Guest Author SAM VAKNIN, PhD:
“He Abuses Me in So Many Ways. How do I Cope?”

"Forlorn Heart" by Mimi Stuart Live the Life you Desire

“Forlorn Heart” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin, PhD writes: In his frantic efforts to maintain control or re-assert it, the abuser resorts to myriad of fiendishly inventive stratagems and mechanisms. Here is a partial list:

Unpredictability and Uncertainty (Intermittent Reinforcement)

The abuser acts unpredictably, capriciously, inconsistently and irrationally. This serves to render others dependent upon the next twist and turn of the abuser, his next inexplicable whim, upon his next outburst, denial, or smile.

The abuser makes sure that HE is the only reliable element in the lives of his nearest and dearest by shattering the rest of their world through his seemingly insane behaviour. He perpetuates his stable presence in their lives by destabilizing their own.

TIP

Refuse to accept such behaviour. Demand reasonably predictable and rational actions and reactions. Insist on respect for your boundaries, predilections, preferences, and priorities.

Disproportional Reactions

One of the favourite tools of manipulation in the abuser’s arsenal is the disproportionality of his reactions. He reacts with supreme rage to the slightest slight. Or, he would punish severely for what he perceives to be an offence against him, no matter how minor. Or, he would throw a temper tantrum over any discord or disagreement, however gently and considerately expressed. Or, he would act inordinately attentive, charming and tempting (even over-sexed, if need be).

This ever-shifting code of conduct and the unusually harsh and arbitrarily applied penalties are premeditated. The victims are kept in the dark. Neediness and dependence on the source of “justice” meted and judgment passed on the abuser are thus guaranteed.

TIP

Demand a just and proportional treatment. Reject or ignore unjust and capricious behaviour.

If you are up to the inevitable confrontation, react in kind. Let him taste some of his own medicine.

Dehumanization and Objectification (Abuse)

People have a need to believe in the empathic skills and basic good-heartedness of others. By dehumanizing and objectifying people, the abuser attacks the very foundations of human interaction. This is the “alien” aspect of abusers they may be excellent imitations of fully formed adults but they are emotionally absent and immature.

Abuse is so horrid, so repulsive, so phantasmagoric that people recoil in terror. It is then, with their defences absolutely down, that they are the most susceptible and vulnerable to the abuser’s control. Physical, psychological, verbal and sexual abuse are all forms of dehumanization and objectification.

TIP

Never show your abuser that you are afraid of him. Do not negotiate with bullies. They are insatiable. Do not succumb to blackmail.

If things get rough, disengage, involve law enforcement officers, friends and colleagues, or threaten him (legally).

Do not keep your abuse a secret. Secrecy is the abuser’s weapon.

Never give him a second chance. React with your full arsenal to the first transgression.

Abuse of Information

From the first moments of an encounter with another person, the abuser is on the prowl. He collects information. The more he knows about his potential victim, the better able he is to coerce, manipulate, charm, extort or convert it “to the cause”. The abuser does not hesitate to misuse the information he gleaned, regardless of its intimate nature or the circumstances in which he obtained it. This is a powerful tool in his armory.

TIP

Be guarded. Don’t be too forthcoming in a first or casual meeting. Gather intelligence.

Be yourself. Don’t misrepresent your wishes, boundaries, preferences, priorities, and red lines.

Do not behave inconsistently. Do not go back on your word. Be firm and resolute.

Impossible Situations

The abuser engineers impossible, dangerous, unpredictable, unprecedented, or highly specific situations in which he is sorely needed. The abuser makes sure that his knowledge, his skills, his connections, or his traits are the only ones applicable and the most useful in the situations that he, himself, wrought. The abuser generates his own indispensability.

TIP

Stay away from such quagmires. Scrutinize every offer and suggestion, no matter how innocuous.

Prepare backup plans. Keep others informed of your whereabouts and appraised of your situation.

Be vigilant and doubting. Do not be gullible and suggestible. Better safe than sorry.

III. Control and Abuse by Proxy

If all else fails, the abuser recruits friends, colleagues, mates, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbours, the media, teachers, in short, third parties, to do his bidding. He uses them to cajole, coerce, threaten, stalk, offer, retreat, tempt, convince, harass, communicate and otherwise manipulate his target. He controls these unaware instruments exactly as he plans to control his ultimate prey. He employs the same mechanisms and devices. And he dumps his props unceremoniously when the job is done.

Another form of control by proxy is to engineer situations in which abuse is inflicted upon another person. Such carefully crafted scenarios of embarrassment and humiliation provoke social sanctions (condemnation, opprobrium, or even physical punishment) against the victim. Society, or a social group become the instruments of the abuser.

TIP

Often the abuser’s proxies are unaware of their role. Expose him. Inform them. Demonstrate to them how they are being abused, misused, and plain used by the abuser.

Trap your abuser. Treat him as he treats you. Involve others. Bring it into the open. Nothing like sunshine to disinfect abuse.

IV. Ambient Abuse and Gaslighting

The fostering, propagation and enhancement of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There are no acts of traceable explicit abuse, nor any manipulative settings of control. Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a premonition, a bad omen. This is sometimes called “gaslighting”.

In the long term, such an environment erodes the victim’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Self-confidence is shaken badly. Often, the victim adopts a paranoid or schizoid stance and thus renders himself or herself exposed even more to criticism and judgment. The roles are thus reversed: the victim is considered mentally deranged and the abuser the suffering soul.

TIP

Run! Get away! Ambient abuse often develops to overt and violent abuse.

You don’t owe anyone an explanation – but you owe yourself a life. Bail out.

by Sam Vaknin, PhD, the excellent Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited.”

Read “Guest Author Sam Vaknin, PhD: ‘It’s All My Fault; I Provoked Him.’”

Read “Minimizing: ‘He didn’t mean to hurt me. He just pushed me a little too hard.’”

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2 thoughts on “Guest Author SAM VAKNIN, PhD:
“He Abuses Me in So Many Ways. How do I Cope?”

  1. Rocket

    I actually agree with these suggested coping methods! I’ve got 30 years into my abusive marriage and only in the last 2 years have been breaking out of the cycle. Just recently I called his bluff, an attempt to control and abuse me via finances, and I gave back as much as I got and more, and guess what … the coward backed down! No, he will never change, this I know to be a fact. But despite him I have not only survived, I’ve thrived!

  2. Quinn

    What? No! None of your solutions are good.

    The correct solution is “You cannot change a person. Leave until they make the choice and put in the effort to recognize the need to change themselves and set change into motion.”

    NEVER trap an abuser, give him a taste of his own BS medicine or try in other ways to play mind games. These people are not only wired to excel in this, raised to live like this or programmed to think like this, THEY CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS INDIVIDUALS.

    Do not get into a war with an abuser. If you were able to best an abuser’s manipulative ways, you would not be in a relationship with one.

    Get out. Move on. Ask for help if you have to. But DO NOT test this person. They’re like black holes that suck up all the light around them and when challenged, are like Terminators and will stop at nothing to one up your efforts to be a hero. So don’t be a hero. Leave. Now.

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