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Closure with Abusers

Uploaded 10/12/2010, approx. 3 minute read

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

For her traumatic wounds to heal, the victim of abuse requires closure.

One final interaction with her tormentor, in which he, hopefully, will acknowledge his misbehavior and even tender an apology.

Fair chance. Few abusers, especially if they are narcissistic, are amenable to such weak-link pleasantries.

More often, the abuse are left to wallow in a poisonous tool of misery, self-pity, and self-reclusion.

Depending on the severity, duration, and nature of the abuse, there are three forms of effective closure.

There is conceptual closure. This is the most common variant. It involves a frank discussion of the abusive relationship. The parties meet to analyze what went wrong, to allocate blame and guilt, to derive lessons, and to part ways cathartically cleansed.

In such an exchange, a compassionate offender, quite the oxymoron, admittedly, offers his prey the chance to rid herself of accumulating resentment. He also disabuses her of the notion that she, in any way, was guilty or responsible for her maltreatment, that it was all her fault, that she deserved to be punished, and that she could have saved a relationship.

I call it malignant optimism. With this burden gone, the victim is ready to resume her life, to seek companionship or love elsewhere.

Then there is retributive closure. When the abuse had been gratuitous, sadistic, repeated, and protracted, conceptual closure is not enough. Retribution is called for, an element of vengeance, of restorative justice, and a restored balance.

Recuperation hinges on punishing the delinquent and merciless party. The penal intervention of the law is often therapeutic to the abused.

Some victims delude themselves into believing that their abuser is experiencing guilt and conscience, which rarely is the case. They revel in his ostensible, self-inflicted torment. His sleepless nights become their sweet revenge, but it's all self-delusion.

Abuses are not like that.

Regrettably, the victim's understandable emotions often lead to abusive and illegal acts on the victim's part. Many of the tormented stalk their erstwhile abusers and take the law into their own hands.

Abuse tends to breed abuse all around, in both prey and predator.

Finally, there is dissociative closure.

Absent the other two forms of closure, the conceptual and the retributive, victims of egregious and prolonged misfeedment tend to repress their painful memories.

In extremists, they dissociate.

The dissociative identity disorder, known formally as multiple personality disorder, is thought to be such a reaction to abuse.

The harrowing experiences are sliced off, they are tucked away, and they are attributed to another person or personality.

Sometimes the victim assimilates his or her tormentor, and even openly and consciously identifies with him and emulates him. This is the narcissistic defense.

In his own anguished mind, the victim becomes omnipotent and therefore invulnerable. He or she develops a false self. The true self is thus shielded from further harm and injury by the false self.

False self is omnipotent, omniscient, nothing can hurt or pain the false self.

According to psychodynamic theories of psychopathology, repressed content rendered unconscious is the cause of all manner of mental health disorders and even psychosomatic disorders.

The victim pays a hefty price for avoiding and evading his or her predicament.

We will discuss coping with various forms of stoking in one of our future videos. Stay tuned.

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