A guide to interpreting the language of abusers
Interpreting the Language of an Abuser
Original Manuscript from Published 2015 Version
By Dejaye Botkin, MA, LPC, NCC, DBTC, CCTP, CCTMP
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor who helps people daily work through a personal crisis and build resilience. I am well trained and have over fifteen years of experience working in the field of psychology. However, my best and most valuable experience has come from my journey as a survivor of domestic abuse. I want to be clear, I am not a victim of abuse; I am a survivor and thriver. I have witnessed firsthand how living with an abusive person not only impairs your sense of reality and compromises your safety and wellbeing, but you also begin to question your judgment and lucidity.
When you read this guide you may hear familiar phrases. If you live with an abuser, you can bet that my interpretation of their language is correct. If you are living with a genuinely thoughtful, caring person who has been treating you well, then this guide is not for you. Many of the phrases you read in this guide may be used among both healthy companions as well as abusers. The difference is that abusers use these words to manipulate and gaslight you. A true partner uses their words in a different context to lift you up, not tear you down. This guide is for the person who recognizes that there is a discrepancy between words and actions. You have a “gut” intuitive feeling that something is not right but you may have been too conditioned to recognize reality. Maybe you have been told you are being paranoid or crazy.
This guide is a simple, reader-friendly explanation of interpreting the language of an abuser so you are not influenced into thinking you are being irrational. Most narcissists love to use manipulation to force their victims into submission. If you think you are crazy or worthless then you will not be strong enough to leave. That is the idea. For me, it worked for a little while but thanks to God, as well as hard work and devotion to the resources available in this field, I not only saved myself but I am now working to save others along with me.
In graduate school, we are taught to not use self-disclosure as a counseling tool. I think that is a mistake. When used properly, self-disclosure helps my clients not only relate to me but more importantly, I am a role model for resiliency. I am a living and breathing survivor, living to inspire others. Maya Angelou said, “When you learn, teach.” I am teaching by discussing what I have learned.
I hope you enjoy this little guide of what I have learned the hard way. I hope you use this guide to build your inner strength and keep you sane in your time of despair and confusion. Once you dig your way out, be sure to look back into the abyss and stretch out a hand to someone else who may be stuck behind you.
When he says…
When he says “You are psycho,” he means you are not following his lead or you are thinking for yourself and this threatens him.
When he says, “But I love you,” he means I need to keep controlling you.
When he says, “Your friends are losers, you don’t need them anymore.” He means I want to keep you isolated and under my control. I am threatened by others who may convince you to leave me.
When his phone buzzes through with another girl’s number and he says, “I don’t know why she keeps calling me?” He means I didn’t want you to see that she was calling me.
When he says, “I didn’t cheat on you!” He means I hope I can convince you that I didn’t cheat.
When he says, “Is that what you are wearing to work?” He means I don’t want anyone to compliment you or see how nice you look.
When he says, “Your family is nuts, we don’t need to see them as often!” He means your family is onto me and they are starting to see through my manipulation and control over you.
When he says, “We don’t need therapy, all psychotherapists begin with the word “psycho,” and just because they have fancy degrees does not mean they can help us!” He means I am afraid the therapist will see through my manipulation and control over you. I do not want to be exposed by him/her.
When he says, “Look at your past relationships, no one else will want you with all that baggage!” He means I am trying to break you down and make you feel insecure so you won’t leave me for someone healthier.
When he says, “You have let yourself go, what happened to you?” He means I don’t want you to feel confident about yourself. I need to make you feel unattractive and undeserving of love.
When he says, “You should feel grateful I am staying with you because no one else would want to!” He means if you feel confident about yourself you may search for someone who appreciates you more.
When he says, “You can’t leave me,” he means if you try to leave me I will make your life miserable. I will strip you of your dignity and leave you with nothing.
When he says, “I will tell people how crazy you are!” He means if I convince you that you are crazy you will doubt yourself and then I can keep control over you. If I keep telling you that you are crazy you will start to believe me.
When he says, “You don’t need access to the bank account, I will take care of us and manage our money,” he means I don’t want you to have access to our money because I do not want you to see how carelessly I am spending it. In addition, I want you to depend on me for everything!
When he says, “Don’t listen to your friends they are all sluts anyway,” he means if you listen to your friends they may convince you to leave me. It also means he has probably hit on your friends behind your back and they are too embarrassed to tell you.
When he says, “You don’t need a girls’ night out, we should only go out as a couple,” he means I am threatened by you going out with your friends because I cannot control what you do or say if I am not there.
When he says, “She is just a friend, stop being so paranoid,” he means I don’t want you to know how close I am to her. It is better if I make you think you are crazy than to admit I have been cheating on you.
When he says, “You don’t need your own social media account,” he means I want to keep you isolated from the world both in-person and on-line.
When he says, “I don’t like you discussing our problems with your friends or family,” he means, if your friends or family hear how controlling I am they might try to rescue you from me.
When he says, to my son, “Keep our family problems within the family, do not discuss us or lives with anyone else!” He has something to hide.
“When he says, “Don’t run away from me when we fight, we have to work this out now!” He means if you take a moment to think for yourself or clear your head you may start to realize I am manipulating you. I do not want you to think clearly and leave me.
“When he says, “If you ever leave me I will move to Tibet and become a monk!” He means when you eventually realize who I am and you leave me, I settle for moving on with my mistress.”
If any of the above phrases and interpretations ring a bell, and you have doubted your relationship thus far, you are probably being manipulated. Until you can see through the distorted language, you will remain stuck with a person who uses words to keep controlling you. You may even be convinced you are not mentally stable.
Please remember admitting you are in an abusive relationship does not mean you are weak or a victim, it just means he got into your head.
Please start to think clearly.
Every county has a domestic violence program. I encourage you to find your local program and ask for help in thinking clearly.