Guest Author Sam Vaknin: “I Can’t Get Into My Abuser’s Mind: It’s Almost as If He is Not Human, But an Alien!”

"Glissiando" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Glissiando” by Mimi Stuart ©

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin writes:

Abusers appear to be suffering from dissociation (multiple personality). At home, they are intimidating and suffocating monsters; outdoors, they are wonderful, caring, giving, and much-admired pillars of the community. Why this duplicity?

It is only partly premeditated and intended to disguise the abuser’s acts. More importantly, it reflects his inner world, where the victims are nothing but two-dimensional representations, objects, devoid of emotions and needs, or mere extensions of his self. Thus, to the abuser’s mind, his quarries do not merit humane treatment, nor do they evoke empathy.

Typically, the abuser succeeds to convert the abused into his worldview. The victim and his victimizers don’t realize that something is wrong with the relationship. This denial is common and all-pervasive. It permeates other spheres of the abuser’s life as well. Such people are often narcissists steeped in grandiose fantasies, divorced from reality, besotted with their False Self, consumed by feelings of omnipotence, omniscience, entitlement, and paranoia.

Contrary to stereotypes, both the abuser and his prey usually suffer from disturbances 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 real or imagined.

Abuse is bred by fear of being mocked or betrayed, emotional insecurity, anxiety, panic, and apprehension. It is a last ditch effort to exert control for instance, over one’s spouse by “annexing” her, “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 (psychological) abuse:

Withholding (the silent treatment), countering (refuting or invalidating the spouse’s statements or actions), discounting (putting down her emotions, possessions, experiences, hopes, and fears), sadistic and brutal humor, blocking (avoiding a meaningful exchange, diverting the conversation, changing the subject), blaming and accusing, judging and criticizing, undermining and sabotaging, threatening, name calling, forgetting and denying, ordering around, denial, and abusive anger.

To these we can add:

Wounding “honesty”, ignoring, smothering, dotting, unrealistic expectations, invasion of privacy, tactlessness, sexual abuse, physical maltreatment, humiliating, shaming, insinuating, lying, exploiting, devaluing and discarding, being unpredictable, reacting disproportionately, dehumanizing, objectifying, abusing confidence and intimate information, engineering impossible situations, control by proxy and ambient 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 considers himself to be the victim. Acts of self-defense on the part of the battered woman or the children, or efforts they make to stand up for their rights, he 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 the 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 the relationship has been ‘mutually hurtful’.

Yet, whatever the form of ill-treatment and cruelty 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 ameliorating its inevitable and excruciatingly agonizing aftermath.


Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb, and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at

Read Sam Vaknin’s “I Admire and Support him and He Abuses Me!”

Read Alison Poulsen’s “Abuse: ‘How do I respond to my ex’s abusive emails? I just wish we could be friends.’”

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4 thoughts on “Guest Author Sam Vaknin: “I Can’t Get Into My Abuser’s Mind: It’s Almost as If He is Not Human, But an Alien!”

  1. Paul

    I stumbled across this article immediately following yet another unexpected, volcanic outburst from my wife that started three hours ago, and is still going.

    It’s putting it mildly to say that she is volatile. From zero to hate filled fury within one minute, literally, which signifies the beginning of an ongoing episode that may last for days. Her record is twelve continuous days. It has been five days since her last episode ended which lasted for four, arduous days. I rarely see more than one week without her exploding unexpectedly and immediately launching her usual tirade of textbook abuse.

    The result of her hair trigger temperament has my daughter and I walking on eggshells every waking moment when she is in the vicinity. It is no wonder that my daughter and I prefer it when her mother isn’t around which has (predictably) compounded the problem – when my wife sees my daughter and I just getting along together, it makes her blood boil. It makes her blood boil when I get along with anybody. I’m not kidding either.

    My wife was volatile and abusive long before our daughter was born. I saw glimpses of her darker side before we were married, but it wasn’t until our honeymoon that I first experienced the full force of her brutal, abusive, and at times violent nature.

    The smallest ‘mistake’ results in her hurling a torrent of abusive bile, usually towards me. From that point onwards, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I say, do, don’t say, don’t do, is relentlessly scrutinised, criticised and torn to shreds.

    Seemingly, there is nothing I can say nor do about it once she snaps. No matter how I try to describe the impact her behaviour is having and has had on our lives, she rejects what I’m saying and just keeps on doing it or deflects on to another trivial matter to redirect and focus her attacks. Removing myself from the situation (e.g. going for a walk) is like adding napalm to an already raging inferno. Reason is truly not possible – not even hours or days after the original event. It’s the first time in my life that I can honestly say that – it’s [reason] just not possible, at all. Only those of you who are in similar relationships will be able to relate, I’m sure.

    I’ve lost count the number of times this has occurred over the nine long years that I’ve let this miserable existence continue. The steady deterioration of my life, my daughter’s life, my friendships, my career, my autonomy as an adult – is difficult to fully accept or properly recognise as we continue to pay a hefty price on a daily basis. The never-ending chaos that has resulted is truly exhausting and sees all of my energies put into merely getting through each day.

    If I had the time and head-space, I could describe in great detail the nuances of her behaviour – the convert, the overt, the triggers, the irrational… the extreme. But, there’s no need. It has been documented many, many times, by countless people with partners who bear a startling resemblance to one another. The similarities are truly disturbing and are a guide to recognising those whose nature is distorted, brutal, abusive, without conscience, and that could truly care less whether you live or die.

    Previously, I was not one to give unsolicited advice. In fact, I was the complete opposite. However, I’ll make an exception in this case in the vain hope that even one person who can relate to what I have described may heed my words and save themselves before they lose more than they could have ever previously imagined.

    My advice: Get out!!!!! Do not stay, do not give him/her any benefit of doubt, do not doubt yourself, do not listen to what they have to say – it’s a lie designed to slowly gain control of you, then ultimately destroy and finally discard you. In their eyes, you are worthless… pond scum. The likelihood they will change is low – this is a well documented fact. If you need convincing, just ask an experienced Psychologist/Psychiatrist. Do not become ensnared in their self-centred trap. Do not trap yourself by purchasing property or taking on debt, having children, going into business together, or allowing your career or relationships with family and friends to be compromised because of their extreme behaviour and unreasonable expectations… demands. Do not do anything that will block your escape route.

    Run! As fast as you can… RUN! And never, ever, ever look back! No matter how tempting or how convincing their assurances may seem, no matter how much your empathic side wants to cave in at the sight of their tears when they realise they’ve pushed you too far, it’s all a lie. RUN AND NEVER LOOK BACK!

    Then, when you’ve escaped their parasitic web of deceit and abuse… breath, live, learn, remember the signs, and move on.

    1. Alison Post author

      I am so sorry to hear your story and the terrible pain it is causing you and your daughter.

      I wholeheartedly agree with your advice but want to add one thing: Get out even if you have purchased property together and have children together. This is your life and your daughter’s life. Find a way to get out without losing custody of your daughter. Losing financial gains and security is a pity, but well worth the price to regain self-respect for you and your daughter, as well as hope and some peace. It may seem impossible but it isn’t. What you describe is clearly extreme abuse. It is very difficult to have any sense of hope while still living with such an abusive narcissist. Once you are get away for a while, no matter what small studio you live in, you will start feeling parts of yourself that have long gone underground, and as a result you will give your daughter a sense of hope and strength as well.

      Good luck. And let me know how it goes.


  2. Deborist

    As I look back at my ten year marriage with an NPD, I can see where he must have been very confused by me, as I never fell into any of the traps he set for me. The meaner and more rotten he became to me I played “Keep Away”. I went to Cal and tied up an undergrad degree, did postgraduate work in Marriage Family Therapy, was caregiver to ailing parents for two years, hell I even taught English in Taiwan to keep away from his toxic, abusive behaviour! He finally gave me the best gift ever and walked out on me, unfortunately, he took all the family funds and now is fighting to take away my inheritance, my parents’ home! No matter what happens I am already alright, and he will have to deal with the sceptre of having been a victim to a pedophiliac who penetrated him anally as a young boy.

    1. Alison Post author

      What happened to him as a boy is terrible. However, that doesn’t justify or excuse abusive behavior or taking funds unjustly. I’m sorry to hear that. I’m glad you were able to live your life and are away from that behavior now. Good luck to you and your parents.

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