Tactics of Power and Control Used by Bullies (Including Abusive Men)

For this blog I thought I might address Abuse and Domestic Violence. I worked in this area for 3 years at Relationships Australia (running groups for women and children) and I have recently started seeing a client who has just left her partner due to his abusive behaviour. In this case mainly emotional and verbal abuse, which can be equally as bad (or even worse) than physical abuse. This has brought back many of the things I used to be involved with daily in my work place. The most amazing thing, for me, is that all the tactics he uses (as she experiences and sees them) are exactly the tactics I came across in my previous work .

The women who attended group there, once they started sharing, used to be so surprised that their partners all did the same or similar things (sometimes just in different ways) and each group would compile a list (independent of each other) and when I shared past lists, it would always be the same tactics. We came to call them Tactics of Power and Control and we noticed that all bullies use these tactics. Countries use them (especially in war times), governments use them, powerful agencies and big companies use them, bosses/managers use them, The Press uses them, lawyers use them, and many more. These tactics are all around us, we see them every day, no wonder men who feel the need to bully easily follow suit. These tactics work. If they did not, they would not be used. But what the women, who became aware of them, found-was that once you could pick them and see them for what they were (intentionally used tactics), they had less power over them. They themselves then had more choice as to how to respond. They could actually just laugh and say (usually to themselves only-for safety reasons) ” Oh I see what you are trying to do–and it won’t work this time”.

Making the tactics visible, helped free them from them. I do think its the same in society. Seeing the tactics as they are used around us, frees us from them-at least to some extend. It doesn’t mean it stops the Bullying or Abuse necessarily, but it does free us from believing there is something wrong with us. It helps us know who is really to blame-the Bully! This defies one of the main purposes of these sorts of Tactics-the one that is about trying to make you doubt yourself, question yourself, lose your confidence, give up your own power. So the bully gets and keeps the power.

So I thought I would share the main ones, including the intent. I hope some of you will comment and let me know what you think or have experienced or noticed.

So here are some (I’m sure there are lots more variations of the same intent). Many are mind games/forms of manipulation..

Blaming everyone and everything else while accepting no responsibility. This tactic is intended to get everyone off their back and helps a bully avoid looking at them selves. It’s never them! They usually take on the ” poor me, I’m the victim” role. They often manage to twist things somehow, so its always your fault. This can really play with your mind.

Guilting. Using comments or actions to make you feel guilty and at fault or not good enough. This also keeps the focus off the bully and his or her actions and keeps you doubting yourself and undermines your self confidence.

Attack (and being unpredictable with it) of any form whether physical or mental, keeps the attacked in a state of anxiety (fight or flight state) and unable to think clearly. Unexpected attacks, that come out of the blue, are the worst as they keep you on continual alert (many call it- walking on eggshells)and never relaxed enough to respond clearly or calmly

Making excuses. so they do not need to take any responsibility nor make any attempt to change. eg. I can’t help myself, I just see red; its because of my childhood;it’s the alcohol; I can’t remember; Its just how I am; I had a brain snap. They want you to believe them, so you get off their back!

Minimising and denying. making out that you are crazy or imagining or exaggerating  things. Saying “it’s not that bad”, when you know it was or is. Trying to make you doubt yourself so he can avoid facing himself and his behaviour and so you back down and shut up. Also aimed to undermine your confidence.

Getting louder, more aggressive in order to get you to back down and shut up. Its intimidation.

Threats. Again aimed to shut you up, keep you worried and on your toes, so you do what the bully wants. So the bully gets his or her way.Aimed to keep you there and putting up with their behaviour.

Knowing when to turn on the charm. So others don’t believe you or you don’t even believe it yourself, at times. Also to get you to put your guard down. This includes promising to change and pretending to change, for a while.

Isolating you. Trying to turn others against you. Telling lies about you or others. Speaking badly of, and putting down the people in your support team (family, friends). Controlling who you see and when or who is allowed to come to the house. Manipulating others, including your children, to try and get them to side against you (or mainly to side with them).

Silencing you. Telling you to keep secrets. Telling you no one will believe you. Making you feel ashamed to tell others what is happening. Silence gives bullies more power and prevents you asking for help. Talking about what is happening, with someone outside the situation, is a great way to do a reality check and realise if something bad is really going on. Bullies would not want to risk that.

 Control over money, sex, the children, who does what, etc. Control that favours the bully and their attitude of entitlement . Wanting the world to revolve around them while having no empathy for others. Aimed to keep them as number 1 and others as feeling less important.

Labelling or put downs. eg. saying “you are crazy”, ” you have depression, so you are the problem”, ” you are too emotional”, ” you are weak”, etc, etc. Aimed again at making you feel bad about yourself and lose your confidence.

Anyhow, I suppose I could keep going but I think this gives a good indication of how bullies work.