One crazy-making ally-obtaining tactic of an abuser: simultaneous scorn and imitation
[July 28, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
Our thanks to Rebecca Davis for submitting this post. It was written with the permission of the abuse survivor whose story it is.
When Lydia was young she was very creative, and the other girls at school liked to copy her creative ideas. She didn’t like being copied, but her mother assured her, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Instead of being bothered by the imitators, Lydia was told she should understand it was a way of honoring her.
Then when Lydia married Dick the abuser, she was still very creative and would sometimes talk about her ideas to him. But almost without exception he would mock and scorn them.
Later, though, when talking with other people, a curious thing would happen. He would present her creative ideas as legitimate and valid….and his own.
Lydia’s mother’s words rang in her ears, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so she tried to understand the abuser’s actions in light of this old saying. “Dick really does think well of my ideas,” she would tell herself. “It’s a way of honoring me.” But it was hard to see clearly in a fog.
This went on for at least ten years. Creative ideas presented to [her] husband, and not only creative ideas, but wise perspectives and sensible thoughts. Reaction from the husband of mockery and scorn and belittling. Later hearing the husband present the ideas and thoughts to others as his own, thereby impressing them with his wisdom and creativity. Trying to make the scenario fit into a framework that made sense.
It all came to a head when Lydia and Dick went to a church that was more spiritually abusive than any they had been in before. There Dick felt more empowered than ever, and he used this crazy-making, ally-obtaining tactic on her even more. There, through a number of resources God brought in from outside (including A Cry for Justice), the fog began to lift, and Lydia began to see this gaslighting for what it was. She began to recognize truth.
Now, after Lydia has escaped in some measure from the abuser, Dick continues to scorn and belittle over email. But now she understand the tactics, so even when she has a well-reasoned idea, she doesn’t readily express it. She knows that when he asks her to “explain,” there’s still the possibility that her ideas could show up in a different context when she least expects it….as his own.
When Lydia read the draft of this blog post and saw the validation she received by the recognition of this crazy-making, ally-obtaining tactic, along with a hope of helping someone else, she wrote,
The years I dealt with it, and the frustration / hurt / confusion / anger I subsequently felt because of it, continue to be healed by moments like this. Like another dead blade of grass in a meadow of brown becomes green once again. Makes me feel some “healthy” and “normalness” again. Not a small thing.
Rebecca Davis is the author of the Justice Keepers Publishing book Untwisting Scriptures: that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind [*Affiliate link]. Connect with her at her blog — Here’s The Joy
[July 28, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 28, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 28, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 28, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 28, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
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- Posted in: Abusers ♦ Victims
- Tagged: abuser's mentality, abuser's tactics, awakening moments, deception, gaslighting, guest post, survivors' stories
Wow. Just another tactic to control and belittle and keep down the abused. It was tried on me, except he didn’t take my ideas as his own…just put down everything I said and every good idea I had…and would do the total opposite. I defied and went after what I wanted anyway after he said I didn’t have time to pursue my craft.. I am artistic and love creating things….and I was / am successful at it and have a lot of people wanting me to do work for them…and praising me for my talents (I’m not conceited about it, I just enjoy doing it, but for the purpose of showing that I wasn’t trying to chase an empty talent, I said they were praising me). Eventually he had to admit that I was doing well.
Good for you Cher. Keep doing what God created in you to do! There are so many jealous and envious spouses out there that secretly desire their wives’ failure. It just boggles my mind. Thank you for sharing as it inspires me and gives me hope!
Oh, wow. This is so much like the behavior of my spouse. Just a bit different in that he doesn’t take my abilities as his own, but he diminishes them to my face and then I find out from other people that he brags about my abilities to them. I’m going, “Wha???” Truly crazy.
This post is right on. Abusers cannibalize everything good from their spouse, including their wisdom, insights, abstract thinking, solutions to problems and creative ideas. Abusers take credit for excellent work performed by the spouse, and they blame the innocent spouse for wrongdoings the abusers themselves commit.
This behavior brings to my mind a true story about a severe abuser who took complete public credit for his wife’s talent and works of art. It was made into a movie called Big Eyes.
Here is a quote from a Time Magazine Article…
Oh my gosh! My husband does this to me ALL THE TIME!!!! My mom and I have laughed about it. It used to make me happy, thinking that in his heart he really does agree with me. But my mom would be upset, saying that he shouldn’t belittle the idea and make fun of me.
Isn’t this the truth, they belittle you for the things you are good at and then turn around and use it themselves, like Rebecca said, taking credit as though the concept came from his heart. It is very confusing, and like a previous poster noted, they pass off their evil behaviour and motives and thoughts as yours when in fact that is truly what is flowing from his heart!! It really is jaw dropping how skillful they are at fudging the truth. Many times before I was even aware of the level of deceit he was pulling over on me I would sense the [Holy] Spirit prompting me to just keep quiet & not share my heart with him!
Now that we have separated I experience over and over how clueless he is in so many regards but I have discovered that he is a master of distraction! And he will say it himself “I can talk, I will just tell everyone what is really going on, do you think I can’t talk?”
He is so good at it that most people just give him the benefit of the doubt, listen to his loud words and don’t question him. He successfully pulls the wool over most people’s eyes, they have no idea what they are dealing with!!
I assume that’s because most people are naive in the way I used to be — they want to take everyone at face value and have no grid for the crazy-making deceptive tactics of an abuser. That kind of stuff only happens in the movies, doncha know, not with this really nice person who sounds so convincing.
It took me a while to realize that my creativity was being squelched. I will probably never regain certain skills. I appreciate this post bringing attention to this. Thank you.
Praying that Heavenly Father will restore what has been stolen and that you’ll regain your creative skills seven-fold. ❤
My husband of 24 years never tried to take credit for my thoughts or ideas, but he did belittle my insights and opinions on a regular basis. I always felt devalued, as if I were less intelligent than I know myself to be, and was therefore SHOCKED when friends of his would mention how highly he spoke of me. Why would he treat me badly, question my motives constantly, and consistently try to make me feel bad about myself, yet talk me up to other people? I could never make sense of it.
Finally, he sabotaged the marriage to the point where I told him to leave. I finally got some distance from him, and found resources such as this, and slowly began the healing process. It’s been one full year. I have emotionally disengaged from him now, and the reality of what my marriage was has started to become clear enough that I can plan a healthy future for myself and my kids. I feel free at last from his emotional bondage, but feel so, so stupid for putting up with it for so long, and not recognizing what was happening in my marriage.
Hi Trueworthy! I love the name you picked for yourself. 🙂
Welcome to commenting on the blog. We love hearing from long-time readers who finally put their toe in to the commenting side of the blog. Your words will help and encourage other readers, I’m sure.
Thank you so much Barbara! Trueworthy was the first name of my great-great grandfather and though of course I never knew him, I have drawn strength from his name. 🙂 I have found so much wisdom and understanding from this blog; I find myself nodding my head in agreement and having “a-ha” moments with nearly every post. Thank you for the kind welcome….Merry Christmas!
The reason probably was he wanted to look good in his friends’ eyes because of what a talented spouse he had.
Yes, I think so. I’m not naturally a manipulative or narcissistic person, though as I come to understand his mindset and behavior I find myself manipulating HIM so as to mitigate the emotional harm he can do to me or the kids. Sadly enough, he taught me well. It took literally decades for me to understand. It was just so mind boggling and confusing. I’m so thankful for the understanding I’m gleaning and the resources God places in my path as I get more and more distance.
I’d like to offer another way of saying that. Because the word ‘manipulate’ has negative / evil connotations, I don’t think it’s the best word for what victims of abuse do in trying to mitigate the emotional harm the abuser does. The victim RESISTS the abuse in many many ways — see the booklet Honouring Resistance [Internet Archive link]. The victim’s resistance is creative, prudent, judicious, and often subtle.
From page 17 of that booklet:
The booklet then goes on to give many examples of what abusers do and how victims resist. Well worth reading.
I always wondered if this was purposeful or not. I was asked to serve on a church board. There was a couple on the church board that would always belittle my ideas. Six or so months later they would have a brilliant idea (the same idea of mine they had belittled earlier) that they would push hard for the church to implement, always taking credit for it.
At least I didn’t have the fog of being taught lies about it, but I didn’t have the courage back then to confront them for stealing my ideas and presenting them as their own.
I don’t know HOW MANY TIMES I have mentioned this phenomena to my husband, David. If I had a thought or an idea and I shared it with my ex husband, he would (undoubtedly) say, “Who told you that?” (you know . . . because I couldn’t have come up with it in my own tiny woman brain). Later, I would hear him repeat it as though it were his idea!!! I have seen this with my sisters, as well. Showing hatred and disdain for me and, five minutes later, borrowing my thoughts and making them theirs. 😦 My theory is that victims are the object of an abuser’s insecurity specifically because of the traits targets have (and which abusers may wish they had). Abusers are fascinated (which is why they chose specific targets), and cannot conquer that insecurity. It is like a school girl who is nearly abusive toward the boy she likes. I also believe that a lot of abusers blame their targets because abusers don’t have those beautiful traits so many empathic targets have.
From the original post:
My abusive family of origin used scorn.
My abusive anti-x used scorn.
My abusive workplaces used scorn and / or imitation.
My abusive “friends” used imitation.
Sometimes I get confused. I have encountered many variations of scorn and / or imitation.
Now, the Holy Spirit says, “Watch and learn.”
Adding on to my own comment….
I am learning to pay attention to subtleties, not all scorn or imitation is blatant.
I am learning to untwist the “wheels-within-wheels-within-wheels” my abusive family of origin uses against each other, though I am the intended target.
I am learning to look below the top of the iceberg.
Clarifying my comment of 28TH SEPTEMBER 2018 – 1:18 PM.
In my comment, I wrote:
That comment should have been written: