The Puppet Master

I came up with an analogy today that describes the abuser’s way of looking at his relationship with his victim.

He is the Puppet Master and his victim is his puppet.  He pulls the strings in a wide variety of ways to make her do exactly what he wants.  The only problem with this is that eventually the puppet figures out which string is going to be pulled, anticipates it, and moves before the Puppet Master actually pulls the string.

She is learning to anticipate his moves to try to stop the pulling of the string.  The string hurts.  The strings dig into her wrists, her legs, her head.  The string is the method of control that injures, that digs down into the puppet’s soul and tears it to shreds.  So the puppet does everything she can to avoid the tugging of the strings.  She adapts, she learns to make the moves before the Puppet Master can exert his control over her.

This becomes a problem for the Puppet Master.  It creates a conflict for him that rocks his entire world.  Yes, he is getting exactly what he wanted, his puppet is doing what he demands of her yet the problem lies in the fact that she isn’t doing it due to his control.  She is exerting her free will and doing it on her own.  He is getting what he wants but not at his command.  Therefore, he must change his desire so that he can change his command so that he once again has control of the strings.  Only this time, there is a deep-seated rage that fuels the pulling of the strings.  This time, when he pulls, he pulls harder and it hurts the puppet more.  He is reestablishing his dominance over his possession but because he had to change his desire to regain control, he is angry about it and pulls the strings harder.

This leads to massive confusion and pain in the puppet.  She knows what he wants, she is giving it to him, she is doing everything right.  Yet, he is pulling her strings in another direction, causing severe pain.  Why is there pulling in another direction when she is doing exactly what she should be doing?  He wanted her to go right so she was going right and yet her strings are being pulled to go left.  Confusion and pain abounds while she desperately tries to understand what is happening and again changes how she does things to learn a new way to try to stop the pain.

The Puppet Master rages that dinner is not ready at exactly 6 pm.  The puppet then does everything in her power to have dinner ready promptly at 6 pm each night – no matter how it affects the rest of her life or her children’s lives.  When the Puppet Master realizes she is doing exactly as he told her and he is no longer having to tug those strings, he will see that she is operating independently from him and that is unacceptable.  Yes, he is getting dinner at 6 pm but not because he is continuing to exert his control over the situation.

That night at 6 pm, he will not be there.  He will walk in the door after dinner is over and rage that she did not have his meal ready for him at 6:30 when he told her he’d be home.  Only, he never told her he’d be home late and that he wanted dinner time changed.  He will swear that he told her of the time change, he will convince her that she is stupid or forgetful or just doesn’t love him enough to pay attention to what he is telling her.  He will change the rules and put the blame on her.  He has exerted his control again – he is once again the one with the power.  And his puppet helplessly accepts that she is defective and has screwed up once again.  He will blame her and she will blame herself.

The Puppet Master has once again secured his dominance in the home.  The puppet is defeated and once again submits to the strings.  It is easier to submit to the strings because one becomes accustomed to the tugging and the pain.  It is when we get those few moments of freedom from the strings that we find relief but it also brings back pain anew once the strings are pulled again.  Those moments of sweet relief intensify the returning pain so that we are less likely to try to get the relief again.

Thus the cycle continues to beat down the puppet and she tries less and less to ease the pain of the strings.  It is better to live with the constant pain that one grows used to rather than try for moments of ease that end in intensified pain later.

The Puppet Master/Puppet relationship is about control.  The Puppet Master wants to control his puppet but the puppet wants to take back control of herself.  Sadly, the longer the strings are attached to the puppet the harder it is to break free of them because she becomes so beaten down that she gives up the will to fight the strings.  Thus the Puppet Master wins because as the puppet stops fighting the strings in abject defeat, the Puppet Master gets to continue to pull the strings in any direction he chooses.

This is what the continual dance of abuse looks like.

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