Understanding Boundaries and Authority
So when we talk about abusive people and how they brainwash, or gaslight, their victims, we need to understand the following points about boundaries and authority:
We are all individual human beings and spirits with our own minds. We are all able to think for ourselves and hear from God and the holy spirit, who prompt us so we know when something is right or wrong. Like Jiminy Cricket always said, “Let your conscious be your guide.”
As a species, we are always growing and learning from our life experiences. It’s not healthy or appropriate behavior just to get angry and hurt other people because they are learning. When we make a mistake because we didn’t know that we did something the wrong way, then we simply need loving correction or reproof. For example, as a new employee at a new job who is still learning the ropes, if we mess up then our manager, whose role of authority in our lives is to teach us how to do the job, will tell us how we messed up and how we should correctly complete the task so that we are following company rules or state regulations. This isn’t a personal attack, this is a reasonable correction of another human being because the scope of the manager’s authority is to correct us if we aren’t following the regulations correctly.
Boundaries allow us to understand each other as human beings, and how we should treat each other. Boundaries are not walls, they are fences with gates in them so that we can decide who to let in and who to let out. Sticking with the example above, your manager at work is allowed to encroach the boundary of correcting you within in reason and scope of their authority in the workplace. But it would be inappropriate for that person to attempt to correct you outside of that scope – unless you have built a friendship or other relationship with that person outside of the professional realm. But for the sake of this example, your boss or manager shouldn’t correct you for something that isn’t work-related and within their scope of authority.
As people, we do not hold authority over others automatically. We are not to simply comply with an authoritarian person because they feel they should hold authority, power, or control over us when it is not their place to do so. For example, when we are children and we are learning and growing, our parent’s job is to teach us and they have a role of authority over us that we should respect, pending they don’t abuse or neglect us. Parents have the role of loving, nurturing, teaching, and disciplining us. Now the word discipline means training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character (Mirriam-Webster). Other definitions include control gained by enforcing obedience or order; self-control; and punishment.
Punishment or enforcement of obedience or order should never cross the line to abuse (physical, emotional, spiritual, or any other kind) nor should punishment or enforcement of obedience be done by anyone who doesn’t have a role of authority over us. How do we determine who should have a role of authority over us? This is determined by understanding the rules and laws of our society, but it is also determined by the boundaries you set for yourself and how you enforce those boundaries. We do need discipline in our lives so that we can learn how to properly treat others. The golden rule is a solid rule: do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.
I’ll end this section with this final point about boundaries. It is important to teach our children about boundaries so that when they grow up and leave the home they will be prepared to have their own boundaries and enforce them. They will also be prepared to respect other people’s boundaries, understanding that boundaries are a fence with a gate. So, this allows for us to open and close our gate when we want to and we can choose to compromise with someone when it comes to our own boundaries. We get to decide who shouldn’t ever cross one of our boundaries, and who can possibly cross the boundary. Also, we should understand which boundaries should never be crossed and which boundaries are flexible. For example, physical touch. Who is allowed to physically touch us (in a non-abusive way) and who shouldn’t touch us? A doctor touches us when they examine us medically. A parent needs to touch a baby to change or bathe them. Not everyone should touch us. We also all have a personal level of comfort when it comes to physical touch, and this is a boundary that should be respected.
Gaslighting: Abusers Blur Boundaries & Brainwash Their Victims
Abusive people are boundary pushers. They like to blur boundaries so that they can cross them. They will manipulate and emotionally abuse their way over the boundary, where they can then brainwash the victim and control them. This is why it is important if you have a young child who is a boundary pusher to train them to understand that this is not okay. When these children become adults, if we have let them push and cross boundaries all their lives, they do not know how to respect boundaries. It is easier to teach a growing child to respect boundaries over time than it is to teach an abusive adult. An abusive person will attempt to hold authority over you when they shouldn’t, and it is important to understand that a romantic relationship or marriage is intended to be a partnership, not a dictatorship or authoritarian relationship. Neither partner should hold authority over the other, however, each partner should respect and love each other authentically.
Abusive adults are generally people who haven’t been taught about boundaries as children. Maybe they had abusive parents or they just weren’t in an environment that properly taught them about boundaries. Maybe they were spoiled as children and allowed to do whatever they wanted, without any boundaries being applied to them. We all need boundaries to know how to treat each other kindly, respectfully, and compassionately.
Once an abusive person blurs and crosses your boundaries, they can begin to manipulate and brainwash you. This is why it is important to the recovery process from abuse for us to learn how to establish solid boundaries with abusive people. Sometimes, those boundaries will be walls when it comes to toxic and abusive people who have no respect for our boundaries. At this point, once you’ve established that someone is an abusive person who doesn’t care at all for the boundaries you set, this is where you should walk away and not allow them into your life at all.
Gaslighting & Brainwashing Tactics
If you’ve been in a relationship with an abusive person, you may have said one of the following things:
- “It felt like he programmed me.”
- “I wasn’t myself anymore.”
- “I could no longer think for myself.”
- “I could barely think at all.”
Abuse is a form of mind control or brainwashing, known as gaslighting. The purpose of the abuse is to gain power and control over you through your mind. Abusers take over their victim’s minds by:
Not allowing the victim to make personal decisions or decisions about things that matter.
Keeping their victim sleepy or even malnourished – they may also drug their victim or get them addicted to alcohol. They may slip the drug in their drink or simply push it on them and manipulate them into taking it.
Restricting access to information, the internet or access to a phone or other means of communication with the outside world. (This may not even be a physical restriction, but a mental restriction achieved through manipulation and fear tactics to make the victim afraid to reach out to someone else even when they can.)
Exhausting them physically through forced labor inside or outside the home.
Enforcing impossible rules with abusive punishments for “disobedience.”
Humiliating or injuring their victim, possibly through sex.
Manipulating their victim with lies, gaslighting, silent treatment, and other methods.
Making their victims “crack” mentally by torturing them. For example, by denying them needed medication, locking them in a room, forcing them to listen to two talk radio stations at once, denying them access to showers, or forcing them to harm their own child or pet.
Constantly verbally and emotionally abusing the victims by telling them they are stupid, ugly, useless, worthless, etc. making them feel invaluable, unworthy, depressed, anxious, etc. This pushes the victim into a downward spiral and they lose themselves.
The abuser may not come outright and say directly that they are stupid or ugly, but they may be more covert in their remarks. For example, they may constantly make snide remarks or even turn it into a joke when they say “Oh, you’re so retarded” or even something that seems as harmless as “You’d look better as a blonde” or “I wish your breasts were larger.” They have this image in their mind of what you should be and look like for them, and they don’t love you for who you are.
Abusers use mind control or brainwashing for the same reasons they use intimidation, isolation, putdowns, financial control, and other tactics. They want full control over their victim and the relationship. Some even have a sadistic need to watch others suffer by deliberately causing their victims to doubt their perception and their sanity. But the majority of abusers are just looking for a way to retain control over their partner for a variety of reasons and again may have not been taught that this is not acceptable behavior as a child. It is common to see grown adults who act very immaturely because they don’t have a good role model or parents. None of these reasons excuse their behavior however, rather this is just a look into the psychological mind of an abusive person and why they brainwash their victim.
No matter what the reason is, this is dangerous behavior and shouldn’t be enabled or tolerated. Anyone in an abusive situation should leave when it is safe to do so.