A hundred shades of rage. Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Phisekit
Every abuse victim is intimately familiar with this phenomenon. One minute you’re on cloud nine, certain your relationship is on the mend, and swept off your feet (again) with words of adulation, undying love and devotion. He’ll buy you whatever you want, wine you, dine you, and soften you with gentle, sweet words of love and appreciation…but just when you think it’s safe to come out from under that protective shell of yours, the wining and dining turns to maligning. You are being abused yet again. The abuse cycle continues, ad infinitum.
And the switch will be shockingly sudden, brutal and devastating. This morning you were his ‘forever love’. This afternoon, you’re ‘a f…ing psycho’. And somewhere in the midst of this tirade your mind starts to bend. It’s bending to his will. It’s exactly where he wants this conversation to go.
But why? That’s the question on everyone’s lips. My first (and probably final) reaction is to say, ‘Who cares!’ No excuse is good enough, no delving into his past and uncovering his childhood issues will ever convince me he’s not doing this deliberately. It is utterly C-O-N-S-C-I-O-U-S. He is completely aware of what he is doing to you. That’s why he keeps doing it. It gives him a thrill to hurt you. Research shows that when the average person is angry…when they are arguing and yelling…their blood pressure and heart rate go up. That’s because it’s stressful for us average Joes and Joannas. Not so for your consummate abuser. For him or her, shouting at and intimidating another human being results in a blood-pressure and heart-rate drop. That’s right. It feels good. It calms them down. They’re in control again.
And control is what it’s all about.
That’s why he can peacefully put his head on the pillow beside you…and sleep so soundly…while you cannot. You toss…and turn…and agonize.
Don’t judge him by your own yardstick. The ‘raging’ is his elixir – the potion that feeds the Mr Hyde that ever lurks within him. A friend of mine described her abuser as ‘bipolar’. I understand why she feels this way – the sudden switch from one persona to another smacks of real mental illness. But her abuser has no such illness. His cognitive functioning is fine and dandy. He may be narcissistic in the extreme, or even a full-blown psychopath, but these are not true mental disorders. They are disorders of choice. They are diseases of the soul. The labels may appear in the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists worldwide), but those who’ve studied the history behind the DSM understand that its main author was likely a narcissist himself. There’s a whole separate post to be written on that topic. I won’t address it here.
Someone who is Bipolar or Schizophrenic wants to get well. They want treatment. Not so the flawed being with high narcissistic traits. He doesn’t perceive his flaws at all. He’s enjoying the experience; the power trip. Why would he want to change? He doesn’t want to get better because he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with him. He’s too perfect for that.
Not everyone who engages in abuse fits into this category, but the proportion seems to be disturbingly high. There are those who can be enlightened by education, and those who cannot. There are those caught in the web of their own ignorance, their difficult pasts, and their erroneous thinking. There is hope for such as these. They react from their own pain. They get angry and express their anger abusively over issues that seem real to them. There will be triggers, associated with their own painful pasts…but there will not be the random, cold-blooded ‘switch’ from love to hate.
We need to know the difference.