Kayla Harris

Living with a Dominator – The New Breed

It is common knowledge that living with a Dominator can be very difficult indeed. Life with an abuser is frightening, confusing and exhausting. Up until quite recently, I believed my nightmare was coming to an end, that my dominator was gone for good. However, I was so, very wrong.

I keep asking myself the question: “How can I move on when They just will not let me move on?”

‘They’ are my new Bullies, my new Persuaders and new King of the Castle. ‘They’ are the ones who pull all the strings, shout commands and change the proverbial goal posts. ‘They’ are the ones who expect, nay, demand conformity, acceptance of their beliefs and obedience.

They pulled me into their game and made me a player. They told me playing this game is simple: There are only two ways to play and one of those ways may conclude in a positive outcome. Conditions are; If you accept everything We tell you (subject to our beliefs), agree to everything We suggest or encourage and do all that is required of you, ie; change, renew your skills, then you may succeed. If you choose the alternative option and do not follow our simple rules, you fail. Simple.

Sounds easy. Only now I’m frightened. The statistics of success don’t sound like they are in my favour. The conditions are easy to understand, the rules are just as clear: Players must be open, honest and transparent, they must conform and comply. They must, at all times, be everything ‘We’ want them to be (nb. subject to their discretion rules may vary, order can be changed and may repeat whenever necessary). So, why the fear?…

I begin with the first part of their conditions: Change.

Change; ok, I know I must change “this, that and the other” about myself. For example; I must improve my decision making skills. I have made some terrible decisions/judgements of situations and characters  in the past. I also know that I must get my priorities straightened out, adjust and be more organised. I have been terribly selfish in previous years, not deliberately, but I have been known to put my needs ahead of others. All these I accept without prompt.

What I need assistance with, however, is apparent necessity to change my entire self. Completely.

Apparently, my personality is too ‘bubbly’, too friendly. I’m too outspoken, so then I’m no longer friendly enough. I’m far too intelligent, too much of a challenge, yet somehow it’s also lacking. My preference to company as opposed to being alone, is not acceptable. However, they suggest I seek out companionship, the right companion of course. My dress sense is too…well everything. It’s too considered, too planned out, too smart, too ‘pretty’, too fashionable, too eye catching. (I wear pencil skirts, smart trousers, sensible heels, blouses and smart jackets to important and/or social occasions) You would imagine that that could considered acceptable, but you see, I may wear it adorned with a bow, or my hair is fashioned in curl or with colour. My everyday wardrobe is similar, I choose to wear nice dresses or smart trousers, things that make me feel presentable and confident, feminine and proud. I wear makeup because I like to, I accentuate my eyes, they are best feature, at least my most transparent. Lastly, the worst of all my crimes, is that I manage now to walk with my head high, my shoulders back, I have – heaven forbid – a smile on my over made up face and to top it off; I look people square in the eyes.

What’s so bad about that? Well that’s a question I have asked myself, many times in fact. I lost count some time ago. And so, I have found myself at the first of their many contradictions.  From the outset I was told, repeatedly; be yourself, be transparent, be open and honest. Be yourself. But… Oh yes there is and always will be a ‘but’. If all that you present to us is not up to standard, in conjunction with the aforementioned expectations, then you will be asked to change. I, therefore, do not meet said expectations.

Now it is generally the case that if you are anything like the ‘unintelligent’, unkempt stereotypes that are frequently dragged through the system, then you will most likely be damned from the beginning. These characters are like little puppets, they are pliable, easy to mould and control. They are preferred to more challenging creatures like myself, because they make for easier and smaller workload. They usually fail. I on the other hand, prove to be a whole different ball game what with my inability to see things how I am ‘supposed’ to see them. You see, when you have an alternative perspective, you make it difficult for them to sculpt and control you. With all this in mind, we must consider our options, carry on as we are or stick to the rules. I choose to stick to the rules. Again.

Rule 1: Honesty, openness and transparency.

This one creeps up on you slowly, silently. Being the willing participant, I tell Them everything.  I open myself up to Them, giving them the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly truth. Bad move, because now I gave Them too much, I’ve left myself wide open to misinterpretation and exploitation. What They don’t tell you is that you should always be honest, but remember, any information you give Them can and WILL be used against you (no matter how innocent it all may have seemed), They will distort the truth and turn it into anything to suit Them. You could consider protecting delicate information, but then they could find out anyway and then you find yourself branded with deception and dishonesty. Knowing what is too much information, or information that can be used against you, may not be apparent until its too late. Either you’ve already said it, or someone else has already done it and you’ve unwittingly taken responsibility for it by being open and honest. Confused much? You will be. I have learned that if it is necessary for them to know, keep information simple and to the point.

I have grown to understand, during my time in the ‘game’, that in order to succeed, you must accept responsibility. You must take responsibility for your own actions and mistakes you have made along the way. And sometimes you may have to take responsibility for other people’s. When you consider that you’ve been open and honest by following rules and regulations, it comes as no surprise that you find yourself taking full responsibility for a great number of things, things you would not have expected. Well, it took me by surprise and I wasn’t happy about it. I found myself in trouble for things I personally did not do.

Conditions cont’d: ‘Acceptance and Compliance’; Decision Making, Responsibility and (of course) Change.

Decision making: now here’s where I can accept some of their logic, I have already stated that I accept my need to address these issues. However, there are still some complicated areas. For example, you are expected to know and accept that any decision you made resulting in an unhappy ending is negative, well, I understood that part. Any decisions I made whilst suffering from abuse, ‘depression’, anxiety, pressure from peers, family, friends, ex-partners etc, pretty much ended badly. This was mainly because I was unable to think clearly, or for myself for that matter and the ability to make informed and balanced decisions was somewhat hindered. This of course was still my responsibility. I may well have been completely unable to differentiate ‘support’ from blatant bullying, but what did I do about it?

With decision making comes instinct, prioritizing and insight. Granted, I know that I have the capacity for utilizing such tools, but I did not know what was real, true or even right during my time of abuse, my abilities had been completely distorted, damaged even.

I was offered the chance of meeting with a psychologist and a psychiatrist. They educated me on the things that I had considered normal whilst growing up, proving that they were in actual fact, quite detrimental and have misshaped my skills. I learned that my upbringing had many flaws (The impact on your future decision making skills lie deep in the belly of that upbringing). My trust in my own instinct had been broken and my perception was distorted. Now this, apparently, was all to help me understand the makeup behind my previous choices and therefore gave me a way to move on and make appropriate changes and necessary adaptations for the future. Later on, having already made said mistakes and wrong decisions, I found myself in abusive and/or violent relationships and wondering how the hell it happened. Well now I know, now I have the chance to move on.

This is all good. But unfortunately too late. I have already made said terrible mistakes, and already had such terrible insight and/or instinct. I’ve struggled to accept certain suggestions and my beliefs don’t match those of the System. I have struggled to understand all their contradictions or reasons behind their judgements against me, which in turn made it difficult to accept things. Granted, that there have been some who have sympathised with my situation. I’ve had such a terrible, misguided upbringing and poor ideals drummed into me that I didn’t have much of a chance. Regardless, I am still at fault, or responsible, when I ‘ignored’ the apparent signs and made all the wrong decisions.

Rule 2: Compliance and Conformity. (Conditions cont’d: Acceptance and Agreement)

I’m now left feeling that all this new and greatly helpful information is slightly wasted. Complying with the rules, I’ve been putting them to use and desperately, like an eager child to her disinterested parents, trying to show off my newly acquired skills. At some point, I almost managed the seemingly impossible task of proving that I have this capacity to change, I’ve taken a few wrong turns, but generally making vast improvements. Excellent. Except, I still find my efforts being rebuked. I’m still not quite good enough. There’s still an element of doubt hanging over me because of something they can’t put their finger on. I just haven’t got them convinced. Now they want something else from me.

This is where I really do get exasperated! I’ve improved my decision making abilities. I’ve got my priorities in order and evolved into a person who holds her head up high even when the world is against her. I still work on improving these skills, whilst, simultaneously, trying to retain a little bit of who I am.

Amidst all this playing along and changing and accepting, it has been suggested that I suffer from a mental health problem. Namely anxiety and ‘depression’. They don’t like you to have problems such as these, because it decreases your ability to make careful and informed decisions (as previously mentioned). Therefore, the only outcome must be one of detrimental consequence. Ok, I can probably agree with that, but there are varying degrees of depression, and there are different ways in which to tackle the issues.

When depression is undetected or unregistered by either the host or surrounding network of so-called ‘support’, well then yes, this form of depression can proceed down the wrong path, subsequently leaving destruction in its wake. What can also happen, is that someone who has suffered abuse and mistreatment, their coping mechanism could be somewhat disorientated. The dominator may have you, and those around you, convinced that you are suffering with depression, even when you are not. Combine them all together and you are in a whole heap of trouble.

This can make working on these issues quite difficult, as there is technically no depression to work with. However, I have been branded and now, being the inferior participant, I have to accept and work on it regardless.

So, I’ve been dealing with this alongside re-educating myself and making appropriate changes and maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle, ensuring the management of usual everyday tasks; waking up, getting washed and dressed, eating meals, going shopping, etc etc. All with a smile painted on my face, gratitude and appreciation seeping out of every pore, because I am still in the game. There are days that are tricky; I’m repeatedly tested and pushed and reminded of the fact that there is still much work to be done, much improvements to be seen, much acceptance to be made. I accept these with dignity and strength, carry on and somehow still manage to be me in the process. Surely this is considered ‘doing well’, surely I’m heading down the path to success, albeit with harder tests, higher expectations of improvements, and maybe a couple of trip ups along the way, but generally…

Well, now you’ve managed a little too well. Appearing to be happy, the depression seemingly overcome. I’m maintaining a happier outlook on life and am quite upbeat and positive. (What’s the problem?) They feel I cannot be taking the situation seriously enough.

It is considered that this ability to overcome and do so well means that you are plain blasé. Or maybe you’re disguising your true feelings behind all the makeup and the clothes to detract attention from hidden depression. Either way, it’s an image of deception.

Rule 3: Be Everything We Want You To Be. (Conditions apply; Agreement, Act Upon Suggestion)

Here I find myself at a stalemate. I’ve made the necessary changes in my life. I’ve gotten rid of the excess baggage that, once upon a time, weighed me down. I have adapted, grown, matured, rediscovered myself, agreed and accepted all that they have thrown at me. I have become humbled, all for the sake of obtaining my ultimate goal. And as always, it’s just not quite good enough. I’m still not convincing enough, I gave away too much information and yet still I am accused of deception and dishonesty.  I have still not accepted enough and now it appears I am fighting against the rules. I am still not what They want me to be.

Not only that, because I find time to apply the makeup, put together an attractive ensemble of garments, (they’ve now noticed the fact that I’ve lost weight (a product from a loss of appetite during the tight grip of anxiety that has been induced since I began)). It is ‘plainly obvious’ that I am relishing all the attention they’ve assumed I so desperately crave. And more importantly, ignoring the needs of others. (We find ourselves full circle).

The ironic thing about this is that in one hand it is one of the conditions to show your ability to adapt, accept, comply (we know the mantra by now)… Yet, it has become a concern and so the rules are altered. So they are then given the opportunity to rule against us;

“If you are able to ‘find the time’ to be yourself, be able to look presentable and build your confidence and self esteem up, it must mean that at some point your duties must have been neglected. You’ve concentrated on yourself for a period of time. You must have become shortsighted in the severity of the situation, you can’t possibly be taking your responsibilities seriously if you can manage all these periods of ‘self-indulgence’. Therefore, while you’re speaking words of promise to change and concentrate on prioritizing adequately, you’re contradicting this by looking too good for us to believe that you have actually achieved this. Your mind must, indeed, be on other matters such as attracting a man, or gaining attention for your own self satisfaction. Thus further adding weight to our theory of deception.”

The final straw in all of this, is the realisation that although I have achieved a great deal, the truth is that I haven’t really moved very far at all. I may have gotten away from my abusive ex-partners, I may have control in my own little world. But I am still a pawn in someone else’s game. After all, a confused victim is a controlled victim. And I am truly confused.

The ‘goal-post’ has repeatedly moved, my achievements constantly rebuked, dismissed, belittled. I still live in fear, I am frightened that I may never get what I truly want and pray for every single day. So, I now have one final dilemma to decipher.

Do I hang myself up, become someone else, invent a new Me?  Well it wouldn’t be a new invention would it? It would be theirs. It would be what they designed. I could change my wardrobe along with all the other alterations, desist from applying make-up, apply a new mask perhaps? I could change the colour of my hair to a more agreeable shade, namely “mousey brown” and I could also conform to their ideal image.

I could, but wouldn’t that then make me a hypocrite? Or more importantly, them?

During this entire process it has been repeatedly drummed in: be yourself, be honest, be open. Be true. But at every turn there is always something not quite right, there is always something more wanted; expected.

So it is here that I find myself at the proverbial fork in the road. In one direction I conform and redesign myself, I give myself up to the contradictory expectations that will please the almighty, and run the risk of causing confusion, doubt and disbelief. Remain eternally in this ‘Game’ But that would just confirm my suspicions. I am no further advanced, I am still stuck in the same old rut I was in 3 years ago.

I am still living with a Dominator.

He just has a new face. He is now ‘The Local Authority’. They hold my child hostage because I was once in a domestic violent relationship. They dangle the carrot before me. They tease; tell me I can have her back in my care, if I just do as they say. They bully and abuse: forcing me to change everything about myself. They threaten; telling me that if I don’t comply I will lose, I will hurt and suffer. And They punish me time and time again for having gotten myself in this mess. Why? Because to them, I am and always will be a ‘Victim’.

But, no. I choose to go the other direction.

I am not a victim. I could make a rule of my own.  I have been honest, open, strong and above all else, myself. I have been true. I’ve given them everything. Now, I want them to accept just one thing and give something back to Me. As I am. Honest, open and true. Simple.


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