The impossible nature of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”

A self portrait drawing I made in junior high (at the age of 14) to show my best friend Nanci how I felt about being bullied by some girls in our class. It’s basically saying that the bullies laughed at me if I didn’t speak up at their verbal abuse but also that they would laugh at me if I got mad and tried to stand up for myself.

I’ve made a very important discovery about the nature of a certain type of abuse, which I call “hate-abuse” (verbal and psychological abuse done by a person or a group of people who are bullying someone because they feel uncomfortable around that person and display hatred towards that person), and it is that it is not about a wrongdoing or a specific quality or feature in the victim – it’s the psychology of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” that creates the perfect foundation for a sense of power for the abuser – like “satisfaction guaranteed” because they will feel superior in any case.

These words were once meant for me: “you seem to like being treated like a pathetic and submissive creature”, meaning I did not stand up for myself to that person’s abuse. But I’ve also heard this: “you think you are so innocent but you get angry too and say hurtful things, you are to blame just as much as I am to blame”, meaning I finally exploded of anger after being bullied and abused. My abusive husband would even show me scratch marks on his hands which I had created in self defence during his violent attacks of abuse. He would pout his lips and made me kiss the wound. Like it was all my fault. And I bought it, felt guilty and ashamed.

There’s just something so completely impossible about this routine of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” – and the root of the impossibility is that the abuser or the bully has already made up their minds about the victim; whatever they’ll do they’ll be hated and punished. It’s all about getting a reaction – and the lack of it triggers a want to try even harder to get it. This is called narcissistic abuse and is meant as a tool to “play you”. And boy, have I been played!

The important thing here is that it’s not about you. It’s them. I’ve spent nearly two decades trying to figure out why they hated me or whatever I had done to deserve the abuse. But it’s not about me, I just can’t win anyway. It wouldn’t do any difference if I changed to whatever they would want me to be (for them) or if I would act differently. Because they will always find something, that is wrong, something worth punishing; if I’m happy they’d think I don’t deserve it, if I’m sad they’d say I’m only feeling sorry for myself and using it to get other people’s sympathies, if I’m successful they’d say I’m a fraud, if I’m failing they’d say I’m worthless and pathetic etc. There’s no way to win this game.

The only thing to do – is to withdraw from participating in their game. And it can be very hard to do. Nobody is ever allowed to play me again. I learned that lesson too late but better late than never.

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