When I first told people that I had cut contact with my family, they would ask me: surely it was not all bad? Of course it wasn’t. Abuse very rarely is ONLY bad. Every so often the abuser needs to throw some good in the mix. It is all part of the brainwashing and manipulation. It is like the dog biscuit that keeps the dog to sit and stay.
This process is called ‘dosing’. It means giving the target a little bit of a break, a small kindness in order for them to believe that the abuser is really a good person on some level. Sometimes that can be help with something, a gift or a compliment. I remember that my mother would leave a bunch of flowers in our room from time to time when we were staying with them. It was usually at moments when tension was running particularly high. As soon as the abuser senses that their jig is up, or you are getting ready to leave, they will start giving you some positive attention.
On the day I went to my parents’ house to remove the last of my belongings and request no contact, I found such a dose waiting for me. Years before, I had moved out of their house as a student. Some of my stuff was still in my room, all packed in trash liners. My mother had agreed to back it away into the attic after I had left. When I returned home a few months later, I asked her were the bags were. It had the high school sweatshirts from my exchange, and my university hoodie too. “It was in a trash liner” she said, “so, I threw it all out.” I was raging, because I knew for sure I had told her it was all for storage. So about ten years later, when I am sure she realized I was on my way out, there it was. As if by magic, the whole bag with all the items in it appeared.
Luckily by then I had already wised up, and I recognized the effort for what it was: a manipulative effort to keep me in place.