Background

Body Language of Narcissistic and Psychopathic Abuser

Uploaded 8/2/2010, approx. 7 minute read

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


Abuses emit subtle, almost subliminal signals in their body language, but these are observable and discernible.

Learn to read the abuser's body language, serve yourself a world of trouble and of hurt.

The first sign is a haughty, arrogant body language.

The abuser adopts a physical posture, which implies and exudes an air of superiority, seniority, hidden powers, mysteriousness, unused indifference.

Though the abuser usually maintains sustained and piercing eye contact, he often refrains from physical proximity. He keeps a personal territory around him.

Abusers take part in social interactions, even mere banter, but they do so condescendingly from a position of supremacy and full magnanimity and largeness.

Even when the abuser feigns precariousness, he rarely mingles socially. He prefers to remain the observer or the lone wolf.


The second sign is entitlement marker.

Abusers immediately ask for special treatment. They don't want to wait their turn. They want to have a longer or shorter therapeutic session. They want to talk directly to authority figures and not to assistants or secretaries. They want to be granted special payment terms. They want to enjoy custom tailored arrangements.

This goes well with the abuser's alloplastic defenses, his tendency to shift responsibility to others or to the world at large for his own needs, failures, behaviors, choices, mishaps, etc.

The sentence most beloved on abusers is, look what you made me do. The abuser is the one who vocally and demonstratively demands the undivided attention of the head waiter in a restaurant or monopolizes the hostess or latches onto celebrities in a party.

The abuser reacts with rage and indignantly when denied his wishes and when treated the same as others whom he always deems inferior.

Abusers frequently and embarrassingly dress down service providers such as cab drivers.


The next sign is idealization followed by devaluation.

Abusers instantly idealize or devalue their interlocutors. They flatten, adore, admire and applaud the target in an embarrassingly exaggerated and profuse manner or when rebuffed, they sulk, they abuse and humiliate her.

Abusers are polite only in the presence of a potential would-be victim, a mate, a collaborator, in other words a source of narcissistic supply.

But they are unable to sustain even perfectory civility and very fast deteriorate to barbs and thinly evade hostility, to verbal or other violent displays of abuse, rage attacks or cold detachment or to sadistic humor.


Then there is the membership posture.

Abusers always try to be long, yet at the very same time the abuser maintains his stance as an outsider.

The abuser seeks to be admired for his ability to integrate and ingratiate himself but without investing the efforts which are commensurate with such undertaking.

For instance, if the abuser talks to a psychologist or therapist, the abuser first states emphatically that he never studied psychology.

But then he proceeds to make seemingly effortless use of obscure professional terms, thus demonstrating that he mustered the discipline of the same.

And this is supposed to prove that he is exceptionally intelligent or introspective, in other words superior.

In general, abusers always prefer show-off to substance.

One of the most effective methods of exposing an abuser is by trying to delve deeper.

The abuser is shallow, he is a pawn pretending to be an ocean. He likes to think of himself as a renaissance man, a jack of all trades or a genius.

Abusers never admit to ignorance or to failure in any film, yet typically they are ignorant and they are losers.

It is surprisingly easy to penetrate the gloss and the veneer of the abuser's self-proclaimed omniscience, success, wealth and omnipotence.

Abusers brag and boast. They do so incessantly.

An abuser's speech is peppered with I, mine, myself and mine. This is called pronoun density.

Abusers describe themselves as intelligent or rich or modest or intuitive or creative, but always excessively, always implausibly, always extraordinarily so.

The abuser's biography sounds unusually rich and complex. His achievements are incommensurate with his age, with his education or with his renown. Yet his actual condition is evidently and demonstrably incompatible with his claims.

Very often the abuser's life or fantasies are easily decelerable. He always name drops and appropriates other people's experiences and accomplishments as his own.

Abusers use emotion-free language. They like to talk about themselves and only about themselves. If the abuser is not interested in others or in what they have to say, he shows it. He is never reciprocal. He acts disdainfully if he feels an intrusion on his precious time.

In general, abusers are very impatient, easily bought with strong attention deficits, unless and until they become the topic of discussion.

One can dissect all aspects of the intimate life of the abuser, providing the discourse is not emotionally tinted.

If asked to relate directly to his emotion, the abuser intellectualizes, rationalizes, spics about himself in the third person and in a detached scientific tone, or composes a narrative with a fictitious character in it, suspiciously autobiographical.

Most abusers get enraged when required to delve deeper into their motives, fears, hopes, wishes and needs. They use violence to cover up their perceived weaknesses and sentimentality. They distance themselves from their own emotions and from their loved ones by alienating and hurting them.

Finally, abusers are serious. They are dead serious about themselves. The abuser may possess a fabulous sense of humor, scathing and cynical, but rarely is he self-deprecating. The abuser regards himself as being on a constant mission, whose importance is cosmic and whose consequences are global.

If the abuser is a scientist, he is always in the throes of revolutionizing science. If he is a journalist, he is in the middle of the greatest story ever. If he is an aspiring businessman, he is on the way to concluding the deal of the century.

Woe betide those who doubt his grandiose fantasies and impossible schemes and claims.

This self-misperception is not amenable to lightheadedness or self-effacement. The abuser is easily correct and insulted. Even the most innocuous remark or act are interpreted by the abuser as belittling, intruding or coercive slights and demands.

The abuser's time is more valuable than other people's. Therefore, it cannot be wasted on unimportant methods such as social intercourse, family obligations or household chores.

Inevitably, the abuser feels constantly misunderstood and underestimated.

Any suggested help, advice or concerned inquiry are immediately cast by the abuser as intentional humiliation, implying that the abuser is in need of help and counsel and therefore imperfect.

Any attempt to set an agenda is to the abuser an intimidating act of enslavement.

In this sense, the abuser is both schizoid, avoids company, and paramount.

Abusers are sometimes sadistic and they have inappropriate affect. In other words, they find the obnoxious, the heinous, the shocking, funny or even gratifying.

They are sexually sadomasochistic or deviant or auto-erotic. They like to tone, to torment and to hurt people's feelings. They do it sometimes humorous or with bursting honesty, but it's still sadistic.

While some abusers are stable and conventional, others are anti-social and their impulse control is flawed. They are very reckless, self-destructive, self-defeating and just plain destructive. They engage in war communism, alcoholism, drug abuse, pathological gambling, compulsory shopping or reckless driving.

In this, the lack of empathy, the aloofness, disdain, the sense of entitlement, the restricted application of humor, the unequal treatment, the sadism and the paranoia do not render the abuser a social misfit.

This is because the abuser mistreats only his closest, his nearest and supposedly dearest. He abuses his spouse, his children or more rarely colleagues, friends and neighbors to the rest of the world, those who don't know him intimately.

The abuser appears to be composed, rational and functioning.

Abusers are very adept at casting a veil of secrecy, often with the activate of their victims, over their dysfunction and misbehavior. They are great actors and they succeed in deceiving the entire world, all people, all the time.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

The Abuser's Mind

Abusers suffer from dissociation, a mild form of multiple personality, and often have a dichotomy between their behavior at home and in public. They view their victims as two-dimensional representations, devoid of emotions and needs, and convert them into their own worldview. Abusers are often narcissists with low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence, and abuse is bred by fear of being mocked or betrayed. There are various forms of manipulation that constitute verbal and emotional abuse, including withholding, countering, discounting, blocking, blaming, and accusing.


Coping Styles: Narcissist Abuses "Loved" Ones Despite Abandonment Anxiety

Narcissists abuse their loved ones to decrease their abandonment anxiety, restore their sense of grandiosity, and test their partner's loyalty. Abuse also serves as a form of behavior modification, as it signals to the partner that they need to modify their behavior to avoid abuse. Coping styles for dealing with abuse include submissiveness, conflicting, mirroring, collusion, and displacement, but some of these styles can be harmful and should be avoided.


Abusive Ex Leverages Children Against You

Abusive ex-partners often use their children to manipulate and control their former partners. They may co-opt their children into aiding and abetting their abusive conduct, using them as bargaining chips or leverage. The abuser may emotionally blackmail the children, threatening to withhold love and affection if they do not comply with their demands. The abuser may also pervert the system, using therapies, marriage counselors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and even judges to pathologize the victim and separate them from their sources of emotional sustenance.


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.


Abuse By Proxy

Abusers often use third parties to control, coerce, threaten, stalk, tempt, seduce, harass, communicate, or manipulate their targets. They use the same mechanisms and devices to control these unaware instruments as they plan to control their ultimate prey. The abuser perverts the system, and therapists, marriage counselors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges end up upholding the abuser's version and helping him further abuse his victims. The victim's children are the abuser's greatest source of leverage over his abused spouse or mate.


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.


Abusive Ex: Tell Your Children the Truth!

Parents who have been victims of abuse should not attempt to present a balanced picture of their relationship with their abusive ex-spouse to their children. Children have a right to know the truth about the overall state of affairs between their parents, and both parents have a moral obligation to tell their offspring the truth. If spousal abuse is wholly or partly to blame, it should be brought out into the open and discussed honestly with the children. The child should be brought up to insist on being respected by the other parent, on having him or her observe the child's boundaries and accept the child's needs and emotions, choices and preferences.


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.


Some Abuse Victims Never Learn

The victims of narcissists and psychopaths often engage in magical thinking and malignant optimism, refusing to accept that some problems are unsolvable and some people are irredeemable. They see signs of hope in every fluctuation and believe that love can transform even the most destructive individuals. However, this optimism is a vulnerability that the narcissist and psychopath can exploit. The abused provide the very weapons that will ultimately be used against them. The film "We Need to Talk About Kevin" illustrates this phenomenon, as Kevin's mother, despite enduring his massacre of their family and his schoolmates, still hugs him and believes in him.


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.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2023, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2023
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy