abuser has started to plant seeds of self-doubt, the excuses become self-directed. “Maybe if I do (insert behavior), they will be happier/love me more/not be upset with me.” “I’m just not good enough.” “He/she could do so much better than me.”
This begins an entire cycle that only the abused can stop. In my marriage, the only way to stop the cycle was to leave. In other relationships, the cycle can be broken through counseling and therapy. But ultimately, we must remember that we can change no one but ourselves.