While this paper cannot be a definitive guide to the nature of the abuser, the victims relationship with the abuser and societies part in encouraging gender bias, I hope it will add to the pool of knowledge. It is my hope that, at least a small way, this paper will be an aid towards helping us all understand the nature of domestic abuse and those who perpetrate or encourage it. - George Rolph. London 2004.
The abusers - Actors in disguise. First and foremost abusers are actors. It makes no difference what gender the abusive personality is, their primary skill is to emulate normal behaviour in order to disguise their own condition.
I have spoken to many victims of abuse who say that the person they met and fell in love with “gradually changed” into a monster. This is often one of the most confusing and distressing aspects of abuse from the victims point of view. It is also a situation that the abuser will exploit with varying degrees of vicious skill. While it is impossible to be specific on these subjects in every case -- as there are always exceptions to every rule -- careful observation and research have uncovered certain general consistencies I want to discuss here. The question is; what is going on in the abusers mind that causes them to suddenly, or gradually, become abusive to their new partner?
It appears that the abusive personality has learned, by observation and by mimicry of those around them, how to give every appearance of normality and stability for often quite extended periods of time. This means that they are able to convince new partners that they are really charming, wonderful people who should be trusted and are worthy of love and care. This act is easy to maintain in certain social situations and where the abuser has minimal contact with others in an average day. For example, in a work situation where he/she will be in contact with others for a maximum of eight hours per day. Another social situation may be one of casual friendships made in pubs and clubs. Under these conditions the actor (abuser) need only be convincing as a normal person for a minimum amount of time. This is why many friends of the abuser find it hard to believe that the person they think they know could be capable of such barbarity within a long term relationship. In the case of female abusers, this difficulty is compounded by social and political myths that see females only as victims and not as perpetrators.
For the abusive actor, maintaining the act of normality within a long term relationship is almost impossible. The intensity of the time spent in the company of the victim means the emotional strain placed on the pretender, by their need to hide their true selves, becomes too difficult to maintain. The act breaks down and the real personality disguised beneath it rushes to the surface. To the victim, the sudden outbursts of aggression from the previously “loving” and “charming” personality they fell in love with, is both mystifying and deeply confusing. The victim, often still in love with the abuser, begins to make excuses for the abusers behaviour. Mentally sweeping it under the carpet and falsely believing that things will get better in time. This is not difficult to understand. Anyone who has fallen in love knows the huge investment of trust, emotional/mental commitment and selflessness it takes make the relationship work. It is natural for the victim to assume that the other person has made the same efforts as they have and this primes them to accept the abusers excuses and rationalisations of their behaviour.
The abusers self-view. An abusive personality is fundamentally one of self loathing and even self hate. However, this self disgust is too painful for them to accept. Desperate to “fit in” with everyone else they justify the abusive behaviour they cannot avoid and deny the rest. The denial can be very profound and will drive their negative feelings about themselves very deeply within their tortured psyche. Many abusers are deeply frightened and horrified by their violent outbursts but their denial prevents them from dealing with the feelings that cause them. Therefore, when they lose control and abuse another, there often follows what looks like deep and sincere repentance and begging for forgiveness, only to sink back into the same patterns again later on. Given enough time, even these feelings of regret and remorse will become buried and their emotional attitude to their abuse of others will harden into a cold uncaring outlook. For this reason, I believe it is vital that treatment be applied to the abuser while they still own feelings of remorse and regret. Treatment of the abuser will become progressively more difficult over time as the abuser will lack the necessary need and drive to want to reform.
In order to avoid owning up to what they feel the abuser will project their self hatred onto their victims. Where this occurs it sets up the classic abuser/victim relationship. I will expand upon this relationship later in this document, but for now I wish to return to the abusers view of themselves and its consequences in their lives.
We have seen how the abusive personality often feels about themselves but why does this self hatred come about? There may be myriad's of reasons but there are some common threads that I have noticed in my studies, my experiences of abuse and my observations of abusers. Many of those who become abusers report that they have grown up in abusive homes themselves or, have experienced abuse later on in their lives. When probed about how these experiences have affected them, almost all report feelings of anger and even intense rage that they themselves are frightened by.
To a child growing up in an abusive home, even though the behaviour they are witnessing and experiencing from others deeply disturbs them, they consider it to be “normal.” Its all they know, so for them, this is what normal family life is all about. However, the deep fears and anger raised in them by their abusers have little or no avenue of expression within the home. To become angry, or even show dissatisfaction with their treatment, may very well lead to an escalation of the abuse against them. This fear of retaliation drives the feelings they naturally have about their abusers deep within themselves. The only way to cope with the feelings of fear and anger is to deny and bury them or take them outside of the home in anti social behaviour. *
When the abused child becomes an adult, if they have not dealt with these feelings of rage buried deep within themselves, they are almost certain to resurface within their adult relationships.
Adults have a tendency to recreate what they considered normal in their early life at home, within their own adult relationships. If they grew up in a chaotic and fear filled environment it is natural for them to feel at home within that kind of family dynamic. Subconsciously they may well be building relationships they feel are well known to them and no matter how painful those relationships are, they feel “normal.”
Some abusers are simply psychopaths. They enjoy the feelings of power they have over the victim and may well go on to kill them if early intervention is not forthcoming.
Other abusers simply come to hate their partners over time and instead of leaving the relationship, set out to destroy the other person (and sometimes other people) within it.
All abusers enjoy the feelings of power they have over their victims at some level, but not all abusers are psychopaths. Abusers are often deeply selfish individuals who live in a “me me” world where only their own feelings, needs and desires are important. When the abuser expresses love for the victim it is often not because they feel that love, it is often because they want something from the victim that threats will not get them. My own abuser, for example, would become tender, gentle and kind whenever she wanted me to help her with something she could not manage alone. Afterwards, my efforts to help her would be ridiculed as inadequate.
Some abusers will abuse others by proxy and this seems to be a predominantly female trait. I have received calls to my help line from men who have been beaten up by other men when their abusive female partner has told another man that her victim had expressed a desire to sleep with the attackers infant child, for example. Other forms of this abuse include making false allegations to family members or the state authorities in order to have someone else attack or arrest the victim.
Another form of abuse by proxy is to withhold contact unreasonably from a parent with his/her child. In such a case, the abuser is using the state apparatus to continue abuse after the relationship has ended. This constitutes abuse of the child concerned and the adult denied contact. I also consider false rape allegations that can utterly destroy a persons life to be abusive behaviour that is all too often unpunished by the state.
For those who have experienced abuse in later life but who had relatively happy childhood's there may well be a subconscious element of revenge in their subsequent abusive behaviour. In the case of the female abuser this may be hugely reinforced by articles in women's magazines that portray men as nothing but bad, soap opera stories, dramas, movies, press stories about female abuse victims, and the constant and relentless pressures on women by radical feminist groups to see all men as dangerous and who paint men as predatory violent animals and women as poor victims being preyed upon. Even advertising on the television that portrays men as useless and stupid may reinforce her hatred of males and feed her feelings of the need to take revenge against all men for what one man has done to her.
Such thoughts and feelings are covered by the umbrella term, Misandry. A misandrist is a hater of men. There are many more of these people around than is popularly believed. Many of them are writing the things referred to above or are part of the organisations promoting hatred of men in our society.
Such a scenario is also possible in the case of a male abuser who resents being typecast in these ways by “evil women” and sets out to justify his violent behaviour by seeing himself as some kind of avenging angel. His thoughts and feelings of hatred and resentment towards women are embraced by the term, Misogynist. It is well known there are many of these men around, however, criticising female behaviour is not the same as hating females. An important distinction needs to be made between the two for any rational debate on these issues to succeed. **
* It is interesting to note that over 90% of males in prison come from broken homes, yet societies in the western world actively promote single motherhood as a virtue while discouraging marriage. That this is creating a huge problem for the future and singularly lacking any kind of wisdom should be obvious to all.
** A common defensive ploy of radical feminists is to paint any and all criticism of females as hatred of them and, by so doing, pressure people (chiefly men) into regarding a counter argument as misogynistic in origin and therefore worthy of being ignored.
The victim's relationship with the abuser. The victim and the abuser have a complicated relationship that is difficult, at times, to define in simple terms. I will do my best here to look at the most common traits of that relationship as I have understood them.
Initially, as stated above, the victim will often have no idea their partner is abusive. (Those who do, and remain in the relationship, may well be attempting to “help” the abuser and this is a very dangerous thing for those with little or no knowledge of abusive personalities to attempt. It is difficult enough for a professional to help an abuser, it is certainly not something an amateur should attempt). As the ability to maintain the act of normality under the constant scrutiny of a close partner breaks down, so the real and disturbed person beneath the act will emerge. The first signs that all is not well may be anything from a slow escalation of irritable behaviour to a sudden explosion of violence.
It is important here to make another careful distinction. Not every act of irritable behaviour or sudden aggression means a person is automatically an abuser. All of us get out of bed on the wrong side sometimes. The key indicator is the frequency with which the behaviour occurs.
The most common indicator that one is living with an abuser will be that individuals need to control everything about the victim. This need to control will become all consuming over time and is common to both male and female abusers. * This need to control others seems to stem from two strong desires within the abusive personality. The first, is a desire to remain hidden and the second, is a desire not to feel inferior. In order to understand these two desires it is important to realise that abusers are deeply fearful people who are terrified of the strong and overwhelmingly powerful feelings raging within them. It is this fear that drives their need to bury those feeling as deeply within as possible and then to deny them when they rush to the surface.
Let us look first at the desire to remain hidden. Within a close personal relationship it is perfectly natural for both parties to closely examine each others personalities and to explore each others feelings. This examination is what the abuser fears most. To the abuser, such a close look at who they are becomes deeply threatening. They spend their wholes lives hiding their true selves both from themselves and from society. They loathe themselves and often fear their capability for violence. They cannot bare coming under scrutiny and this innocent searching by their partner can often be the trigger for their abusive reactions as they try to halt the exploration of their deeper and hidden selves by using intimidation and/or violence. Yet their need to appear normal drives them to seek out a partner and have a “normal” relationship. **
The desire not to be inferior stems from a different set of unconscious dynamics.
We all remember the bright kid in school who was always picked on for being “the teachers pet.” That child stood out in the crowd and by virtue of the fact the he/she was smarter than the rest, made the rest feel inferior. By picking on the bright kid the others were trying to pull that child down to their level in order for them to lose their sense of inferiority. Unmerciful and constant teasing and/or bullying can force the bright child to conform to the wishes of the rest, and those bright kids who join the pack, quickly find the persecution stops. In a similar way, the abuser tries to drag their partner down to their level. This can be achieved by constant bullying and by a technique I have dubbed, verbal machine gunning.
To machine gun verbally means to fire a constant and rapid stream of accusations and insults without ever giving the victim time to answer any of the points made. These insults will often be projections of how the abuser really feels about themselves. For example; if the abuser feels strong feelings of jealousy towards the victims friends and associates, then the abuser accuses the victim of being jealous of him or her. Again, the abuser may feel inadequate in the kitchen, or driving, and so accuses the victim of being a crap cook or a lousy driver. Whatever the accusations are, they will often be delivered at high volume and in such rapid succession that the victim will be both terrified, confused, outraged and hurt, and with so much going on at once within them, feel totally unable to respond. A sort of mental and emotional paralysis ensues that may eventually lead to the complete collapse of the victim. At this stage the abuser is almost drunk on the feelings of power over the victim and if violence is to occur it may happen at that moment of evil euphoria. Victims have told me that they have seen the abuser “smiling down” at them with sick delight as they have folded beneath such onslaughts.
The reasons why the abuser does not want to give the victim time to answer are twofold. Firstly the abuser has absolutely no interest in the thoughts, concerns or feelings of the victim and secondly, the abuser is not interested in dialogue, but only in control over the victim. In the abusers world view, life is all about the great “ME” and not the little “you.”
The extent of control over the victim can sometimes be very far reaching indeed. I have spoken to many male and female victims who's abusive partners have chosen what food they eat and when. What clothes they wear and when. What times they are allowed out of the house and when to come home. Who they are allowed to be friends with and who they must never see. What time they are allowed to sleep and when they must wake up. When they can see their children and when they cannot. What relatives they can visit and those they cannot. What music they can enjoy. What purchases they can make. How much of their own money they can spend. And on and on.
Abusers who fear a partner may be about to leave them will often run up huge debts for their partner. Some will slander their name in the local community in the hope of stopping anyone else being interested in them. Poison the victim. Send abusive text messages to their phones. Stalk the victim or damage the car to prevent them leaving. Keep the victim from his/her children. Threaten suicide. Accuse the victim of rape or sexually molesting children. Make threatening or silent calls late at night. Destroy his/her property. Keep him/her at home against his/her will. Increase the level of violence. Threaten to kill the kids if she/he leaves. Try to ruin his/her reputation by spreading lies about him/her to his/her family and friends. Threaten suicide. Turn the children against the victim. Find and attack him/her in her new home etc.
All of this behaviour is about control and dominance over the victim. All of it is negative and destructive behaviour. It is unlimited in its creative evil and the two lists above are by no means extensive and neither are they mutually exclusive. Each gender is as capable of these things as the other.
* Indeed, so prevalent is this trait that careful and informed questioning by police officers called to a domestic abuse incident may well quickly illicit who is the real abuser and who is the real victim. Something that many police officers need to understand if they are to ever stop making the wild assumption that all abusers are male and all females are victims.
** This may be why many abuse victims are kind, gentle, loyal and deeply loving people. Most abusers will not seek confrontation with people who may fight back. They want easy targets that they can dominate. For the male and female abuser that will often mean a passive personality type is sought as the next victim.
“Treatment” for victims of abuse to avoid.
The co-dependancy (co-alcoholic) idea was first developed to explain other family members reactions to living with an addict and the harmful effects of those reactions. It is an entirely reasonable idea based on sound research. However, during the 1980`s the definition of codependency was expanded beyond all reasonable bounds, by people looking to make quick money by selling cheap books, to include virtually any form of caring for another. Simply put, this means that any and all caring behaviour is a form of psychological illness unless the person being cared for is the self. It could almost have been written by today's narcissistic element who advocate blaming others for the way we feel while accepting no responsibility for our own actions.
The pushers of the modern codependency therapy system of mock psychology will tell you that as a victim of abuse your feelings of caring for the abuser are wrong. (In fact, they will tell you that almost everything you feel about other people is wrong), but caring for others is not a pathological condition. My advice is to avoid these peddlers of doom like the plague. Being a caring person is not wrong but, excessive selfishness is, and in fact, is one of the symptoms of the abuser.
Robert Westermeyer, Ph.D. Has the following to say about the current codependency “fix all” sweeping book shops and chat shows on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Why would a psychologist wish to criticize the codependency idea? Many people claim to have been helped by codependency books and codependency self-help groups. I don't wish to take away anyone's belief that they are better for having integrated the codependency idea into their lifestyles. But it definitely isn't for everyone. Codependency is a nebulous idea, born not of science but of the gut feelings of counsellors and frustrated lay people. It's black and white requirements for recovery, though seeming reasonable on the surface, are not in line with empirical research and have dangerous implications with regard to the most human of attributes, caring. My two primary concerns with the codependency idea are:
The Codependency Idea Pathologizes the Natural Tendency to Care for Others.
The cure for Codependency Mandates Action which is Not Necessarily in Line With Pro social Values.” (Emphasis mine)
He goes on: “A case from several years ago comes to mind involving a caring mother who's 27-year old daughter had been abusing prescription opioids and benzodiazapines for ten years. The daughter finally made the decision attempt a methadone detox, following two months of methadone maintenance. The MD at the methadone clinic recommended that she taper the benzodiazapine, which was Valium (methadone doesn't cover non-opiate drugs). The mother was very invested in her daughter's change efforts and subsequently flew in from out of state to live with her while she detoxed. She agreed to dole out the Valium because the daughter felt that she could not do it on her own without relapsing. The mother hid them in her car and stood watch over her daughter during the first three weeks of her transition. The patient voiced that her mother's presence was imperative for relapse prevention at this time. The mother voiced that it made her feel as though she was finally doing something to help daughter which was panning out. She felt so good about her efforts that she went to an Al-anon meeting. She was literally attacked by three attendees who deemed her behavior enabling and, in addition to deeming her responsible for her daughter's enduring problems with substances, instructed her to go back to her home immediately and let her daughter grapple with her troubles on her own. One said, "She's an adult, and a time comes when you have to let them leave the nest or you're just perpetuating the illness."
Thankfully, this woman had enough conviction and confidence in her values to blow off the advice. Many people don't have this much tenacity to their standards. Many are given such guidance and are left in a complete quandary. The mother's contention was that her daughter was completely responsible for her choice to use or not use. She recognized that her daughter had crippling problems with anxiety and panic and had used the drugs to medicate these states. Though her daughter made the choices, she felt that there was a way she could help her daughter follow through with her motivation to better her life. She knew that if she went back home, her daughter would relapse and that relapse at this point would be devastating to her daughter, who had tried just about every method of quitting imaginable. She fathomed that her daughter might discount the whole methadone choice and revert to prescription drug abuse again.”
With attacks like those above on a mothers need to be involved in her daughters recovery from drug addition, it makes one wonder at times if the psychopaths are running the asylum!
It is a pervasive and disturbing view that relies more on “feelings” than serious research and it is to the medical and political establishments shame that these views have found any credence at all within today's society because they have kept silent in the face of such popularist, false and dangerous ideas.
Instead of buying into these “instant happiness” so-called solutions to modern living learn about assertiveness and ways in which you can better manage the situation you find yourself in.
The best advice that can be given to a victim of abuse is still, get out of the relationship as fast as you can!
Nobody in their right mind likes to see themselves as a victim but the truth is, that until you have broken free from the relationship and overcome the effects of the abuse, a victim is what you are. Once you have overcome the effects of the abuse -- and with the right help, that is almost always possible -- you become a survivor. The ease of transition from victim to survivor will depend entirely upon yourself, the quality of the help you receive if any is needed and the extent to which you were abused. If you wish to cut down on the time needed to recover and be your old self again, leave the abuser as soon as you possibly can.
George Rolph Founder of No More Silence. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
"I have all the characteristics of a human being: flesh, blood, skin , hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don't know why. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip"
Gareth Edward(s) Rodger
Masks Of Sanity is an online blog offering advice, support and education for those who have fallen victim to the Psychopath/Narcissist. (NPD)
We explain why Narcissists behave the way they do, how they operate and how you can protect yourself from the Narcissist in society, in the home and online!
You can find my own personal experience with a psychopath in the links on the right. I have a very personal understanding of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and I am proof that there is hope after abuse!