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Intimacy and Abuse

Uploaded 3/22/2011, approx. 3 minute read

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

It is an established fact that abuse in all its manifestations, verbal, psychological, emotional, physical, and even sexual, co-occurs, happens with intimacy.

Most reported offenses are between intimate partners or between parents and their children.

And this of course defies common sense.

Emotionally, it should be easier to batter, beat, molest, assault, or humiliate a total stranger.

It's as if intimacy causes abuse, incubates it, and nurtures it.

Well, in a way it does.

Many abusers believe that their abusive conduct fosters, enhances, and cements their intimate relationships.

They equate violence and aggression with enhanced intimacy.

To them, pathological jealousy is a proof of love. Possessiveness replaces mature bonding, and battering and beating is a form of paying attention to the partner and communicating with her.

Such habitual offenders know no better. They were often raised in families, societies, and cultures where abuse is condoned outright, or at least not frowned upon.

Marking treatment of one's significant others is a part of daily life, as inevitable as the weather, or force of nature.

Intimacy is perceived by these people to include a license to abuse.

The abuser treats his nearest, dearest, and closest as mere objects, instruments of gratification, utilities, or extensions of himself.

He feels that he owns his spouse, his girlfriend, his lovers, children, parents, siblings, or even colleagues.

As their owner, he has the right to damage the goods, or even to dispose of them altogether.

Most abusers are actually scared of real intimacy and deep commitment and mature relationships.

They lead a pretend, confabulated life. Their so-called love and so-called relationships are gaudy, fake imitations.

The abuser seeks to put a distance between himself and those who truly love him, who cherish and value him as a human being, who enjoys company, and who strive to establish a long-term, meaningful relationship with him.

He is terrified of intimacy, and they frighten him a lot.

Abuse, in other words, is a reaction to the perceived threat of looming intimacy. It is aimed at fending intimacy off.

It is intended to decimate closeness, tenderness, affection, and compassion before they thrive and consume the abuser.

Abuse is a panic reaction.

The batter, the molester, they are scared out of their wits.

They feel entrapped, shackled, imprisoned, and insidiously altered.

They fear that they are losing their uniqueness.

They are becoming average, common, like everyone else.

Lashing out in blind and violent rage, they punish the perceived perpetrators of intimacy.

The more obnoxiously they behave, the less the risk of lifelong bondage. The more heinous their acts, the safer they feel.

Battering, molesting, raping, berating, taunting, they are all forms of reasserting loss control or the perception of loss control.

In the abuser's thwarted mind, abuse equals mastery and continued, painless, emotionally numb and detached survival.

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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.


The Shock of Abuse

Abusers are skilled at hiding their abusive behavior from the rest of the world, often with the help of their victims. A study of 30 women who survived attempted homicide by their intimate partners found that half of them were completely surprised by the attack, despite having been victims of previous episodes of abuse. Victims often rationalize the abuser's behavior and feel guilty, believing they are to blame for the misconduct. Classic risk factors for attempted homicide by an intimate partner include escalating episodes of violence, threats with or use of weapons, alcohol or drug use, and violence to children.


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.


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.


Abuse Victim as Hostage: Stockholm Syndrome and Trauma Bonding

Abusive relationships require two people to sustain, and the abuser and the abused form a bond and dependence. Society often refuses to tackle this phenomenon, and people, mostly women, remain in abusive households for various reasons. The abuser treats their spouse as an object, devoid of a separate existence and denuded of distinct needs, preferences, wishes, and priorities. The abuser exploits the vulnerabilities in the psychological make-up of their victim, and abusive behavior often indicates serious underlying psychopathologies.


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.


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.


Abuse: Inevitable and Normal?

Abuse is a phenomenon that can be explained by three theories: emergent, hardwired, and as a strategy. The first theory suggests that abuse is learned and acquired behavior that is embedded in social and cultural contexts. The second theory suggests that abuse is a universal phenomenon that is hereditary and associated with mental illness. The third theory suggests that abuse is an adaptive and functional behavior that is used to control and manipulate victims. Understanding the roots of abuse can help society cope with its perpetrators.


Narcissist's Victim: NO CONTACT Rules

Professor Sam Vaknin advises victims of narcissism and psychopathy to maintain as much contact with their abuser as the courts, counselors, evaluators, mediators, guardians, or law enforcement officials mandate. However, with the exception of this minimum mandated by the courts, decline any and all gratuitous contact with the narcissist or psychopath. Avoiding contact with the abuser is a form of setting boundaries, and setting boundaries is a form of healing. Be firm, be resolute, but be polite and civil.

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