Abuse and Isolation

By  | 

One of the ways to figure out if you are in an abusive relationship is to consider whether you have come to feel isolated from friends, acquaintances, and the outside world in general. This is a tricky one in romantic relationships because people, especially when they first couple up, want to spend all their time together and often spurn the outside world in order to focus exclusively on each other. We’ve all been there and it’s not a sign of abuse, it’s one of infatuation. But abuse and isolation go together.

What we are talking about is where, in spite of wanting to be in the social sphere, you are being actively sectioned off from people you used to spend a lot of time with, either through outright threats or through craftier channels like pleading or persuasion. The reason that isolation is an integral part of abuse is hopefully pretty obvious. Abuse is about control, and you are much more easily controlled when other people aren’t interfering, when you only hear one point of view, when there is no one else to confide in. You miss out on all the perspectives and opinions that are usually necessary to come to objective conclusions.

But psychologically it goes deeper than this. Feeling free to move and act tends to affect you psychologically, making you feel free in an existential sense too. It’s not just your physical movements that an abuser wants to control, but your internal world. An abuser wants to control your thoughts and feelings, your perspectives, your values. This end is much more easily achieved in isolation, which is exactly why cults of all kinds always section themselves off from the general population, keeping outside influences from interfering with their mind control tactics. How can you weigh the facts when you have nothing to compare them against?

Ask yourself if there are any restrictions, explicit or implicit, on spending time apart, on seeing others, especially friends and family members, those people who in the past exerted a strong influence on your sense of Self and your life. The feeling of being isolated is painful, we are social creatures, and whatever rationalization an abuser gives for trying to section you off his or her real reasons are selfish and nefarious. They have nothing to do with your best interests and everything to do with control.