Annie Kaszina Answers Your Questions

by Annie Kaszina on August 27, 2007

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“Do they do it deliberately?”

A woman wrote to me this week, saying she could not her
abusive ex-partner out of her head. Specifically, she had a couple of questions for me:

“1. Are abusers aware of what they are doing? Is
it a behaviour that will continue
in their next relationship ?

2.
in an abuser’s mind are they really that clear about how they are behaving?”

Now
whether or not these are useful questions depends on where you are standing.

I
well remember feeling as that woman does now. My thinking went along these lines:
“I’ve
always believed that he didn’t do it deliberately. I believed he was just hurt and angry because he had a difficult
childhood. If I believe that what he
did was deliberate, that makes me feel even more worthless. Not only did he not respect or value me at
all, but I was stupid enough to fall for a monster. Poor me.”

With
the benefit of hindsight, my thinking has changed somewhat.

First
of all, I don’t care what degree of
awareness an abuser has of what he is doing. Not least because it is question that you will never be able to
answer accurately.

In
reality, the answer simply doesn’t matter.

You
see, he had a good enough idea of how best to use the tools at his disposal to
achieve the goal he desired. You know
that because you experienced it time and time again in your life. What he wanted was to feel powerful. His behaviours were calculated to make you
sorry for ‘stepping out of line’ – wherever that line happened to be – and ensure
that you would put up and shut up.

One
thing you can be pretty certain about is that he wasn’t too bothered how much
his behaviours hurt you, provided he got what he wanted.

Of
course, you could argue that he was ever so sorry afterwards and promised it
would never happen again. But it did,
didn’t it? And over time, he became less apologetic and more bullying.

So,
at some level, he surely knew what he was doing. Maybe, if you asked him, he wouldn’t do a good job of explaining
the ways in which he put you down, how he shattered your trust, the techniques
he used to isolate you from friends and family, but at gut level, he knew
it. After all, like all abusive men he
was a past master. If he wanted you to feel like crap, you ended up feeling
like crap.

As
to whether those behaviours will continue into his future relationships; the
chances are that they probably will, unless he chooses to go into some kind of
therapy program.

Abusive
men can change with enough professional input, provided they truly want
to.

Therein
lies the problem. Not only is there
generally a lack of sufficient, long term professional help, they also lack
motivation. Looking at themselves,  taking responsibility for themselves
and their actions, and making changes is not a prospect they relish at
all. It takes courage, which, as
bullies they probably don’t have in spades, and insight, which they certainly
don’t have.

Dr.
Sandra Brown of The Dangerous Relationship Institute writes:

Each personality disorder has it’s own set of behaviors
and additionally, pathology
is related to:
a. The inability to change
b. The inability to grow
c. The inability to develop deep insight about their behaviour and how it
effects others.

Abusive men are, essentially, pathological men.

But here’s the thing: just suppose that someone who has
made your life a misery, moves on, cleans up his act and eventually establishes
a good relationship.

So what?

That is his life. It is far more useful to you to focus on rebuilding your life – which
you most certainly can do. And please
remember this: it is because he is no longer in your life that you have that
opportunity. Abusive men are like
vampires, they will bleed you to death. So his departure was the best gift he could possibly give you. Take it, and rejoice in it.

Healing from an abusive relationship is a very real
possibility. The things that will stop
you healing are:

  • Refusal
         to understand what happened to you; in other words the mechanics of an
         abusive relationship
  • Refusal
         to move on
  • Obsessing
         about your abusive ex, rather than focusing on and learning to love
         yourself.

Of the three, the last is the most harmful.

 

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