There are people who like other people to be intensely emotionally dependent on them. They like to control people through this emotional dependence. And they like to think of this control and forced dependence as understanding the target on a deep level, rescuing them, and helping them to heal.
One way this happens is that the controller will deliberately trigger the target over and over. And then get really good at triggering them and then comforting them. And this can – in the short term, make the target feel safe and understood. Because having someone react in a way that feels comforting when you’re triggered can be really reassuring, especially when people have reacted with fear or contempt in the past.
And it can be really hard to figure out that someone is intentionally and repeatedly triggering you. It can be *especially* hard to realize they’re doing this if they also have some actual insight about the issues you’re struggling with. And it can also be harder to understand what’s going on if they’re also supporting you in other ways, like offering a place to stay or help finding a job.
And the longer this goes on, the more they know about you. And the more they know, the more power they have to trigger you at will. And when you show independence, or do something they don’t want, or do something on your own initiative rather than relying on their help, or say no to help they’re offering – then they don’t react reasonably. They use your triggers to disorient you. They convince you that you don’t really understand anything that’s going on, and that you are just reacting to past traumas. And that in order to approximate being a real person, you have to rely on their judgement rather than yours.
A wide range of people do this. Sometimes it’s a friend. Sometimes it’s a licensed therapist with a good professional reputation. Someone’s it’s a coworker. Sometimes it’s a social worker. Sometimes it’s a partner. It can arise out of a lot of different kinds of relationships. It’s always wrong, no matter what someone thinks their intentions are.
And it’s not your fault. If you’re in that situation, someone’s probably got you half-convinced that this is only happening because you’re broken and need help. But that’s not what’s going on; this is something someone is doing to you, not something that inherently happens to people like you. No one, no matter what problems they have, should ever be treated like this.