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Why Childhood Abuse Victims Hate And Are Hated

Uploaded 9/7/2022, approx. 18 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and a wine-guzzling professor of psychology.


Today we are going to discuss a controversial topic for a change.

Victims of childhood abuse, children who are abused and traumatized, especially during the formative years, before the age of six, tend to hate themselves lifelong. Not only do they tend to hate themselves, but they want everyone around them to hate them. They provoke people to hate them. They feel comfortable and relieved. They feel much less anxious when they are despised, disdained, held in contempt, rejected, humiliated, degraded.

And yes, you're right. It's a form of masochism, that children who have been abused in the early years of childhood love to be hated. It's not my insight. It's been suggested by a much greater authority, Donald Winnicott, a pediatrician turned psychoanalyst and one of the forefathers of child psychology, possibly together with Piaget and Unafrad. They are white. They are child psychology.

So Winnicott suggested that abused and traumatized children don't dare to hope for love. They dare not hope for love. They anticipate rejection. They predict with absolute certainty, disappointment. They know what's coming.

And to protect themselves against this, against hurt, against loss, against disappointment, they hate other people ostentatiously, visibly. They hate as a form of spectacle, as a performance. They act out their hatred or as Winnicott called it, antisocial tendencies.

They desire to be hated in return. It is their way of testing the waters.

Can you hate me without resorting to maltreatment and rejection? Can these institutions hate the child without punishing the child, without rejecting the child, without humiliating the child? It's a test.

But it's a lifelong test. It's a masochistic test. It's destructive. It's self-defeating.

To understand why abused children resort to this self-defeating strategy, we need first to discuss the twin concepts of trauma and the other.

Let's start with trauma.

Winnicott himself said that there is no such thing as trauma. There are painful events, dangerous events, unsettling events all around us. Life happens. And it's harsh. And it's nasty. And it's brutish. It's all true. No one is denying this.

But Winnicott said that the trauma is the way we react to these events. It is a subjective thing, not an objective thing.

Of course, he's right. Ten people can be exposed to the very same event. And only two of them would be traumatized and the other eight would walk away happy-go-lucky.

So it is our reaction to events which constitute the trauma.

Epictetus, who preceded Winnicott by a few millennia, said, men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of these events. A clever man.

Albert Ellis, the founder of rational emotive therapy, the forerunner of cognitive behavioral therapy.

So Albert Ellis, who established, as I said, REBT, said that experiences cause no specific emotional reactions. The individual's belief system produces the reaction.

Indeed, this insight is integrated into rational emotive behavioral therapy.

And then there was Harry Stark Sullivan. He said that people are products of their environment, including traumatic environment.

Boris Sarannik studied trauma in depth. And he reached the conclusion after decades that trauma consists of the injury, but also, or mainly, of the representation of the injury in one's mind.

Adult interpretations of events, that is the most damaging post-traumatic experience for children. Children go through life, or at least through the formative years, pretty oblivious to the meanings, the meaning of what's happening around them. They sail through life, absent-mindedly, so to speak. They pay attention to highly specific things.

But the vast majority of the swirlingreact that imprints itself on the child's mind. The child is traumatized by the way adults react to what is happening.

Indeed, Winnicott was brave enough to suggest that incest in itself is not a trauma. The child is traumatized by the way adults around the child react to the incest.

The police, teachers, court evaluators, psychologists, neighbors, his other parent, people around, react to the incest. They're horrified. They're terrified. They are awestruck. They are dumbfounded. They are in pain. They're rage. All these reactions imprint themselves on the very tender mind, malleable mind of the child, and they are the ones that create the trauma, not the incest in itself.

That's again not somebody. That's Donald Winnicott. I fully agree with him, of course, and I fully agree with Boris Sarunnik.

Adult interpretations of events are the most damaging post-traumatic experiences for children.

Dorothy Rae, R-O-W-E, said that when we are wrong or when something bad happens to us, when we are traumatized by some event or something, we tend to self-blame. We tend to feel guilty, ashamed, and helpless.

These are the very foundations of trauma.

We can summarise this segment by saying that trauma is an environmental subjective thing, not an objective thing.

The child looks around, gauges adult reactions to what is happening, and then develops trauma.

This is point number one. Point number two, the assemblages of traumas and abuse in the life of an abused child, in the life of a mistreated child. These assemblages begin to constitute this child's self or self-states.

In other words, the child is formed by his experiences of trauma and abuse.

There's nothing new in this. Even Freud, 120, 130 years ago, had suggested that the young mind, the brain, is molded by experiences of trauma and abuse, and generations of scholars after Freud had fully agreed, including the latest discoveries in neuroscience, trauma and abuse shape the brain. The brain is neuroplastic to a large extent.

If trauma and abuse shape the brain, and if trauma is a subjective experience and reactive to the environment, one could safely say that traumatized children, abused children, are shaped by the reactions of their environment to the objective events that are happening.

Georg Hegel, who was a German philosopher, said that consciousness of self depends on the presence of the other. Jean-Paul Sartre decades later said that the perception of the world, including the perception of other people, changes when another person appears.

We absorb that other person's concept of the other and assimilate it into our own concept. In other words, we are totally shaped. We shape-shift as people enter our immediate presence. We are heavily influenced by other people, their reactions, their beliefs, their opinions, their views, their speech acts, and of course, their actions.

Let us summarize these two segments together.

Children who are abused and traumatized in childhood develop trauma and post-traumatic conditions because of the reactions of the adults in their immediate environment.

The self-states of such a child develop in accordance with input from the outside. The child shapes itself, forms itself, molds itself to reflect the other.

Other people around the child come to define the child, and if they react to the trauma in a way that in itself is traumatizing, the trauma is actually multiplied.

I would like to read to you something by Jacques Lacan. Jacques Lacan is my spitting image. We look like identical twins, but we couldn't be further from each other in our thinking. Still, you know, even a clock that is dysfunctional shows the right time twice a day, and I must admit that Jacques Lacan had shown the right time more than twice in his career.

So I want to read to you something from and about Lacan.

Lacan therefore concluded that each one of us is a self only because we have a concept of the other. For Lacan, the other is the absolute otherness that lies beyond the self. It is the environment into which we are born and which we have to translate or make sense of in order to survive and thrive.

An infant must learn to assemble sensations or into concepts and categories in order to function in the world. He or she does this through gradually acquiring an awareness and understanding of a series of signifiers, signs or quotes.

But these signifiers can only come to us from the external world, of course, the world that lies beyond the self. Therefore, they must have been formed from the language, or what Lacan prefers to call discourse, of the other.

In other words, the others form us. We import from the outside the meaning and the sense of the world and it becomes us.

Lacan says we are only able to think or to express our ideas and emotions through language, and the only language we have is that of the other.

The sensations and images that translate into the thoughts of our unconscious must therefore be constructed from this language of the other.

Or, as Lacan stated, the unconscious is the discourse of the other.

So we have established, I think, to our satisfaction that what we call self or I call self-states are actually formed by interactions with other people and they interpret the world for us.

They tell us, wow, this is traumatic or wow, this is a great thing that has happened to you, you should be happy.

We tend to conform to these expectations and messages.

Charles Horton Cooley called it the looking glass self.

He said that we view ourselves based on how we imagine that other people view us.

Heinz Kohut, another one, another psychology who is not among my favorites, Heinz Kohut said, when a child's knees are not met, a fragmented self emerges consisting of the narcissistic self and the grandiose self.

Eric Byrne, who is a favorite of mine, said that we harbor, we contain lifelong throughout the lifespan, child, adult and parental ego states.

Finally, Fritz Perrins, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, said that a sense of reality is created through perception, the ways we view our experiences and not the events themselves.

I'm about to launch into a personal confession and to do so, I need to fortify myself with a dose of Donald Winnicott.

I'm going to read to you something that he had written about hatred.

He said, the child of a broken home or without parents spends his time unconsciously looking for his parents.

And so feelings from past relationships are displaced onto other adults.

The child has internalized the hate and sees it even when it is no longer present.

And so in this new situation or in new situations, the child needs to see what happens when hatred is in the air.

Winnicott says, what happens is that after a while, the child so adopted, so the child who finds himself in new environments gains hope.

And then he starts to test out the environment he has found and to seek proof of his guardian's ability to hate objectively.

There are many ways for the child to express hatred and prove that he or she is indeed not worthy of being loved.

This worthlessness is the message that was imparted by earlier negative parental experiences.

From the child's point of view, he is attempting to protect himself from the risk of ever having to feel love or to be loved because of the potential disappointment that accompanies that state of being.

So children who are victims of abuse love to be hated. They used to be hated. They expect hate. They make everyone around them hate them. That's their comfort zone. They provoke people. They misbehave. They become antisocial. They test everyone constantly.

And this is the case with children who later become mentally unhealthy, mentally unwell, for example, narcissists.

I read to you something I've written and published 25 years ago when no one heard of narcissism. And I was the only narcissist worldwide to come out of the closet and to admit to having been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. It took another 15 years for another narcissist to do the same.

So during these 15 years, I was Mr. Narcissism. I was the target for all the hatred in the world, all the victims of narcissistic abuse, a phrase that I coined, hated me as a stand-in for their spouses or boyfriends or mothers or fathers.

I was the dark board and everyone was sniping at me. This is still the case to a large extent today.

And at that time, 25 years ago, I published this kind of confession. I said, if I had to distill my Cotic Young existence in two pithy sentences, I would say, I love to be hated and I hate to be loved.

Hate is the complement of fear. And I like being feared. It imbues me with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence. I am veritably inebriated by the looks of horror or repulsion on people's faces.

They know that I'm capable of anything. I am god-like. I'm ruthless. I'm devoid of struggles. I'm capricious. I'm unfathomable. I'm emotionless and asexual. I'm omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. I'm a plague, a devastation, an inescapable verdict, a monster.

I nurture my ill-repute, stoking it and fanning the flames of gossip. It is an enduring asset as far as I'm concerned.

Of course, he who loves to be hated and hates to be loved also loves to hate and hates to love. He fears intimacy. The narcissist's emotional complexity, ambivalence towards significant others, is notorious. His so-called love often comes laced with bouts of vitriolic or even violent abuse and aggression.

But the narcissist's hatred is atypical.

Rampel and Burris suggested in 2005 that hate is a stable experiential state, that it is an emotion and that it involves a goal-driven motivation to diminish or utterly eradicate the well-being of the target of hate.

But in contradistinction to this definition, the narcissist's hatred is not stable. It is a transformation of resentment and therefore an aggressive reaction to frustration. It's much more like Dallad's frustration-aggression hypothesis in 1939.

The narcissist does not care about his victim's well-being. He just wishes to remove the fount of frustration altogether and expediently.

And so by the lights of Burris and Rampel, the narcissist's hatred doesn't qualify as hate at all.

But of course, that's wrong. The narcissist does hate, abundantly so.

The narcissist resents his abject dependence on his sources of narcissistic supply.

And by reading himself of the constant presence of these sources, he seeks to ameliorate and mitigate the irritation and the anxiety that they cause him.

His dependence on other people irritates him and makes him anxious and he wants to remove these other people from his life.

Of course, even as he hatefully acts against his sources of supply, his fans, his followers, his subscribers, his lovers, he is terrified of losing them. And he attempts to placate and to bribe them into staying and fulfilling their function.

And this is the famous approach avoidance, repetition, compulsion expounded upon much later by that Slavic.

But hate and fear are also sure generators of attention. We underestimate this aspect of virulent negative affectivity.

Just go online on social media and you will see how much attention you can reap by being viciously aggressive, overtly violent, ostentatiously envious, etc.

It is all about narcissistic supply, of course, the drug which we narcissists consume and which consumes us in return.


And so coming back to me, of course, I attack sadistically people, authority figures, institutions, my hosts, my fans. I make sure that they know about my eruptions and learn to hate me. Even people who start out loving me, I want them to end up hating me. I purvey only the truth and nothing but the truth.

But I do it because I'm a sadist. The truth hurts. I love to see the discomfort and pain that it causes. I tell it bluntly in an orgy of evocative Baroque English.

The blind rage that this induces in the targets of my vitriolic diatribes, this blind rage provokes in me a surge of gratification, satisfaction, inner tranquility, not obtainable by any other means.

I like to think about their pain, of course, but that is the lesser part of the equation.

It is my horrid future and inescapable punishment that carries the irresistible appeal to me.

Like some strain of alien virus, it infects my better judgment and I succumb. I even give up on narcissistic supply. I give up on available offered sex.

I reject sexual advances. I reject friendships all in order to make people angry at me and hate me because then I know my punishment is guaranteed. My self-destruction is all but done.

In general, my weapon is the truth and the human propensity to avoid the truth.

In tactless bridging of every etiquette, I chastise, hectare, berate, snub, and offer opprobrium.

I am a self-proclaimed Jeremiah. I harangue from my many self-made puppets. I bully. I understand the prophets. I understand Okwemda.

The truth is a powerful, hurt-inducing weapon. I weaponize it the way many others did throughout history.

I bask in the incomparable pleasure of being right. I derive my grandiose superiority from the contrast between my righteousness and the humanness and fallibility of others.

But it is not that simple. It never is that simple with narcissists.

Fostering public revolt and the inevitable ensuing social sanctions fulfill two other psychodynamic goals.

The first one I alluded to. It is the burning desire, the need, the drive to be punished, to be hated, to be rejected.

In the grotesque mind of the narcissist, his punishment is equally his vindication.

By being permanently on trial, the narcissist claims the high moral ground and the position of a martyr or a victim.

Misunderstood, discriminated against, unjustly roughed, outcast by his very towering genius or other outstanding qualities.

To conform to the cultural stereotype of the tormented artist or the mad genius, the narcissist provokes his own suffering. He is thus validated.

Suffering is his hallmark, his badge of honor is only accomplishment in many cases.

The grandiose fantasies of the narcissist in this way acquire a modicum of substance.

The narcissist can tell himself, if I were not so special, they wouldn't have persecuted me so. Paranoia is a form of narcissism.

The paranoid is at the very center of attention, malign attention, but attention all the same.

The persecution of the narcissist is his uniqueness. He must be different for better or for worse. The streak of paranoia embedded in the narcissist makes the outcome inevitable.

His persecutive delusions are translated into actions that guarantee their own validity.

The narcissist is in constant conflict with lesser mortal beings, his spouse, his shrink, his boss, his colleagues, his neighbors, his pastor. He is forced to stoop to the intellectual level of these midgets.

The narcissist feels like Galiver, a giant strapped by lily push-ups.

The life of the narcissist is a constant struggle against the self-contented mediocrity of his surroundings. He stands out, he is special, and if no one else would tell him that, he tells himself this is called self-supplying.

This is the narcissist's fate and destiny, which he accepts, though never stoically. It is a calling, a mission and a recurrence in his stormy life.

To be hated is to be real. To be hated is to be true. To be hated is to be right. To be hated is to be just. To be hated is to be virtuous. And above all, to be hated is to be noticed. To be hated is to validate the narcissist's view of the world as a hostile, jungle, malicious, full of malevolence and greed and envy. To be hated is a badge of honor.

Deeper still, the narcissist has an image of himself as a worthless, bad, dysfunctional extension of others, a bad object, internal bad object.

And so narcissism is compensatory. In constant need of narcissistic supply, the narcissist feels humiliated by this need.

The contrast between his cosmic fantasies and the reality of his addiction, dependency, his clinging and neediness, and his often failure, the grandiosity gap between reality and fantastic self-image, that's an emotionally wrenching and harrowing experience. It is a constant background noise of devilish, demeaning laughter, harsh, unforgiving, unremitting, unrelenting inner critics sadistically in pursuit of the narcissist's sitting in judgment of him, in a tribunal that never adjures and is never satisfied, who presents no evidence.

The voices say, you're a fraud and an imposter, you're a zero, you deserve nothing, you're a failure and a loser if they only knew how worthless you are.

And the narcissist attempts to silence these tormenting voices, not by fighting them, but by actually agreeing with them.

Unconsciously, sometimes consciously, the narcissist says to these voices, I do agree with you, I am bad, I am worthless, I'm deserving of the most severe punishment for my rotten characters and bad habits, addictions and the constant fraud that I've become. I will go out, I will seek my doom, I will make everyone hate me and destroy me.

Now that I've complied with you voices, my introjects, will you leave me alone? Will you leave me be?

And of course, they never do.

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Narcissistic abusers often resort to self-delusion when faced with the dissolution of a meaningful relationship. They may adopt a masochistic avoidance solution, punishing themselves for their failure, or construct a delusional narrative in which they are the hero. Some may become antisocial psychopaths, while others develop persecutory delusions and withdraw completely from social contact, becoming schizoids. Finally, some abusers resort to an aggressive stance, becoming verbally, psychologically, and sometimes physically abusive towards loved ones.


The Abuser's Mind

Abusers suffer from dissociation, a mild form of multiple personality, and often have a dichotomy between their behavior at home and in public. They view their victims as two-dimensional representations, devoid of emotions and needs, and convert them into their own worldview. Abusers are often narcissists with low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence, and abuse is bred by fear of being mocked or betrayed. There are various forms of manipulation that constitute verbal and emotional abuse, including withholding, countering, discounting, blocking, blaming, and accusing.


Victims Become Narcissists: Contagious Narcissism

Victims of narcissistic abuse can become narcissistic themselves, adopting the role of a professional victim. These individuals become self-centered, abusive, and exploitative, and their existence and identity rest solely on their victimhood. This is known as narcissistic contagion or narcissism by proxy, and it is a danger that should be avoided by every victim and survivor of abuse. Once the victim starts to abuse, they never stop, and their abuse becomes indiscriminate and affects everyone around them.


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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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Abuser-Victim Bond: Emotional Processing and Object Inconstancy

Victims of narcissistic abuse keep falling for it because they are the spitting image of their abusers in terms of psychodynamic processes. Victims and abusers have unusual ways of processing information, and they share impaired object constancy. Victims and abusers bond via their resonating pathologies, and this bonding is an addiction. Abusers and victims fulfill each other's voids, and traumatic bonding is extremely difficult to break.


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