I have referred to Dr. Sam Vaknin, video The Abuser’s Mind in researching this blog.Link is enclosed.
The Abuser’s Identity
Abusers are male or female, adults,senior citizens, teens or even children. They molest, rape, beat and starve their victims. They taunt them, insult them and tell the victim s/he has no escape and is worthless. In extreme cases, the victim is a sexual toy for the abuser and sometimes friends of the abuser. When physical torture is involved with sexual abuse, this is often the extreme that causes MPD. Thankfully, it is rare but according to the accounts of MPD victims, it happens.
The Abuser’s History and M.O.
The abuser frequently hails from an abusive background. S/he was once an abuse victim and continues the cycle with his or her own children or other victim. The abuser usually offers a type of “split personality”: one is the respectable persona presented to the world outside the house; the other is the monster within the family. It is almost as though the abuser has a “mild form of multiple personality.” Sometimes the abuser is a respected member of the community, “a pillar of the community” so to speak. S/he is not a split personality of the DID/MPD variety. Rather, this person is in full control of his/her faculties and chooses to don a disguise when functioning in public. The abuser also has a choice in abusing the victim and is fully capable of seeking help, rather than creating an abuser-victim cycle in the home.
The Abuser’s Mind
At the abuser’s core is a very insecure individual with extremely low self-esteem. In order to feel important and powerful, the abuser needs to abuse and humiliate others. Often the abuser has made no significant accomplishments in his/her life. The victim is merely a 2-dimensional object. S/he doesn’t merit empathy. The victim doesn’t exist as a real person. Sometimes the victim doesn’t realize there is something wrong with the relationship and believes this lifestyle is normal. Both the abuser and the victim suffer from disturbances in their sense of self-worth. This doesn’t apply to child victims. Vaknin refers to adults in this type of relationship.
Abusers are narcissists. They “are steeped in grandiose fantasies about their own self-importance.” At the same time, the narcissist fears that he doesn’t “measure up” to society’s expectations. S/he enters a fantasy world of personal accomplishment and self-worth. The victim is well aware that his or her sense of important is false but the victim plays the role of a child and greatly fears abandonment, even by the abuser. The victim is known as “co-dependent” in an unhealthy relationship. The abuser punishes the victim whenever she attempts to establish her own boundaries and independent needs. The abuser is terrified that the victim will develop enough autonomy that he will one day leave the relationship.
Types of Psychological Abuse
Patrician Evans lists a number of psychological abuses used by abusers:
- Withholding – or the silent treatment. An abuser can ignore the victim for days.
- Refuting the victim’s statements or actions.
- Discounting or “putting down” the victim’s emotions, hopes and fears.
- Sadistic and brutal humour which are insults poorly disguised as a joke. When the victim is injured, the abuser can claim innocence. “I was just kidding,” is a typical response.
- Blocking or avoiding a meaningful exchange in conversation
- The ruination of intimacy
- Blaming/accusing – “if you didn’t get me so angry I wouldn’t have to hit you.”
- Judging and criticizing.
- Denial – “I didn’t say that or do that”
- Smothering – this one is covert at first and is very dangerous. The victim isn’t allowed contact with other friends or even family. This isolation is meant to isolate the victim and prevent her from seeking help and solace from the abuser.
- Unrealistic expectations – these tend to be directed at children and youth. The abuser knows the expectations are unrealistic and controls the victim by “setting the bar too high.” When the victim fails to reach the unattainable goals, the abuser is victorious and has succeeded in degrading the victim.
- Being unpredictable is a significant form of abuse. One day the household rules are firmly in place. The next day the household rules change and the victim is punished for trying to follow the rules. Over time the victim is so disoriented that s/he doesn’t know when to expect physical or emotional abuse for unpredictably incorrect behaviour.
- Pretending s/he is victimized rather than being the abuser This type of tactic can be very convincing and can mislead people outside the family.
There are many more evil tactics an abuser uses with her victims. All of these tactics disarm and alienate the victim, rendering him or her helpless.
Social and Cultural Influences
Identifying unhealthy patterns between abuser and victim can depend on a close examination of prevailing social and cultural influences. Oftentimes, specific cultures belittle women and treat them as second-class citizens. When a woman attempts to distance herself from the abuse, her family and friends may abandon her. The community works hard to maintain the abusive cycle while pretending the abuse doesn’t exist. In this situation it is extremely difficult for the victim to seek help for herself. Once she crosses that line, there is no turning back and her entire community rejects her, leaving her alone in the world. This leads to an excruciating aftermath where the victim becomes isolated and very depressed, sometimes leading to suicide.
Working with social mores and beliefs is part of the complicated process of separating abuser and victim. It is also a barrier in supporting the victim in her own belief that the behaviour she receives isn’t deserved. On the one hand, she is unhappy living with an abuser. On the other, her family and friends live this way. It is a very confusing and complicated process to assist this victim in leaving the abuser. The abuser in this type of culture cannot be “cured.” He is supported by his cultural norms and this increases his sense of righteousness and his power over the victim.