Avoiding Your Abuser
I. The Submissive Posture
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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There is nothing special about the body language or behavior patterns of the abuser. If your abuser is a narcissist, his pathology is evident on first sight (read "How to Recognize a Narcissist"). But not all abusers are narcissists. Regrettably, most victims find themselves trapped long before they have become aware of any warning sign.
Remember that abuse is a multifaceted phenomenon. It is a poisonous cocktail of control-freakery, conforming to social and cultural norms, and latent sadism. The abuser seeks to subjugate his victims and "look good" or "save face" in front of family and peers. Many abusers also enjoy inflicting pain on helpless victims.
But, even assuming that you want to stay with your abuser and to maintain the relationship, maltreatment can, to some extent, be avoided.
I. The Submissive Posture (“Background Noise” Technique)
Abusers react to the slightest provocation – real or imagined – with disproportionate wrath and, often, violence. It is important, therefore, never to openly and repeatedly disagree with your abuser or contradict him. If you do – your abuser is bound to walk away, but only after he has vilified and harmed you in every way he can.
Abusers feel threatened by real sharing and common decision-making. Never offer your abuser any intimacy – it is a sure way to turn him off and his aggression on. Abusers perceive intimacy as the prelude to manipulation ("What is she getting at? What does she really want? What is her hidden agenda?").
Abusers are narcissistic – so admire and adore them openly. But do not lie or exaggerate – this will be perceived as cunning and will provoke your abuser to feats of paranoia and jealousy. Look awed by whatever matters to him (for instance: by his professional achievements or by his good looks, or even by his success with other women).
The abuser tries to transform his personal space into the exact opposite of his real life. At home, he is the master of a fantasy of perfection and harmony and the undisputed recipient of adulation and obeisance. Any reminder that, in reality, his life is a drab dead end, that he is a failure, or a tyrant, or a swindler, or a wannabe, sometimes hated by his own oppressed family – is likely to be met with unbridled hostility.
Never remind him of life out there and if you do, connect it somehow to his sense of grandiosity. Reassure him of the permanence of your obedient and self-sacrificial love for him. Do not make any comment, which might directly or indirectly impinge on his self-image, omnipotence, judgment, omniscience, skills, capabilities, professional record, or even omnipresence.
Listen attentively to his words and never disagree, or contradict him or offer your point of view. You are there to witness the abuser's train of thought – not to derail it with reminders of your separate existence. Be saintly patient and accommodating and endlessly giving with nothing in return. Never let your energy be depleted or your guard down.
This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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Your abuser is likely to be provoked to extremes by signs of your personal autonomy. Conceal your thoughts and plans, make no overt choices and express no preferences, never mention your emotions, needs, earnings, wages, profits, or trust money. Tell him how much you rely on him to reach the right decisions for both of you. Play dumb - but not too dumb, or it may be provoke his suspicions. It is a thin line between pleasing the abuser and rendering him a raving paranoid.
Never give your abuser cause to doubt or suspect you. Surrender all control to him, deny yourself access to property and funds, don't socialize, drop all your friends and hobbies, quit your job and your studies, and confine yourself to your abode. Your abuser is bound to be virulently jealous and suspect illicit liaisons between you and the least likely persons, your family included. He envies the attention you give to others, even to your common children. Place him on a pedestal and make sure he notices how you ignore, spurn, and neglect everyone else.
To your abuser, you are an object, no matter how ostensibly revered and cherished. Hence the battering. He monopolizes your time and your mind. He makes for you even the minutest choices: what to wear, what to cook for dinner, when to go out and with whom. In extreme cases, he regards even your body as his to share with others, if he sees fit.
It is an onerous existence, consistently tiptoeing on eggshells. Neither is it invariably successful. The submissive posture delays the more egregious manifestations of abuse but cannot prevent them altogether. Choosing to live with an abuser is like opting to share a cage with a predator. No matter how domesticated, Nature is bound to prevail. You are more likely than not to end up as the abuser's next meal.
Unless, that is, you adopt the Conflictive Posture.
This is the subject of the next article.
"Trauma Bonding" and the Psychology of Torture
Case Studies on the Psychopath and Narcissist Survivors Support Group
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