“Crazy Making” as Psychological Self-Abuse?

Perusing a friend’s blog, emmie came across the following quote, which was startling in terms of the accuracy to which it describes our ex’s behavior patterns. While many of these patterns of behavior were directed at me and emmie, I didn’t necessarily perceive them as specifically abusive behavior towards me at least, more the behavior of someone with a very on again / off again relationship with reality, i.e. I didn’t see it as necessarily “crazy making” (although at times it had that effect on emmie particularly) but as simply already crazy. For instance the aspect to the pattern of accusing you of saying things you didn’t say or doing things you didn’t do was consistent, but in a relationship that started as a quad and then continued as a triad the person accused could more easily check the reality of the situation with a witness than is usual in monogamous relationships, so it most often made our ex look like the crazy one, not the person it was directed at.

I’m pretty thick-skinned (and probably thick-headed, as my father would say), so it perhaps simply didn’t have the full effect on me, although it probably had more of that effect on emmie. Since the relationship ended her writing and what she has said to others has been filled with a vitriol that appears intended as an attempt to continue abusive behavior from a distance.

Strangely though the worst aspects of this behavior pattern in our ex were self-directed. Since the split she has complained constantly, although vaguely, that she was ‘abused’ in the relationship, but when called on the claim by someone who knew the three of us well for virtually the entire relationship, she couldn’t name a particular instance of any type of abuse, and later responded in her public writing by referring to that person (and apparently anyone else who doesn’t automatically see things her way, although what that way is appears to change from moment to moment) as a “fucking asshole”.

The quote interested me not just due to the accuracy of the description of her behavior pattern and the description of it as abusive, but in terms of the possibility that she remembers the situation as abusive not due to anything emmie or I did, which is demonstrated anyway by her inability to name a single instance of any type of abuse, but due to constant psychological self-abuse, a constant ‘making herself crazy’. Has anyone else seen this type of behavior pattern used by a slave in an M/s dynamic? And is this kind of psychological abuse being used against the self a common pattern or something unusual?


“Are you in a relationship where you are made to feel like you need to doubt yourself, doubt your sense of what is real or that your every thought and behavior is questioned? Do you feel like you may be “going crazy?” If so, you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship.

According to the University of Missouri Extension service, the term “crazy making” is used to describe a process in which a victim of abuse questions their sense of what is real and what isn’t. People who constantly have their perceptions denied by an abusive partner can tend to lose this ability to see what is real, thus questioning whether their own mental health is to blame and not the emotional abuse that is actually occurring.
Crazy making can also be called psychological abuse. This abuse is about trying to make you look bad, discredit you and silence you; all while making the actual abuser appear to be calm and cool to the outside world. The following are some signs that psychological abuse may be occurring.

Distortion and Distraction:
An abuser may say that you said something you didn’t say, did something you never did, or demand things that are impossible for you to do. They may try to distract you from their abusive behavior by changing the subject and not keeping to the issue at hand. They will bring up things that happened days, weeks or even years before to avoid what is really going on. An abusive person may often give you more than one choice between two opposite things, and then later become angry because you chose one thing over the other.

Black and White:
An emotionally abusive person will see things in black and white, with no room for shades of grey. They will be inflexible and unwilling to compromise. Often an abuser will only consider their way as the only way.

Passive Aggressive:
Someone who is emotionally abusive may act out in a passive aggressive way. They will give you the cold shoulder and quiet treatment, sulking in a way that they are hoping you will read all kinds of meaning into. Sometimes an abuser will subtly sabotage things you enjoy by saying negative things with a smile. This type of behavior makes it difficult for anyone on the outside of this relationship to detect that there is anything wrong.

Crazy making is a real form of emotional and psychological abuse. If your partner repeatedly exhibits behavior that is meant to confuse you or make you think that things are different than they really are or than you know them to be, seek help from a counselor trained in dealing with abusive relationships. You are not the crazy one, even if your partner is trying to make you believe that you are.”


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