Tangled Trip Into Mordor

Writing about topics such as abuse feels to me like journeying through Mordor: it’s like journeying through a dark place filled with evil things. There are many different perspectives about writing about abuse. Some people believe that you shouldn’t write about it because it involves speaking evil of others and it can bring public humiliation. Others believe that abusers gain power through secrecy so it’s best to bring abuse out into the open in order to defeat it. In addition, honesty about abuse can educate others and help them escape it. Also, sharing experiences can help a person process the pain and damage and begin to heal. However, there are also those who seem to get stuck in their pain and never move on to healing. My INFJ eyes see all these perspectives and I see truth in all of them so I really don’t know whether it’s best to speak or be silent. Maybe all these are necessary parts of the healing process, part of recognizing and dealing with the damage. Maybe everyone needs to make the difficult journey to Mordor to overcome the abuse that “rules them all” and bring closure. But no one should thoughtlessly journey to Mordor or build their home there.

Sometimes when I have had a brush with abusive-type behavior, I feel myself yanked back into turmoil and I have to re-process it, battle self-doubt, and regrasp truth. I’ve learned that an INFJ needs to verbalize things in order to process it–either through talking or writing it out. It certainly has been true for me. Sometimes I feel as if toxic turmoil begins to fill me until I can dump it out in writing, which is why I am writing this. But I try to be careful and not write too many details, and I do not want to stay here for very long. I want to leave Mordor behind and get back to writing about my Hobbit-ish life in the Shire.

Emotional abusers (narcissists, sociopaths, etc.) are dangerous shapeshifters who create “false realities in which the false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. I was trying to figure out how to describe such people and then I came across an article that describes the techniques that abusers use. The article is called 23 Covert Emotional Manipulation Techniques. It’s worth reading.

Mother Gothel in the movie Tangled is an excellent example of an emotionally abusive mother. It’s interesting to observe her actions and to see its affects on Rapunzel. Rapunzel’s face and body language speaks volumes. Deep down Rapunzel knows she is being abused, but she struggles to fight it…until the end of the movie, when she finally understands what’s happening. When Gothel realizes that Rapunzel has discovered the true, she releases her rage. This movie, though very humorous, is deadly serious.

Rapunzel’s battle with guilt, self-doubt, and self-blame is a struggle victims have. Flynn’s manipulation in the following scene is also part of the abuse: Many abusers are able to deceive others who end up contributing to the abuse by urging the victim to reconcile with her abuser.

Many fairy tales are actually stories about abuse. Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle (in the movie Enchanted) are all stories about abuse, describing how the victims were affected by it, grew to recognize it, and then courageously fought to be free of it. The evil queens’ enchanting offers, their shapeshifting masks, and their draconic rage when confronted are manipulative tactics.

“Sometimes fairy stories say best what needs to be said.” ~ C.S. Lewis


“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~ Neil Gaiman


Because a victim’s self-confidence, perceptions, and identity has been attacked, it takes a lot to recover from it. I have found that learning about Personality Tests has helped me in two ways. First, it helps me to recognize my unique gifts and strengths. Secondly, it helps me to understand my weaknesses so I can strengthen my ability to recognize, avoid, or deal with emotional abuse. INFJ types seem to attract them, so this is important.

The problem with emotional abuse is that it fills a victim with self-doubt and blame. A victim is made to feel that she can’t handle life, she has more flaws than strengths, everything is her fault, she is over-reacting, things didn’t happen the way she said, etc. So she looks at herself and thinks, “Am I over-reacting? Are my boundaries cruel? Am I wrong to be angry? Am I unforgiving and unloving? Did I cause them pain? Am I the monster?”

I find that truth helps cut through the distorted reality of manipulation. A victim cannot free herself from abuse if she can’t see things as they really are and if she is powerless to set boundaries. The truth is that everyone has weaknesses. Everyone sometimes gets angry, sometimes over steps boundaries, sometimes is selfish, sometimes is emotionally messy, sometimes needs help, sometimes engages in self-pity, or is sometimes a jerk. Sooner or later, everyone will fail. This doesn’t make a person an abuser. It makes them human. So what is an abuser? I think the difference between a fallible human and an abuser is frequency and intensity. (It’s similar to the difference between occasionally having a glass of wine and being an alcoholic.) An abuser will have a lifestyle of abusiveness. He

  • will have little or no true empathy or compassion
  • will not consider how his words and actions affect others
  • will focus on their own problems and not listen to others
  • will not allow others the freedom to be different or to disagree,
  • will shift blame so that it’s always your fault and not theirs.
  • will feel you can’t handle truth so you need them to protect you (by distorting or hiding truth).
  • will frequently criticize you and try to fix your flaws–sometimes very nicely
  • will insult and belittle–sometimes very nicely
  • will quickly and dramatically change their behavior if you do not respond as they wish
  • will ignore and/or invade boundaries
  • will grow angry if you challenge them

Even with a list like this, it’s hard to tell the differences between a person having a temporary “bad day” and an emotional abuser. It’s important to recognize abusive people so you don’t become a victim, but it can be difficult because the abuser wears a mask. So I think it’s important to know how to set good boundaries, to decide which behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable.  While we should be willing to be compassionate and understanding, some behaviors (such as insults and lies) are always unacceptable. To me, one huge sign of an abuser is whether or not a person is willing to acknowledge his own wrongs. We all fail, we all say or do things we shouldn’t, but an abuser will always shift blame.

Ok. Now that I have battled through Mordor and re-processed the ring of abuse, I can go back to my regular Hobbit-ish life.

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