How Victims are Affected by Abuse

The Conflicts of Therapy

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

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Statistically, the majority of abuse victims are female and most abusers are male. Still, we should bear in mind that there are male victims and female offenders as well.


Ideally, after a period of combined tutoring, talk therapy, and (anti-anxiety or antidepressant) medications, the survivor will self-mobilise and emerge from the experience more resilient and assertive and less gullible and self-deprecating.

But therapy is not always a smooth ride.

If your psychotherapy is painLESS - change your therapist. Professionally administered and efficacious psychotherapy is not about getting advice. The therapist is not your best friend, avuncular guru, or bespectacled and loving granny. Therapy is about dismantling and forgoing: defendes, narratives, habits, cognitions, deepset behaviors, & emotions. It is about unearthing long buried & traumatic content. And, most important, it is about wrenching & agonizing change.

Victims of abuse are saddled with emotional baggage which often provokes even in the most experienced therapists reactions of helplessness, rage, fear and guilt. Countertransference is common: therapists of both genders identify with the victim and resent her for making them feel impotent and inadequate (for instance, in their role as "social protectors").

Reportedly, to fend off anxiety and a sense of vulnerability ("it could have been me, sitting there!"), female therapists involuntarily blame the "spineless" victim and her poor judgement for causing the abuse. Some female therapists concentrate on the victim's childhood (rather than her harrowing present) or accuse her of overreacting.

Male therapists may assume the mantle of the "chivalrous rescuer", the "knight in the shining armour" – thus, inadvertently upholding the victim's view of herself as immature, helpless, in need of protection, vulnerable, weak, and ignorant. The male therapist may be driven to prove to the victim that not all men are "beasts", that there are "good" specimen (like himself). If his (conscious or unconscious) overtures are rejected, the therapist may identify with the abuser and re-victimise or pathologise his patient.

Many therapists tend to overidentify with the victim and rage at the abuser, at the police, and at "the system". They expect the victim to be equally aggressive even as they broadcast to her how powerless, unjustly treated, and discriminated against she is. If she "fails" to externalise aggression and show assertiveness, they feel betrayed and disappointed.

Most therapists react impatiently to the victim's perceived co-dependence, unclear messages, and on-off relationship with her tormentor. Such rejection by the therapist may lead to a premature termination of the therapy, well before the victim learned how to process anger and cope with her low self-esteem and learned helplessness.

(continued below)

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Finally, there is the issue of personal security. Some ex-lovers and ex-spouses are paranoid stalkers and, therefore, dangerous. The therapist may even be required to testify against the offender in a court of law. Therapists are human and fear for their own safety and the security of their loved ones. This affects their ability to help the victim.

This is not to say that therapy invariably fails. On the contrary, most therapeutic alliances succeed to teach the victim to accept and transform her negative emotions into positive energy and to competently draw and implement realistic plans of action while avoiding the pitfalls of the past. Good therapy is empowering and restores the victim's sense of control over her life.

Psychotherapy seeks to restore the patient's reality test, for example by eliminating erroneous negative automatic thoughts (CBT), or by dredging up repressed memories and emotions from the unconscious (psychoanalysis). But what to do when the patient's pathology is justified and buttressed by reality? When the narcissist's grandiosity is rooted in facts or the client's depression is the ineluctable outcome of constant failures and a stream of losses?


The fact is that all treatment modalities are at a loss on how to deal with reality-based (or evidence-based) pathologies. Counterintuitively, pathology can be a healthy reaction to a sick and dysfunctional environment or to outlandish circumstances. Pathology, in other words, is dependent on context. It could well be the therapist's best ally. In Cold Therapy we recognize this fact and leverage or even foster pathological reactions and psychological defense mechanisms to induce healing. Kuzushi: using the opponent's momentum against him is not valuable only in martial arts.


If the pathology is an appropriate reaction to immutable conditions, the client's personality, and a relentless individual history, the only solution is to totally reboot the patient's life: relocate, find a new vocation (preferably start with menial work), form new relationships, even a change of name. A clean slate.

Yet, how should the victim go about finding a good therapist? Watch this Video!

Appendix: A Patient’s Complaint

“I don’t want to hear you say that about my family!”

“Even if it is the truth?”

“I did not come to you for the truth! I came to you to find comfort and solace!”

“Healing is not possible without confronting reality, by avoiding it.”

“It would definitely not be possible if you make me even more depressed than I am! Why can’t you be like other life coaches and narcissistic abuse experts? They are empathic! They love people! It is such fun to work with them! They are so much brighter than you!”

“I don’t know if they love people but they sure love their money.”

“No! They are empaths! I can see the pain in their eyes!”

“Via YouTube? Well done! What if they are faking it?”

“That they would go to the trouble of faking it just proves that they care about us, the great unwashed that you so loath!”

“So, let me get it straight: if someone is only after your money, but takes the trouble to fake empathy and sympathy, it proves that he or she actually does care about you.”

“At least they work hard, even if it is only acting on their part! I appreciate that and I want to give them my money! With you, I feel bad! They make me feel good about myself!”

“They confirm your victimhood and justify all your decisions?”

“I am the victim here! But it is good to hear it from an objective expert!”

“You consider these people objective – or experts? How would you know that they are experts?”

“They definitely know more than you can ever hope to learn about spirituality, human connection, and the soul.”

“They may well do. I don’t particularly like fairy tales.”

“You see? Smug! Arrogant! How would you ever understand the first thing about narcissistic abuse?”

“Funny you should say this. I actually invented the phrase ‘narcissistic abuse’ in 1999 and was the first to describe the syndrome and the predicament of victims of narcissistic abuse in great detail.”

“That doesn’t make you an expert on narcissistic abuse.”

“Well, I can’t argue with that. I have invented the field but I am not an expert in it. Interesting thinking, I must admit. So, you don’t mind living in a fantasy, as long as it makes you happy?”

“We all live in fantasies all the time! It is cruel to force people to give up on their fantasies without providing them with other fantasies to replace them! You are a mean and nasty man and I suspect that you enjoy causing people pain with your extreme brutal honesty.”

“But all psychotherapies do the same: force you to confront the truth. Many of them do so even more forthrightly than I do.”

“That’s why people prefer online coaches and counselors to therapists. Psychotherapy is bunk: it causes more pain that it cures.”

“You think that this should be the main purpose of psychotherapy: to salve your pain?”

“If you are asking a question like this, you should never be in the healing professions. You need help yourself. I will WhatsApp you a list of YouTube channels that I found very useful in my recovery. They also give one on one sessions.”

“You consider yourself recovered?”

“Fully! And no thanks to you! Go, find another job, trust me, you are no good at this one! You made me break up with all my friends and family, brought on a severe depression, and coerced me into doing things which do not make me smile! You are a failure at this! And I don’t care how many phrases you coined! Have some modesty and humility to learn from your betters and from people with YouTube channels who know much more about both narcissism and narcissistic abuse than you do!”

(Dial tone)

People used to pay a therapist in order to obtain transformative insights regarding their personality, choices, mate selection, their relationships, and, in general, life. Yet, nowadays, such insights (=the truth) are deemed hostile acts and the professional who provides them is castigated as s sadist or worse.

People have never been more alone or lonely than in our atomized, anomic, dying, and materialistic civilization. The majority are single or divorced and lead secluded, reclusive lives, averse to sex, intimacy, and socializing. Many are estranged from their life partners and family and have few, if any, friends. Everyone is defiant ("assertive"), petulant, entitled, and grandiose.

In such a toxic environment, the therapist is expected to function as the client's Best Friend and provide unwavering and uncritical "validation" as well as counterfactual and delusional "hope".

Many unscrupulous practitioners - especially online - collude with such egregious malpractice, laughing all the way to the bank. Woe unto the precious few who try to remain faithful to the life-altering mission of treatment: they are shunned and badmouthed widely by their erstwhile clients.


Embrace Nothingness: an antidote to narcissism

Hard data from all over the world show the following, consistently and over millennia:

1. Accept that you are special only to yourself, unique only as a statistic, indistinguishable socially from billions of others;

2. Accept that you are here today, gone tomorrow, ephemeral, utterly forgettable and that your life is random, arbitrary, nasty, brutish, short, and meaningless. You are nothing but an eat2shit machine. Chances are that you will die childless (if you are man) or hated by your offspring.

3. Surrender: resistance is futile, change is an illusion. There is nothing you can do about your essential nothingness, your social station, your future, or people you care about. Not every problem has a solution and very few problems are real.

4. If you insist on protesting, do it by withdrawing and disengaging: in passivity there is safety. The systems set up by the elites want you to fight and to keep losing, it fosters mental illness and submissiveness in you that they can leverage to their benefit.

4. You cannot better or meaningfully alter yourself: you are who you are fundamentally, in most cases, an unendowed zero and loser and this is the way you will remain to the day you die, alone and impoverished.

5. If you were born to poor and uneducated parents, you and your children and their children will end up even poorer and with irrelevant education.


6. The only two ways to make headway in life is to be born to the right parents or to marry the right spouse, social mobility is a myth. Emerging from the right hole or penetrating it is the only way to improve your lot.

7. Anyone who tells you that he has a solution, a cure, a system, a therapy, a cause, a framework, a religion, god, love, empathy, or rules for life is a con artist, probably a psychopathic narcissist, out for your money and adulation. Adhering to a delusion, confabulation, fairy tale, fantasy, or outright lie is replacing a manageable problem with an even bigger one.

Not everything that is true works and not everything that works is true, but you should always prefer what's true to what works. Hope brings forth expectations which invariably result in frustration which causes depression and other forms of mental illness: hope is a counterfactual poison. Your compulsive need to believe in something or in someone  – a god or a guru – leads to either subservience or dysfunction, usually to both.

8. Your children will grow up hating you, depressed, anxious, miserable, mentally ill, or diseased. Their lives will resemble yours in their aimlessness and emptiness.

9. Focus on experiencing your life, do not over-think or over-analyze, you are probably too stupid to do either: eat, drink, make love, have fun, watch the sun rise and set and the flowers bloom, be happy.

10. Live and let live: do not moralize, motivate, hector, punish, argue, debate, convince, position yourself, compare, repair, reach out, converse, expect, hope, demand, or befriend. Just be and let others be. They have the same right to their insignificant existence as you do to yours.


Also Read

How Victims are Affected by Abuse


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


Recovery and Healing from Trauma and Abuse

What is Abuse?

Coping with Your Abuser

Coping with Stalkers

"Trauma Bonding" and the Psychology of Torture

Traumas as Social Interactions

How Victims are Affected by Abuse


The Toxic Relationships Study List

Spousal (Domestic) Abuse and Violence - Articles Menu

Verbal and Emotional Abuse - Articles Menu

HealthyPlace Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) Community

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

Domestic Violence and Abuse statistics - Click here

Open Site Family Violence

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