EXPLORING THE MIND OF AN ABUSER


Originally posted in September 2009 with the article HELP! I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE BOOGEYMAN!  With the end of October upon us, and October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I felt like re-posting this wonderful article. 

EXPLORING THE MIND OF AN ABUSER

To embark on our exploration of the abusive mind, we first need to agree on a taxonomy of abusive behaviors. Methodically observing abuse is the surest way of getting to know the perpetrators. Abusers appear to be suffering from dissociation (multiple personality). At home, they are intimidating and suffocating monsters – outdoors, they are wonderful, caring, giving, and much-admired pillars of the community.

Why this duplicity?

It is only partly premeditated and intended to disguise the abuser’s acts. More importantly, it reflects his inner world, where the victims are nothing but two-dimensional representations, objects, devoid of emotions and needs, or mere extensions of his self. Thus, to the abuser’s mind, his quarries do not merit humane treatment, nor do they evoke empathy. Typically, the abuser succeeds to convert the abused into his worldview. The victim – and his victimizers – don’t realize that something is wrong with the relationship.

This denial is common and all-pervasive. It permeates other spheres of the abuser’s life as well. Such people are often narcissists – steeped in grandiose fantasies, divorced from reality, besotted with their false Self, consumed by feelings of omnipotence, omniscience, entitlement, and paranoia. Contrary to stereotypes, both the abuser and his prey usually suffer from disturbances in the regulation of their sense of self-worth.

Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence render the abuser – and his confabulated self – vulnerable to criticism, disagreement, exposure, and adversity – real or imagined.

Abuse is bred by fear – fear of being mocked or betrayed, emotional insecurity, anxiety, panic, and apprehension.

It is a last ditch effort to exert control – for instance, over one’s spouse – by “annexing” her, “possessing” her, and “punishing” her for being a separate entity, with her own boundaries, needs, feelings, preferences, and dreams.

In her seminal tome, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship”, Patricia Evans lists the various forms of manipulation which together constitute verbal and emotional (psychological) abuse:

  • Withholding (the silent treatment),
  • countering (refuting or invalidating the spouse’s statements or actions),
  • discounting (putting down her emotions, possessions, experiences, hopes, and fears),
  • sadistic and brutal humor,
  • blocking (avoiding a meaningful exchange, diverting the conversation,
  • changing the subject),
  • blaming and accusing,
  • judging and criticizing
  • undermining and sabotaging
  • , threatening,
  • name calling,
  • forgetting and denying,
  • ordering around,
  • denial,
  • and abusive anger.

To these we can add:

  • Wounding “honesty”
  • ignoring, smothering
  • dotting
  • unrealistic expectations
  • invasion of privacy,
  • tactlessness,
  • sexual abuse,
  • physical maltreatment,
  • humiliating,
  • shaming,
  • insinuating,
  • lying,
  • exploiting,
  • devaluing and discarding,
  • being unpredictable,
  • reacting disproportionately,
  • dehumanizing & objectifying,
  • abusing confidence & intimate information,
  • engineering impossible situations,
  • control by proxy & ambient abuse.

In his comprehensive essay, “Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes”, Lundy Bancroft observes:

“Because of the distorted perceptions that the abuser has of rights and responsibilities in relationships, he considers himself to be the victim. Acts of self-defense on the part of the battered woman or the children, or efforts they make to stand up for their rights, he defines as aggression AGAINST him.

He is often highly skilled at twisting his descriptions of events to create the convincing impression that he has been victimized. He thus accumulates grievances over the course of the relationship to the same extent that the victim does, which can lead professionals to decide that the members of the couple ‘abuse each other’ and that the relationship has been ‘mutually hurtful’.”

Yet, whatever the form of ill-treatment and cruelty – the structure of the interaction and the roles played by abuser and victim are the same. Identifying these patterns – and how they are influenced by prevailing social and cultural mores, values, and beliefs – is a first and indispensable step towards recognizing abuse, coping with it, and ameliorating its inevitable and excruciatingly agonizing aftermath.


A critical reading of R. Lundy Bancroft’s Essay –Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes (1998)

Bancroft’s essay is indispensable reading to anyone in the throes of separation, divorce, or custody proceedings.

Alas, Bancroft, like numerous other mental health professionals, fails to identify pathological narcissism when confronted with it. Astonishingly – and tellingly – the word “narcissism” is not mentioned even once in a very long text on abuse.

He concludes:

“Although a percentage of batterers have psychological problems, the majority do not.

They are often thought to have low self-esteem, high insecurity, dependent personalities, or other results from childhood wounds, but in fact batterers are a cross-section of the population with respect to their emotional make-up.”

Follows Bancroft’s profile of a typical abuser in the very same article.

Doesn’t it strike you as the description of a malignant narcissist?  If it does, you are right. Bancroft, unwittingly, describes a pathological, malignant narcissist to a tee!

Yet, he is totally blind to it.

This lack of awareness of mental health practitioners is common. They often under-diagnose or misdiagnose pathological narcissism!

Bancroft’s PROFILE of the TYPICAL ABUSER (actually, of a malignant narcissist)

The batterer is controlling; he insists on having the last word in arguments and decision-making, he may control how the family’s money is spent, and he may make rules for the victim about her movements and personal contacts, such as forbidding her to use the telephone or to see certain friends.

He is manipulative; he misleads people inside and outside of the family about his abusiveness, he twists arguments around to make other people feel at fault, and he turns into a sweet, sensitive person for extended periods of time when he feels that it is in his best interest to do so. His public image usually contrasts sharply with the private reality.

He is entitled; he considers himself to have special rights and privileges not applicable to other family members. He believes that his needs should be at the center of the family’s agenda, and that everyone should focus on keeping him happy.

He typically believes that it is his sole prerogative to determine when and how sexual relations will take place, and denies his partner the right to refuse (or to initiate) sex. He usually believes that housework and childcare should be done for him, and that any contributions he makes to those efforts should earn him special appreciation and deference. He is highly demanding.

He is disrespectful; he considers his partner less competent, sensitive, and intelligent than he is, often treating her as though she were an inanimate object. He communicates his sense of superiority around the house in various ways.

The unifying principle is his attitude of ownership.

The batterer believes that once you are in a committed relationship with him, you belong to him. This possessiveness in batterers is the reason why killings of battered women so commonly happens when victims are attempting to leave the relationship; a batterer does not believe that his partner has the right to end a relationship until he is ready to end it.

Because of the distorted perceptions that the abuser has of rights and responsibilities in relationships, he considers himself to be the victim. Acts of self-defense on the part of the battered woman or the children, or efforts they make to stand up for their rights, he defines as aggression against him. He is often highly skilled at twisting his descriptions of events to create the convincing impression that he has been victimized. He thus accumulates grievances over the course of the relationship to the same extent that the victim does, which can lead professionals to decide that the members of the couple “abuse each other” and that the relationship has been ‘mutually hurtful.”

It seems that CONTROL is the problem – not VIOLENCE.

Bancroft writes:

“A significant proportion of batterers required to attend counseling because of a criminal conviction have been violent only one to five times in the history of their relationship, even by the victim’s account. Nonetheless, the victims in these cases report that the violence has had serious effects on them and on their children, and that the accompanying pattern of controlling and disrespectful behaviors are serving to deny the rights of family members and are causing trauma.

Thus the nature of the pattern of cruelty, intimidation, and manipulation is the crucial factor in evaluating the level of abuse, not just the intensity and frequency of physical violence. In my decade of working with abusers, involving over a thousand cases, I have almost never encountered a client whose violence was not accompanied by a pattern of psychological abusiveness.”

“An abuser’s desire for control often intensifies as he senses the relationship slipping away from him. He tends to focus on the debt he feels his victim owes him, and his outrage at her growing independence.”

RIGHT vs. NEED

Bancroft says:

“Most batterers do not have an inordinate need for control, but rather feel an inordinate right to control under family and partnership circumstances.”

But the distinction Bancroft makes between “need” and “right” is spurious. If you think that you have the right to something, you concomitantly feel the need to have your right asserted, accepted, and enforced.

If someone violates your rights, you get frustrated and angry because your need to have your rights respected and enforced hasn’t been met.

I also strongly disagree with Bancroft – as does a huge volume of research – that control freakery can be limited to home. A control freak is a control freak everywhere! Controlfreakery, though, manifests in a myriad ways. Obsessing, acting compulsively, and being overly inquisitive, for instance, are all forms of exerting control.

Sometimes controlling behavior is very difficult to identify: a smothering or dotting mother, a “friend” who keeps “guiding” you, a neighbor who compulsively takes out your garbage …

This is exactly what stalkers do. They cannot get someone to commit to a relationship (real or delusional). They then proceed to “control” the unwilling partner by harassing, threatening and invading his or her life.

From the outside, it is often impossible to identify many of these behaviors as abusive control.

NURTURE vs. CULTURE

Bancroft observes that “…battering behavior is mostly driven by culture rather than by individual psychology.”

Culture and society do play an important part.

As I say here:

http://samvak.tripod.com/abusefamily.html

“The abuser may be functional or dysfunctional, a pillar of society, or a peripatetic con-artist, rich or poor, young or old. There is no universally-applicable profile of the “typical abuser”.

And here:

http://samvak.tripod.com/abuse.html

“Abuse and violence cross geographical and cultural boundaries and social and economic strata. It is common among the rich and the poor, the well-educated and the less so, the young and the middle-aged, city dwellers and rural folk. It is a universal phenomenon.”

Still, it is wrong to attribute abusive behavior exclusively to one set of parameters (psychology), or to another (culture-society). The mixture does it.

Lundy Bancroft on batterers, David Hare on the subject of psychopathy (and, modesty notwithstanding, myself on pathological narcissism) represent a breed of mavericks, rejected by the “experts” and “professionals” in their fields. But they are both, to my mind, authorities. Their experience is invaluable. Whether they are good at constructing theories and generalizing their experience is a different matter altogether. Their contribution is mainly phenomenological, not theoretical.

Statistics show that intimate partner abuse, including domestic violence, has declined by one half in the last decade in the United States. Jay Silverman and Gail Williamson demonstrated in “Social Ecology and Entitlements Involved in Battering by Heterosexual College Males” (published in Violence and Victims, Volume 12, Number 2, Spring 1997) is that abuse is best predicted by two factors: the belief that mistreatment is justified and the succor of peers.

These two facts elucidate the cultural and social roots of abusive behavior. Abuse is bound to be found in patriarchal,narcissistic, or misogynistic collectives. Many societies exhibit cross sections of these three traits. Thus, most patriarchal groups are also misogynistic, either overtly and ideologically so – or covertly and in denial.

Paradoxically, women’s lib initially makes things worse. The first period of social dislocation – when gender roles are redefined – often witnesses a male backlash in the form of last ditch patriarchy and last resort violence, trying to restore the “ancient regime”. But as awareness and acceptance of women’s equal rights grow, abuse is frowned upon and, consequently, declines.

Alas, four fifths of humanity are far from this utopian state of things. Even in the most prosperous, well-educated, and egalitarian societies of the West there are sizable pockets of ill-treatment that cut across all demographic and social-economic categories.

Women are physically weaker and, despite recent strides, economically deprived or restricted. This makes them ideal victims – dependent, helpless, devalued. Even in the most advanced societies, women are still expected to serve their husbands, maintain the family, surrender their autonomy, and abrogate their choices and preferences if incompatible with the ostensible breadwinner’s. Women are also widely feared. The more primitive, poorer, or less educated the community – the more women are decried as evil temptresses, whores, witches, possessors of mysterious powers, defilers, contaminants, inferior, corporeal (as opposed to spiritual), subversive, disruptive, dangerous, cunning, or lying.

Violence is considered by members of such collectives a legitimate means of communicating wishes, enforcing discipline, coercing into action, punishing, and gaining the approval of kin, kith, and peers. To the abuser, the family is an instrument of gratification – economic, narcissistic, and sexual. It is a mere extension of the offender’s inner world, and, thus, devoid of autonomy and independent views, opinions, preferences, needs, choices, emotions, fears, and hopes.

Is abuse anomalous – or an inevitable part of human nature? If the former – is it the outcome of flawed genetics, nurture (environment and upbringing) – or both? Can it be “cured” – or merely modified, regulated, and accommodated? There are three groups of theories – three schools – regarding abusers and their conduct.

I. Abuse as an Emergent Phenomenon

The precipitous drop in intimate partner abuse in the last decade (especially in the West) seems to imply that abusive behavior is emergent and that its frequency fluctuates under given circumstances. It seems to be embedded in social and cultural contexts and to be a learned or acquired behavior. People who grew up in an atmosphere of domestic violence, for instance, tend to perpetuate and propagate it by abusing their own spouses and family members.

Social stresses and anomy and their psychological manifestations foster domestic violence and child abuse. War or civil strife, unemployment, social isolation, single parenthood, prolonged or chronic sickness, unsustainably large family, poverty, persistent hunger, marital discord, a new baby, a dying parent, an invalid to be cared for, death of one’s nearest and dearest, incarceration, infidelity, substance abuse – have all proven to be contributing factors.

II. Hard-Wired Abuse

Abuse cuts across countries, continents, and disparate societies and cultures. It is common among the rich and the poor, the highly educated and the less so, people of all races and creeds. It is a universal phenomenon – and always has been, throughout the ages.

More than half of all abusers do not come from abusive or dysfunctional households where they could have picked up this offensive comportment. Rather, it seems to “run in their blood”. Additionally, abuse is often associated with mental illness, now fashionably thought to be biological-medical in nature.

Hence the hypothesis that abusive ways are not learned – but hereditary. There must be a complex of genes which controls and regulates abuse, goes the current thinking. Turning them off may well end the maltreatment.

II.Abuse as a Strategy

Some scholars postulate that all modes of behavior – abuse included – are results-orientated. The abuser seeks to control and manipulate his victims and develops strategies aimed at securing these results – see “What is Abuse” for details.

Abuse is, therefore, an adaptive and functional behavior. Hence the difficulty encountered by both the offender and society in trying to modify and contain his odious demeanor.

Yet, studying the very roots of abuse – social-cultural, genetic-psychological, and as a survival strategy – teaches us how to effectively cope with its perpetrators.

Can abusers be “reconditioned”? Can they be “educated” or “persuaded” not to abuse?

“Abuse is a multifaceted phenomenon. It is a poisonous cocktail of control-freakery, conforming to social andcultural norms, and latent sadism.

The abuser seeks to subjugate his victims and ‘look good’ or ‘save face’ in front of family and peers.

Many abusers also enjoy inflicting pain on helpless victims.”

Tackling each of these three elements separately and in conjunction sometimes serves to ameliorate abusive behavior.

The abuser’s need to control his environment is compulsive and motivated by fear of inevitable and painful loss. It has, therefore, emotional roots. The abuser’s past experiences – especially in early childhood and adolescence – taught him to expect injurious relationships, arbitrary or capricious treatment, sadistic interactions, unpredictable or inconsistent behaviors, and their culmination – indifferent and sudden abandonment.

About half of all abusers are products of abuse – they have either endured or witnessed it. As there are many forms of past mistreatment – there are a myriad shades of prospective abuse. Some abusers have been treated by Primary Objects (parents or caregivers) as instruments of gratification, objects, or mere extensions. They were loved on condition that they satisfied the wishes, dreams, and (often unrealistic) expectations of the parent. Others were smothered and doted upon, crushed under overweening, spoiling, or overbearing caregivers. Yet others were cruelly beaten, sexually molested, or constantly and publicly humiliated.

Such emotional wounds are not uncommon in therapeutic settings. They can be – and are – effectively treated, though the process is sometimes long and arduous, hampered by the abuser’s resistance to authority and narcissism.

Some offenders abuse so as to conform to the norms of their society and culture and, thus, be “accepted” by peers and family. It is easier and more palatable to abuse one’s spouse and children in a patriarchal and misogynist society – than in a liberal and egalitarian one. That these factors are overwhelmingly important is evidenced by the precipitous decline in intimate partner violence in the United States in the last two decades. As higher education and mass communications became widespread, liberal and feminist strictures permeated all spheres of life. It was no longer “cool” to batter one’s mate.

Some scholars say that the amount of abuse remained constant and that the shift was merely from violent to non-violent (verbal, emotional, and ambient) forms of mistreatment. But this is not supported by the evidence.

Any attempt to recondition the abuser and alter the abusive relationship entails a change of social and cultural milieu. Simple steps like relocating to a different neighborhood, surrounded by a different ethnic group, acquiring a higher education, and enhancing the family’s income – often do more to reduce abuse than years of therapy.

The really intractable abuser is the sadist, who derives pleasure from other people’s fears, consternation, pain, and suffering. Barring the administering of numbing medication, little can be done to counter this powerful inducement to hurt others deliberately. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies and Transactional Treatment Modalities have been known to help. Even sadists are amenable to reason and self-interest. The pending risk of punishment and the fruits of well-observed contracts with evaluators, therapists, and family – sometimes do the job.

More about what the victims can do to cope with their abusers – herehere, and here.

But how to get your abuser to see reason in the first place? How to obtain for him the help he needs – without involving law enforcement agencies, the authorities, or the courts? Any attempt to broach the subject of the abuser’s mental problems frequently ends in harangues and worse. It is positively dangerous to mention the abuser’s shortcomings or imperfections to his face.

REFORMING THE ABUSER

How to get your abuser to see reason in the first place? How to obtain for him the help he needs – without involving law enforcement agencies, the authorities, or the courts? Any attempt to broach the subject of the abuser’s mental problems frequently ends in harangues and worse. It is positively dangerous to mention the abuser’s shortcomings or imperfections to his face.

Hence the complexity of trying to prevent or control the abuser’s behavior. His family, friends, peers, co-workers, and neighbors – normally, levers of social control and behavior modification – condone his misbehavior. The abuser seeks to conform to norms and standards prevalent in his milieu, even if only implicitly. He regards himself as normal, definitely not in need of therapeutic intervention.

Thus, the complaints of a victim are likely to be met with hostility and suspicion by the offender’s parents or siblings, for instance. Instead of reining in the abusive conduct, they are likely to pathologize the victim (“she is a nutcase”) or label her (“she is a whore or a bitch”).

Nor is the victim of abuse likely to fare better in the hands of law enforcement agencies, the courts, counselors, therapists, and guardians ad litem. The propensity of these institutions is to assume that the abused has a hidden agenda – to abscond with her husband’s property, or to deny him custody or visitation rights.

Read more about it here.

Abuse remains, therefore, the private preserve of the predator and his prey. It is up to them to write their own rules and to implement them. No outside intervention is forthcoming or effective. Indeed, the delineation of boundaries and reaching an agreement on co-existence are the first important steps towards minimizing abuse in your relationships. Such a compact must include a provision obliging your abuser to seek professional help for his mental health problems.

Personal boundaries are not negotiable, neither can they be determined from the outside. Your abusive bully should have no say in setting them or in upholding them. Only you decide when they have been breached, what constitutes a transgression, what is excusable and what not.

The abuser is constantly on the lookout for a weakening of your resolve. He is repeatedly testing your mettle and resilience. He pounces on any and every vulnerability, uncertainty, or hesitation. Don’t give him these chances.

  • Be decisive and know yourself: what do you really feel?
  • What are your wishes and desires in the short and longer terms?
  • What price are you willing to pay and what sacrifices are you ready to make in order to be you?
  • What behaviors will you accept and where does your red line run?
  • Verbalize your emotions, needs, preferences, and choices without aggression but with assertiveness and determination.

Some abusers – the narcissistic ones – are detached from reality. They avoid it actively and live in fantasies of everlasting and unconditional love. They refuse to accept the inevitable consequences of their own actions. It is up to you to correct these cognitive and emotional deficits. You may encounter opposition – even violence – but, in the long-run, facing reality pays.

  • Play it fair. Make a list – if need be, in writing – of do’s and don’ts. Create a “tariff” of sanctions and rewards. Let him know what actions of his – or inaction on his part – will trigger a dissolution of the relationship. Be unambiguous and unequivocal about it. And mean what you say. Again, showing up for counseling must be a cardinal condition.

Yet, even these simple, non-threatening initial steps are likely to provoke your abusive partner. Abusers are narcissistic and possessed of alloplastic defenses. More simply put, they feel superior, entitled, above any law and agreement, and innocent. Others – usually the victims – are to blame for the abusive conduct ( “see what you made me do?”).

How can one negotiate with such a person without incurring his wrath? What is the meaning of contracts “signed” with bullies? How can one motivate the abuser to keep his end of the bargain – for instance, to actually seek therapy and attend the sessions? And how efficacious is psychotherapy or counseling to start with?

CONTRACTING WITH AN ABUSER

How can one negotiate with an abuser without incurring his wrath? What is the meaning of contracts “signed” with bullies? How can one motivate the abuser to keep his end of the bargain – for instance, to actually seek therapy and attend the sessions? And how efficacious is psychotherapy or counseling to start with?

It is useless to confront the abuser head on and to engage in power politics (“You are guilty or wrong, I am the victim and right”, “My will should prevail”, and so on). It is decidedly counterproductive and unhelpful and could lead to rage attacks and a deepening of the abuser’s persecutory delusions, bred by his humiliation in the therapeutic setting. Better, at first, to co-opt the abuser’s own prejudices and pathology by catering to his infantile emotional needs and complying with his wishes, complex rules and arbitrary rituals.

Here a practical guide how to drag your abuser into treatment and into a contract of mutual respect and cessation of hostilities (assuming, of course, you want to preserve the relationship):

1. Tell him that you love him and emphasize the exclusivity of your relationship by refraining, initially and during the therapy, from anxiety-provoking acts. Limiting your autonomy is a temporary sacrifice – under no circumstances make it a permanent feature of your relationship. Demonstrate to the abuser that his distrust of you is misplaced and undeserved and that one of the aims of the treatment regimen is to teach him to control and reduce his pathological and delusional jealousy.

2. Define areas of your common life that the abuser can safely – and without infringing on your independence – utterly control. Abusers need to feel that they are in charge, sole decision-makers and arbiters.

3. Ask him to define – preferably in writing – what he expects from you and where he thinks that you, or your “performance” are “deficient”.

Try to accommodate his reasonable demands and ignore the rest. Do not, at this stage, present a counter-list. This will come later. To move him to attend couple or marital therapy, tell him that you need his help to restore your relationship to its former warmth and intimacy. Admit to faults of your own which you want “fixed” so as to be a better mate. Appeal to his narcissism and self-image as the omnipotent and omniscient macho. Humour him for a while.

4. Involve your abuser, as much as you can, in your life. Take him to meet your family, ask him to join in with your friends, to visit your workplace, to help maintain your car (a symbol of your independence), to advise you on money matters and career steps. Do not hand over control to him over any of these areas – but get him to feel a part of your life and try to mitigate his envy and insecurity.

5. Encourage him to assume responsibility for the positive things in his life and in your relationship.Compliment the beneficial outcomes of his skills, talents, hard work, and attitude. Gradually, he will let go of his alloplastic defences – his tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large.

6. Make him own up to his feelings by identifying them. Most abusers are divorced from their emotions.They seek to explain their inner turmoil by resorting to outside agents (“Look what you made me do” or “They provoked me”). They are unaware of their anger, envy, or aggression. Mirror your abuser gently and unobtrusively (“How do you feel about it?”, “When I am angry I act the same”, “Would you be happier if I didn’t do it?”).

7. Avoid the appearance – or the practice – of manipulating your abuser (except if you want to get rid of him). Abusers are very sensitive to control issues and they feel threatened, exploited, and ill-treated when manipulated. They invariably react with violence.

8. Treat your abuser as you would like him to behave towards you. Personal example is a powerful proselytizer. Don’t act out of fear or subservience. Be sincere. Act out of love and conviction. Finally, your conduct is bound to infiltrate the abuser’s defences.

9. React forcefully, unambiguously, and instantly to any use of force. Make clear where the boundary of civilized exchange lies. Punish him severely and mercilessly if he crosses it. Make known well in advance the rules of your relationship – rewards and sanctions included. Discipline him for verbal and emotional abuse as well – though less strenuously. Create a hierarchy of transgressions and a penal code to go with it.

Read these for further guidance:

Coping with Your Abuser

The Guilt of the Abused

10. As the therapy continues and progress is evident, try to fray the rigid edges of your sex roles. Most abusers are very much into “me Tarzan, you Jane” gender-casting. Show him his feminine sides and make him proud of them. Gradually introduce him to your masculine traits, or skills – and make him proud of you.

This, essentially, is what good therapists do in trying to roll back or limit the offender’s pathology.

From “Treatment Modalities and Therapies”:

“Most therapists try to co-opt the narcissistic abuser’s inflated ego (False Self) and defenses. They compliment the narcissist, challenging him to prove his omnipotence by overcoming his disorder. They appeal to his quest for perfection, brilliance, and eternal love – and his paranoid tendencies – in an attempt to get rid of counterproductive, self-defeating, and dysfunctional behavior patterns.

By stroking the narcissist’s grandiosity, they hope to modify or counter cognitive deficits, thinking errors, and the narcissist’s victim-stance. They contract with the narcissist to alter his conduct. Some even go to the extent of medicalizing the disorder, attributing it to a hereditary or biochemical origin and thus ‘absolving’ the narcissist from guilt and responsibility and freeing his mental resources to concentrate on the therapy.”

But is therapy worth the effort? What is the success rate of various treatment modalities in modifying the abuser’s conduct, let alone in “healing” or “curing” him?

ABUSER GOES TO THERAPY

Your abuser “agrees” (is forced) to attend therapy. But are the sessions worth the effort? What is the success rate of various treatment modalities in modifying the abuser’s conduct, let alone in “healing” or “curing” him? Is psychotherapy the panacea it is often made out to be – or a nostrum, as many victims of abuse claim? And why is it applied only after the fact – and not as a preventive measure?

Courts regularly send offenders to be treated as a condition for reducing their sentences. Yet, most of the programs are laughably short (between 6 to 32 weeks) and involve group therapy – which is useless with abusers who are also narcissists or psychopaths.

Rather than cure him, such workshops seek to “educate” and “reform” the culprit, often by introducing him to the victim’s point of view. This is supposed to inculcate in the offender empathy and to rid the habitual batterer of the residues of patriarchal prejudice and control freakery. Abusers are encouraged to examine gender roles in modern society and, by implication, ask themselves if battering one’s spouse was proof of virility.

Anger management – made famous by the eponymous film – is a relatively late newcomer, though currently it is all the rage. Offenders are taught to identify the hidden – and real – causes of their rage and learn techniques to control or channel it.

But batterers are not a homogeneous lot. Sending all of them to the same type of treatment is bound to end up in recidivism. Neither are judges qualified to decide whether a specific abuser requires treatment or can benefit from it. The variety is so great that it is safe to say that – although they share the same misbehavior patterns – no two abusers are alike.

In their article, “A Comparison of Impulsive and Instrumental Subgroups of Batterers”, Roger Tweed and Donald Dutton of the Department of Psychology of the University of British Columbia, rely on the current typology of offenders which classifies them as:

“… Overcontrolled-dependent, impulsive-borderline (also called ‘dysphoric-borderline’ – SV) and instrumental-antisocial. The overcontrolled-dependent differ qualitatively from the other two expressive or ‘undercontrolled’ groups in that their violence is, by definition, less frequent and they exhibit less florid psychopathology. (Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart 1994, Hamberger & hastings 1985) … Hamberger & Hastings (1985,1986) factor analyzed the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory for batterers, yielding three factors which they labeled ‘schizoid/borderline’ (cf. Impulsive), ‘narcissistic/antisocial’ (instrumental),and ‘passive/dependent/compulsive’ (overcontrolled)… Men, high only on the impulsive factor, were described as withdrawn, asocial, moody, hypersensitive to perceived slights, volatile and over-reactive, calm and controlled one moment and extremely angry and oppressive the next – a type of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality. The associated DSM-III diagnosis was Borderline Personality. Men high only on the instrumental factor exhibited narcissistic entitlement and psychopathic manipulativeness. Hesitation by others to respond to their demands produced threats and aggression …”

But there are other, equally enlightening, typologies (mentioned by the authors). Saunders suggested 13 dimensions of abuser psychology, clustered in three behavior patterns: Family Only, Emotionally Volatile, and Generally Violent. Consider these disparities: one quarter of his sample – those victimized in childhood – showed no signs of depression or anger! At the other end of the spectrum, one of every six abusers was violent only in the confines of the family and suffered from high levels of dysphoria and rage.

Impulsive batterers abuse only their family members. Their favorite forms of mistreatment are sexual and psychological. They are dysphoric, emotionally labile, asocial, and, usually, substance abusers. Instrumental abusers are violent both at home and outside it – but only when they want to get something done. They are goal-orientated, avoid intimacy, and treat people as objects or instruments of gratification.

Still, as Dutton pointed out in a series of acclaimed studies, the “abusive personality” is characterized by a low level of organization, abandonment anxiety (even when it is denied by the abuser), elevated levels of anger, and trauma symptoms.

It is clear that each abuser requires individual psychotherapy, tailored to his specific needs – on top of the usual group therapy and marital (or couple) therapy. At the very least, every offender should be required to undergo these tests to provide a complete picture of his personality and the roots of his unbridled aggression:

  1. The Relationship Styles Questionnaire (RSQ)
  2. Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III)
  3. Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS)
  4. Multidimensional Anger Inventory (MAI)
  5. Borderline Personality Organization Scale (BPO)
  6. The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI)

It is clear that each abuser requires individual psychotherapy, tailored to his specific needs – on top of the usual group therapy and marital (or couple) therapy. At the very least, every offender should be required to undergo the following tests to provide a complete picture of his personality and the roots of his unbridled aggression.

In the court-mandated evaluation phase, you should insist to first find out whether your abuser suffers from mental health disorders. These may well be the – sometimes treatable – roots of his abusive conduct. A qualified mental health diagnostician can determine whether someone suffers from a personality disorder only following lengthy tests and personal interviews.

The predictive power of these tests – often based on literature and scales of traits constructed by scholars – has been hotly disputed. Still, they are far preferable to subjective impressions of the diagnostician which are often amenable to manipulation.

By far the most authoritative and widely used instrument is the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III) – a potent test for personality disorders and attendant anxiety and depression. The third edition was formulated in 1996 by Theodore Millon and Roger Davis and includes 175 items. As many abusers show narcissistic traits, it is advisable to universally administer to them the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) as well.

Many abusers have a borderline (primitive) organization of personality. It is, therefore, diagnostically helpful to subject them to the Borderline Personality Organization Scale (BPO). Designed in 1985, it sorts the responses of respondents into 30 relevant scales. It indicates the existence of identity diffusion, primitive defenses, and deficient reality testing.

To these one may add the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire-IV, the Coolidge Axis II Inventory, the Personality Assessment Inventory (1992), the excellent, literature-based, Dimensional assessment of Personality Pathology, and the comprehensive Schedule of Nonadaptive and Adaptive Personality and Wisconsin Personality Disorders Inventory.

Having established whether your abuser suffers from a personality impairment, it is mandatory to understand the way he functions in relationships, copes with intimacy, and responds with abuse to triggers.

The Relationship Styles Questionnaire (RSQ) (1994) contains 30 self-reported items and identifies distinct attachment styles (secure, fearful, preoccupied, and dismissing). The Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) (1979) is a standardized scale of the frequency and intensity of conflict resolution tactics – especially abusive stratagems – used by members of a dyad (couple).

The Multidimensional Anger Inventory (MAI) (1986) assesses the frequency of angry responses, their duration, magnitude, mode of expression, hostile outlook, and anger-provoking triggers.

Yet, even a complete battery of tests, administered by experienced professionals sometimes fails to identify abusers and their personality disorders. Offenders are uncanny in their ability to deceive their evaluators.

Even a complete battery of tests, administered by experienced professionals sometimes fails to identify abusers and their personality disorders. Offenders are uncanny in their ability to deceive their evaluators. They often succeed in transforming therapists and diagnosticians into four types of collaborators: the adulators, the blissfully ignorant, the self-deceiving, and those deceived by the batterer’s conduct or statements.

Abusers co-opt mental health and social welfare workers and compromise them – even when the diagnosis is unequivocal – by flattering them, by emphasizing common traits or a common background, by forming a joint front against the victim of abuse (“shared psychosis”), or by emotionally bribing them. Abusers are master manipulators and exploit the vulnerabilities, traumas, prejudices, and fears of the practitioners to “convert” them to the offender’s cause.

I. The Adulators

The adulators are fully aware of the nefarious and damaging aspects of the abuser’s behavior but believe that they are more than balanced by his positive traits. In a curious inversion of judgment, they cast the perpetrator as the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by the abused or attribute the offender’s predicament to bigotry.

They mobilize to help the abuser, promote his agenda, shield him from harm, connect him with like-minded people, do his chores for him and, in general, create the conditions and the environment for his ultimate success.

II. The Ignorant

As I wrote in “The Guilt of the Abused”, it is telling that precious few psychology and psychopathology textbooks dedicate an entire chapter to abuse and violence. Even the most egregious manifestations – such as child sexual abuse – merit a fleeting mention, usually as a sub-chapter in a larger section dedicated to paraphilias or personality disorders.

Abusive behavior did not make it into the diagnostic criteria of mental health disorders, nor were its psychodynamic, cultural and social roots explored in depth. As a result of this deficient education and lacking awareness, most law enforcement officers, judges, counselors, guardians, and mediators are worryingly ignorant about the phenomenon.

Only 4% of hospital emergency room admissions of women in the United States are attributed by staff to domestic violence. The true figure, according to the FBI, is more like 50%. One in three murdered women was done in by her spouse, current or former.

The blissfully ignorant mental health professionals are simply unaware of the “bad sides” of the abuser – and make sure they remain oblivious to them. They look the other way, or pretend that the abuser’s behavior is normative, or turn a blind eye to his egregious conduct.

Even therapists sometimes deny a painful reality that contravenes their bias. Some of them maintain a generally rosy outlook premised on the alleged inbred benevolence of Mankind. Others simply cannot tolerate dissonance and discord. They prefer to live in a fantastic world where everything is harmonious and smooth and evil is banished. They react with discomfort or even rage to any information to the contrary and block it out instantly.

Once they form an opinion that the accusations against the abusers are overblown, malicious, and false – it becomes immutable. “I have made up my mind – they seem to be broadcasting – “Now don’t confuse me with the facts.”

III. The Self-Deceivers

The self-deceivers are fully aware of the abuser’s transgressions and malice, his indifference, exploitativeness, lack of empathy, and rampant grandiosity – but they prefer to displace the causes, or the effects of such misconduct. They attribute it to externalities (“a rough patch”), or judge it to be temporary. They even go as far as accusing the victim for the offender’s lapses, or for defending herself (“she provoked him”).

In a feat of cognitive dissonance, they deny any connection between the acts of the abuser and their consequences (“his wife abandoned him because she was promiscuous, not because of anything he did to her”). They are swayed by the batterer’s undeniable charm, intelligence, or attractiveness. But the abuser needs not invest resources in converting them to his cause – he does not deceive them. They are self-propelled.

IV. The Deceived

The deceived are deliberately taken for a premeditated ride by the abuser. He feeds them false information, manipulates their judgment, proffers plausible scenarios to account for his indiscretions, soils the opposition, charms them, appeals to their reason, or to their emotions, and promises the moon.

Again, the abuser’s incontrovertible powers of persuasion and his impressive personality play a part in this predatory ritual. The deceived are especially hard to deprogram. They are often themselves encumbered with the abuser’s traits and find it impossible to admit a mistake, or to atone.

From “The Guilt of the Abused”:

Therapists, marriage counselors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges are human. Some of them are social reactionaries, others are abusers, and a few are themselves spouse abusers. Many things work against the victim facing the justice system and the psychological profession.

Start with denial. Abuse is such a horrid phenomenon that society and its delegates often choose to ignore it or to convert it into a more benign manifestation, typically by pathologizing the situation or the victim – rather than the perpetrator.

A man’s home is still his castle and the authorities are loath to intrude.

Most abusers are men and most victims are women. Even the most advanced communities in the world are largely patriarchal. Misogynistic gender stereotypes, superstitions, and prejudices are strong.

Therapists are not immune to these ubiquitous and age-old influences and biases.


They are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the abuser and to his impressive thespian skills. The abuser offers a plausible rendition of the events and interprets them to his favor. The therapist rarely has a chance to witness an abusive exchange first hand and at close quarters. In contrast, the abused are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown: harassed, unkempt, irritable, impatient, abrasive, and hysterical.

Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and his harried casualties – it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally. The prey’s acts of self-defense, assertiveness, or insistence on her rights are interpreted as aggression, lability, or a mental health problem.

The profession’s propensity to pathologize extends to the wrongdoers as well. Alas, few therapists are equipped to do proper clinical work, including diagnosis.

Abusers are thought by practitioners of psychology to be emotionally disturbed, the twisted outcomes of a history of familial violence and childhood traumas. They are typically diagnosed as suffering from a personality disorder, an inordinately low self-esteem, or codependence coupled with an all-devouring fear of abandonment. Consummate abusers use the right vocabulary and feign the appropriate “emotions” and affect and, thus, sway the evaluator’s judgment.

But while the victim’s “pathology” works against her – especially in custody battles – the culprit’s “illness” works for him, as a mitigating circumstance, especially in criminal proceedings.

In his seminal essay, “Understanding the Batterer in Visitation and Custody Disputes”, Lundy Bancroft sums up the asymmetry in favor of the offender:

“Batterers …  adopt the role of a hurt, sensitive man who doesn’t understand how things got so bad and just wants to work it all out ‘for the good of the children’. He may cry … and use language that demonstrates considerable insight into his own feelings. He is likely to be skilled at explaining how other people have turned the victim against him, and how she is denying him access to the children as a form of revenge …

He commonly accuses her of having mental health problems, and may state that her family and friends agree with him …  that she is hysterical and that she is promiscuous.

The abuser tends to be comfortable lying, having years of practice, and so can sound believable when making baseless statements. The abuser benefits … when professionals believe that they can “just tell” who is lying and who is telling the truth, and so fail to adequately investigate.

Because of the effects of trauma, the victim of battering will often seem hostile, disjointed, and agitated, while the abuser appears friendly, articulate, and calm. Evaluators are thus tempted to conclude that the victim is the source of the problems in the relationship.”

There is little the victim can do to “educate” the therapist or “prove” to him who is the guilty party. Mental health professionals are as ego-centered as the next person. They are emotionally invested in opinions they form or in their interpretation of the abusive relationship. They perceive every disagreement as a challenge to their authority and are likely to pathologize such behavior, labeling it “resistance” (or worse).

In the process of mediation, marital therapy, or evaluation, counselors frequently propose various techniques to ameliorate the abuse or bring it under control. Woe betides the party that dares object or turn these “recommendations” down. Thus, an abuse victim who declines to have any further contact with her batterer – is bound to be chastised by her therapist for obstinately refusing to constructively communicate with her violent spouse.

Better to play ball and adopt the sleek mannerisms of your abuser. Sadly, sometimes the only way to convince your therapist that it is not all in your head and that you are a victim – is by being insincere and by staging a well-calibrated performance, replete with the correct vocabulary. Therapists have Pavlovian reactions to certain phrases and theories and to certain “presenting signs and symptoms” (behaviors during the first few sessions). Learn these – and use them to your advantage. It is your only chance.

The Risks of Self-diagnosis and Labeling

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a disease. It is defined only by and in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). All other “definitions” and compilations of “criteria” are irrelevant and very misleading.

People go around putting together lists of traits and behaviors (usually based on their experience with one person who was never officially diagnosed as a narcissist) and deciding that these lists constitute the essence or definition of narcissism.

People are erroneously using the term “narcissist” to describe every type of abuser or obnoxious and uncouth person. That is wrong. Not all abusers are narcissists.

Only a qualified mental health diagnostician can determine whether someone suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and this, following lengthy tests and personal interviews.

It is true that narcissists can mislead even the most experienced professional (see the article above). But this does not mean that laymen possess the ability to diagnose mental health disorders. The same signs and symptoms apply to many psychological problems and differentiating between them takes years of learning and training.

In the process of mediation, marital therapy, or evaluation, counselors frequently propose various techniques to ameliorate the abuse or bring it under control. Woe betides the party that dares object or turn these “recommendations” down. Thus, an abuse victim who declines to have any further contact with her batterer – is bound to be chastised by her therapist for obstinately refusing to constructively communicate with her violent spouse.

Better to play ball and adopt the sleek mannerisms of your abuser. Sadly, sometimes the only way to convince your therapist that it is not all in your head and that you are a victim – is by being insincere and by staging a well-calibrated performance, replete with the correct vocabulary. Therapists have Pavlovian reactions to certain phrases and theories and to certain “presenting signs and symptoms” (behaviors during the first few sessions). Learn these – and use them to your advantage. It is your only chance.

I described in “The Guilt of the Abused – Pathologizing the Victim” how the system is biased and titled against the victim.

Regrettably, mental health professionals and practitioners – marital and couple therapists, counselors – are conditioned, by years of indoctrinating and dogmatic education, to respond favorably to specific verbal cues.

The paradigm is that abuse is rarely one sided – in other words, that it is invariably “triggered” either by the victim or by the mental health problems of the abuser. Another common lie is that all mental health problems can be successfully treated one way (talk therapy) or another (medication).

This shifts the responsibility from the offender to his prey. The abused must have done something to bring about their own maltreatment  – or simply were emotionally “unavailable” to help the abuser with his problems. Healing is guaranteed if only the victim were willing to participate in a treatment plan and communicate with the abuser. So goes the orthodoxy.

Refusal to do so – in other words, refusal to risk further abuse – is harshly judged by the therapist. The victim is labeled uncooperative, resistant, or even abusive!

The key is, therefore, feigned acquiescence and collaboration with the therapist’s scheme, acceptance of his/her interpretation of the events, and the use of key phrases such as: “I wish to communicate/work with (the abuser)”, “trauma”, “relationship”, “healing process”, “inner child”, “the good of the children”, “the importance of fathering”, “significant other” and other psycho-babble. Learn the jargon, use it intelligently and you are bound to win the therapist’s sympathy.

Above all – do not be assertive, or aggressive and do not overtly criticize the therapist or disagree with him/her.

I make the therapist sound like yet another potential abuser – because in many cases, he/she becomes one as they inadvertently collude with the abuser, invalidate the abuse experiences, and pathologize the victim.

Phrases to Use

  • “For the children’s sake …”
  • “I want to maintain constructive communications with my husband/wife…”
  • “The children need the ongoing presence of (the other parent) …”
  • “I wish to communicate/work with (the abuser) on our issues”
  • “I wish to understand our relationship, help both sides achieve closure and get on with their lives/my life”
  • “Healing process”

Things to Do

  • Attend every session diligently. Never be late. Try not to cancel or reschedule meetings.
  • Pay attention to your attire and makeup. Project a solid, conservative image. Do not make a disheveled and disjointed appearance.
  • Never argue with the counselor or the evaluator or criticize them openly. If you have to disagree with him or her – do so elliptically and dispassionately.
  • Agree to participate in a long-term treatment plan.
  • Communicate with your abuser politely and reasonably. Do not let yourself get provoked! Do not throw temper tantrums or threaten anyone, not even indirectly! Restrain your hostility. Talk calmly and articulately. Count to ten or take a break, if you must.
  • Repeatedly emphasize that the welfare and well-being of your children is uppermost in your mind – over and above any other (selfish) desire or consideration.

Maintain Your Boundaries

  • Be sure to maintain as much contact with your abuser as the courts, counselors, mediators, guardians, or law enforcement officials mandate.
  • Do NOT contravene the decisions of the system. Work from the inside to change judgments, evaluations, or rulings – but NEVER rebel against them or ignore them. You will only turn the system against you and your interests.
  • But with the exception of the minimum mandated by the courts – decline any and all gratuitous contact with the narcissist.
  • Do not respond to his pleading, romantic, nostalgic, flattering, or threatening e-mail messages.
  • Return all gifts he sends you.
  • Refuse him entry to your premises. Do not even respond to the intercom.
  • Do not talk to him on the phone. Hang up the minute you hear his voice while making clear to him, in a single, polite but firm, sentence, that you are determined not to talk to him.
  • Do not answer his letters.
  • Do not visit him on special occasions, or in emergencies.
  • Do not respond to questions, requests, or pleas forwarded to you through third parties.
  • Disconnect from third parties whom you know are spying on you at his behest.
  • Do not discuss him with your children.
  • Do not gossip about him.
  • Do not ask him for anything, even if you are in dire need.
  • When you are forced to meet him, do not discuss your personal affairs – or his.
  • Relegate any inevitable contact with him – when and where possible – to professionals: your lawyer, or your accountant.

This – working with professionals to extricate yourself and your loved ones from the quagmire of an abusive relationship.

Selecting the right professional is crucial. In the hands of an incompetent service provider, you may end up feeling abused all over again.

Go through the following check list before you settle on a divorce attorney, a financial consultant, a tax planner, a security adviser, or an accountant. Don’t be ashamed to demand full disclosure – you have a right to do so. If you are met with impatience, arrogance, or a patronizing attitude – leave. This is not the right choice.

Make additional enquiries. Join online support groups and ask the members for recommendations. Visit directories on the Web – they are usually arranged by city, state, region, and country. Compare notes with others who have had similar experiences. Ask friends, neighbors, and family members to do the same. Scan the media for mentions of experts and mavens. Seek advice and referrals – the more the better.

Suggested Check List

Is the professional certified in your state/country? Can he himself fully represent you? Will you be served by the expert himself – or by his staff? Don’t end up being represented by someone you never even met! Make the professional’s personal services an explicit condition in any written and verbal arrangement you make. Selecting the right professional is crucial. In the hands of an incompetent service provider, you may end up feeling abused all over again.

Go through the following check list before you settle on a divorce attorney, a financial consultant, a tax planner, a security adviser, or an accountant. Don’t be ashamed to demand full disclosure – you have a right to do so. If you are met with impatience, arrogance, or a patronizing attitude – leave. This is not the right choice.

Make additional inquiries. Join online support groups and ask the members for recommendations. Visit directories on the Web – they are usually arranged by city, state, region, and country. Compare notes with others who have had similar experiences. Ask friends, neighbors, and family members to do the same. Scan the media for mentions of experts and mavens. Seek advice and referrals – the more the better.

Suggested Check List

Is the professional certified in your state/country? Can he himself fully represent you?

Will you be served by the expert himself – or by his staff? Don’t end up being represented by someone you never even met! Make the professional’s personal services an explicit condition in any written and verbal arrangement you make.

Obtain a complete financial offer, all fees and charges included, before you hire the services. Make sure you are aware of the full monetary implications of your decisions. Finding yourself financially stranded midway through is bad policy. If you can afford it – don’t compromise and go for the best. But if you don’t have the pecuniary means – don’t overshoot.

What is the professional’s track record? Does he have a long, varied, and successful experience in cases similar to yours? Don’t hesitate to ask him or her for recommendations and referrals, testimonials and media clips.


What are the likely outcomes of the decisions you make, based on the specialist’s recommendations? A true pro will never provide you with an iron-clad guarantee but neither will he dodge the question. Your expert should be able to give you a reasonably safe assessment of risks, rewards, potential and probable outcomes, and future developments.

Always inquire about different courses of action and substitute measures. Ask your professional why he prefers one method or approach to another and what is wrong with the alternatives. Don’t accept his authority as the sole arbiter. Don’t hesitate to argue with him and seek a second opinion if you are still not convinced.

Make the terms of your agreement crystal-clear, get it in writing, and in advance. Don’t leave anything to chance or verbal understanding. Cover all grounds: the scope of activities, the fees, the termination clauses. Hiring a consultant is like getting married – you should also contemplate a possible divorce.

Relegate any inevitable contact with your abusive ex – when and where possible – to professionals: your lawyer, or your accountant. Work with professionals to extricate yourself and your loved ones from the quagmire of an abusive relationship.

Having chosen your team of consultants and experts – and having hired their services – relegate any inevitable contact with your abusive ex – when and where possible – to professionals: your lawyer, or your accountant. Work with these qualified third parties to extricate yourself and your loved ones from the quagmire of an abusive relationship.

Be sure to maintain as much contact with your abuser as the courts, counselors, mediators, guardians, or law enforcement officials mandate. Do NOT contravene the decisions of the system. Work from the inside to change judgments, evaluations, or rulings – but NEVER rebel against them or ignore them. You will only turn the system against you and your interests. But with the exception of the minimum mandated by the courts – decline any and all GRATUITOUS contact with the narcissist.

Remember that many interactions are initiated by your abusive ex in order to trap or intimidate you. Keep referring him to your lawyer regarding legal issues, to your accountant or financial advisor concerning money matters, and to therapists, psychologists, and counselors with regards to everything else (yourself and your common children).

Abusers react badly to such treatment. Yours will try to manipulate you into unintended contact. Do not respond to his pleading, romantic, nostalgic, flattering, or threatening e-mail and snail mail messages. Keep records of such correspondence and make it immediately available to the courts, law enforcement agencies, court-mandated evaluators, guardians ad litem, therapists, marital counselors, child psychologist – and to your good friends. Keep him away by obtaining restraining orders and injunctions aplenty.

Abusers crave secrecy. Expose their misdeeds. Deter abuse by being open about your predicament. Share with like-minded others. It will ease your burden and keep him at bay, at least for awhile.

Your abusive ex-partner will try to dazzle you with attention. Return all gifts he sends you – unopened and unacknowledged. Keep your communications with him to the bare, cold, minimum. Do not be impolite or abusive – it is precisely how he wants you to behave. It may be used against you in a court of law. Keep your cool but be firm.

Do not let him re-enter your life surreptitiously. Stealth andambient abuse are powerful tools. Refuse him entry to your premises. Do not even respond to the intercom. Do not talk to him on the phone. Hang up the minute you hear his voice while making clear to him, in a single, polite but unambiguous, sentence, that you are determined not to talk to him, that it’s over for good.

Do not succumb to your weakness. It is tough living alone. You are bound to miss him horribly at times, selectively recalling only the good moments and the affection in your doomed relationship. Do not “dip” into the poisonous offerings of your abuser. Do not relapse. Be strong. Fill your life with new hobbies, new interests, new friends, new loves, and a new purpose.


Do not visit your abuser on “special occasions”, or in emergencies. Do not let him convince you to celebrate an anniversary, a birthday, a successful business transaction, a personal achievement or triumph. Do not let him turn your own memories against you. Do not visit him in the hospital, in jail, a rehab center, or join him in a memorial service.

Do not ask him for anything, even if you are in dire need. When you are forced to meet him, do not discuss your personal affairs – or his. Your abuser’s friendship is fake, his life with you a confabulation, his intentions dishonest and dishonorable. He is the enemy.

Abuse by proxy continues long after the relationship is officially over (at least as far as you are concerned). Do not respond to questions, requests, or pleas forwarded to you through third parties. Disconnect from third parties whom you know are spying on you at his behest. Do not discuss him with your children. Do not gossip about him.

The majority of abusers get the message, however belatedly and reluctantly. Others – more vindictive and obsessed – continue to haunt their quarry for years to come. These are the stalkers.


Source:
This article appears in my book, “Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited”
Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble orHERE to buy it from Amazon or HERE to buy it from The Book Source
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Click HERE to buy various electronic books (e-books) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships
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