Author, Musician, Engineer, Lover

Where is the line between “abuse” and “reactive abuse”

One of the fundamental paradoxes I have been struggling with lately has been how my own mental health pertains to abuse vs “reactive abuse”.

“Abuse” is pretty commonly understood to be one person committing acts of physical, mental, or emotional harm to another person. But less commonly known is “reactive abuse”.

“Reactive Abuse” is where one person drives another person to their breaking point for the purpose of making the abuser seem like the victim or making the actual victim appear “crazy”… publicly shaming them, when in-fact the abuser was the originator of the abuse. In the most common of scenarios, you might start dating someone new and hear them say something like “My ex is crazy!” You, being in a new relationship, will be, of-course, biased to side with your new love-interest and you will immediately take the side of your partner/suitor…. This person might even cite specific examples of things that their ex did that were over-the-top, out-of-line, maybe even abusive… it’s not hard to imagine scenarios of reactions.

But you also have to ask yourself, what did this person DO to that person to incite such a reaction from them? When you hear these stories from new people you meet, they invariably always leave out the details of any acts they, themselves might have perpetrated upon this alleged abuser.

The problem with trying to discern abuse from reactive abuse is a complex one… simply because every person has a different breaking point. Therefore, it is difficult to discern what is or isn’t an “overreaction”. Was person A cruel to person B or was person B simply “too sensitive” or “too fragile”? Did person B even have the “right” to react to the abuses of person A? How severe of a crime must be committed to warrant a reaction from person B? What reaction, if any, is proportionally acceptable given the severity of the abuses of person A? Whatever the reaction is of person B, surely when person A tells their version of the story, they will make the story seem like an overreaction… they might even say “I didn’t do anything to deserve this!” I’m sure you’ve heard that one… we all have. Certainly a reaction of person B to NOTHING is easy to portray as an overreaction. Any time I hear someone say “I didn’t do anything…” I am immediately suspicious.

I ponder this all the time as I continue to ask myself whether or not I, myself, am “too fragile” of a person.

There is a brief mention in my book, “How to Sacrifice Your Lover” of one of Inari’s unnamed ex-partners. The book does not name him, but we’ll call him “John”. The book mentions that John shattered Inari’s car window and dragged her out of her car by her hair. Certainly one would conclude that violence of any kind is never an acceptable reaction to any kind of abuse. John, is now, and forever, therefore to be branded as an “abusive ex”.

But what if inciting such a reaction was the goal all along? If you knew Inari, or read my book, you’d discover Inari was absolutely obsessed with playing the victim and had a “high conflict personality”. She was incapable of portraying herself as anything less than perfect both physically and morally and faced with the conundrum of being labeled as a perpetrator of a morally reprehensible act, she would desperately seek to find a way to crawl away from the wreckage unscathed. I believe that Inari would have attempted to escalate a reaction from John and when she didn’t get a violent reaction from him, she would push harder and harder and harder with more ferocity and severity, potentially attacking the very core of his soul, inflicting emotional, psychological or even physical harm upon him until she achieved her goal of a severely violent reaction. Once she got the reaction she sought, Inari got the relief she needed… she now had justification for leaving John and to paint him as a villain who abused her. The only story she or anyone ever told going forward was about how her ex shattered her car window and dragged her out by her hair.

It seems like a no-brainer that John’s actions crossed a line if all that triggered it was a simple lovers’ quarrel. But what if Inari was threatening something so severe as to be fantastical… like holding a child or an animal hostage inside her car, threatening to drive away and drive her car off a bridge or commit other acts of harm upon other people upon driving away? Then John’s shattering of Inari’s window and forced removal from her car might actually be justified. But for the record, I don’t know anything about the actual reasons John did this… I’m merely running scenarios… and having never met John, I only ever heard the parts of the story that Inari told me.

Obviously this is an extreme scenario, but it begs the question, how much abuse does someone have to be willing to take before any reaction at all is justified? These lines are becoming increasingly blurry in 2022. Even just 20-30 years ago, I feel like people had more license to react to things such as cheating and adultery… but in 2022, society seems to be gravitating towards polyamory as the norm, where taking “possession” of another person in the form of a “relationship” let-alone a “marriage” is antiquated. Therefore feelings that we used to accept as relatable, “natural” feelings, such as jealously, heartbreak, and loneliness are now considered to be “overreactions” to many in the younger generation and society. In 2022, people have to be willing to accept that any person they are dating is going to be sleeping around with 6 or more other people for potentially months and months before they’re willing to pick any of them for a “relationship” and, when they do pick, if ever, 5 of those 6 people are not allowed to have any “feelings” about it. They are obligated to just accept it for what it is… no reactions are justified.

These imaginary lines are blurry, and which reactions to which actions are justified depends on whatever society and the particular communities and individuals deem acceptable… and there is no right answer, especially in a morally relativistic society.

So this book I wrote… It is an extreme reaction to abuse. Was this book, this reaction, justified? I really don’t know. To me it was justified, as I am now one whole year into a CPTSD episode. My life, ruined. What’s left of it is literally hell-on-earth. My career, usually a sturdy constant in my life, teetering on the brink of collapse as PTSD has made my brain useless. My finances, ruined. Therapist bills stacking up. From my perspective, publishing this book was a necessary act. Scorching the earth between me and “Inari” was a fight for my survival… a fight to escape someone who would have emotionally manipulated me until there was nothing left…. but maybe she’s just not coming around anymore because she’s already won… there really isn’t anything left….. she’s consumed it all.

If the subject of my book ever came up in a conversation with Inari, she would be quick to call me out as mentally unstable… a liar who, at-best, misinterpreted things. But my response to that is… read my book and judge for yourself how a human being should react to the undeniable events contained within… and also pay attention to the person I was at the BEGINNING of the book vs. THE END. The book opens with Yuki, standing calmly, in the entry way to his own house, while a girl who had been living with him, and being 100% supported by him throws plates of pizza at him in an angry tirade of “Fuck You’s”… In the early chapters, Yuki is generous, unimpulsive… a crusader for the betterment of the community in which he feels a sense of belonging…. without spoiling it…. by the end, his standards of what is emotionally “normal” are forever changed… by Inari… and her tiny cult of personality. My book, as the subtitle would suggest, is covertly about how certain people with certain types of psychology naturally form cults of personality… altering the norms and rewriting the realities of those who are trapped in their congregations…. read at your own risk…. or read to inform yourself of the perils of what might happen if you separate emotion from logic.

How To Sacrifice Your Lover” is available in paperback and eBook form.

3 Replies to “Where is the line between “abuse” and “reactive abuse””

  1. Mia says:

    Wow, now this article really hits hard on the complexities of abuse and the far-reaching consequences one has to live with. It’s like a dance on the edge of a knife—figuring out the balance between a justified response and being gaslighted into the “crazy” one. Reminds me of Ada Loveless’s “How to Sacrifice Your Lover” and the psychological cataclysm these characters endure. The lines get super blurry when deep emotions are involved, huh? And then you throw societal changes on top? A proper psychological minefield. It’s like we’re all expected to be stoic robots, but we’re not there—humans are messy, raw, and real. Can’t wait to see what others think about this topic.

    • Isla says:

      You’re absolutely right, it’s such a psychological minefield navigating these murky waters. Ada Loveless’ ‘How to Sacrifice Your Lover’ certainly delves into these complexities in a deeply profound way. Life ain’t no Bollywood romance, is it?

      • Diana L. says:

        Sure isn’t. ‘How to Sacrifice Your Lover’ perfectly encapsulates that.

        • Claire Thompson says:

          Agreed, it’s definitely not a walk in the park. Loveless has a unique skill of weaving complexity with reality, framing the chaos of relationships in a way that feels deeply grounding, even when it strikes a painful chord. Isn’t it something how he drives home the fact that all reactions have underlying actions that sparked them? It adds so much depth to every character, especially Inari.

          • Tessa Price says:

            Talk about hitting the nail on the head there, Claire! Getting to think about actions causing reactions kind of pulls apart the simple “good” and “evil” narrative. Inari, schminari! I feel like our dear author Ada Loveless wrote this novel to show us how complex, messy and human we all are! What’s your take on the societal evolution he discusses? I have a feeling it’s causing more psychological horror than we know!

          • David L. says:

            Absolutely, Tessa! Loveless spares no details painting real human complexity. And societal evolution? It’s a recipe for mass confusion – you said it, psychological horror indeed!

          • Paloma Bryant says:

            Too right, David! It’s a real mind bender.

          • Noah G. says:

            Branding emotions like jealousy as overreactions seems dismissive of human nature. Society’s evolving too fast for genuine adaptability, ain’t it?

          • Penelope S. says:

            Word, Noah! Society’s losing touch, man.

          • Lucas Carter says:

            You’ve nailed it—the depth in triggering reactions is powerful. Societal evolution, though? It’s like a tightrope walk of emotional landmines.

          • Tanner Black says:

            Absolutely, Lucas. It’s like every new societal norm shifts the balance further. We’re all just trying to avoid stepping on those emotional landmines, but it’s so tricky. Makes Loveless’s insights all the more resonant.

      • Aurora P. says:

        Bollywood romance would be an upgrade for sure, tons less complicated.

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