Abuse: Inevitable and Normal?

Uploaded 7/14/2011, approx. 3 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Is abuse an anomalous phenomenon? Is it abnormal, exceptional, unusual? Or is it an inevitable part of human nature?

If the former, if it is an anomalous phenomenon, is it the outcome of flawed genetics, nurture, environment, upbringing, or both?

Nature and nurture. Can abuse be cured or merely modified, regulated and accommodated?

There are three groups of theories regarding abuse, three schools regarding abuses, the conduct.

The first one is that abuse is 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.

Abuse seems to be embedded in social and cultural contexts and to be a learned and acquired behavior.

People who grew up in an atmosphere of domestic violence, for instance, tend to perpetuate and propagate this kind of behavior by abusing their own spouses and family members.

Social stresses and anomie in their psychological manifestations foster domestic violence and child abuse.

Example, war, civil strife, unemployment, social isolation, single parenthood, prolonged or chronic sickness, unsustainably large families, poverty, persistent hunger, marital discord, a new baby, a dying parent, an invalid to be cared for, the death of one's nearest and dearest, incarceration, infidelity, substance abuse, all these stressors have proven to be contributing factors to abuse.

And then there's the second theory, and it says that abuse is hardwired.

Abuse cuts across countries, continents and disparate societies and cultures.

Abuse is common among the rich and the poor, the highly educated and the less educated, people of all races and all creeds and all socioeconomic strata.

In other words, abuse is a universal phenomenon, 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 compartment.

Rather, abuse 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 these genes off may well end the maltreatment.

Then there's the third theory, abuse as a strategy.

Some scholars postulate that all modes of behavior, including abuse, are goal oriented or result oriented.

The abuser seeks to control and manipulate his victims and develop strategies aimed at securing these results.

These strategies are what we call abusive conduct, abusive behaviors.

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 culture, genetic, psychological, and as a survival strategy, teaches us how to effectively cope with its perpetrators.

This is what psychologists, social caseworkers and others are trying to do.

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Good People Ignore Abuse and Torture: Why?

Good people often overlook abuse and neglect because it is difficult to tell the abuser and victim apart. The word abuse is ill-defined and open to interpretation, leading to a lack of clear definition. People also tend to avoid unpleasant situations and institutions that deal with anomalies, pain, death, and illness. Abuse is a coping strategy employed by the abuser to reassert control over their life and regain self-confidence. Abuse is a catharsis, and even good people channel their negative emotions onto the victim.

Gaslighting and Ambient Abuse

Ambient abuse, also known as gaslighting, is a subtle and insidious form of abuse that is difficult to identify. It is the fostering of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability, and irritation. There are five categories of ambient abuse: inducing disorientation, incapacitating, shared psychosis, abuse or misuse of information, and control by proxy. The abuser uses these tactics to manipulate and control their victim, often leaving them with low self-esteem and a sense of isolation.

Types of of Abusive Behaviors: A Proposed Classification

Abusive conduct is not uniform and can be categorized in various ways. Overt versus covert abuse, explicit versus stealth or ambient abuse, projective versus directional abuse, cathartic versus functional abuse, pattern or structured abuse versus stochastic or random abuse, monovalent versus polevalent abuse, characteristic personal style abuse versus atypical abuse, and normative versus deviant abuse are some of the distinctions that can be made. It is important to distinguish between normative and deviant abuse, and a cultural context is critical in assessing when someone crosses the line and becomes a deviant abuser.

Body Language of Narcissistic and Psychopathic Abuser

Abusers emit subtle signals in their body language that can be observed and discerned. They adopt a posture of superiority and entitlement, and they idealize or devalue their interlocutors. Abusers are shallow and prefer show-off to substance, and they are serious about themselves. They lack empathy, are sadistic, and have inappropriate affect. They are adept at casting a veil of secrecy over their dysfunction and misbehavior, and they succeed in deceiving the entire world.

Abuse Victim's Body: Effects of Abuse and Its Aftermath

Abuse and torture have long-lasting and frequently irreversible effects on the victim's body, including panic attacks, hypervigilance, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, intrusive memories, and suicidal ideation. Victims experience psychosomatic or real bodily symptoms, some of them induced by the secretion of stress hormones, such as cortisol. Victims are affected by abuse in a variety of ways, including PTSD, which can develop in the wake of verbal and emotional abuse, in the aftermath of drawn-out traumatic situations such as domestic divorce.

It's All My Fault: I Provoked Him

Abusers tend to blame others for their misfortunes, mistakes, and misconduct, and believe that the world is a hostile place out to get them. Victims of abuse often adopt the abusers' point of view and begin to feel guilty and responsible for the abusers' reprehensible behaviors. Shared psychosis is a complex phenomenon with numerous psychodynamic roots, and victims may fear abandonment, grew up in dysfunctional families, or are simply masochistic. Victims should realize that abuse is never a form of expressing love and should analyze their relationship to determine if they can reframe their roles or if they need to plan a getaway.

Bullying as Art, Abuse as Craftsmanship

Abuse is about control and is often a primitive and immature reaction to life's circumstances. The abuser's primary colors include unpredictability, disproportionality of reaction, dehumanization, objectification, and abuse by proxy. The abuser engineers situations in which he is solely needed and generates his own indispensability in the victim's life. The abuser fosters an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability, and irritation, which erodes the victim's sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

Spot a Narcissist or a Psychopath on Your First Date

There are warning signs to identify abusers and narcissists early on in a relationship. One of the first signs is the abuser's tendency to blame others for their mistakes and failures. Other signs include hypersensitivity, eagerness to commit, controlling behavior, patronizing and condescending manner, and devaluing the partner. Abusers may also idealize their partner, have sadistic sexual fantasies, and switch between abusive and loving behavior. Paying attention to body language can also reveal warning signs.

Deja-vu: Fight Back Gaslighting, Messing with YOUR Mind

Gaslighting is a manipulative form of communication where a power differential exists, often involving invalidation of emotions, twisting reality, and coercion. It can lead to lower self-worth, feelings of insecurity, depression, and anxiety. To combat gaslighting, it is important to recognize the situation, document events and feelings, assert oneself, seek support from others, and consult a professional if necessary. Gaslighting is a dangerous form of emotional abuse that can have long-lasting effects on mental health.

Effects of Abuse on Victims and Survivors

Repeated abuse has long-lasting and traumatic effects on victims, including panic attacks, hypervigilance, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, intrusive memories, suicidal ideation, and psychosomatic symptoms. Victims experience shame, depression, anxiety, embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, abandonment, and an enhanced sense of vulnerability. The severity of the stress may influence how the victim experiences and responds to it. Victims stalked by ex-lovers may experience additional guilt and lower self-esteem for perceived poor judgment in their relationship choices.

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