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Articles by Patricia Jones, M.A.
Copyright © 2006 - 2020 Dove Christian Counseling Center. All Rights Reserved
Most abusive men are likely to be extremely outgoing, charming, and likable. They tend to be good looking, handsome, and very confident. However, this is just a mask they put on to hide their extreme insecurities. The reality is they have an obsessive need to control their mates, to keep them almost as prisoners, to have complete power over them, and to control every facet of their lives. When their mates challenge these behaviors the abusers often blame the woman for causing him to be abusive, or accuses her of being unfaithful or inadequate.
Profile of an Abuser: "Red Flags" to watch out for.
1.) Wants to control others, the root being anxiety, fear, and anger.
2.) Has an intense fear of abandonment but hides these feelings behind a mask of anger.
3.) Delusional thoughts of infidelity, extreme jealousy, overly jealous, possessive and insecure of wife or girlfriend. Accuses wife or girlfriend of flirting, etc.
4.) Exaggerated dependence on their partners, inability to tolerate being alone, distorted views of himself, of his partner, of relationships. Or the reverse. Does not want to spend time with or do anything with spouse, or girlfriend and pushes her away sexually, mentally and emotionally.
5.) Experienced either admitted or hidden childhood shame (shame brought on by being subjected to not being allowed to express his feelings without recourse [severe beating / punishment / ridicule], a lost sense of power or have their mastery stolen from them, or stripped of their dignity or control of their own fate)
6.) Has an abnormal childhood attachment to their mother.
7.) Childhood rejection, parental coldness/indifference, direct childhood abuses; Close to a possessive mother and has a distant father.
8.) Parental REJECTION being the number one influence and indication as to adult abusiveness; shame as in attacks on their selfhood, humiliation, embarrassment, being shamed by one's father, punishing at random.
9.) Any kind of rejection or shame of them that may lead to the feelings of 'wrongness' for the child's whole self.
10.) Feelings of being punished for nothing, or being punished for who they are as opposed to what they did.
11.) Random, unprovoked 'sneak attack' punishments - is an attempt to punish a child for who they are - not what they have done!
12.) Public embarrassment such as in a restaurant, in front of friends, or in front of siblings who were not subjected to the same shaming techniques
13.) Leaving the child to feel wrong, unacceptable and unlovable to their main source of male identity - their father! A father figure who induces feelings of shame and wrongness in a child, usually can rest assured that their child will grow up to be controlling, insecure, and overly attached to their mates.
14.) Overly worried about being abandoned
15.) Emotionally/verbally/physically abusive
16.) Feel that their wives are Madonna's one day, whores the next, believes that there are only two types of women - the 'good' girls and the 'bad' girls.
17.) Intense fear of abandonment projecting emotional, jealous outbursts of perceived infidelity.
18.) The abuser tends to have life 'cycles', where he switches from the nice man, to the hard to please, fault-finding man, to the raging man, then down to the apologetic, scared, and needy man.
19.) Projects self-blame outwards.
Apparent Reasons and Causes:
1.) Shamed by one's father, feeling rejected by one's father. Emotionally distanced from one's father.
2.) Being physically and/or verbally, mentally and emotionally abused by one's father.
3.) Feeling rejected by one's mother, or receiving mixed signals, such as a protective clinging mother one minute, and rejecting emotionally-detached mother the next. An affectionate loving mother one day, and an angry, abusive, cold and uncaring mother the next. She appears to have a split personality.
4.) A cold, absent, and intermittently abusive and/or shaming father who relays to the child the message that they are unworthy. i.e., "you're no good" "you'll never amount to anything" "you're a loser and will always be a loser."
5.) A father whose love appears to be based on performance and not for who the boy is.
6.) A completely distorted and false view of women and relationships in general.
Traits of the Abuser:
The abuser has the intense need for constant reaffirmation, feedback, praise, and flattery - in order to know who he is, and that who he is is okay. This results in a man who needs extreme shows of a woman's affection and proof of her love. He sees every action on her part as either proof of her love, or proof of lack of her love. His insecurities can twist even the most loving act of hers around to be a pure act of hatred and contempt for him on her part. He sees bad as good and good as bad.
Even though this man needs constant, positive feedback - he will not ask for it, and he may even feel vulnerable and out of control, but won't admit his weakness and need for her acceptance, for her love, for her. Instead he appears to be very independent and need nothing from her. When she tries to help him or show loving concern he becomes irritatied and verbally abusive to her. Since this need for her is so overwhelming, he feels threatened by the thought of losing her.
He becomes suspicious of every little thing she does is easily offended. He overreacts. He may get over emotional, and react with extreme hostility and anger.) Then, when he gets mad he blames the woman for causing his anger and rage.
The wife or girlfriend becomes his TARGET.
Due to an exaggerated need to protect himself, and his inflated sense of pride, his wife becomes directly responsible for the wrongness he feels in himself. He may accuse her of betraying him, of cheating on him, of flirting with everyone in site, of being embarrassing, incapable, wrong, no-good, bad, unacceptable, without class, stupid, dumb, fat, lazy, worthless, helpless, you name it, etc. She cannot win. She could turn herself into a pretzel and become or not become everything he wants her to be and it would still not be enough. He would still continue to find something else wrong about her.
Thus, by externalizing his shame, i.e. transforming it into blame (directed at others) the abuser takes away his own hidden and unaddressed feelings of inadequacy and unwholeness, and conveniently places the blame onto others. If he were to not externalize the blame onto someone else, he would have to feel even more bad about himself, and again he would feel that intense, lonely feeling of humiliation, embarrassment, and ridicule that he was made to feel as a child. He would feel all that extreme internal pain that he has so successfully learned how to mask and project onto others for years...he again would become that horrible person that has something terribly, dreadfully, wrong with them.
This is the dark side of him that he cannot control. Feelings of not being good enough, instilled in him by his father, cause him to transfer the anger he feels at his father to his wife. And then the wife becomes his mother in his eyes, who was nice one day and mean the next, and so he does not trust her, or want to be intimate with her.
However, when this same man does form an intimate relationship with a woman this closeness threatens to expose his soul for all the world to see (or, at worst, her to see), he mistakenly feels that the intimacy threatens his 'shell', threatens to destroy his 'mask' and expose him for the imagined failure he is.
He is scared that this closeness will invade him, penetrate him, leaving him ashamedly exposed to the discovery of his real self - the bad, shamed self he believes himself to really be - the one he successfully keeps hidden under his 'mask' to the outside world: non-intimate partners, casual acquaintances, co-workers, and strangers. So he pushes his wife away with verbal, mental, sexual and physcial abuse. He is threatened by real intimacy with her.
The poor wife who has done nothing but try to love him, is blamed for all of the faults of his parents and made to be the victim and target for his internal anger at them that he cannot face, or express to them himself. He "counter-transfers" years and years of pent up anger that he feels towards his parent to his wife instead, who is really completely innocent of any crime.
Despite these feelings, as the psychologically abused child grows into a young he seeks a
relationship with a woman that will somehow make him feel he is okay. But, as feeling okay is only to be found within him, this doesn't happen - and as more and more relationships fail - he begins to externalize his inner rage, mistakenly believing that all women are disloyal, untrustworthy, and controlling. So he has a love/hate relationship with women.
Mothers of abusers play a huge role, too - although she is usually unaware of the confusing damage she may be causing her child. Most children who have lived in a house with an overpowering, controlling father figure had mothers who were trying to cope with both the father's fury and being abused themselves, while still being available and in tune to their childrens' needs.
Thus, abused women may deal with personal issues on a 'cycle-like' level themselves. This results in a mother who is one day very attentive, somewhat over-protective, and extremely loving to their children - and emotionally cold and distant to them the next. This unpredictable alter in a mother's love gives off mixed signals to the child - a kind of 'come here/go away' type of message that confuses him.The emotionally distant, controlling, or manipulative mother, or 'here one minute/gone the next' mother - whether she was consciously aware of it or not - may instill feelings of frustration, fear of abandonment, and intense yearnings for love and acceptance in the child.
After being continuously confused as to his mother's love and acceptance of him, mixed with the shaming of him by his father, the child eventually starts to combine his love and vulnerability to her/him with fear of rejection and anger at not getting his needs met. He now believes that - if one loves another he is vulnerable to rejection, abandonment, and shame.
In his eyes, to love someone is to become unsafe and full of fear.
Consequently, the common felt (and perfectly normal ) emotion of love now becomes a misguided emotion of fear, and frustrated feelings with not being able to stop the rejection, resulted in intense anger aimed at the one they need/long for.
His anger is a last minute attempt to control his parents in order for him to get what he needs. He has been set up. He is emotionally 'out of sync' and out of control, and reacts with anger to those he loves. This is how he can love while still protecting himself from being hurt, abandoned, betrayed, or rejected. This is how he thinks he gets love, too. His anger is merely a safe mask hiding his vulnerability. In other words, his anger is masked fear. Fear of being abandoned, rejected, and shamed.
Additionally, if the young boy has been made to feel shamed by his father he naturally may become 'more' dependent on his mother (female figure) for acceptance, nurturing, caretaking, and survival - adding to an even greater loss of his sense of self. His fear of her rejection escalates and he soon feels the intense need to separate from her, but - at the same time - he fears the separation.
He thus gets the reputation of being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Kind and loving one minute and a raving monster the next. Which is why any woman involved with such a man feels like she is "walking on egg shells." whenever she is around him. She never knows what to expect from day to day and sometimes even hour to hour. And if there are children involved neither do they. One day Dad is great, and the next he is a tyrant.
However to his friends, co-workers, strangers, and anyone that he is not close to, he can maintain the kind, loving, charasmatic personna and charm that fools even the most intelligent of people. Which is why women who are battered are very often not believed because he is so calm, cool, and collected to the outside world.
This impression carries forth and remains the same throughout much of his adulthood. He realizes how important his wife or girlfriend is to him, and he feels an inner struggle for separation to avoid the pain of rejection or abandonment. By separating his wife/girlfriend into two categories he can control his feelings of being vulnerable and in need of her, by stopping those feelings once they appear and by blaming her for it. He makes his wife into two people. The GOOD WOMAN and the BAD WOMAN.
She is no longer the Good Woman, she has now become the Bad Woman. He has, essentially, successfully made his wife into two separate women. The Good wife is loving and grateful and appreciative and accepting and nurturing and faithful...but the Bad wife - She is uncaring, withholding, unloving, unaccepting, unfaithful, unattractive, brainless, helpless, worthless, a lousy housewife who additionally is lacking in manners and class, and - to top this all off - she can't cook and is a whore and a liar! (Phew, the poor woman might as well crawl in a hole and die for loving him!)
Note: At this stage, he has absolutely convinced himself of her unfaithfulness - or her attempt at unfaithfulness. This is his exaggerated fear of her abandoning him surfacing. The abuser fears the power that women have... that men fear women because they need them. Which seems like a contradiction at first, but they are scared to death of loving and being abandoned, because they identify who they are by who they are wirh.
The abuser experiences many uncomfortable feelings in the course of his days. Anguish, depression, anxiety, and sense of having a disconnected, or out-of-body experience, are common feelings for the abuser. These feelings - combined with an intense fear of abandonment - are the driving force behind the abuse.
Unfortunately, these feeling can easily be masked by the use of drugs and alcohol, as a way to escape these unwanted emotions. However, by 'lowering' the emotional tolerance in the user, drugs and alcohol soon play a role in an abusers 'release' of his built up rage (unacknowledged fears). There can also be abusers who do not not drink or abuse alcohol at all. They have nothing but themselves to explain their split personalities.
In his Hyde personality, his Bad side, he starts seeing his woman as the Bad Wife/GF. She can't clean, cook, she's a whore, a bitch - etc. Remember, the abuser is either overly needy and appreciative of his wife's love and specialness (the Good Wife), or frustrated and intimidated by his perceived conception of her unfaithfulness and desire to abandon him, reject him (the Bad Wife). The Good Wife he can become extremely needy of, attached to, or dependent on. This threatens his emotional security because if she were to leave him he would be abandoned - he thus would lose his sense of 'self'.
This explains the somewhat panicky feeling abusers get at the thought of being left or abandoned by their wives - they fear being abandoned by their woman almost as much as they fear being 'attached' and in need of their woman. The loss of attachment and any perceived threat to this attachment creates extreme emotions to the abuser in the form of exaggerated terror, grief, and, extreme rage.
Thus, the abuser has two distinct impressions of women - with no other possibilities. There are 'Good' girls, and there are 'Bad' girls. Period. His wife is one day a Madonna, or the next day a whore. And, the whore image is more likely if the abuser's father set the example by controlling or belittling their mother, by cheating on her, or by insinuating that all women are whores, tramps, sluts, etc .
These views of women are reinforced in the abuser by society, movies, music, and their school years and peer influence. To a confused teenager he may feel embarrassment associated with dating someone who has had sex previously - although he, himself, may have slept around too...this just reinforces the notion that there are only two types of women. The Good Girls, and the Bad Girls. So, when the abuser falls in love with a Good Girl, and yet has the desire for sex with her he makes her the Bad Girl, to protect himself ... he rationalizes his beliefs, projects his yearnings outward onto her, then sleeps with her - she's the whore, not him!