It’s not revolutionary to point out that we all have hundreds of different voices in our heads vying for attention. TV ads, billboards, magazines, Facebook, Twitter, the radio, branded clothing, food packaging, instagram (the list goes on) are all trying to get us to think in a certain way. Whether it’s the cosmetics company telling us we need to make our eyelashes look longer, or our Facebook feed telling us our life isn’t as fun/successful/creative/neat/perfect as everyone elses – there are lots of voices to filter through. But for some people, the voice that is louder than everything else and the voice that starts to feel like it’s your own is that of their abuser.
Continuing our series on the Dominator, the persona that we are featuring in this article is The Headworker. This persona is one that gets into your head, to manipulate the way you think, feel and therefore act.
How does a Headworker gain and maintain power and control over their victim?
The Headworker uses emotional abuse to make their victim feel worthless and stupid. They make their victim feel so worthless and stupid that they don’t believe that they could survive without them or that they would ever find anyone else that would want to be in a relationship with them.
Some of the tactics that the Headworker uses include:
- Puts you down. The Headworker loves to use humour to make their victim feel bad. They make jokes at the victims expense and will exclaim ‘Can’t you take a joke?!’ if they complain. They will make jokes about you or criticize you infront of friends and family in order to shame and embarrass you. They will make sexist jokes (for example about female drivers, or a women’s role being in the kitchen) to undermine your abilities and talents. They may have a nickname for you that is demeaning that they claim to be a term of endearment. They may just never use your name but call you things like ‘babe’, ‘princess’ or ‘woman’. They may call you offensive names and belittle our worth.
- Tells you you’re too fat, too thin, ugly etc. The Headworker wants to make their victim feel worthless and unattractive. They will tell their victim that they are fat and ugly so often that the even the thinnest person will start to believe it to be true. They will do this even when their victims are pregnant. They will make their victim feel sexually repulsive, especially when compared to other women on the TV or that they know. Each time that person comes on the TV, they will use to remind you that you aren’t as attractive as them.
- Makes you think you’re going mad. Moving or hiding objects, denying having said something, changing goal posts and telling us we are saying things in our sleep are ways that the Headworker will make you doubt your own sanity and reliability. He will say that you are upset because of PMS or because you are clinically depressed.
- Turn agencies against you. The Headworker will discredit you to other agencies such as the police, social services, the doctor etc in order to prevent you from presenting as a victim of abuse. He will manipulate situations to try and make you appear mentally ill to them in order to have a better chance of getting custody over the children or keeping the house. For example The abuser says to his wife “Quick! Call the police there are burglars in the attic!” She does so and when the police come he asks them who called them and apologises on her behalf. “Sorry, she is always doing things like this.” *
The Headworker gets inside your head until their voice is the loudest and through repetition, volume and lack of alternative, you start to believe the narrative they are presenting you with.
What to do if you’re living with a Headworker
If you’re living with a Headworker then please know that the things they say to you are not true. You are not stupid, ugly or worthless. You deserve better and can have better. As we state in each of these articles, the dynamic between each abuser and their victim is unique and so it would be irresponsible to write our ‘top tips for dealing with headworkers’ in this article. Instead our advice is to please visit one of our One Stop Shop or Drop In services where one of our experienced and friendly team members will listen to your story and work with you to stay safe and, if you want to, become free from the abusive relationship. In the mean time, here are a few tips for staying safe with a Headworker:
- Until you have worked with a professional to create a plan for how to leave the relationship safely, avoid letting them know you are thinking of doing this. Any signs of you taking back control may cause the abuser to escalate their methods of power and control.
- Each time your abuser puts you down, ask yourself if what they say is true, or whether they are just saying it to gain control over you. Ask yourself what evidence they have for what they have said. Tell yourself that what they have said is a lie and then tell yourself the truth (which is probably the opposite).
- Find some positive voices to listen to. What do the people that truly love and care for you say about you? If there are other people in your life that say the same thing as your abuser, then it’s probably time to stop listening to them.
- Try and do some things that make you feel good about yourself.
- Try and avoid communicating with agencies on behalf of your abuser as you can’t trust them to confirm that what you said is what they asked you to say. Try and have meetings with your doctor or social worker etc without your abuser present.
- If your abuser is trying to make you feel or appear mentally unwell, start documenting things to show the reality of a situation.
- If you or anyone else is in immediate danger, call 999.
Lots of us long for rest-bite from the modern world and all it’s demands. We all need space and time where our mind isn’t bombarded with text messages, media feeds and phone calls. If you’re living with a Headworker then you need some rest-bite from the voice of your abuser and some peace from the poison that they feed into your ear. Contact us today and let us help you find your own voice again.
*Example taken from the Freedom Programme facilitator handbook