“Entangled In Blue,” by Author Sarah Hummell
Not all abusive relationships leave visible scars. Often, the most insidious form of abuse is the one that hides behind a mask of intense love and devotion, making it difficult to recognize until it’s too late. Author Sarah Hummell’s debut book, “Entangled In Blue,” delves deep into this unsettling reality.
Sarah’s story mirrors the unsettling trajectory of many abusive relationships. At first, they seem like a whirlwind of passion and romance, but over time, they morph into something far more sinister: manipulation and cruelty. Sarah’s journey unfolds after her appearance on Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible, which inadvertently unveiled the years of abuse she had silently endured.
“Entangled In Blue” is a gripping account that takes you through the aftermath of this revelation and Sarah’s courageous navigation of the difficult terrain. Within its pages, Sarah not only reflects on how she found herself in this situation but also shares invaluable insights into recognizing the warning signs of an abusive personality and, crucially, how to extricate oneself from such a perilous dynamic before it escalates into violence.
Sarah Hummell, a mother of two and a Manhattan-based Hospitality Consultant, draws from her rich hospitality experience to shed light on this pressing issue. Through her writing, she not only tells her story of survival but also seeks to raise awareness about the behavior patterns and red flags associated with abusive personalities. “Entangled In Blue” is a powerful narrative that serves as both a cautionary tale and a source of empowerment for those who may find themselves entangled in the same web of abuse.
Tell us a bit about your background.
The majority of my professional background is in the Hospitality industry. I have several advanced degrees and 25 years of experience. I’m a Manhattan-based consultant helping business owners with strategy and showing them how to increase service quality and profitability.
My writing experience started in 2009. While owning my first of many businesses, a coffee shop named Cafe Roche, located in Winston-Salem, NC, I decided to start blogging. Blogging became a way to educate my customers about the high-quality single-origin coffee beans we sold and served. My blog caught the attention of an international trade publication called Fresh Cup Magazine. They asked me to write in their 9 Bars Column, featuring coffee shop owners. My first article, “Have Coffee, Will Travel,” was published. When the magazine hit the shelves, I posted in my blog detailing my struggle with undiagnosed Dyslexia while growing up and how amazed I was that I achieved what I thought was impossible for me to do: getting published. This article caught the attention of Chicken Soup for the Soul, and “Living our Dreams” was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Power of Positive. Another blog post, “A Macchiato is not a Drink,” explaining the Macchiato technique and the difference between a caramel macchiato and the traditional espresso macchiato, caught the attention of a specialty coffee industry professional. With my permission, she translated it into Spanish and published it in a coffee textbook for Milk Bar, a coffee school in Venezuela.
My first book, “Perfect Coffee At Home,” was published in 2020. During Covid quarantine, I had former customers texting me asking for coffee-making tips now that they needed to make their coffee at home. I figured there was a demand for homebound coffee drinkers, so I wrote the book.
What was your impetus for writing “Entangled In Blue?”
In 2017, I found myself in a highly lethal, violent situation where my husband shot a gun in front of my two children, narrowly missing my head. I couldn’t figure out how I got myself into this situation and how I would get out of the marriage I was trapped in. Writing was a way for me to process my trauma.
What surprised you most about writing the book?
While thinking back from the start of my relationship with my husband and writing it all out, I recognized a pattern of abuse that slowly escalated in frequency and severity over the course of 16 years, leading to the incident mentioned above. I had no idea at the time, but seeing it all on paper, it was so clear!
What part of your book did you have the hardest time writing?
Writing was the easy part. Publishing it and sharing my deeply personal story was the hardest.
What is the significance of the title?
Music was a powerful motivator to help me through my most profound moments of despair. At one point, I struggled to untangle a bunch of Christmas Lights and got frustrated. I realized those knots symbolized my life, tangled up in everyone else’s expectations of me. At the same time, the lights were my strengths and blessings that I should be thankful for. My brightest lights are my two children. One day, I was listening to the lyrics of a rare version of Bob Dylan’s song, Tangled Up In Blue, and it hit me. It described exactly how I felt. I quoted the song on the first page. Emotional entanglement is what abuse survivors describe as what happens when the boundaries in a relationship are blurred. That’s why I chose Entangled rather than Tangled in the title.
What do you hope readers take away from reading your book?
I don’t want what I went through to be in vain. My struggles were worth it if I could help one person avoid a lethal situation. When you observe abuse in real life, there is a lot of power in recognizing and naming the abuse tactics. As my readers go about their relationships and see the red flags that I identified, I want them to have the power to trust their intuition and have the confidence to walk away before it’s too late.
Do you plan on writing any other books?
Yes, I started by writing about my childhood while struggling with undiagnosed and untreated Dyslexia, which could be a book. I am currently navigating the complex process of the Department of Education while advocating for support and accommodations for my children after being victims of complex trauma. That can be a whole other story.
How can our readers recognize the signs of abuse and get out of an abusive relationship?
The key factor is understanding that the frequency and intensity gradually increase over time. The abuse starts as subtle put-downs or jokes at your expense, then escalates to name-calling and blatant disrespect long before it escalates to physical violence.
The most telling signs are not actually the abuse. It’s how the Abuser reacts when they get caught!
Word Salad -The name that the survivor community uses to describe a type of speech that is purposefully confusing.
Did you ever attempt to have a conversation with someone, only to walk away from it, forgetting what you meant to talk about in the first place? Did it feel like you were talking in circles? Do you ever come away from the conversations feeling dizzy or nauseous? Did the conversation make you question your own sanity? If so, you could have experienced word salad.
Three consistent factors can be identified in this type of verbal abuse. The survivor community uses the acronym DARVO, which stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim/Offender.
Say, for example, the Abuser hurt your feelings. Perhaps they called you an offensive name valid as a joke, violated an established boundary, or disrespected you somehow. You attempt to address your concern regarding their behavior.
Deny — They pretend the events or circumstances do not exist or did not happen, even when presented with evidence to the contrary.
Attack- A persistent attack on your character commences until you back down and agree that you were the one that actually did something wrong, not them!
Reverse Victim/Offender- At the end of the conversation, you are forced to accept blame. In most cases, the Victim submits simply to make the conversation stop! The Victim finds that the Abuser now has complete control of the situation, and the submission is rewarded by returning to the Love Bombing stage.
Love Bomb- The Victim is showered with adoration and appreciation. What is so confusing to the Victim is that these actions are not motivated by feelings of love at all. Lovebombing is not about love at all! It is simply so the Abuser can avoid their deepest fear, being abandoned when you’ve finally had enough and left them.
Repeat - You are now trapped in the abuse cycle as the intensity and frequency slowly increase while your self-worth is slowly broken down.
The following are some but not all of the common tactics abusers may use in the circular conversions to get their victims to submit:
Projection- The Abuser puts their own feelings, actions, or traits onto someone else to avoid accountability.
~ If the Abuser lied, you’re now accused of being the liar
~If the Abuser is being childish, you’re the one accused of being immature.
~ If the Abuser demands reassurance, you’re the one accused of being insecure.
Double standards- Narcissists often have two sets of rules: one for themselves and one for everyone else, as they think they are entitled to special treatment.
Blame shifting- Avoiding responsibility for an act of wrongdoing by claiming that the act would not have occurred had it been for the actions of someone else (or something else, such as alcohol, youth, stress, or other external factors)
~ “I was drunk; I don’t remember hurting you last night! Honest!”
~ “If our Chef hadn’t stressed me out so much, I wouldn’t have gotten drunk and gotten my 3rd out of 5 DWIs.”
Scapegoat — Another form of Blame Shifting. If someone has to be to blame, scapegoats are typically the ones who take the fall. Scapegoats are blamed for the family’s problems. They are usually disciplined or punished disproportionately, burdened with excessive chores and responsibilities, and subjected to unmerited negative treatment. Example- Cinderella
~ “I couldn’t have done that! I’m too intelligent to do something that stupid! It must have been Sandy in IT. She’s completely incompetent!”
Victim Blaming — Ultimately, the Abuser’s goal is to get the Victim to admit that the Abuser’s behavior is the Victim’s fault to complete the abuse cycle.
~ “I hit you because you pushed my Jackass button!”
~ “I had to put the gun to your head so you would see the seriousness of this whole thing! It was the only way to get you to listen to me!”
~ “I had to threaten to break your arm because it was the only way to get you to give me the engagement ring back that I bought by finding your social security number and using your credit to finance it!”
Smear Campaign- Abusers engage in smear campaigns to discredit others within their family or social sphere. Most have no shame and are quite calculating in their process of discrediting and socially isolating their target, using innuendo, gossip, and outright lies to family, friends, neighbors, and community members. Narcissists won’t hesitate to smear an ex to their children, a scapegoated child to friends and relatives, or a colleague to other colleagues. The smear campaign usually happens behind the Victim’s back, often with the assistance of the narcissist’s enablers or what the survivor community calls Flying monkeys.
Flying Monkeys- based on The Wizard of Oz, what the survivor community calls enablers. They are people who act on behalf of an abuser to a third party for an abusive purpose. These disgusting little creatures are often worse than the actual Abuser because they know what they are doing is wrong and willingly carry it out as a follower to the Abuser in an effort to receive praise, legitimacy, or social status.
Deflection- The Abuser draws attention to someone else’s actual or perceived wrongdoing to avoid getting caught for their own behavior. Deflection is especially common in the workplace.
~I experienced this while working for an abusive boss in the Hotel Industry. Our boss led with fear. I learned quickly that I would never hear the simple words “good job” from her. Our entire team constantly feared that she would fire them over any misstep. We referred to her passive-aggressive emails to us as hate mail. She would pit each property manager against each other like a cat and mouse game. I made the perfect Scapegoat since I was the youngest in the company and had a challenging property. I had more education in the industry than she did, and It didn’t help that I saw right through her mask, so the whole team knew she already hated that. Out of survival, my team members used the deflection tactic. They would point out to her specific issues that my property was having, so she would be too busy investigating them and would not figure out that they had made huge mistakes. The stress affected my physical health. At times, I experienced hair loss, lost hearing in one ear, the entire right side of my face went numb, and chronic muscle pain. Here I was, jumping through hoops for her while another manager allowed a guest to stay there for eight months without paying a dime! When she finally figured it out, they quit without an explanation. By then, I was already fed up and gave my resignation. All of the physical symptoms I mentioned disappeared soon after resigning.
Crazy-making-What I mentioned above is enough to make anyone crazy, but it goes far deeper. The Abuser’s actions don’t match their words. Then, they gaslight or lie about their actions or what they said and refuse to discuss problems constructively. Crazy-making is a general term used to describe the tactics described above that, over time, cause self-doubt and confusion, resulting in the Victim questioning reality.
Spotting and naming the abuse can be incredibly powerful, especially when it involves the Abuser’s intent for the Victim to question their sanity. Once you can identify the behavior, the first step in escaping the abuse is to refuse to participate in the Abuser’s circular conversations.
There is no talking with these types of abusive personalities. The only thing you can do is go No Contact with the Abuser.
No Contact- This means refusing to participate in any interaction with them. Due to these incredibly dangerous dynamics, I have had to leave jobs and friend groups.
The earlier you can spot it, the easier it is for us to escape. Unfortunately, most victims don’t notice it until it’s too late, and they find themselves caught in a complex web of manipulation.
The frequency and severity increase to physical violence and, unfortunately, in extreme cases, does not end until someone dies.
I am sharing my story because it is important to recognize the signs and exit these dynamics before it’s too late.
You are not alone if you are in an abusive dynamic and don’t know how to get out. There are millions of people right now suffering in silence. The average Victim leaves seven times before going No Contact for good.
Sometimes, leaving may cause the Abuser to react worse than they ever had before. The best thing to do is call for help and develop a safety plan.
For more info on Sarah and her book, please visit: https://www.entangledinblue.com/