What is New?


June 23: edited my post on Gaslighting to insert a link to a very good video by psychologist, Ross Rosenberg, explaining how gaslighting starts in childhood, and how to heal from parents who gaslight.

June 6: PBS's Frontline takes on the issue of human sex trafficking of abducted teenage girls in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Click HERE for that.

May 17: Turpin parents get 25 years to life for abusing their children. Final words from children and parents at sentencing. Click HERE for that.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why I started this blog and my own story

© 2013 by Lise Winne
(for inquiries regarding licensing this image for articles or blogs contact LilacGroveGraphics ((att)) yahoo.com) 

Why I started this blog

I started this blog originally to research and focus on anger management issues as it relates to alcoholism, but it grew into a much larger project that included all kinds of abuse, from sibling abuse and school bullying, to financial abuse and workplace bullying, to types of abuses.

Then I wanted to help other survivors by pursuing an MSW, and doing more extensive research than I had originally started with became important to me. 

I suggest this blog post as an introduction to what constitutes as abuse, and what are the different kinds of abuse (verbal abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, physical abuse, scapegoating, what is behind the way abusers act, how to tell the difference between abusers and victims, can abusers be rehabilitated, and so on).  

All of the writings are a journey of discovering and research. They became a tribute to my father who was deeply effected and troubled by the presence of violence, evil and abuse in his fellow human beings.   

He had lived through a war, and managed to come out alive, by what he felt, was pure luck. He was the only one of his troop not injured or killed. 

He was also a victim of emotional abuse, psychological warfare, bullying, gaslighting, exploitation, and slander in his life, and expected to compete with people with less integrity, never understanding why. 

The reason why he couldn't understand was that his background ill prepared him for abuse. He grew up in a family where he was adored, where being respectful and polite to all human beings, including children, was the norm, where abuse never entered into his world until he was sent off to war at age 18. 

He was unusually polite, even in conflict, and warm, and worked very hard to have a big heart, pure integrity and altruistic motives, and to understand the perspectives and feelings of others. He was capable of and showed tremendous self reflection, goodness, personal growth and understanding. He tried hard to accept his responsibilities for his part in what happened in his relationships, to do what was asked of him without giving up his values, and even to go overboard many, many times, only to be met with more abuse, slander, bullying, exploitation, escalation and egregious behavior from his tormentors. 

I often tried to understand why he was a target too. I confronted his abusers and received erroneous excuses. I researched explanations, and received conflicting stories and explanations, the facts of which changed from party to party. I tried to ease his suffering, but found myself ineffective. 

I realize now that he suffered from depression and PTSD (which are the results of being a victim of abuse, as well as having lived through a war). He took everything into his heart and let it fester there. He sometimes suffered from low self esteem even though he did a lot with his life and was always refining. Over time, and after working so hard to be good and do the right thing, he eventually realized that "Some people just love to torture others no matter what." That was the only resolution he could come to after many years, and while it relieved him from carrying a burden around forever, he still suffered a bit. He still had low grade depression and some form of hyper-vigilance all the way up until he died. It was as though he felt there was something still unresolved, undiscovered, which would help him solve the mystery and take away the last trace of pain. I could still see that he was looking to me for this, even in the last days of his life.  

He knew that I had to deal with abusive people too. The last conversation I ever had with him, he said, "Lise, I don't want you to be docile for anyone. They're going to put tremendous pressure on you to be that, to live for them and to take orders, but your spirit is too big for that. You are meant to do something for the world, not to be someone's docile 'yes' girl. Do you understand?" He said it in a very insistent way, squeezing my hand.  

Remembering this still brings tears to my eyes as he was worried about me -- when he was in pain and dying. That is the kind of person he was.

So I was passed the torch. His tormentors very quickly turned on me. I looked to understand the issues for both our sake.

It wasn't until I went to Alanon that I started to understand more, and it grew from there. One of the first things I noticed was that the rooms were full of people who were kind and altruistic, self reflecting and helpful, just like my father. It was clear that abuse happened to the best people, not the worst people. But why? Well, I got the answers! (Some of them are revealed in my post about who abuses here, and being a scapegoat here). 

It was in Alanon where I was approached by a man who said, with insistence, "Don't take their insults, rejections, abuses into your heart. The arrows are meant to hurt you in your heart, but that doesn't mean you have to accept them there. Abuse means 'to purposely hurt', but that doesn't mean that you have to be their willing victim. Put a shield over your heart and deflect their arrows." 

And in that statement I found an answer for my father as well. 

Every time I walked out the door of self help groups, I felt deeply connected to him, sometimes even more so than when he was alive. 

The blog and writings are also, in part, dedicated to my uncle (and my "twin"), Albert Bigelow who worked hard and risked his life for peace and a more understanding world and would have approved of this blog, Robert Davis, who counsels victims and perpetrators, to Sally Bouton who dedicated her life to developing workshop programs for mediation, conflict resolution and appreciation classes for different types of personalities, to Ed Guider who ran the chapter of Stand Up Guys in Schenectady and Albany, NY and helped me to see that women are often targeted for abuse and ostracism in families and in society, to Joyce Decker my comrade in art and in wondering why work places scapegoat, to the young girls I met who had been ostracized by their mothers and to whom I promised to provide answers, and to my family and all families.    

There are a number of perpetrators and victims that inspired me to do this blog as a way to warn others and understand how abuse works. Believe it or not, most perpetrators are predictable because they tend to practice the same kinds of traits (and abuses). The silent treatment, gaslighting, erroneous blaming, erroneous punishments, verbal insults and name-calling, controlling behaviors, smear campaigns, projection, financial abuse, competitiveness, imperious lecturing, and "the idealize, devalue, discard" wheel of abuse are the predictables of all abusers. When you find one of these traits or weapons, you usually find them all. Abusers also typically use certain phrases: "You brought this upon yourself", "You are ungrateful", "You are a spawn of the devil" or if the person is not religious, "You are a snake" or "a serpent". All manners of animal names are thrown at victims, or the "it" label is used. 

One of the perpetrators of aggression that was the original inspiration for starting this blog is a hard core alcoholic. He starts drinking at ten in the morning every day to ward off the DTs. The more he drinks, the more of a monster he seems to become, red faced, seething, insulting, swearing, dangerous, delusional, misunderstanding, boorish, arrogant and extremely demanding minute by minute and second by second. It is like a demon lives in the bottle, and the more drinking is done, the more the demon takes over its host. Then as the effects subside, eventually a pale shivering person is in its place complaining of palpitations and it being hot on a 42 degree day. It goes on day after day. Ice cubes hitting his glass sends fear running down my spine (my post about that is here).  

Alcoholism is a disease that can effect everyone around the alcoholic including family, friends and co-workers. Anger, unprovoked rage and the Cluster B Personality Disorder traits (particularly narcissism and grandiosity) are more common than one would think; they can be the by-products of alcoholism in certain persons. 

When the alcoholic has anger management issues and is abusive, it can often pit the people around him (or her) against each other. Some of them will take sides. Some will argue that the alcoholic is not an alcoholic and is merely misunderstood while others who are the victims of the alcoholic's verbal abuse and physical violence will take an opposing view.

For the victim this can mean that relationship problems with the alcoholic continue to radiate out into problems with people who are close to the alcoholic. There can be shunning and rejection from family, friends and co-workers. This can compound the effects of the abuse from the alcoholic. As the victim tries to extricate herself or himself from the alcoholic, the people closest to the alcoholic come forward to win the heart and minds of the alcoholic abuser or the victim or both (with betrayal a common occurrence). It makes a crazy situation even crazier and it can be life altering, and even life threatening.   

While most of the entries are related to issues of abuse, with accompanying cartoons and art, I do cover abuse as it relates to active alcoholism, as well. It is a blog I started to help others realize that when confronted with certain situations, they are not alone.

Some of my material comes from real life through stories or stories that I have heard or researched. Names, places and anything identifiable has been changed. Since I am an artist, the most natural way was for me to tell stories was through art and cartoons.

My own story is not unique. It is a story I hear over and over with different characters names. My hope is that people with similar stories can find some common ground and answers to this prevalent problem.

Here is my particular story:  

Note: This post was rewritten 8/5/16:

I have truncated my story and added some additions:

In abusive situations, most victims complain they do not have a voice in situations that effect them. Defending your position is rarely an option when talking to abusers. That is because perpetrators super-impose their reality or their wishful thinking about reality onto victims. They also superimpose personality qualities, thoughts and feelings onto victims through baffling accusations. Since the qualities they attribute to you are either idealized or devalued, it is usually projection on their part, with black and white thinking. Abusers tend to see others as all good or all bad, depending on what the victim is doing for the abuser (i.e. how a victim is seeing them or pleasing them, how much of a sycophant that they are). Abusers generally expect a lot in relationships: most often it means putting them first at all times (and sacrificing other relationships just for them). In short, they expect you to be a marionette without a fight and with no questions asked.

There is not much deviation from abuser to abuser in terms of how they abuse, their agenda towards others, and how they pressure others to conform to their agendas and their interpretation of reality. My experience is that they differ in that they are either a mild variety or a very sick variety, with most of them getting worse as time goes on, especially if no one challenges them. 

In the meantime, if they tell you what you think or feel, you are not allowed to defend yourself. In many cases, you are not even allowed to talk: they are notorious for interrupting you and telling you that it is unacceptable for you to tell them what you really think, what your experiences really are, and how you really feel (as their interpretations of your thoughts, feelings and experiences are the only reality for them). 

The way I have dealt with seeing, hearing or experiencing abuse over the course of my entire lifetime has been through artistic expression: writing, art and music.

For instance, when I was working late in a co-operative studio in the 1990s, I overheard a group of men talk about women in a degrading way. The conversation was clearly misogynistic. They were laughing about how gullible women were, that they would fall for words and phrases, that they were easy to manipulate. Once the women were captured by the sweet talk, the men talked about the sex they had with these women in an insulting way. 

During the course of these men get-togethers (of which I witnessed 3), I saw one of their women take one of the men aside to talk about a dinner date. She was unusually beautiful with an upstart modeling career, sweet and soft-spoken. I had been in contact with this woman in a number of ways, so I knew her personality to be authentic and most undeserving of the treatment she was given. After she left, the men were laughing at her, as if her genuine sweetness and beauty was a detriment. Her man, in fact, was having sex with many other women, and it was obvious he was enjoying her gullibility in thinking she was in an exclusive relationship. He celebrated with these men in being able to keep "his women" apart and from suspicion. I also noticed that if he was caught by one he wasn't terribly invested in, in terms of a commitment to their relationship, he would just minimize his actions ("everyone does it"). If he wanted to continue with one of "his valuable women", he would terrorize the woman and gaslight her, to make it seem that the other women were just a figment of her imagination. I saw his main woman, the one inquiring about the dinner date, as an Innocent wrapped up with the devil.  

I overheard one of the men say "She's just a fucking girl" and that sparked an entire series of art works, including an artwork aptly called "She's Just a Fucking Girl".

In terms of art works I started through this blog, "You need to be punished by that look on your face" was something a man actually said to me directly. He also seemed to think punishing someone over his interpretation of a look was reasonable. It didn't just end there. He thought that I, during a tragic traumatizing time of my life should have been entertaining him. How? He thought my reactions in regards to him weren't normal, that entertaining him by pretending to be the Pink Panther (a cartoon character), and humming a Pink Panther theme song, is how I should have been behaving during this time of my life. Believe it or not, he was serious when he said it, and he is not a child, nor does he have Alzheimer's; he is a college professor. Wow ...  

This kind of erroneous blaming and phrasing was perfect fodder for another series of art works depicting even more absurd sadistic phrasing and expectations than I had ever heard before, and topped (for me) the previous phrasing from the men's group. The original phrasing was probably as misogynistic-ly driven as the men I overheard in the studio, with a certain twisted kind of thinking typical of sociopaths, considering that he also thought that the follow-up to his interpretations and erroneous blaming should include torture, punishment, insults, slander, rejection, abuse and isolation. 

In the context of the art, my intention is not to make bare sociopathic and narcissistic phrasing and tendencies, though they do tend to be the same from one sociopath to the next, and one narcissist to the next. The real reason is to get people to think about this kind of phrasing in general, to regard it as throwback, not worthy of human behavior. I would like erroneous blaming phrases to be as publicly derided and unpopular in the way that CEOs of chain gas stations decided that sexy scantily clad girl posters should not be in the workplace.

I also started to make art work in terms of how victims feel. 

One art work called This is Your Brain on C-PTSD was used in a Whitney Museum book for an exhibition/performance headed by Jill Kroesen called  "Collecting Injustices, Unnecessary Suffering", and part of a larger exhibition at the museum called "Human Interest". 

I am thankful for that exposure, and hope that issues about abuse get evermore ground in museums and museum shows. 

I was told by a number of survivors of child abuse that the artwork I did for the post on the silent treatment was one of the most powerful they had seen on the subject, and also one of the best of the series, as they felt it showed how children feel when a parent practices the silent treatment: confined, imprisoned, wondering when the seemingly endless "punishment" will end (sometimes it never entirely ends, but is used in ever greater sadistic time-outs, sometimes numbering years).  

In terms of the alcoholic in my life, I called him Johnny for this blog. Here is that story, told more briefly than the previous entry I originally had here:

I never thought I would be in a position to be on the receiving end of alcoholic rages. I am a teetotaler and self employed and I'm treated with respect by my colleagues. As a result, my life is one of love and sweetness most of the time, with a wonderful partner, daughter, exceptional friends, etc, with interests, professions, minds and hearts who I deeply admire and respect.

But a situation arose in my life over the course of several months where I didn't have much of a choice other than to be in the presence of an enraged alcoholic. Below I tell the story of the functional alcoholic.  I am using a fictitious name (Johnny), a fictional occupation and place(s) to disguise the real identity.

The details are this:

Johnny is an adventurer. He also has a mundane job.

My relationship with him was good for a couple of decades. The conversations with Johnny were superficial, but pleasant, civil, with normal give-and-take. He could be sweet and gentle, open-minded with a respect for different viewpoints and lifestyles. He also proposed fun things to do. Since my early twenties, we had been on good standing.

After his last visit to my area, we'd occasionally talk on the telephone. It was usually brief, but friendly with a bit of chit-chat about what we were both doing. 

My partner also looked up to him. He admired the gambles that Johnny had taken and the places he had been. Indeed he wanted Johnny as his guide for a trip.

As the years rolled by, the 2 - 3 phone conversations a year began taking on a new tone: for even the most brief conversations he sounded irrate, rushed and impatient. I found I couldn't talk and offer an opinion or experience; he was interrupting me constantly, or worse, dismissing what I was saying. I also felt as though I was being "talked at". There wasn't the normal give-and-take the way there had been. It was as though a switch went off and he only wanted to lecture. I was assured by others that nothing awful had happened between us: he was just so busy that he had very little time to absorb the thoughts of others. So I called even less so as not to bother him. 

Then he began initiating phone calls for about a year and a half. The tone was even worse than it had been before: along with the usual irritability and impatience was disrespect, mocking and unreasonable commands. Note: Johnny is not my boss (never was) and I didn't understand why he felt he had a right to treat me as though he was. He was extremely unpleasant to talk to. 

Shortly afterward, he showed up in person. The disrespectful and commanding tone was actually worse than it had been on the phone (and included other people apart from myself). Add constant insults, extreme irrational behavior, name-calling, angry outbursts over nothing (where he is screaming at the top of his lungs a foot away from someone's face by perceived wrongs), a constant barrage of criticizing, loudness, rudeness and micro-managing. He is boastful and arrogant. He is judgmental, unusually cruel and dismissive of almost all but a handful of people (even this handful of people would get his cruel treatment if they got on his bad side). He wants to do all of the talking and cannot seem to tolerate other viewpoints, experiences and ways of doing things. He imagines grand conspiracies and provocations against himself. Johnny insists on being in the driver's seat, in charge and on stage at all times. He is full of lectures and advice on subjects he knows very little about with people who are highly educated in the topic he is espousing his expertise. He vents and swears most of the time unless he's trying to make an impression on someone. He is two-faced and sickeningly feigning with people he despises, who he mocks and criticizes behind their backs (in order to gain favor from them ... his philosophy is to keep his enemies close, making it difficult to trust him or his motivations). In short, he is a total nightmare.

For the first few days in his company, I was myself. But then it became clear that when I talked his agenda was to make me a laughing stock through passive-aggressive means. As I retreated, he resorted to more aggressive tactics: a constant barrage of criticisms, denigration, insults, ridicule and invading my space (yanking things out of my hand, for instance and even some pushing and shoving). From then on, I walked on eggshells and kept quiet. I wasn't being heard anyway because of his constant interruptions, lectures (always with a pointed finger) and spurious expertise. 

Unfortunately, for my part, my initial reactions were of feeling stunned and in disbelief, or being on the defensive, creating a situation where he felt ever more justified than all previous effrontery, i.e.,  being on ever grander soapboxes loudly haranguing me over nonsense. But eventually I was able to put up a sturdy wall and a decent defense (consulting professionals on methods). 

As time went on, there was very little discourse between us.  When it was clear that this was an abusive relationship, I tried to extricate myself as much as possible in every way I could without giving up on the tasks and reason for being in the situation. I also felt heartbroken because the old Johnny died: still in the same body, but not the same person at all. He used to seem to have integrity; now he didn't.

Eventually I noticed he was also rude to others as well. He was referred to as a "bully".

What made matters particularly difficult for me is that I was going through a tremendous amount of other tragic events. This was adding to an already unbearable situation. I was down on my luck, devastated by life events, and here was this character hellbent on trying to make everything worse.

There was so much going on that I didn't want to overburden my confidantes with yet more woes.

Against my better judgement I confided in a person who was close to both of us, was in a position of influence and who seemed concerned about my state of mind (hard to hide) -- and assured me that I could confide in safety and confidence. I wouldn't normally recommend this because controlling alcoholics generally pit people against each other and will use tactics in order to assure themselves that people are fighting with each other instead of noticing the manipulations by the alcoholic ("divide and conquer" mentality: see Alanon literature about the denial merry-go-round that discusses this dynamic). This particular alcoholic was very "political" in his motivations too, and everything he did was to keep himself on top.

If there is something that you feel you cannot afford to lose (such as a job), I would never recommend you do this. 

But, keeping silent also has its drawbacks. It is in silence and darkness and positions of vulnerability and weakness that most abuse takes place and is allowed to flourish without boundaries and without end (except at the abuser's discretion or mercy, and that depends upon whether they have any). 

In most cases, only discuss what you are going through in the company of a trusted therapist or social worker first and decide after talking through all of the repercussions whether it is worth it. Usually they (and your fellow survivors) will give you the backing you need to go forward and bring the situation out into the daylight. 

The social worker in my life helped me to see that opening up was the right thing to do in my case, even though there were some hefty consequences along the way. Indeed starting this blog gave me some moments of trepidation and fear. But as this professional said, this is what artists do and do best: they express "heavy" subjects. They don't water them down. They don't accept bribes for silence because they wouldn't be artists then (they'd be writing diction for someone else instead). Artists are meant to bring their work to the public. (gulp)

So, I'll let you know how this situation plays out in edits or cartoons I might do down the road. 

Note (on 6/16/14): Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder can also manifest in alcoholics, especially alcoholics who grew up in in a family with ACOAs, an alcoholic family, a narcissistic family or an authoritarian family. It is one of the reasons that the Cluster B Personality Disorders started getting more and more attention on this blog. It seemed right to cover it (it is part of the addiction process plus plays a part in abuse, with or without addiction). This particularly became clear when I wrote my post on pathological lying and addiction. Alcohol also destroys the part of the brain that is in control of empathy (see the NBC article). The personality disorders associated with lack of empathy are Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. 
Anyway, my partner also noticed a change in Johnny. He felt that he would have a wonderful deep friendship with him and it was dashed in one evening as he became Johnny's next victim of shouting and insults. In that one evening the respect that my partner had for Johnny was gone (totally gone). "There is nothing more awful than a know-it-all, elitist, belligerent lush", he confided. "He went from being someone I deeply admired and respected, who I thought had the utmost integrity, to someone I don't want in my life at all. I feel so disillusioned. He isn't the wonderful man I thought he was. It's too bad. And I feel sorry for you," he said to me.


And that's where some of the puzzle pieces finally locked in place, though it took some time to get there. The reason it took time was because I was looking in all of the wrong places at first. I looked at what it was in me that would make Johnny misconstrue my words so consistently. 

It was my partner who got me to wake up about it: "He's an alcoholic. Plain and simple."

But it wasn't plain and simple to me. 

So I began to watch the bottles every day over about 6 weeks just to make sure he was a bona fide alcoholic (and afterwards get advice as to whether that amount of drinking was excessive ... yes). 

Thus began my journey: to find out why alcoholics get enraged, why their personalities change so drastically, gaining knowledge and support from Alanon to gain perspective and help, reading up on the subject on the internet, why scapegoating happens around alcoholics, joining groups and forums, learning how to subvert abuse, and getting help for coping where I could. 

Making cartoons and art, writing and research, with the constant support and comments from my fellow survivors have helped the most. The encouragement and "push" by domestic violence counselors to continue in this work has also been gratifying, humbling, and helpful. They (and I) also saw it as a way to try to make the world a better place. 

I now look at abuse as throw-back, akin to racism, sexism, bigotry and the like. 

There were days where I couldn't draw my usual fantasy figures, the unicorns (or rainbows!) because I was so disturbed by what was happening.

This is the kind of art I usually make:

I came to find out that my story is not terribly unusual, but there was precious little on the internet at the time when I started this blog.  

My hope is that the cartoon characters, art, research and personal stories can help others and express universal issues. I hope that anyone who reads this is finding a healthy way of coping and finding a way through the mysteries of unprovoked rage, and all of the minefields of abuse and manipulation by those who practice abuse. 

As John Lennon said: "Being honest may not get you a lot of friends, but it will always get you the right ones." I have found that to be true in terms of my own life. Abusers do not like exposure of their actions and phrases, they do not like honest assessments, and many do not have any tolerance for anything other than people like them, or who support their actions. If you have intolerance for abuse, and you walk away from it, it puts you in contact with people who will let you be honest, who are compassionate, who actually enjoy resolving conflicts between you in a team approach (i.e. without requiring you to give up your soul). You begin to have a voice. 

For me, having a voice turned into the most important part of living an authentic life, experiencing truth and beauty, not settling for being ruled by fears or unhealthy co-dependencies on abusers, and finally on making a living, as being an artist is all about using my voice. I also see myself as a teacher of empathy (see further reading below). I am already a professional teacher of art, and it was natural to share research in a teaching mode.

If I am being used as an example, perhaps the old adage of "one man's trash is another man's treasure" may be part of this journey. I have found that I am "worthless" to abusers, but of use to survivors. 

further reading:

13 kids books to spark conversations about empathy


  1. this is a great blog!

  2. Just found your blog. I'm going through a lot of the same stuff and honestly your writing resonates so much for me and is helping me immensely. I'm the family scapegoat with an alcoholic father, I'm also a healer/artist and you've hit the nail on the head explaining my situation.Thank you!!

    1. Thank you!
      My aim is to help!
      Art is a good way to speak, since the family rules are "Don't trust, don't talk, don't feel". Art allows us an avenue of speech which we never had with our families.
      I have many more posts coming about the silent treatment, erroneous blaming and punishment, favoritism, verbal abuse, and more.

  3. I found your blog because I was searching for answers about a relationship in my life that I now know is very similar to the one you had with Johnny. Thank you so much for writing this blog; it has already illuminated many dark places in my mind.


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