Covert abusers can say the right things and they can be encouraging. That’s what’s so confusing. But when saying the right things and being encouraging is not followed through with action, then it’s just not real.
To some people, saying something is as good as doing it. It doesn’t matter if they hadn’t actually done it. It doesn’t matter that they don’t take any steps to actually support you. That they say they do is all that matters. They take credit for it as if it were real.
In fact, their words of support go to making them feel good about themselves. Not to actually support you. Their verbal support is only self-serving.
But to a person who takes what people say on face value, especially those we love, it can be confusing. Being with a covert abuser means mixed messages. There are plenty of them. For whatever reason, whether because of our own issues or our propensity to believe in the best in others, giving others the benefit of the doubt, mixed messages and our selective vision or rationalization or even goodwill can be a dangerous combination for our own health and peace of mind — and certainly to our passion.
Those who are threatened by someone’s passion can be supportive of it if it serves their purpose. For instance, it’s probably in their best interest to be supportive when they first meet an individual and want to make a good impression. Another time would be when they benefit either directly or indirectly from the success your passion might bring.
People who derive their self worth from riding on someone else’s coattails often do not have the discipline or commitment to get there on their own. They are, in fact, often threatened by the very discipline and commitment of others who do have what it takes. However, if their jealousy cannot sabotage your success, they’re only too happy to hijack it or bask in your success when it happens as if it were their own.
As incredulous as it seems, they may expect (or demand) you to thank them for making your success possible. It’s crazy-making, especially if your creativity has been a source of friction and arguments, and you succeeded only through your own tenacity. But good luck if you refuse or show even the slightest hesitation to sing their praises for making this all possible.
Such people may enjoy you having written or having performed or having shown your completed work. They like the attention you get when they think it reflects well on them. But often, especially in covert abuse, the one who likes to bask in the light of the other person’s success, never seems to appreciate or respect the process for getting there. They just like the laurels, of which they expect you to share with them.
When it comes to the actual creative process, the work, when real support — not just lip service – but real support matters, those who are involved with covert abusers know how long and difficult it can be, how much time is spent justifying your need to work on your craft, how many arguments are made, how much guilt is heaped upon you — and covert abusers know how to do guilt. They have it down to an art form.
Sometimes family members and loved ones do have legitimate complaints or concerns you are spending too much time on your creativity. They may assert you are neglecting them or the children. And sometimes you are. Passion can be all consuming at times, especially when you’re really into the flow of it.
The difference is people who are truly supportive of you seek a compromise, a resolution that includes your passion as well as them. They desire a balance between the passion for your art and the love you have for them. They truly accept your passion is a part of you, and if they feel it’s becoming all of you, then out of respect for themselves and the relationship, they address their concerns to work something out.
It’s part of being in a healthy relationship where people grow with bonds that breath and stretch and come back, always returning to the core of the love you share.
People who need to manipulate to get what they want, have a hard time understanding these qualities of love.
Manipulation, of which covert abuse is largely about, comes from the belief of lack. It arises from not trusting you will be loved for who you are, and confusing need and control for love.
The complaints a covert abuser might have about the time you spend with your passion isn’t so much about the time as much as the love they perceive you giving to your passion…and not them.
Unlike someone who truly loves you, a covert abuser can never be satisfied with compromise or creating space for your creative life and them. Nothing short of giving up your passion entirely or relegating it to the diminished capacity of a hobby, which would be like keeping a pond koi in a goldfish bowl, will satisfy them.
But you can try to make it work. At least that’s what you tell yourself. So you try to find a solution on your own.
You wake up predawn for your creativity so that you will be available during the day, but you are criticized for not being able to stay up late. So you get up at night, but you are criticized for sneaking out of bed after they fall asleep and not being there to cuddle if they should wake up, or being tired in the morning. So you ask for specific time during the day, in which you promise to start and stop on time. But anything more than a couple times a week, if that, is asking too much.
Perhaps you decide to devote an entire day just to them, to show them how much you love them, to cultivate happy memories together, to support and nourish your love. But the next day you find it’s not enough. They want that same undivided attention again, and the day after that, and the day after that. And it begins to dawn on you that there really is no room in your relationship for your passion.
In time you will find yourself spending more and more time protecting, defending and fighting for the right to your creativity than actually creating. And that’s a kind of sabotage, a covert attack upon your passion, burning up your passion with anger and frustration and depression, rather than using it to write, sing, dance, paint or whatever form your passion takes.
Or maybe you just give up. Perhaps you tell yourself that love is about sacrifice, after all. But is it about suicide? Because passion really isn’t something you do. It’s what you are. It’s a part of what makes you you.
It doesn’t matter how supportive your covert abuser claims to be. What matters is the reality of the situation. Look to the health of your passion and the state of your creative life. It will tell you more than any words.
POINTS TO PONDER
In what ways have you been supported in your creative life? Do you receive the support you need in terms of space, time or in other ways specific to your passion?