I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
How can one negotiate with an abuser without incurring his wrath and rage? How meaningful are contracts signed with bullies? How can one motivate the abuser to keep his end of the bargain, for instance, to actually seek therapy and attend all the sessions? And how efficacious is psychotherapy or counseling to start with?
One thing is sure, it is useless to confront the abuser head-on to engage in power politics. Get rid of sentences such as, you are guilty and wrong, and I am the victim and right, or my will should prevail. Such utterances are decidedly counterproductive and unhelpful. They could lead to rage attacks and a deepening of the abuser's persecutory delusions bred by his humiliation in the therapeutic setting.
Better at first to co-opt the abuser's own prejudices and pathology by catering to his infantile emotional needs and by complying with his wishes, complex rules and arbitrary rituals.
Here is a practical guide on how to drag your abuser into treatment and into a contract of mutual respect and cessation of hostilities, assuming, of course, that you want to preserve the relationship.
First of all, tell him that you love him, and emphasize the exclusivity of your relationship by refraining initially and during the therapy from anxiety-provoking acts. Limiting your autonomy is a temporary sacrifice, and the no circumstances make it a permanent feature of your relationship. Demonstrate to the abuser that his distrust of you is misplaced and undeserved, and that one of the aims of the treatment regimen is to teach him to control and reduce his pathological and delusional romantic jealousy.
2. Define areas of your common life that the abuser can safely and doubt-fringing on your independence utterly control.
Abusers need to feel that they are in charge, the sole decision-makers and arbiters.
Ask him to define, preferably in writing, what he expects from you and where he thinks that you or your performance are deficient.
Try to accommodate his reasonable demands, but ignore the rest. Do not at this stage present a counter-list. This will come later.
To move him to attend couple or marital therapy, tell him that you need his help to restore your relationship to its former warmth and intimacy. Admit to faults of your own, which you want fixed, so as to be a better mate.
Appeal to his narcissism and self-image as the omnipotent and omniscient macho. Humor him for a while. Involve your abuser as much as you can in your life. Take him to meet your family. Ask him to join in with your friends, to visit your workplace, to help maintain your car, a symbol of your independence as far as he is concerned. Demand his advice on money matters and career steps. Do not hand over control to him over any of these areas, but get him to feel a part of your life and try to mitigate his envy and insecurity.
5. Encourage him to assume responsibility for the positive things in his life and in your relationship. Compliment the beneficial outcomes of his skills, talents, hard work and attitude. Gradually, he will let go of his alloplastic defenses, his tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure or mishap on others. He will cease to regard the world as hostile and out to get him.
6. Make him own up to his feelings by identifying and naming them.
Most abusers are divorced from their emotions. They seek to explain their inner turmoil by resorting to outside agents.
They say, look what you made me do, but they provoke me. Abusers are unaware of their anger, envy or aggression.
So mirror your abuser gently and unobtrusively. Ask him, how do you feel about it? Or, when I am angry, I act the same as you? Or, would you be happier if I did not do it?
7. Avoid the appearance or the practice of manipulating your abuser except if you want to get rid of it.
Abusers are very sensitive to control issues. They feel threatened, exploited and ill-treated when manipulated. They invariably react with aggression.
Treat your abuser as you would like him to behave towards you.
A personal example is a powerful proselytizer. Do not act out of fear or subservience. Be sincere. Act out of love and conviction.
Finally, your conduct is bound to infiltrate the abuser's world defenses.
React forcefully, unambiguously and instantly to any use of force. Make clear where the boundary of civilized exchange lies. Punish him severely and mercilessly if he crosses this boundary. Make known, well in advance, the rules of your engagement and your relationship, rewards and sanctions. Discipline him for verbal and emotional abuse as well, though less strenuously than for physical abuse.
Create a hierarchy of transgressions and a penal code to go with it.
As the therapy continues and progresses, and as progress is evident, try to free the rigid edges of your sex rules.
Most abusers are very much into masochism, egodynastic. Show him his feminine size and make him proud of them. Gradually introduce him to your masculine traits or skills and make him proud of you.
This essentially is what good therapists do in trying to roll back or limit the offender's pathology.
I have written in my book, most therapists try to co-opt the narcissistic abuser's inflated ego, the false self and his defenses. They compliment the narcissist, challenging him to prove his omnipotence by overcoming his own disorder. They appeal to his quest for perfection, brilliance and eternal love and his paranormal tendencies in an attempt to get rid of counterproductive, self-defeating, dysfunctional behavior patterns.
By stroking the narcissist's grandiosity, therapists hope to modify or counter cognitive deficits, thinking errors and the narcissist's victim stance. They contract with the narcissist to alter his conduct. Some even go to the extent of medicalizing the disorder, attributing it to a hereditary or biochemical origin and thus absorbing the narcissist from guilt and responsibility and freeing his mental resources to concentrate on the therapy.
But is therapy worth the effort? What is the success rate of various treatment modalities in modifying the abuser's conduct, let alone in healing or curing him?
About this in one of the next videos. So my advice, stay tuned.