“Tell a lie enough times, it becomes truth.” or so the saying goes.
Some of us are more susceptible to this kind of manipulation than others. Self-critical or self-effacing people, or just those who can’t stand to place blame on others are quite accepting of false charges laid against them. If something is off, it must be their fault, especially if they are told repeatedly that it is.
“You have anxiety” was drummed into my head for years. I accepted it as fact, I had generalized anxiety disorder. The fact that I was stressed all the time was ample evidence. It had to be true.
I was told over and over that my response to stress was disproportionate, that I was oversensitive, needy, too emotional. I had buzzwords and subjective terms thrown at me: “anxious”, “codependent”, “enmeshed”, “entangled”, “clingy”, “controlling”, “manipulative”, “unhealthy”, “obsessed”. Always negative terms, but never a description of healthy alternatives.
I became convinced that I was somehow defective.
Then the word “abusive” was dropped on me, over and over again, with no definition or explanation of what I did to abuse. Eventually, I was told my kindness and attempts to do the right thing while being abandoned, cheated on, and lied to were covert ways to control and manipulate. I was treating her “not like a friend, more like a wife who ran away”. I was too nice.
I was a sociopath. That was the only explanation. Not only did I not see my own abusive nature, I really thought it was kindness. If I could abuse the one person in the world who I promised to love, cherish, and protect without realizing it, who else was I abusing? No one deserved me blindly controlling and manipulating them to gain power and affection.
That was my breaking point. I literally ran away from home. I spent two nights in a sketchy hotel before my mind cleared.
I am not a sociopath. Abuse has a motive. Cruelty is nearly always abusive, kindness? Not so much. I do not use people for personal gain. I do not treat people well just so I can weasle my way into owning them.
We live in a subjective world. Words no longer hold objective definitions. When I looked into the words thrown at me I began to find many of them simply have no meaning.
“Anxiety” is a “disproportionate” amount of stress or worry about a situation or event. The first thing that popped into my head was “who defines what ‘disproportionate’ means?”
When I asked my therapist what the appropriate amount of concern is over a situation he replied that it has much to do with each individual’s resilience and experiences. The same applied to “what is the appropriate amount of affection one should have for or expect from loved ones?” and “What is ‘healthy’ and who defines it?”
There are many blogs and psychology articles out there that will tell you every single neuroses that you have. They will convince you that you are anxious, codependent, narcissistic, needy, unhealthy, etc but not one of them will tell you what “healthy” looks like.