One of Aesop’s lesser-known fables involves a goatherd, who, leading his flock to the barn before a great storm, finds a dozen wild goats mixed in with his own animals. Thinking to increase his herd, he entices the wild goats to take shelter with the rest in his barn, which they are more than willing to do. Once they are locked in the barn, weathering the storm, he gives extra food to the wild goats, hoping that they shall remember his generosity and consider joining his flock for good. However, the storm lasts longer than expected, and, running short on food, the goatherd begins to ration the supplies, giving the newcomers twice as much, but almost starving his tame animals to keep the wild goats fed.
When the storm passes, he reminds the wild goats of his generosity, asking them to stay. However, they refuse, saying: “we saw how little you were feeding your old goats; how long would it take before we, too, were starved, the better to lure newcomers to your barn?”
Those who study high-control groups and abusive relationships are familiar with the manipulative technique of love-bombing, where a new recruit or love interest is flooded with affection and positive feedback. Often, the newcomer is too overwhelmed by love-bombing to notice how the more established members are treated; in the case of a romantic predator, we believe the tales of their “evil” exes, ignoring the warning signs of how many people have been discarded by our new love. In a high-control group, if we notice the shunned or disfellowshipped member being punished by the group, the amount and intensity of positive feelings poured on us will fool us into thinking that the people in bad standing with the group must deserve their punishment – certainly we could never sink so low! Sadly, those experiencing the bad treatment of an abuser have often been gaslighted into believing that they deserve it, and so the warning value of seeing any bad treatment is diminished, swept under the rug as our focus is brought back to the love-bombing.
But, like the goats in the fable, it is better to pay attention to the warning signs around us – including how potential romantic partners talk about their exes, and how a group treats its not-so-new members. Those who practice healthy skepticism will pay close attention not only to how they are being treated, but how others are treated, too – and, like the wise wild goats, avoid the trap of being seduced into an abusive situation.
What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Spike’s dystopian novel? Do you have a story about spotting love-bombing that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!