Sunday, August 15, 2010
There are five categories of ambient abuse and they are often combined in the conduct of a single abuser:
I. Inducing Disorientation
The abuser causes the victim to lose faith in her ability to manage and to cope with the world and its demands. She no longer trusts her senses, her skills, her strengths, her friends, her family, and the predictability and benevolence of her environment. The abuser subverts the target's focus by disagreeing with her way of perceiving the world, her judgment, the facts of her existence, by criticizing her incessantly – and by offering plausible but specious alternatives. By constantly lying, he blurs the line between reality and nightmare. By recurrently disapproving of her choices and actions – the abuser shreds the victim's self-confidence and shatters her self-esteem. By reacting disproportionately to the slightest "mistake" – he intimidates her to the point of paralysis.
The abuser gradually and surreptitiously takes over functions and chores previously adequately and skilfully performed by the victim. The prey finds itself isolated from the outer world, a hostage to the goodwill – or, more often, ill-will – of her captor. She is crippled by his encroachment and by the inexorable dissolution of her boundaries and ends up totally dependent on her tormentor's whims and desires, plans and stratagems.
Moreover, 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.
III. Shared Psychosis (folie a deux)
The abuser creates a fantasy world, inhabited by the victim and himself, and besieged by imaginary enemies. He allocates to the abused the role of defending this invented and unreal Universe. She must swear to secrecy, stand by her abuser no matter what, lie, fight, pretend, obfuscate and do whatever else it takes to preserve this oasis of inanity. Her membership in the abuser's "kingdom" is cast as a privilege and a prize. But it is not to be taken for granted. She has to work hard to earn her continued affiliation. She is constantly being tested and evaluated. Inevitably, this interminable stress reduces the victim's resistance and her ability to "see straight"
IV. 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 gleans, regardless of its intimate nature or the circumstances in which he obtained it. This is a powerful tool in his armory.
V. Control 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. 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. These - sometimes unwitting - accomplices belong to three groups:
I. The abuser's social milieu
Some offenders - mainly in patriarchal and misogynist societies – co-opt other family members, friends, and colleagues into aiding and abetting their abusive conduct. In extreme cases, the victim is held "hostage" - isolated and with little or no access to funds or transportation. Often, the couple's children are used as bargaining chips or leverage. Ambient abuse by the abuser's clan, kin, kith, and village or neighborhood is rampant.
II. The victim's social milieu
Even the victim's relatives, friends, and colleagues are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the abuser and to his impressive thespian skills. The abuser offers a plausible rendition of the events and interprets them to his favor. Others rarely have a chance to witness an abusive exchange first hand and at close quarters. In contrast, the victims are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown: harassed, unkempt, irritable, impatient, abrasive, and hysterical. Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and his harried casualties – it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally. The prey's acts of self-defense, assertiveness, or insistence on her rights are interpreted as aggression, lability, or a mental health problem.
III. The System
The abuser perverts the system - therapists, marriage counselors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges. He uses them to pathologize the victim and to separate her from her sources of emotional sustenance - notably, from her children.
Forms of Abuse by Proxy
Socially isolating and excluding the victim by discrediting her through a campaign of malicious rumors.
Harassing the victim by using others to stalk her or by charging her with offenses she did not commit.
Provoking the victim into aggressive or even antisocial conduct by having others threaten her or her loved ones.
Colluding with others to render the victim dependent on the abuser.
But, by far, her children are the abuser's greatest source of leverage over his abused spouse or mate.
The abuser often recruits his children to do his bidding. He uses them to tempt, convince, communicate, threaten, and otherwise manipulate his target, the children's other parent or a devoted relative (e.g., grandparents). He controls his - often gullible and unsuspecting - offspring 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 - which causes tremendous (and, typically, irreversible) emotional hurt.
Some offenders - mainly in patriarchal and misogynist societies – co-opt their children into aiding and abetting their abusive conduct. The couple's children are used as bargaining chips or leverage. They are instructed and encouraged by the abuser to shun the victim, criticize and disagree with her, withhold their love or affection, and inflict on her various forms of ambient abuse. "Even the victim's (children) are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the abuser and to his impressive thespian skills. The abuser offers a plausible rendition of the events and interprets them to his favor. The victims are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown: harassed, unkempt, irritable, impatient, abrasive, and hysterical.
Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and his harried casualties – it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally. The prey's acts of self-defense, assertiveness, or insistence on her rights are interpreted as aggression, lability, or a mental health problem."
This is especially true with young - and, therefore vulnerable - offspring, particularly if they live with the abuser. They are frequently emotionally blackmailed by him ("If you want daddy to love you, do this or refrain from doing that"). They lack life experience and adult defenses against manipulation. They may be dependent on the abuser economically and they always resent the abused for breaking up the family, for being unable to fully cater to their needs (she has to work for a living), and for "cheating" on her ex with a new boyfriend or husband.
Co-opting The System
The abuser perverts the system - therapists, marriage counselors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges. He uses them to pathologize the victim and to separate her from her sources of emotional sustenance - notably, from her children. The abuser seeks custody to pain his ex and punish her.
Abusers are insatiable and vindictive. They always feel deprived and unfairly treated. Some of them are paranoid and sadistic. If they fail to manipulate their common children into abandoning the other parent, they begin treat the kids as enemies. They are not above threatening the children, abducting them, abusing them (sexually, physically, or psychologically), or even outright harming them - in order to get back at or in order to make her do something. Most victims attempt to present to their children a "balanced" picture of the relationship and of the abusive spouse. In a vain attempt to avoid the notorious (and controversial) Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), they do not besmirch the abusive parent and, on the contrary, encourage the semblance of a normal, functional, liaison. This is the wrong approach. Not only is it counterproductive - it sometimes proves outright dangerous. Children have a right to know the overall state of affairs between their parents. They have a right not to be cheated and deluded into thinking that "everything is basically OK" – or that the separation is reversible. Both parents are under a moral obligation to tell their offspring the truth: the relationship is over for good. Younger kids tend to believe that they are somehow responsible or guilty for the breakdown of the marriage. They must be disabused of this notion. Both parents would do best to explain to them, in straightforward terms, what led to the dissolution of the bond. If spousal abuse is wholly or partly to blame – it should be brought out to the open and discussed honestly. In such conversations it is best not to allocate blame. But this does not mean that wrong behaviors should be condoned or whitewashed. The victimized parent should tell the child that abusive conduct is wrong and must be avoided. The child should be taught how to identify the warning signs of impending abuse – sexual, verbal, psychological, and physical. Moreover, a responsible parent should teach the child how to resist inappropriate and hurtful actions. The child should be brought up to insist on being respected by the other parent, on having him or her observe the child's boundaries and accept the child's needs and emotions, choices, and preferences. The child should learn to say "no" and to walk away from potentially compromising situations with the abusive parent. The child should be brought up not to feel guilty for protecting himself or herself and for demanding his or her rights. Remember this: An abusive parent IS DANGEROUS TO THE CHILD.
Idealization – Devaluation Cycles
Most abusers accord the same treatment to children and adults. They regard both as Sources of Narcissistic Supply, mere instruments of gratification – idealize them at first and then devalue them in favour of alternative, safer and more subservient, sources. Such treatment – being idealized and then dumped and devalued – is traumatic and can have long-lasting emotional effects on the child.
Some abusers are jealous of their offspring. They envy them for being the center of attention and care. They treat their own kids as hostile competitors. Where the uninhibited expression of the aggression and hostility aroused by this predicament is illegitimate or impossible – the abuser prefers to stay away. Rather than attack his children, he sometimes immediately disconnects, detaches himself emotionally, becomes cold and uninterested, or directs transformed anger at his mate or at his parents (the more "legitimate" targets).
Sometimes, the child is perceived to be a mere bargaining chip in a drawn out battle with the erstwhile victim of the abuser (read the previous article in this series – Leveraging the Children). This is an extension of the abuser's tendency to dehumanize people and treat them as objects. Such abusive partners seek to manipulate their former mate by "taking over" and monopolizing their common children. They foster an atmosphere of emotional (and bodily) incest. The abusive parent encourages his kids to idolise him, to adore him, to be awed by him, to admire his deeds and capabilities, to learn to blindly trust and obey him, in short to surrender to his charisma and to become submerged in his follies-de-grandeur.
Breach of Personal Boundaries and Incest
It is at this stage that the risk of child abuse – up to and including outright incest – is heightened. Many abusers are auto-erotic. They are the preferred objects of their own sexual attentions. Molesting or having intercourse with one's children is as close as one gets to having sex with oneself. Abusers often perceive sex in terms of annexation. The molested child is "assimilated" and becomes anextension of the offender, a fully controlled and manipulated object. Sex, to the abuser, is the ultimate act of depersonalization and objectification of the other. He actually masturbates with other people's bodies, his children's included. The abuser's inability to acknowledge and abide by the personal boundaries set by others puts the child at heightened risk of abuse – verbal, emotional, physical, and, often, sexual. The abuser's possessiveness and panoply of indiscriminate negative emotions – transformations of aggression, such as rage and envy – hinder his ability to act as a "good enough" parent. His propensities for reckless behaviour, substance abuse, and sexual deviance endanger the child's welfare, or even his or her life.
Minors pose little danger of criticizing the abuser or confronting him. They are perfect, malleable and abundant Sources of Narcissistic Supply. The narcissistic parent derives gratification from having incestuous relations with adulating, physically and mentally inferior, inexperienced and dependent "bodies".
Yet, the older the offspring, the more they become critical, even judgemental, of the abusive parent. They are better able to put into context and perspective his actions, to question his motives, to anticipate his moves. As they mature, they often refuse to continue to play the mindless pawns in his chess game. They hold grudges against him for what he has done to them in the past, when they were less capable of resistance. They can gauge his true stature, talents and achievements – which, usually, lag far behind the claims that he makes. This brings the abusive parent back a full cycle. Again, he perceives his sons/daughters as threats. He quickly becomes disillusioned and devaluing. He loses all interest, becomes emotionally remote, absent and cold, rejects any effort to communicate with him, citing life pressures and the preciousness and scarceness of his time. He feels burdened, cornered, besieged, suffocated, and claustrophobic. He wants to get away, to abandon his commitments to people who have become totally useless (or even damaging) to him. He does not understand why he has to support them, or to suffer their company and he believes himself to have been deliberately and ruthlessly trapped. He rebels either passively-aggressively (by refusing to act or by intentionally sabotaging the relationships) or actively (by being overly critical, aggressive, unpleasant, verbally and psychologically abusive and so on). Slowly – to justify his acts to himself – he gets immersed in conspiracy theories with clear paranoid hues. To his mind, the members of the family conspire against him, seek to belittle or humiliate or subordinate him, do not understand him, or stymie his growth. The abuser usually finally gets what he wants – his kids detach and abandon him to his great sorrow, but also to his great relief. The dissolution of the abuser's marriage or other meaningful (romantic, business, or other) relationships constitutes a major life crisis and a scathing narcissistic injury. To soothe and salve the pain of disillusionment, he administers to his aching soul a mixture of lies, distortions, half-truths and outlandish interpretations of events around him. All abusers present with rigid and infantile (primitive) defense mechanisms: splitting, projection, Projective Identification, denial, intellectualization, and narcissism. But some abusers go further and decompensate by resorting to self-delusion. Unable to face the dismal failures that they are, they partially withdraws from reality.
The Masochistic Avoidant Solution
The abuser directs some of this fury inwards, punishing himself for his "failure". This masochistic behavior has the added "benefit" of forcing the abuser's closest to assume the roles of dismayed spectators or of persecutors and thus, either way, to pay him the attention that he craves. Self-administered punishment often manifests as self-handicapping masochism – a cop-out. By undermining his work, his relationships, and his efforts, the increasingly fragile abuser avoids additional criticism and censure (negative supply). Self-inflicted failure is the abuser's doing and thus proves that he is the master of his own fate.
Masochistic abusers keep finding themselves in self-defeating circumstances which render success impossible – and "an objective assessment of their performance improbable" (Millon, 2000). They act carelessly, withdraw in mid-effort, are constantly fatigued, bored, or disaffected and thus passive-aggressively sabotage their lives. Their suffering is defiant and by "deciding to abort" they reassert their omnipotence. The abuser's pronounced and public misery and self-pity are compensatory and "reinforce (his) self-esteem against overwhelming convictions of worthlessness" (Millon, 2000). His tribulations and anguish render him, in his eyes, unique, saintly, virtuous, righteous, resilient, and significant. They are, in other words, self-generated Narcissistic Supply. Thus, paradoxically, the worst his anguish and unhappiness, the more relieved and elated such an abuser feels! He is "liberated" and "unshackled" by his own self-initiated abandonment, he insists. He never really wanted this commitment, he tells any willing (or buttonholed) listener – and anyhow, the relationship was doomed from the beginning by the egregious excesses and exploits of his wife (or partner or friend or boss).
The Delusional Narrative Solution
This kind of abuser constructs a narrative in which he figures as the hero – brilliant, perfect, irresistibly handsome, destined for great things, entitled, powerful, wealthy, the centre of attention, etc. The bigger the strain on this delusional charade – the greater the gap between fantasy and reality – the more the delusion coalesces and solidifies. Finally, if it is sufficiently protracted, it replaces reality and the abuser's reality test deteriorates. He withdraws his bridges and may become schizotypal, catatonic, or schizoid.
The Antisocial Solution
This type of abuser has a natural affinity with the criminal. His lack of empathy and compassion, his deficient social skills, his disregard for social laws and morals – now erupt and blossom. He becomes a full fledged antisocial (sociopath or psychopath). He ignores the wishes and needs of others, he breaks the law, he violates all rights – natural and legal, he holds people in contempt and disdain, he derides society and its codes, he punishes the ignorant ingrates – that, to his mind, drove him to this state – by acting criminally and by jeopardizing their safety, lives, or property.
The Paranoid Schizoid Solution
Another class of abuser develop persecutory delusions. He perceives slights and insults where none were intended. He becomes subject to ideas of reference (people are gossiping about him, mocking him, prying into his affairs, cracking his e-mail, etc.). He is convinced that he is the centre of malign and mal-intentioned attention. People are conspiring to humiliate him, punish him, abscond with his property, delude him, impoverish him, confine him physically or intellectually, censor him, impose on his time, force him to action (or to inaction), frighten him, coerce him, surround and besiege him, change his mind, part with his values, victimize or even murder him, and so on. Some abusers withdraw completely from a world populated with such minacious and ominous objects (really projections of internal objects and processes). They avoid all social contact, except the most necessary. They refrain from meeting people, falling in love, having sex, talking to others, or even corresponding with them. In short: they become schizoids – not out of social shyness, but out of what they feel to be their choice. "This evil, hopeless world does not deserve me" – goes the inner refrain – "and I shall waste none of my time and resources on it."
The Paranoid Aggressive (Explosive) Solution
Other abusers who develop persecutory delusions, resort to an aggressive stance, a more violent resolution of their internal conflict. They become verbally, psychologically, situationally (and, more rarely, physically) abusive. They insult, castigate, chastise, berate, demean, and deride their nearest and dearest (often well wishers and loved ones). They explode in unprovoked displays of indignation, righteousness, condemnation, and blame. Theirs is an exegetic Bedlam. They interpret everything – even the most innocuous, inadvertent, and innocent comment – as designed to provoke and humiliate them. They sow fear, revulsion, hate, and malignant envy. They flail against the windmills of reality – a pathetic, forlorn, sight. But often they cause real and lasting damage – fortunately, mainly to themselves. Your abusive ex is likely to cope with the pain and humiliation of separation by spreading lies, distortions, and half-truths about you and by proffering self-justifying interpretations of the events leading to the break-up. By targeting your closest, nearest, and dearest – your family, your children, boss, colleagues, co-workers, neighbours, and friends – your ex hopes to achieve two equally unrealistic goals:
To isolate you socially and force you to come running back to his waiting and "loving" arms.
To communicate to you that he still "loves" you, is still interested in you and your affairs and that, no matter what, you are inseparable. He magnanimously is willing to forgive all the "horrible things" you did to him and revive the relationship (which, after all, had its good moments). All abusers present with rigid and infantile (primitive) defence mechanisms: splitting, projection, Projective Identification, denial, intellectualisation, and narcissism. But some abusers go further and decompensate by resorting to self-delusion. Unable to face the dismal failures that they are, they partially withdraws from reality.
How to cope with delusional, paranoid – and, therefore, dangerous – stalkers?
It may be difficult, but turn off your emotions. Abusers prey on other people's empathy, pity, altruism, nostalgia, and tendency to lend a helping hand. Some stalkers "punish" themselves – drink to excess, commit offences and get caught, abuse drugs, have accidents, fall prey to scams – in order to force their victims to pity them and get in touch. The only viable coping strategy is to ignore your abusive ex. Take all necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family. Alert law enforcement agencies to any misbehaviour, violence, or harassment. File charges and have restraining orders issued. But, otherwise, avoid all gratuitous interactions. Be sure to maintain as much contact with your abuser as the courts, counsellors, mediators, guardians, or law enforcement officials mandate.
Do NOT contravene the decisions of the system. Work from the inside to change judgments, evaluations, or rulings – but NEVER rebel against them or ignore them. You will only turn the system against you and your interests. But with the exception of the minimum mandated by the courts – decline any and all gratuitous contact with the narcissist.
Do not respond to his pleading, romantic, nostalgic, flattering, or threatening e-mail messages. Return all gifts he sends you. Refuse him entry to your premises. Do not even respond to the intercom. Do not talk to him on the phone. Hang up the minute you hear his voice while making clear to him, in a single, polite but firm, sentence, that you are determined not to talk to him.
Do not answer his letters.
Do not visit him on special occasions, or in emergencies.
Do not respond to questions, requests, or pleas forwarded to you through third parties. Disconnect from third parties whom you know are spying on you at his behest.
Do not discuss him with your children.
Do not gossip about him.
Do not ask him for anything, even if you are in dire need. When you are forced to meet him, do not discuss your personal affairs – or his. Relegate any inevitable contact with him – when and where possible – to professionals: your lawyer, or your accountant.
Do not collude or collaborate in your ex's fantasies and delusions. You cannot buy his mercy or his goodwill – he has none. Do not support his notions, even indirectly, that he is brilliant, perfect, irresistibly handsome, destined for great things, entitled, powerful, wealthy, the centre of attention, etc. Abusers act on these misperceptions and try to coerce you into becoming an integral part of their charades. Abuse is a criminal offence and, by definition, abusers are criminals: they lack empathy and compassion, have deficient social skills, disregard laws, norms, contracts, and morals. You can't negotiate with your abusive ex and you can't strike a bargain with him. You can't reform, cure, or recondition him. He is a threat to you, to your property, and to your dear ones. Treat him as such.
The most dangerous class of abusers is the paranoid-delusional. If your ex is one of these, he is likely to:
Believe that you still love him (erotomania). Interpret everything you do or say – even to third parties – as "hidden messages" addressed to him and professing your undying devotion (ideas of reference).
Confuse the physical with the emotional (regard sex as "proof" of love and be prone to rape you).
Blame the failure of the relationship on you or on others – social workers, your friends, your family, your children.
Seek to "remove" the obstacles to a "happy" and long relationship – sometimes by resorting to violence (kidnapping or murdering the sources of frustration).
Be very envious of your newfound autonomy and try to sabotage it by reasserting his control over you (for instance, break and enter into your house, leave intrusive messages on your answering machine, follow you around and monitor your home from a stationary car).
Harm you (and sometimes himself) in a fit of indignation (and to punish you) if he feels that no renewed relationship is possible.
Develop persecutory delusions. Perceive slights and insults where none are intended. Become convinced that he is the centre of a conspiracy to deny him (and you) happiness, to humiliate him, punish him, delude him, impoverish him, confine him physically or intellectually, censor him, impose on his time, force him to action (or to inaction), frighten him, coerce him, surround and besiege him, change his mind, part with his values, victimise or even murder him, and so on.
The paranoid's conduct is unpredictable and there is no "typical scenario". But experience shows that you can minimise the danger to yourself and to your household by taking some simple steps. The paranoid's conduct is unpredictable and there is no "typical scenario". But experience shows that you can minimise the danger to yourself and to your household by taking some basic steps.
If at all possible, put as much physical distance as you can between yourself and the stalker. Change address, phone number, email accounts, cell phone number, enlist the kids in a new school, find a new job, get a new credit card, open a new bank account. Do not inform your paranoid ex about your whereabouts and your new life. You may have to make painful sacrifices, such as minimize contact with your family and friends.
Even with all these precautions, your abusive ex is likely to find you, furious that you have fled and evaded him, raging at your newfound existence, suspicious and resentful of your freedom and personal autonomy. Violence is more than likely. Unless deterred, paranoid former spouses tend to be harmful, even lethal.
Be prepared: alert your local law enforcement officers, check out your neighbourhood domestic violence shelter, consider owning a gun for self-defence (or, at the very least, a stun gun or mustard spray). Carry these with you at all times. Keep them close by and accessible even when you are asleep or in the bathroom.
Erotomanic stalking can last many years. Do not let down your guard even if you haven't heard from him. Stalkers leave traces. They tend, for instance, to "scout" the territory before they make their move. A typical stalker invades his or her victim's privacy a few times long before the crucial and injurious encounter.
Is your computer being tampered with? Is someone downloading your e-mail? Has anyone been to your house while you were away? Any signs of breaking and entering, missing things, atypical disorder (or too much order)? Is your post being delivered erratically, some of the envelopes opened and then sealed? Mysterious phone calls abruptly disconnected when you pick up? Your stalker must have dropped by and is monitoring you. Notice any unusual pattern, any strange event, any weird occurrence. Someone is driving by your house morning and evening? A new "gardener" or maintenance man came by in your absence? Someone is making enquiries about you and your family? Maybe it's time to move on.
Teach your children to avoid your paranoid ex and to report to you immediately any contact he has made with them. Abusive bullies often strike where it hurts most - at one's kids. Explain the danger without being unduly alarming. Make a distinction between adults they can trust - and your abusive former spouse, whom they should avoid. Ignore reactions and impulses. Sometimes, the stress is so onerous and so infuriating that you feel like striking back at the stalker. Don't do it. Don't play his game. He is better at it than you are and is likely to defeat you. Instead, unleash the full force of the law whenever you get the chance to do so: restraining orders, spells in jail, and frequent visits from the police tend to check the abuser's violent and intrusive conduct. The other behavioural extreme is equally futile and counterproductive. Do not try to buy peace by appeasing your abuser. Submissiveness and attempts to reason with him only whet the stalker's appetite. He regards both as contemptible weaknesses, vulnerabilities he can exploit. You cannot communicate with a paranoid because he is likely to distort everything you say to support his persecutory delusions, sense of entitlement, and grandiose fantasies. You cannot appeal to his emotions - he has none, at least not positive ones. Remember: your abusive and paranoid former partner blames it all on you. As far as he is concerned, you recklessly and unscrupulously wrecked a wonderful thing you both had going. He is vengeful, seething, and prone to bouts of uncontrolled and extreme aggression. Don't listen to those who tell you to "take it easy". Hundreds of thousands of women paid with their lives for heeding this advice. Your paranoid stalker is inordinately dangerous - and, more likely than not, he is with you for a long time to come. How long and how it all ends depends on a few factors.
For her traumatic wounds to heal, the victim of abuse requires closure - one final interaction with her tormentor in which he, hopefully, acknowledges his misbehaviour and even tenders an apology. Fat chance. Few abusers - especially if they are narcissistic - are amenable to such weakling pleasantries. More often, the abused are left to wallow in a poisonous stew of misery, self-pity, and self-recrimination.
Depending on the severity, duration, and nature of the abuse, there are three forms of effective closure.
This most common variant involves a frank dissection of the abusive relationship. The parties meet to analyze what went wrong, to allocate blame and guilt, to derive lessons, and to part ways cathartically cleansed. In such an exchange, a compassionate offender (quite the oxymoron, admittedly) offers his prey the chance to rid herself of cumulating resentment. He also disabuses her of the notion that she, in any way, was guilty or responsible for her maltreatment, that it was all her fault, that she deserved to be punished, and that she could have saved the relationship (malignant optimism). With this burden gone, the victim is ready to resume her life and to seek companionship and love elsewhere.
When the abuse has been "gratuitous" (sadistic), repeated, and protracted, conceptual closure is not enough. Retribution is called for, an element of vengeance, of restorative justice and a restored balance. Recuperation hinges on punishing the delinquent and merciless party. The penal intervention of the Law is often therapeutic to the abused. Some victims delude themselves into believing that their abuser is experiencing guilt and conscience pangs (which is rarely the case). They revel in his ostensible self-inflicted torment. His sleepless nights become their sweet revenge. Regrettably, the victim's understandable emotions often lead to abusive (and illegal) acts. Many of the tormented stalk their erstwhile abusers and take the law into their own hands. Abuse tends to breed abuse all around, in both prey and predator.
Absent the other two forms of closure, victims of egregious and prolonged mistreatment tend to repress their painful memories. In extremis, they dissociate. The Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) - formerly known as "Multiple Personality Disorder" - is thought to be such a reaction. The harrowing experiences are "sliced off", tucked away, and attributed to "another personality". According to psychodynamic theories of psychopathology, repressed content rendered unconscious is the cause of all manner of mental health disorders. The victim thus pays a hefty price for avoiding and evading his or her predicament.
Gaslighting In Custody And Divorce
It refers to an abuser creating self-doubt in his victim to make her appearcrazy, both to the outside world and to herself. It can be frustrating for the victim as she begins to doubt her own memories, opinions and thoughts. The person that perpetrates this is a master of manipulation. He knows just the right buttons to push to make his victims doubt themselves. He is just as likely to plant false memories as he is to try to erase them. The goal is to keep the victim off balance. There may be any of a number of reasons for the abuser to do this. In many divorce cases, it may be to intimidate her into giving up custody of the children, or to "win" the divorce case, although any reasonable person knows that there is no winner in a divorce. It may be to keep here with him so that she thinks she has nowhere else to go. In extreme sociopathic cases, it may just be for the sheer enjoyment of watching his victim squirm.Let's explore how it would be used in a custody battle. First, the abuser must use a two pronged attack, both directed at his ex, and at the children. He must erase all positive memories that the children have of their mother. If their mother kissed them good night each night before bed, he makes certain to prevent that action long enough to convince the children that their mother doesn't want to do so and actually never did. This can be accomplished by locking the children away with him until she either gives up, or moves out without them. Any negative comments that she makes against him, he convinces the children that the negative comments were actually directed toward them, causing them to resent their mother for things that she did not say or do to them The attack against the mother is geared toward her skills as a mother. He tells her that she was never a good mother. He tries to make her believe that she is lying to the children when she says that certain things happened or didn't happen. If she says that he hit her, threw her, shoved her, or held her prisoner, he claims that it didn't happen if there is no police report. She knows that she must have a police report to prove to a judge that it happened, but does not need it to prove it to herself, especially if she lives with pain nearly every day of her life because of it.
Her children may have been witnesses to any number of these acts, but either don't remember, or won't admit they remember because of fear of the repercussions. He may make an agreement with her about custody only to come back later and tell her that there was no agreement made. If the agreement benefits him, he remembers every detail. If the agreement benefits her, he claims to have never made it. After the divorce, he conveniently forgets everything that he agreed to and only remembers what she agreed to or sometimes even things that she didn't agree to, but he wants her to do. If he wants it from her, he will claim she agreed to it whether she actually did so or not. If he has custody of the children after this, which is likely due to the fact that he made her doubt her own memories and actions, making her feel like a fool in court, he will continue to use the children in his effort to control and manipulate her. When she goes to pick the children up, he will use it as an opportunity to create unnecessary drama. Perhaps she didn't give him the right name for her apartment complex. Perhaps she has requested that she be given some measure of privacy, so he tells the children that this is a sinister act, so suddenly they need a cell phone to "escape" their evil mother. He tells lies to the children then accuses her of being the liar and teaching the children to lie. Covering up a surprise that she wishes to give the children suddenly becomes an act of pure evil. The mother is left thinking, "I know I didn't lie to the children, why is he accusing me?" She finds herself questioning her own motives. A person like this can turn a fun trip into an act of pure evil. He will convince the children that they are being manipulated by her, when he's the one doing the manipulation. All of this sounds pretty scary, and it actually does happen to both mothers and fathers, although more frequently to mothers than we'd like to admit. The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Although the relationship with the children may never be the same as it was, the longer you are away from a gaslighter, the stronger you become. You stop questioning your own memory as his hold on you is loosened. You learn to think clearly again without his constant influence. You learn to tell the truth in spite of the fact that he's accusing you of lying and false allegations for doing so. You keep hope alive that someday your children will understand all that you are going through and have gone through, and love them unconditionally, even if you don't like everything they do under their father's influence. You may also use it as a learning experience to pass on to others so that others don't have to suffer as you have.