Avoiding Your Abuser
II. The Conflictive Posture
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
Emotional, Verbal, and Psychological Abuse, Domestic and Family Violence and Spousal Abuse
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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. We have discussed the Submissive Posture elsewhere.
II. The Conflictive Posture
Contrary to its name, the conflictive posture is actually about avoiding conflict by minimizing contact and insisting on boundaries. It is about refusal to accept abusive behavior by demanding reasonably predictable and rational actions and reactions. It is about respect for you and for your predilections, preferences, emotions, needs, and priorities.
A healthy relationship requires justice and proportionality. Reject or ignore unjust and capricious behavior. Conflicts are inevitable even in the most loving and mature bonds but the rules of engagement are different in an abusive liaison. There, you must react in kind and let him taste some of his own medicine.
Abusers are predators, attuned to the subtlest emotional cues of their prey. Never show your abuser that you are afraid or that you are less than resolute. The willingness to negotiate is perceived as a weakness by bullies. Violent offenders are insatiable. Do not succumb to blackmail or emotional extortion once you start compromising, you won't see the end of it.
The abuser creates a "shared psychosis" (folie a deux) with his victim, an overwhelming feeling of "the two of us against the whole world". Don't buy into it. Feel free to threaten him (with legal measures), to disengage if things get rough- or to involve law enforcement officers, friends, neighbours, and colleagues.
Here are a few counterintuitive guidelines:
The abused feel ashamed, somehow responsible, guilty, and blameworthy for their maltreatment. The abuser is adept at instilling these erroneous notions in his victims ("Look what you made me do!"). So, above all, do not keep your abuse a secret. Secrecy is the abuser's weapon. Share your story with friends, colleagues, neighbors, social workers, the police, the media, your minister, and anyone else who will listen.
Don't make excuses for him. Don't try to understand him. Do not empathize with him - he, surely, does not empathize with you. He has no mercy on you you, in return, do not harbor misplaced pity for him. Never give him a second chance. React with your full arsenal to the first transgression. Teach him a lesson he is unlikely to forget. Make him go elsewhere for his sadistic pursuits or to offload his frustrations.
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 disinfest abuse.
There are a few techniques which work wonders with abusers. Some psychologists recommend to treat repeat offenders as one would toddlers. The abuser is, indeed, an immature brat though a dangerous one, endowed as he is with the privileges and capabilities of an adult. Sometimes ignoring his temper tantrums until it is over is a wise policy. But not very often and, definitely not as a rule.
Here is a recap from previous articles:
(1) Mirror His Behavior
Mirror his actions and repeat his words.
If, for instance, he is having a rage attack rage back. If he threatens threaten back and credibly try to use the same language and content. If he leaves the house leave it as well, disappear on him. If he is suspicious act suspicious. Be critical, denigrating, humiliating, go down to his level.
(1c) Frighten Him
Identify the vulnerabilities and susceptibilities of the narcissist and strike repeated, escalating blows at them.
If a narcissist has a secret or something he wishes to conceal use your knowledge of it to threaten him. Drop cryptic hints that there are mysterious witnesses to the events and recently revealed evidence. Do it cleverly, noncommittally, gradually, in an escalating manner.
Let his imagination do the rest. You don't have to do much except utter a vague reference, make an ominous allusion, delineate a possible turn of events.
Needless to add that all these activities have to be pursued legally, preferably through the good services of law offices and in broad daylight. If done in the wrong way they might constitute extortion or blackmail, harassment and a host of other criminal offences.
This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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(1d) Lure Him
Offer him continued Narcissistic Supply. You can make a narcissist do anything by offering, withholding, or threatening to withhold Narcissistic Supply (adulation, admiration, attention, sex, awe, subservience, etc.).
(1e) Play on his Fear of Abandonment
If nothing else works, explicitly threaten to abandon him.
You can condition the threat ("If you don't do something or if you do it I will desert you").
The narcissists perceives the following as threats of abandonment, even if they are not meant as such:
(IIc) Refuse All Contact
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
Ask Sam on the Psychopath and Narcissist Survivors Support Group
Ask Sam on the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Forum
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