My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
To embark on our exploration of the mind of the abuser, we first need to agree on the taxonomy of abusive behaviors.
Methodically observing abuse is the surest way of getting to know the perpetrators of their psyche.
Abusers appear to be suffering from dissociation, kind of a mild form of multiple personality.
At home, abusers are intimidating and suffocating monsters, but when they go outside, outdoors, they are wonderful, caring, giving, and much admired pillars of the community.
So why this duplicity? Why this dichotomy?
It is partly premeditated, intended to disguise the abuser's acts.
But more importantly, this division between indoors and outdoors reflects the abusers' inner world, where the victims are nothing but two-dimensional representations.
They are objects, devoid of emotions and needs, mere extensions of the abuser's self.
To the abuser's mind, his horrors, his prey, his victims do not merit humane treatment, nor do they evoke empathy because they don't exist as human beings, full-fledged and three-dimensional.
Typically, the abuser succeeds to sort of convert the abuse, convert the victim into his, the abuser's, worldview.
The victim and the victimizes don't realize that something is wrong with the relationship. They think the relationship is okay.
This denial is common and all-pervasive, permeates other spheres of the abuser's life as well. It's not limited to his relationships.
Abusers are often narcissists. They are steeped in grandiose fantasies, divorced from reality, besotted with their false self, consumed by feelings of omnipotence, omniscience, entitlement, paranoia.
But contrary to stirrup, stereotypes, both the abuser and his prey, his victims, usually suffer from disturbances, problems in the regulation of their sense of self-worth.
Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence render the abuser and his confabulated self vulnerable to criticism, disagreement, exposure and adversity, whether real or imagined.
So abuse is bred by fear, fear of being mocked or betrayed, abandoned.
It is the child, abuses the child of emotional insecurity, anxiety, panic and apprehension.
It is a last-ditch effort to exert control, to reassert oneself, for instance, over one's spouse by annexing the victim, possessing her and punishing her for being a separate entity with her own boundaries, needs, feelings, preferences and dreams.
In her seminal tome, the verbally abusive relationship, Patricia Evans lists the various forms of manipulation which together constitute verbal and emotional or psychological abuse.
So there's withholding, a silent treatment, countering, refuting or invalidating the spouse's statements or actions, discounting, putting down the spouse's emotions, possessions, experiences, hopes and fears, sadistic and brutal humor, blocking, in other words, avoiding a meaningful exchange, diverting the conversation, changing the subject. I call it disintimation, the ruination of intimacy.
Then there's blaming and accusing, judging and criticizing, undermining and sabotaging, threatening, name-calling, forgetting and denying, ordering around, denial and abusive anger.
But this is not an exhaustive list. We can safely add the following.
Wounding honesty, ignoring, smothering, dotting, unrealistic expectations, invasion of privacy, tactlessness, sexual abuse, physical maltreatment, humiliating, shaming, insinuating, lying, exploiting, devaluating and discarding the victim.
Being unpredictable is a form of abuse, reacting disproportionately, dehumanizing, objectifying, abusing confidence and intimate information, engineering in possible situations, controlled by proxy in what I call stealth or ambient abuse, better known as gaslighting.
All these forms of abuse. In his comprehensive essay, Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes, Lundy Bancroft observes, because of the distorted perceptions that the abuser has of rights and responsibilities in relationships, he, the abuser, considers himself to be the victim.
Acts of self-defense on the part of the battered woman or children or efforts they make to send up for their rights or even to protect themselves. The abuser defines as aggression against him.
He is often highly skilled at twisting his descriptions of events to create the convincing impression that he has been victimized.
He thus accumulates grievances over the course of a relationship to the same extent that the victim does, which can lead professionals to decide that the members of the couple abuse each other and that their relationship has been mutually hurtful.
Yet whatever form of ill-treatment and cruelty the abuser meets out, the structure of the interaction and the roles played by abuser and victim are the same.
Identifying these patterns and how they are influenced by prevailing social and cultural mores, values and beliefs is a first and indispensable step towards recognizing abuse, coping with it and amirating its inevitable and excruciatingly agonizing aftermath.