Emotional Psychological Abuse – The Craziness of Coercive Control

Dr. Jeanne King, PhD. 04/06/2021

Have you ever noticed how some people will lose their mind in their pursuit to get you to do as they desire? The things that they do and the things they say border on absolute insanity, from the outside looking in. But, from their perspective, they are merely twisting your arm to secure your compliance.

For example, take a look at Harold and Melinda. Harold has an important trip planned in which he will take the microphone to share his perspective in a panel discussion clear across the country. He wants his girlfriend Melinda to accompany him, and seeks to convince her that his performance (as well as his success) hinges on her presence.

However, Melinda struggles with a complicated leg injury that interferes with her ability to walk comfortably. She knows that she requires medical attention, yet all of her energy is tied up in fighting off Harold’s demands.

Coercive Control Tactics

Five days before Harold’s planned trip, Melinda announces that if she feels by the end of the week as she feels now, she is concerned about traveling. She didn’t even say she wasn’t going, yet Harold is all over her with coercive control tactics designed to make her head spin.

Here are just a few of the lines used to manipulate her decision-making and reel her into his web of confusion and commitment.

• “You have been planning to let me down all along,” he declares.

• “If you truly loved me, you would accompany me on this trip,” says Harold.

• “You don’t really want a relationship; nor do you know how to have one.” (one of his regular lines)

• “Your injury is not the issue! You are using this excuse to get out of going with me,” Harold asserts.

• “You don’t believe in me and you think my cause is foolish.” (Even more true: he doesn’t believe in himself and he thinks his cause is foolish.)

• “I’m going to put you in a wheelchair and WE are going on this trip no matter what!”

• “If you don’t go on this trip with me, we are done! You will never see me again. PERIOD”

As you might expect, this rant continues for several hours…actually several days. Nothing brings this to a halt other than Melinda’s submission.

But Melinda knows that traveling under the circumstances will compromise her health. She does all she can to assure Harold that her unwillingness to travel has nothing to do with her feelings for him, his professional cause or their relationship. Rather, her pulling back is about her injury.

Stay with me, because if you thought the first round of this coercive control was out of line, hold on. What’s to follow is beyond seriously silly. It’s out right insane.

Call in ER to the Rescue

Two days before the scheduled trip, Harold tells Melinda that he is suffering a vascular episode of such severity that it may take his life. In this so-called medical emergency, he wants Melinda to know that her unwillingness to accompany him on this trip is directly responsible for his demise.

They struggle back and forth for hours on the phone until the midnight hour. Harold says that what she is “doing to him” by her withholding will kill him. What he wants is for her to realize that his medical needs trump hers because his health condition can result in death instantaneously; whereas, her medical issue will only net her wheelchair occupancy.

This perverted “logic” is the basis for his demanding that both he and she “first” tend to his medical needs. Believe it or not, Harold embraces this belief and—as he lures her in by engaging her assistance reaching out to neighbors for a welfare check—he secures Melinda’s buy into the same irrational thinking. She must compromise her health to prevent him from having a catastrophic health crisis…all in the spirit of getting his way through classic coercive control.

If you recognize these dynamics in your intimate relationship, take a hard and fast look at emotional psychological abuse in controlling relationships. For information on changing these dangerous dynamics, visit www.innersanctuaryonline.org/spousal-abuse-help  Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people worldwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

© Dr Jeanne King — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

4 responses to “Emotional Psychological Abuse – The Craziness of Coercive Control”

  1. sandra olson says:

    i have been the subject of insane rants like this that went on for days, Yet if i object to it,, he claims i am abusing him, he tapes it,, tells me he has a lawyer who says i am abusing him, etc etc etc,, this will go on and on, He is seriously mentally ill, I cannot stand this, I try my best to stay away, He stalks me,, phones me constantly,, when i don’t answer, he claims he is taking my phone away as i am not using it anyway,, and all of this by the way,, is MY FAULT,

  2. Kim Johnson says:

    My daughter is married tow mane o is yet like this. They have two young children. How do we wake her up? The psychological abuse is spilling over to his children. He controls wit guilt and mostly eat. He is a monster.

    • Dr. Jeanne King PhD says:

      That depends on where she is in her process of insight and understanding the dynamics of partner abuse. You could share https://innersanctuaryonline.org with her and see how she reacts as a start. Always feel free to contact us for personal help. Blessings to you and yours, Dr. King

  3. Hayley J says:

    I have 100% experienced this craziness many many times during the past 4 years in my current relationship. I am looking for assistance in navigating out of due to an alarming increase of danger to my safety. The coercive control tactics have turned into breaking into my home (with & without me there), stealing my cell phone and “accidentally losing my SIM & SD cards.” , creating dramatic obscene loud tantrums that trigger and threaten me & cause reactive abuse, to which my neighbors have all unfortunately witnessed too many times. And of course it is all my fault.

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