My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
I am the author of Cold Therapy, and I am the author of Cold Therapy.
As I co-passed palette, there are several primary colors. There is, of course, overt abuse. This is the open and explicit abuse of another person. Threatening, coercing, beating, lying, berating, demeaning, chastising, insulting, humiliating, exploiting, ignoring, silent treatment, devaluing, unceremoniously discarding, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse. All these are forms of overt, open abuse.
But there is, of course, covert abuse, controlling abuse. Abuse generally is almost entirely about control. It is often a primitive and immature reaction to life's circumstances, in which the abuser, usually in his childhood, was rendered helpless.
Abuse is about re-exerting and re-asserting one's identity, re-establishing predictability, mustering the environment, human and physical.
The bulk of abusive behaviors can be traced to this panicky reaction to the remote potential for loss of control.
Many abusers are hypochondriacs, difficult patients, because they are afraid to lose control over the body, its looks and its proper functioning. They are obsessive-compulsive in an effort to subdue their physical habitat and render it foreseeable.
They stalk people and embarrass them as means of being in touch, another form of control.
To their abuser, nothing exists outside itself. Meaningful others are mere extensions, internal assimilated objects, not external ones.
So losing control over a significant other is equivalent to losing control over a limb, over one's brain. It's terrifying.
Independent or disobedient people evoke in the abuser the realization that something is wrong with his worldview, that he is not the center of the world or its cause, primary and that he cannot control what to him are his mere internal representations.
So he sees people as internal objects, as part of himself, and then when he cannot control them, he feels that he is losing self-control.
To the abuser, losing control means going insane, because other people are mere elements in the abuser's mind.
Being unable to manipulate him literally means losing his mind.
Imagine if you suddenly were to find out that you cannot manipulate your memories or control your thoughts. It's nightmarish. That's how the abuser feels most of the time.
In his frantic efforts to maintain control or reassert it, the abuser resorts to a myriad of fiendishly inventive strategies and mechanisms.
And here is a partial list of what I call his primary colors.
Start with intermittent reinforcements, unpredictability and uncertainty, ups and downs of adrenaline.
The abuser acts unpredictably, capriciously, inconsistently, arbitrarily and irrationally.
And this serves to render other people dependent upon the next twist and turn of the abuser, his next inexplicable whim, his next outburst, denial, smile, temper tantrum.
The abuser makes sure that he is the only reliable element in the lives of his nearest and nearest by shattering the rest of their world through his seemingly insane behavior.
He perpetuates his stable presence in their lives by destabilizing their own lives. He does that mainly by using disproportional reactions.
One of the favorite tools of manipulation in the abuser's arsenal is the disproportionality of his reaction.
He reacts with supreme rage to the slightest slight or he would punish severely for what he perceives to be an offense against him no matter how minor. Or he would throw a temper tantrum over any discord or disagreement, however gently and considerably expressed. Or he would act inordinately attentive, charming, attempting, even oversexed, if need be.
This ever-shifting code of conduct and the unusually harsh and arbitrarily applied penalties, these constant changes in the rules of the game that the victim thinks he is playing.
All these are premeditated. The victims are kept in the dark. They are kept off-balance, neediness and dependence on the source of justice, needed, judgment passed, or the abuser this way guaranteed.
But the abuser doesn't treat his victims as full-fledged human beings. He dehumanizes them. He objectifies them.
People have a need to believe in the empathic skills and basic good-heartedness of others.
By dehumanizing and objectifying people, the abuser attacks the very foundations of human interaction.
This is the alien aspect of abusers. They may be excellent limitations of fully formed adults, but they are emotionally absent and immature, almost as infants.
Abuse is so horrid, so repulsive, so phantasmagoric that people recoil in terror. It is then when they take a step back, when they are horrified, with their defenses absolutely down, it is then that they are at the most susceptible and vulnerable point.
The abuser's control is at its maximum exactly when the victim's psychological state is at its worst.
Physical, psychological, verbal and sexual abuse are all forms of dehumanization and objectification, treating other people as objects.
Abusers abuse information. From the first moments of an encounter with another person, the abuser is on the prowl. He spies. He collects information. The more he knows about his potential victim, the better able he is, the abuser, to coerce, manipulate, charm, extort, or convert the victim to the cause.
The abuser does not hesitate to misuse the information that he gleaned, regardless of its intimate nature or the circumstances in which he had obtained it.
This is a powerful tool in his armory in an important color in his palette as an artist of pain. The abuser engineers impossible, dangerous, unpredictable, unprecedented or highly specific situations in which he is solely needed.
The abuser makes sure that his knowledge, his skills, his connections, or his traits are the only ones applicable and the most useful in the situations that he himself had wrought.
The abuser generates his own indispensability in the victim's life. If all else fails, the abuser recruits friends, colleagues, mates, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbors, the media, teachers, in short third parties to do his bidding.
This is called control and abuse by proxy. He uses these people to cajole, coerce, threaten, stalk, offer, retreat, tempt, convince, seduce, harass, communicate and otherwise manipulate his target.
He controls these unaware instruments exactly as he plans to control his ultimate prey. He employs the same mechanisms and devices and he dumps his props unceremoniously when the job is done.
Another form of control by proxy is to engineer situations in which abuse is inflicted upon another person.
Such carefully orchestrated and crafted scenarios of embarrassment and humiliation provoke social sanctions, condemnation, probably even physical punishment against the victim.
Society or a social group become the instruments of the abuser against his prey.
And then there is of course the famous guest lighting and the interviews. This is the fostering, propagation and enhancement of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation.
There are no acts of traceable explicit abuse. There are no wounds, marks on the body, something that can be used as evidence in a court of law. There are not manipulative settings of control. There is nothing bigger.
Yet the person feeling remains, kind of a disagreeable forebody, premonition, bad omen, an ill atmosphere, an ill atmosphere in the asthma.
And this is what is sometimes called guest lighting. In the long term, such a sick environment erodes the victim's sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Self-confidence is shaken, bending.
Often the victim adopts their paranoid or schizoid state and thus renders herself exposed even more to criticism and judgment by society.
The roles are thus reversed. The victim is considered mentally deranged and the abuser a suffering soul.
What did I tell you?
Psychopaths are artists. Artists of pain.