There are many different forms of abuse, but reactive abuse is one of the least talked about. This manipulation tactic makes you question your own sanity and you lose trust in yourself. It also takes away any sense of independence that you have.
Today I’m going to share with you what reactive abuse is, how dog whistling plays a part, and how to react to it.
What’s reactive abuse?
Have you heard the term “don’t poke the bear?” Reactive abuse is someone choosing to poke the bear because they want to see what happens.
When you’re a victim of reactive abuse, the abuser does something enough times over and over until they get you to react. This is in an attempt to make them look like the victim.
I experienced this a lot in my last relationship. He would say whatever he needed to in order to get under my skin. He would push and push until I snapped. When he got what he was looking for, he was able to turn the tables. He convinced me that I was the abusive one and that I was crazy.
Reactive abuse is one of the many forms of abuse used to manipulate you.
If you know what gaslighting is, this is very similar. They’re convincing you, and those around you, that you’re the crazy one, that you’re the problem.
From what I’ve experienced, this tends to happen when they sense that they’re losing you. Once they see that you’re seeing through their game, they want to convince everyone around you that you’re the problem, not them.
What the heck is dog whistling?!
I first heard this phrase a couple of months ago but once I learned what it was, so much made sense.
A dog whistle is a whistle that is blown at a frequency that only dogs can hear, so only the dog responds to it.
Dog whistling is a form of reactive abuse that specifically makes you look crazy to those around you.
Picture you guys together at a party. You’re on one side of the room, he’s on the other. He looks over at you and does something that he knows will cause you to react. You’re so worn down and tired that you don’t have anything left to hold yourself back. So the way you react is over the top. The abuser then shrugs his shoulders and says “Oh my gosh, see? I told you. She’s crazy!”
This then pulls more support to his side, leaving you feeling defenseless.
How do I respond?!
This is easier said than done, but the best way to recognize and respond it is to be prepared for it. You’ll begin to notice a pattern of events that lead up to your outburst. Maybe his tone will change, he’ll say certain things, or even give you the silent treatment. Being prepared makes it easier not to respond.
At the moment, your brain is already on overdrive and you have very little self control. If you prepare for it ahead of time, it’ll be easier for you not to give them a response.
The abuser is looking to get a response out of you, whether it’s for others to see or just for you. By not responding, you’re taking the power back in the situation.
If he’s dog whistling you, turn away, turn off your phone, leave the room. As hard as it is, don’t let him get in your head.
This is going to take time and practice.
The less you respond, the more power you get.
If you’re currently in this situation, get out ASAP. Reach out to someone. Begin to make a plan. I know it’s not always that easy and you may be feeling really torn about the whole thing. If that’s you, I highly recommend you listen to this episode all about trauma bonds. It will help you begin to understand why your brain is responding this way.
Reactive abuse is no joke. Manipulation tactics like this make you question your own reality and you lose trust in yourself.
As horrible as this is, I promise you healing is possible. You deserve to live a life of freedom and without fear.
That’s why I created the Worthy of Recovery Printable journal. This journal has all of the most important parts of the recovery journey put into one place. Not only is there a journal prompt assigned every day, but it has a place for you to keep track of your gratitude, your victories, and more! Not only do you get the journal, but you also get a mini course showing you how to use it AND over 45 printable affirmation cards! This bundle is by far my most favorite thing because at the end of the 30 days, you’re going to be able to look back and see SO much growth!
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