Negotiation – Bargaining with the Devil

Maryland Car Dealership (courtesy of Chrysler/Jeep), Author Christopher Ziemnowciz a/k/a CZmarlin (PD)

Few people enjoy negotiation.  Most find it unpleasant, if necessary.  But, for abuse victims, negotiation can be immensely painful.

Why is this?  After all, most adults have been “bargaining” since they were children.  Just one more game.  Just one more story, Daddy.  Pleeze, Mommy, ple-e-e-eze.

Past Experience

Most people bargain with at least some expectation of obtaining what it is they are after.  That expectation is based on past experience, and a degree of prior success.  It pre-supposes an opponent can be persuaded to modify his/her position, perhaps even relent.

The experience of abuse victims is entirely different.  We were forced to bargain with the devil.

However else the abuser may have appeared to the world, however pleasant or sincere s/he may have seemed, however refined, relative to us s/he was evil incarnate:

  • unscrupulous;
  • manipulative;
  • single-minded;
  • more mature, intellectually;
  • erratic and confusing, with motivation outside our comprehension;
  • all powerful;
  • often brutal; and
  • wholly self-centered or, to put it another way, unmoved by compassion for us.

As children, we were powerless.  That point was made, again and again.

“My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws…” (Ps. 22: 15).

Negotiation was, by nature, a traumatic event for victims.  We may have pleaded with the abuser — quite literally — for our lives, certainly for our sanity.  That fact alone makes all subsequent negotiations highly charged.

And negotiation required abject submission on our part.  Anything else produced harsh punishment.  We could only lay our requests on the altar, hoping to withstand the resulting blast.

Negotiation and PTSD

As adults, we may find it difficult to ask for a raise or promotion; difficult even to contest a utility bill.

The very act of speaking during negotiation can be difficult for us.  Our mouths turn dry as cotton.  Our tongues stick to the palate.  We feel powerless, outmatched.

Buying a new car becomes an ordeal for us, topped off by shame, if we cannot manage to secure a reasonable price.

We prefer not to haggle over contracts like those for home improvement or repairs.  It does not occur to us to negotiate credit card fees or the costs for phone, TV, and internet service.

For the same reasons, we do not pursue our rights when defrauded.  Rather than confront the swindler, we absorb the loss when cheated of the down payment on a car or the deposit on an apartment.  We let it go, when the dry cleaner ruins our favorite blouse.

Oh, we may fume inside; may sputter a little.  But, deep down, we either blame ourselves or doubt we would have any chance of prevailing.  Again, the experience is one of shame and failure.  We berate ourselves; see ourselves as weak, though that is not the case.

We are suffering the after-effects of trauma.  Genuine effects of genuine trauma.

In the Present

Identifying the problem helps.  So does reminding ourselves that negotiation in the present does not have the same significance that negotiation in the past had.  Whether or not we get the raise we deserve or buy the car at a price we want, we will not be physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abused or neglected, as a result.

In reality, our abuse was NEVER dependent on our capacity to negotiate.   We were going to be abused, whatever we said or did.

The pain negotiation causes us is the pain of that original wound.  It is the price of bargaining with the devil.



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

23 responses to “Negotiation – Bargaining with the Devil

  1. Great post.. very informative..

  2. lynettedavis

    Great post! It’s still mind-boggling to me how, as children, we were forced to deal (negotiate) with the devil himself, with the implicit understanding that, “We were going to be abused, [no matter] whatever we said or did.” I call it spiritual warfare. For many survivors, it was physical warfare too. It was a hellacious experience. And I thank God that he made a way of escape for us.

  3. lynettedavis

    Reblogged this on Memoir Notes.

  4. Super post. But, here is my question – in this case, isn’t the negotiation more in the nature of supplication? And, pleading?

  5. I see people who love to bargain and negotiate purchases and I have never liked doing that. In fact I just don’t do it but it never occured to me the why I don’t do it. I just always figured “it doesn’t do any good so why bother?” Wow, Anna, you’ve opened a peep hole here. Thanks and will reblog so more peep holes can be opened.

  6. Monochrome nightmares

    Thank you Anna.
    Another interesting and
    thought provoking piece of writing.

  7. The truth. I have always been a negotiator being a rural guy that purchases many things without price tags. No more than 30 minutes ago I made a deal for a few ewes. I just purchased similar ones Saturday. He was asking $200 for them and I bought them for $185 each. It was a fair deal for both. Tonight another guy was asking $300 which I would never have paid. He asked me what I would pay and I told him $195 each if he would deliver them to me. He’s 125 miles away. He said ok. Again, I think it was a fair deal for both and he quickly went from $300 to $185 and $10 a head to deliver. I never try this in a retail store though but animals, property, vehicles, etc it is a must to keep from being highjacked. Lol.

    • I think you put your finger on it, Levi. Once the emotional baggage is removed from negotiation, we can argue in favor of a fair price without investing so much of ourselves in the outcome. I’ll have to take lessons from you (LOL).

  8. This is the most thought provoking and enlightening thing I have read in a long time! Thank you!

  9. Shofargirl

    This is so true Anna, it is so ingrained never to speak out that this continues into adult-hood where there are times when we should speak out but we don’t through that feeling of childhood fear.. Even when I have spoken out it has often been thwarted down at the first hurdle so I give up easily and don’t persist. It’s a very hard thing emotionally but for those few people who are sensitive and don’t lord it over vulnerable adults and children it’s like a refreshing spring of water. I thank God that he cares for those who are ‘poor in spirit’ for without this God Anna I would be totally and utterly lost Thank you xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.