Crisis Tactics

One of the things it is common to lose to abuse is a sense of where your own edges need to be. Abusers will work to erode your confidence and self esteem, because when you don’t feel you can say no, you’re more vulnerable to their predations. Standing my ground, defending myself, flagging up problems and expressing distress all still put me in a place of expecting to be knocked down harder than I was by the initial problem. It’s hard to hold boundaries when you fear that protecting yourself will invite twice as much trouble.

I’m not living in that kind of environment any more. However, that knee-jerk reaction remains. If I need to express distress, then fear of what that will bring is with me. Until I’ve tested something like this, I don’t know how anyone will react to me – will they double down? To navigate this I’ve given myself a set of rules. Having established this rule set means that under pressure and feeling emotionally vulnerable, I have a set of defaults to work with.

One. I am entitled to say no to anyone for any reason and I am not obliged to justify that decision. If someone hurts me and I want to just back off and not deal with it, I am allowed to do that.

Two. If I express distress then there are a number of acceptable responses – anything with an element of care, concern, apology. Anything that accepts my response as valid even if it wasn’t where I was supposed to end up. Anyone kindly explaining why it wasn’t meant that way. Any kind of ‘oops’ or ‘oh shit’ noises. I may need further conversation to sort things out, but any of these responses are worth working with.

Three. If I express distress and am met with blame, criticism, mockery, dismissal, being told why I shouldn’t feel like that, being told why I ‘made them’ do it or why their position is justified, or anything else of this shape, I am entitled to end the conversation and step away from the person.

Four. How much slack I cut is totally up to me. How much I am willing to forgive is totally up to me.

Five. How much I love a person is not a reliable measure of that person’s inherent worth. If a person does not value me enough to care when they have upset me, then they do not merit the gift of my care and attention. I am allowed to feel that I have made a mistake in investing in them.

Six. How a person treats me when I am upset is not a measure of my worth – although it may well be a measure of my worth to them, which is not the same thing.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Crisis Tactics

  • druidcat

    Yes. Especially the mockery part.

    When I first told a Professional (Dr) about such occasions, she stared. ‘Didn’t you think that was wrong?’ Yes, I hated it, but what could I do? Responses made it worse.

    Didn’t understand then, don’t now. Still hate it. Walking away is a good plan.

    • Nimue Brown

      It’s difficult to explain how it works to anyone who hasn’t seen it. Or for that matter to explain how a massive power imbalance enables this kind of mistreatment, and what it’s like not to feel able or safe saying no…

  • Yvonne Aburrow

    This is such a helpful post Nimue, thank you so much. I’m not living in a situation like that, and haven’t for a very long time (I was in a relationship like that from 1989 to 1992, and a job that did that to me from around 2006 to 2011) but it’s amazing how long it takes to undo the patterns created by those situations. Naming where your healthy boundaries are is a really great strategy.

    Your in-depth writing about stuff like this is really powerful and helpful. It takes talent and guts to write this kind of thing.

  • Readerbythesea

    I’m going to use these guidelines for myself, it’s good to see my half formed emotions clearly set out. I wish I’d read your blog years ago when I didn’t realize I could have boundaries, I sometimes don’t acknowledge how far I’ve come and then I read one of your blogs and it literally stops me in my tracks because you are describing me too. Thank you 🤝

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